Andean Theater

Justice catches up to Chile, Ecuador war criminals

A judge in Quito on Oct. 1 ordered the house arrest of three army and police officers in Ecuador's first trial involving alleged crimes against humanity. They are part of a group of 10 former senior officers accused of abducting and torturing three members of an illegal opposition group, the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces, in 1985. Activists converged on the capital for the opening day of the landmark trial. The events took place under the conservative government of late Leon Febres Cordero, who was elected to a four-year term in 1984. Judge Lucy Blacio tunred down prosecutors' request to have one elderly army general detained, on the gorund that he is seriously ill; however, he is barred from leaving the country. The three victims—Susana Cajas, Javier Jarrin and Luis Vaca—are to testify in the case next week. The charges were brought by a special Truth Commission created to address rights abuses. (Jurist, Oct. 2; BBC News, AFP via Milenio, Oct. 1)

Evo Morales betrays Syrian people

Moscow's state broadcaster Russia Today on Sept. 27 runs an interview with Bolivia's President Evo Morales from the network's Spanish-language affiliate, Actualidad, in which he called for Barack Obama to be tried for crimes against humanity and accused him of waging wars to secure US control of the world's energy resources. "[T]hey arranged for the president to be killed, and they usurped Libya's oil," he said—but it was clear his comments really concerned Syria. "Now they are funding the rebels that fight against presidents who don't support capitalism or imperialism," Morales told Actualidad's extremely problematic Eva Golinger. "And where a coup d'état is impossible, they seek to divide the people in order to weaken the nation—a provocation designed to trigger an intervention by peacekeeping forces, NATO, the UN Security Council. But the intervention itself is meant to get hold of oil resources and gain geopolitical control, rather than enforce respect for human rights."

Bolivia, Venezuela reject US drug criticism

On Sept. 13, the White House released its annual score card on other countries’ compliance with US drug policy demands, the presidential determination on major drug producing and trafficking countries. It identified 22 countries as "major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries," but listed only three—Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as having "failed demonstrably" to comply with US drug war objectives. Among those countries that are not listed as having "failed demonstrably" are the world's largest opium producer (Afghanistan), the world’s two largest coca and cocaine producers (Colombia and Peru), the leading springboard for drugs coming into the US (Mexico), and the weak Central American states that serve as lesser springboards for drug loads destined for the US. They are all US allies; Bolivia and Venezuela are not.

Colombia: river defender assassinated

Campesino leader Nelson Giraldo Posada, a founder of the Ríos Vivos movement that opposes the HidroItuango hydro-electric project in Colombia's Antioquia department, was slain by unknown gunmen near his lands in the town of Ituango Sept. 17.  Giraldo Posada was among a group of some 350 Ituango residents forcibly relocated from their lands along the Río Cauca to make way for the hydro project. With negotiations over compensation still underway, they have been housed since March in a sports stadium at the University of Antioquia in Medellín. Leaders of group had repeatedly received death threats, and on Sept. 9 a local court, the Medellín Superior Tribunal, ordered that authorities take measures to guarantee their safety. (Radio Santa Fe, Corporación Juridica Libertad, Bogotá, Sept. 19)

Peru: deadly attack on family of miner leader

The wife and infant son of a local mining leader were assassinated last week in the community of Pamputa, Coyllurqui district, Cotabambas province, Apurímac region, Peru. The bodies were found Sept. 18 by ​Carmelo Hanco, president of the local Artisenal Miners Association of Los Apus de Chunta, when he returned home from a trip to Abancay, the regional capital, where he had been petitioning authorities for the "formalization" of mining claims. Authorities said the killings took place during a robbery, but Hanco said he suspected the involvement of the Xstrata mining company—which he charged has been pressing for the arrest of independent artisenal miners in the region with an eye towards establishing its own operations. The company has for 10 years operated a giant gold, silver and copper mine at nearby Las Bambas (Chahuahuacho district), above the opposition of both local artisenal miners and campesinos. (Con Nuestro Peru, Sept. 21)

Peru: Conga protest camp fired on

On Sept. 20, a group of workers and security guards from the Yanacocha mining company attacked the protest encampment established by local  campesinos at the Conga site, where the company seeks to expand operations of Peru's biggest open-pit gold mine. The tents and bivouacs were torn down and burned, and the protesters evicted from the site. Three days later, protesters returned to re-establish the encampment—some 500 strong, and headed by the movement's most visible leaders, Jorge Rimarachín, Gregorio Santos and Marco Arana. But that night, a group of some 10 men, hidden by darkness on the hills overlooking the new camp, fired shots at the protesters. A detachment of DINOES, the special anti-riot force of the National Police, looked on and did not interfere.

Bolivia: Aymara dissidents charge repression

Leaders of the National Council of Marka and Ayllus of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) charged that their office in the Bolivian capital La Paz was attacked by followers of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) on Sept. 16. CONAMAQ's jiliri apu mallku, or top leader, Félix Becerra,  said the MAS followers, some armed with knives and clubs, stormed the office and attempted to occupy it. A group of MAS dissident lawmakers in Bolivia's congress, calling themselves the "free-thinkers" (librepensantes), joined Becerra in denouncing the apparent attack and calling for an investigation. But a rival CONAMAQ leader, Hilarión Mamani, denied Becerra's version of events and called for dialogue with the MAS. Becerra charges that MAS is attempting to divide CONAMAQ by setting up a parallel leadership within the organization. (El Diario, La Paz, Sept. 17; Eju!, Santa Cruz, Sept. 16)

Venezuela withdraws from OAS rights body

Venezuela's withdrawal from the American Convention on Human Rights went into effect this month, drawing the condemnation of rights groups across the hemisphere. The withdrawal was one of the Hugo Chávez’s last decisions as president, and took effect one year after he announced Venezuela's official "denunciation" of the American Convention, also known as the San José Pact. Upon the withdrawal, President Nicolás Maduro reiterated Chavez’s charge that the Inter-American system is a US pawn: "[T]he US is not part of the human rights system, does not acknowledge the court's jurisdiction or the commission, but…the commission headquarters is in Washington. Almost all participants and bureaucracy that are part of the [Inter-American Court of Human Rights] are captured by the interests of the State Department of the United States."

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