Around Latin America

-Guatemalan ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt will appear before a judge this week in a hearing to determine whether or not he will face charges of genocide. Ríos Montt was the de facto president of Guatemala from 1982-1983, during which time the Guatemalan military committed some of the worst human rights violations of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, during which upwards of 250,000 Guatemalans were murdered. Ríos Montt had never faced charges, and his recent terms as a congressman gave him immunity, but his removal from office (where he had served since 2007) late last year leaves the ex-dictator open to charges of genocide and human rights abuses and provides a glimmer of hope for the families of victims of his government.

-In addressing another type of violence in Guatemala, 12,000 Guatemalans and other, including recently-inaugurated president Otto Perez Molina and Julie Chappell, the British ambassador to the country, scaled an extinct volcano in an attempt to protest and bring attention to the issue of domestic violence. While general violence rates in Guatemala are among the highest in the hemisphere, women face particular challenges as domestic violence continues to receive lax treatment.

-Staying in Central America, Tim provides some good analysis on the recent Salon article regarding Mitt Romney’s ties to Salvadoran death squads. I agree with Tim that right now, the real issue isn’t that Romney was indirectly tied to Salvadoran during his time as head of Bain Capital in the 1980s, for which evidence is “tenuous,” as Tim said; rather, the real issue is that claim that he is a “friend to Latin America” because he once accepted money from corrupt (and murderous) oligarchs rings hollow and just shows how shallow and stuck in Cold War ideologies Romney’s views on Latin America are, something I’ve commented on at greater length before.

-The case of a pregnant 11-year old has reignited the debate over abortion and women’s rights in Argentina, where abortion is illegal except in cases when the pregnancy is a threat to the woman’s life or in cases of rape of disabled women. The girl’s mother had originally asked for an exception for her daughter, who allegedly became pregnant after a 17-year-old sexually abused her, but suddenly dropped the petition in what rights advocates argue was a case of extreme pressure on the mother.

-A Chilean maid has caused controversy and raised the issue of class divisions in Chile after she walked through a fancy neighborhood where she worked rather than taking a microbus to her employer’s home. Security guards ultimately chased Pinto down and forced her to return to the gate to wait for the next bus, so that the wealthy residents would not have to see her on their streets. The blatant classism in Pinto’s treatment has sparked a national debate over class discrimination in the country. Felicita Pinto, 57,  has the support of her employer, who, according to the story, has in the past challenged the community’s bylaws that prohibited servants from being free to move at will. One of the residents in the story comes off as particularly unsympathetic and reveals just how ugly classism in Chile can be, asking, “Can you imagine what it would be like here if all the maids were walking outside, all the workers walking in the street and their children on bicycles?” Yes – just think of how awful and horrible it would be to have to acknowledge that maids and people from the lower classes are human beings too.

-Also in Chile, a court convicted two retired generals who served in the military under Augusto Pinochet (who continued to be head of the Armed Forces after he was removed from office in 1990) of illegally selling arms to Croatia in 1992 while the Balkan wars were leading to widespread acts of genocide and human rights abuses on multiple sides. Pinochet had also been under house arrest while authorities were investigating his role in the arms sale, but he died in 2006 before the investigation into his role could be completed.

-In the wake of Lori Berenson’s return to the United States over Christmas, Peru has passed a law that bans trips abroad for terror convicts who remain on parole. The law has its origins in the case of Berenson, who had been convicted of aiding leftist rebels from the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) movement, a group that Peru and the U.S. (as well as the European Union and Canada) have labeled a terrorist organization. Berenson was ultimately sentenced to twenty years in prison, and served 15 years before being paroled last year. Her case sparked political tensions in both Peru and the U.S., as many officials in Peru did not want to let her leave while some in the U.S. thought she should be allowed. Ultimately, she was allowed to make the trip to the U.S. and earlier this month she returned to Peru to finish serving her parole.

About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
This entry was posted in Abortion, Argentina, Around Latin America, Augusto Pinochet, Chile, Class and Classism in the Americas, El Salvador, El Salvador's Civil War (1980-1992), Guatemala, Guatemala's Civil War, Human Rights Issues, Human Rights Violations, Latin American Foreign Relations, Memory Struggles, Peru, Peru's Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), The Cold War in Latin America, Violence in the Americas, Women's Movements & Issues, Women's Rights. Bookmark the permalink.