-In a process that continues to go through fits and starts, Brazil’s Congress has begun investigating human rights abuses that the military committed during its 1964-1985 dictatorship. Though President Dilma Rousseff authorized the creation of a Truth Commission late last year, it has yet to get off the ground, and earlier this year, a judge declared that torturers could not face prosecution after federal prosecutors tried to treat the “disappearances” of dozens of people as “ongoing” crimes in order to try to get around the amnesty law of 1979.
-After escape attempts, gun battles, and irreparable structural decline, Venezuela has begun relocating prisoners from the La Planta prison in Caracas. However, the Venezuelan NGO Una Ventana a la Libertad (A Window to Freedom), which focuses on prisoners’ rights, has expressed concerns about transfers from the prison (where a fire killed 25 prisoners in 1996), claiming it will only add to the already-overcrowded prisons in other parts of the country.
-Fourteen people have died in a fire at a rehab center in Peru after they were unable to escape from behind locked doors. The fire is the second of its kind to take place in the last four and a half months. In late-January, a similar fire took the lives of 29 people seeking treatment. The fires are yet another reminder of the very real challenges and limitations facing private drug treatment centers, which make up an overwhelming majority of the country’s rehabilitation centers.
-Brazil’s Supreme Court has approved the use of racial quotas in university admissions. The decision is designed to address the gross inequalities between Afro-Brazilian descendants and “white” Brazilians, inequalities that Henry Louis Gates explored in a PBS series and that I discussed (including the issue of affirmative action and the tensions over it) here.
-A new report claims IKEA relied on the labor of Cuban prisoners to produce its furniture in the 1980s.
-After announcing Venezuela may leave the IACHR, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Madura called on Latin American countries to create their own human rights organization that would operate independently of the United States’ influence.
-Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina is staying true to his campaign pledge to be tough on crime, but the new strongarm tactics have some wondering about the fate of human rights in Guatemala.
–Let the “Hugo Chávez’s successor” speculation begin again in the wake of his recent appointment of 10 members to the Council of State
–Massive floods in the Brazilian state of Amazônas are threatening the homes of thousands, even while the Northeastern part of the country continues to suffer from major drought.
-Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has named Miguel Galuccio as the new head of YPF, finalizing the reappropriation of the oil-producing company.
-Peruvian authorities are cautioning people to stay away from beaches after hundreds of pelicans have washed up dead. The pelicans only add to the mystery of dead animals on beaches; in the last few months, 877 dolphins and porpoises have also been found dead on Peru’s beaches.