Venezuela Withdraws from the OAS

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Caracas, Venezuela—President Nicolás Maduro announced last week that he is withdrawing Venezuela out of the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS has been critical of President Maduro’s accumulation of power at the cost of democratic institutions.

Demonstrators, including the wife of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, have taken to the streets against president Maduro’s government. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

On Wednesday the representative of Venezuela to the OAS, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez announced that President Maduro instructed her to sever ties with the OAS because “of what she described as intrusive, arbitrary, illegal, deviant and crude actions.” She also stated that “A faction of governments from the region had eyes on our sovereignty and tried to intervene and lecture our country, but this, fortunately, will not happen.” Venezuela submitted a letter of complaint which will initiate the process to withdraw. The decision to leave the organization comes after the OAS voted to hold a meeting to discuss the crisis in Venezuela. As a result of leaving the OAS and in accordance to its rules, Venezuela will need to pay a debt of 8.7 million and will need to wait two years to withdraw.

Many experts claimed that the decision to leave the OAS is unprecedented—no country has left the OAS since its initiation.  A professor of International Relations at the Central University of Venezuela stated, “It is evidence of an authoritarian character o the government, especially in the case of the OAS, whose pillars are to defend democracy and human rights.”

The OAS promotes democracy among its member states in the Western Hemisphere. Neighboring countries have used the OAS to exert pressure on Venezuela due to a rise in instability. Additionally, the OAS invoked the Democratic Charter against Venezuela for “stifling opponents, holding political prisoners and ruling by decree.” President Maduro has accused the OAS as being a pawn of Washington in order to undermine the country by establishing alternative regional bodies.

Venezuela is experiencing continued unrest as protests against the government have turned violent and deadly. Nearly 30 people have been killed in the wave of protests.

For more information, please see:

BBC—Venezuela to Withdraw From OAS as Deadly Protests Continue—27 April 2017.

Telesur—Venezuela Formally Begins Process to Exit ‘Interventionist’ OAS—27 April 2017.

New York Times—Venezuela Says It Will Leave Pro-Democracy Organization—26 April 2017.

NPR—Venezuela to Leave OAS, Death Toll Climbs After Dueling Rallies—26 April 2017.


Uruguayan Senate Approves Femicide Bill

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Montevideo, Uruguay—The Uruguayan Senate with thirty-one votes has unanimously voted in a favor of a bill that will make femicide a criminal offence. The bill is accompanied with two penal codes that will now be submitted and voted on in the House of Representatives. Furthermore, the senate is also working to approve a project that will target gender violence by modifying the penal code.

Women rejoice as the Uruguayan senate approves femicide bill. (Photo Courtesy of El Observador)

If a femicide is committed, an individual will be sent to prison for thirty years. The bill is a result of the increase of femicides in Uruguay. In February alone, there were five recorded femicides in a 37-day period. The rise in femicides led to large demonstrations in Uruguay. In addition to condemning the killings, demonstrators called for a femicide law that would make the killings a crime. The chairwoman of the Gender Equity and Diversity Commission at the Association of bank Employees stated, “We can’t say violence is over and decree it. We will not end the violence with law. But, we do understand every grain of sand, every decision we can make, and every unit of organization is a step towards a better society.”

The Frente Amplio and the National Party, two of the nations leading political parties that make up 80% of the Uruguayan parliament, called for action. They revisited a bill that was written in and sent to the senate in December of 2015 addressing Femicides—the bill has been dormant ever since. The gender violence bill was also submitted to the senate in April of 2016 with no action. Neighboring nations, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil, have all instituted a penal code that criminalizes femicides. In many of these nations, femicides have been considered a crime of passion which is treated in a lesser degree. School teacher, Mary Nunez, stated, “We want femicide to be a specifically enshrined in our law, because in our law, there is only homicide. And homicide, as a word says, comes from man. And we are not men, we are women and men kill us.”

For more information, please see:

El Observador10 Coasa que Usted Debería Saber Sobre la ley de Femicidio, y Bánquese la Reacción—19 April 2017.

Telesur—In Uruguay, Women Rejoice as Femicide Bill is Approved—19 April 2017.

El Observador—Senado Aprobó por Unanimidad Ley de Femicidios—18 April 2017.

Segundo Enfoque—Senado Uruguayo Aprobó ley de Femicidios—18 April 2017.

Venezuela’s Protests Turn Deadly

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

 Caracas, Venezuela—Venezuela has had over three weeks of anti-government protests and it is turning deadly. Last week, a fifth person has died from their injuries sustained at the protests. Among the dead is a thirteen-year old boy who was shot and killed.

Demonstrators in Venezuela have been met with tear gas. (Photo Courtesy of NBC News)

Venezuelan officials have confirmed the death of Miguel Colmenares, 36, who was shot during a protest in the city of Barquisimeto. Mr. Colmenares is the fifth person to die that week. The public prosecutor’s office has announced it will investigate his death. At the same protest in Barquisimeto, thirty-two-year-old protester, Gruseny Calderon, was killed when he was injured by rubber bullets that pierced his lung and liver. Additionally, two college students were shot and killed. One was killed on April 6th and the other on April 11th. Lastly, the thirteen-year-old boy that was killed, was identified as Brayan Principal—he was shot in the abdomen.

In addition to the deaths, Jose Manuel Olivares, an opposition legislator, stated that “police fired tear gas ‘point-blank’ at demonstrators in the state of Vargas.” Olivares continued his statement, “If they think they will scare us that way they are wrong. We will stay in the street!” Because of the use of tear gas, many protesters have prepared themselves with goggles, rags, and gas masks.

Thousands of opposition protesters have poured into the streets of Venezuela. As a result, dozens of protesters have been injured and over 100 have been arrested this past week. The opposition has planned all of the protests with the aim of diluting the power of government security forces. Although most of the protests have occurred in middle class neighborhoods, slums that have historically supported former president Hugo Chavez have held and joined the protests.

Venezuela is currently undergoing a food and medicine shortage, as well as, an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera—Fifth Person Dies in Protests Against Nicolas Maduro—14 April 2017.

NBC News—Venezuela: 5 Dead as Anti-Government Protests Intensify—14 April 2017.

BBC—Venezuela Protests: Teenage Protester in Barquisimeto killed—13 April 2017.

Telesur—What Everybody Needs to Know About Venezuela Protest Deaths—13 April 2017.

Venezuelan Protesters Clash With Security Forces

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Caracas, Venezuela—Thousands of Venezuela’s opposition members and supporters took to the streets of Caracas on Thursday afternoon in protest against the current government. Demonstrators were met by security forces which turned violent.

Protesters clash with Security Forces in Caracas. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

The protesters were disbanded by tear gas and water hoses, turning the highways of Caracas into a violent scene. No immediate reports of arrest or injuries. The demonstration has been sparked by the outrage against the Supreme Court’s decision to nullify congress. Protesters viewed the action by the Supreme Court as the current governments attempt to seize power from the legislative house. The decision by the Supreme Court was overturned. Currently, the legislative house is ruled by the opposition. Furthermore, opposition members are demanding the removal of the seven justices that signed the decision. Many of the protesters carried signs reading “No to Dictatorship.” Demonstrations have taken place this past week, including on Tuesday when twenty people were injured and eighteen were arrested. There is another nation wide protest scheduled.

Venezuela has been enduring severe food and medicine shortages, growing inflation and one of the highest murder rates. Citizens are angry at the lack of basic needs, such as Maria Auxiliadora Soler who has been searching for blood-pressure medicine, “Now I just have a couple of them. I count them every day, and it feels like counting the days I have left to live.”

Maduro’s government blames U.S. government elites for the economic and political crisis in Venezuela. Government officials also claim that the opposition is attempting a coup plot. Diosdado Cabello, a socialist law maker and vice president of Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) stated, “We are not going to surrender and they will never step on Miraflores again, because anyone who betrays his homeland and is imploring an invasion of foreign forces must be treated as an enemy in his homeland, as a traitor to his homeland.”

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera—Protesters Clash with Security Forces in Caracas—6 April 2017.

Reuters—Venezuelan Opposition, Security Forces Clash in Anti-Maduro Protests—6 April 2017.

Telesur—Venezuela Right-Wing Opposition Plans Violent Attacks: Lawmaker—6 April 2017.

Washington Post—Protestors Clash With Government Forces in Venezuela—6 April 2017.

Torrential Floods in Peru Affecting Thousands

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, PERU—The El Niño phenomena is battering the Andean country of Peru with extreme weather. Due to the torrential downpours and flooding, ninety-four people are dead and an estimated seven-hundred-thousand people are homeless in 12 of the 25 regions of Peru.

Citizens in Peru deal with the aftermath of the the floods. (Photo Courtesy of NBC News)

The rain has severally damaged the northwestern coastal region of Peru. Additionally, the weather event has been considered the worst natural disaster to hit the nation in twenty years. Meteorologists believe there is little hope of relief from the extreme weather which is predicted to last for many weeks to come. The weather system hitting Peru is very unusual.

The widespread damage to infrastructures such as roads and highways has hampered relief efforts. For example, in Catacaos, Peru the flood waters have reached up to six-feet high killing four and isolating the town. Relief efforts have struggled to reach the area. Only five-hundred people have been evacuated while many continue to wait to be rescued. Furthermore, in the capital of Lima, many residents have gone six days without drinking water. General Jorge Chavez of the National Center for Emergency Operations stated, “We know this is an extreme situation, but we are pleading for calm. Please be confident that all will be taken care of.” Many citizens believe the response by the government has been too slow. The Peruvian government has sent its army to assist in the rescue efforts.

Additionally, crops have been destroyed with some regions losing up to fifteen-thousand acres of crops. It is believed that the cost to Peru’s economy in lost productivity is an estimated $3.1 billion. The Minister of Transportation, Martin Vizcarra, released an estimated price tag of at least $1 billion in order to fix the infrastructures.

Currently, international aid has arrived to Peru including $525,000 from the United States and $1.5 million in relief from China. Peru has asked the United States to donate more to relief efforts.

For more information, please see:

NBC News—Devastating Floods in Peru Displace Tens of Thousands—29 March 2017.

VOA—Peru Asks US for More aid to Confront Intense Rains, Floods—29 March 2017.

BBC—Peru Floods: Four Killed as Piura Bursts its Banks—28 March 2017.

Los Angeles Times—Peru’s Brutal Season of Floods Leaves 94 dead, 700,000 homeless—28 March 2017.

Colombia Faces an Increase in Assassinations of Indigenous Activists

By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTÁ, Colombia— Within the past year there has been an increase in murders of indigenous activists by right-wing paramilitaries. The most recent assassinations of prominent activists occurred in Corinto and Medellin.

Nasa tribe members protest the assasination of land rights activist, Javier Oteca. (Photo Courtesy of Telesur)

Javier Oteca, a member of the Nasa tribe and well known indigenous land rights activist was shot to death by right-wing paramilitaries impersonating farm workers, according to witnesses. It is believed that the men that shot Mr. Oteca were private military officers. Although members of the National Army were in the vicinity where Mr. Oteca was shot, they were unable to detain the suspects. But members from Mr. Oteca’s tribe detained six suspects believed to be related to the incident. The tribe has decided to carry out its own investigation of the murder. The Nasa tribe has experienced an increase in violence. In 2016, Colombia’s Constitutional Court declared the tribe “at risk of extermination.”

In addition to Mr. Oteca’s murder, earlier this month, Alicia Lopez Guisao, a leader of the Asokinchas tribe was murdered in Medellin. Ms. Guisao was shopping at a grocery store when two men stormed the store and shot her. Ms. Guisao worked for the left-wing organization, the People’s Congress, whose objective is to organize indigenous peasants. Ms. Guisao distributed food and land to indigenous groups and afro-descendants through the program, the Agrarian Summit Project. The People’s Congress believe that, “her murder is an example of the fact that the right-wing organizations that operate today in the city of Medellin are the same paramilitaries who have murdered others in recent years.”

The increase in murders of indigenous activists, according to a report released by the Defense of the People, stated that “since the retreat of the FARC from the zones where they previously exercised control has allowed for the entrance of new armed actors who fight for territorial and economic dominance.” It was well known that the FARC and left-wing guerilla groups had defended the indigenous campesino groups and since their retreat these communities are vulnerable to violence. In January and February alone, 3,549 people have been displaced, mostly indigenous and black, according to the United Nations.

For more information, please see:

Telesur—Colombian Paramilitaries Kill Another Indigenous Leader—24 March 2017.

El Colombiano—Desde el Dia D, han Sido Asesinados 27 Lideres—23 March 2017.

El Espectador—Denucian Aesinato de una Líder Social en Medellín—3 March 2017.

Telesur—Another Indigenous Human Rights Activist Killed in Colombia—3 March 2017.

Brazilian Land Activist Shot Dead

Brasilia, Brazil—A well known activist involved in the land rights movement was shot and killed on Monday in an Amazonian Hospital. The activist was recovering from a previous assassination attempt that took place two days prior to his death.

Prominent activist was shot dead in a Brazilian hospital. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Waldomiro Costa Pereira, an activist in the Movement of the Landless Rural Workers (MST) was admitted to the intensive care unit in the city of Paraupebas in northeastern Brazil after assassins shot Mr. Pereira in his home. On Monday, a group of five men wearing helmets overtook the hospital and its security guards. The men shot Mr. Pereira dead. A motive for his assassination has not been released. Mr. Pereira has been a member of the MST since 1996 but at the time of his death he was not directly involved with the movement. Instead, Mr. Pereira was an advisor to the local government on agricultural initiatives. The MST blamed the government for its “incompetence in taking care of the security of the population.”

The MST is a social movement in Brazil with an estimated 1.5 million members in twenty-three of the twenty-six states. The purpose of MST is “to fight for general access to the land for poor workers though land reform in Brazil and through activism around social issues impinging on the achievement of land possession, such as unequal income distribution, racism, sexism, and media monopolies.” Over the past year, an estimated sixty-one land rights activists were murdered in Brazil. Clashes between MST and wealthy landowners have increased since one percent of the population own nearly half of the land in Brazil.

 For more information, please see:

Newsweek—Violence in Brazil has Gotten so bad, an Activist was Murdered by Gunmen in his Hospital Bed—22 March 2017.

BBC—Matan a Tiros en Brasil a Waldomiro Costa Pereira, un Prominente Activista Ambiental, Mientras se Recuperaba en el Hospital de Otro Intento de Asesinato—22 March 2017.

BBC—Brazil Activist Shot Dead by Gunmen While Recovering in Hospital—21 March 2017.

The Guardian—Land Rights Activist Shot Dead in Brazilian Amazon Hospital—21 March 2017.

Mapuches Protest Police Brutality

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Santiago, Chile—The largest indigenous community in Chile, the Mapuche, took to the streets to protest the brutal use of force by the police. The protest comes after the national prosecutors dropped the charges against police sergeant Cristian Rivera who shot a Mapuche teenager.

Mapuche people are more likely to be killed by the police than non-Mapuche people.

The protest was organized by the parents of Brandon Hernandez, the seventeen-year-old Mapuche that was shot by Cristian Rivera. Brandon Hernandez was shot during an anti-government demonstration and was left in critical condition. Sergeant Rivera was initially arrested and earlier this week it was determined that the incident was an accident. Protestors want “the government to stop the injustices, to stop the criminalization of our youth and to stop killing our kids…We want the government to admit their mistakes and correct them.” Furthermore, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Chile’s Mapuche, are more likely to be killed by police than non-Mapuche people. Both organizations have recommended the authorities to investigate the use of force against the Mapuche.

The Mapuche, who make up ten percent of the population in Chile have been involved in a long ongoing land conflict. The Mapuche have been protesting the encroachment of multinational companies overtaking their lands in the Temuco region. Temuco is an important historical and cultural center for the community. The Mapuche claim that “the capitalist invaders” do not respect their territory and autonomy.

Last week the Mapuche Arauco-Malleco Coordination (CAM), lead an arson attack against the Trans-Cavalieri transport company. The CAM burned nineteen trucks, nine flatbeds, and a warehouse on the route to Temuco. The attack led to a three-million-dollar loss. The CAM stated that, “With this larger action, we pointed out to our oppressed people that there is the will and capacity of the Mapuche to deal decisively with the expressions of the capitalist system and the oppressive colonialist state.”

For more information, please see:

Telesur—Chile’s Indigenous Mapuche Protest Deadly Police Brutality—18 March 2017.

Telesur—Chile’s Indigenous Mapuche Burn Capitalist Invader Trucks—15 March 2017.

El Mostrador—Amnistía Internacional da Cuenta del uso Excesivo de la Fuerza Policial y de Detenciones Arbitrarias a Mapuches—22 February 2017.

Former Pinochet-era Agents Sentenced to Prison

By Cintia Garcia
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Santiago, Chile—A Chilean court of appeals in Santiago has condemned and sentenced eleven agents of the Intelligence Services of former president and dictator General Augusto Pinochet. The cases brought before the court involved the murder and disappearances of Maria Alvarado Borgel and Martin Elgueta Pinto.

The Chilean Court has sentenced former agents to prison. (Photo Courtesy of Telesur)

The victims disappeared on July 15th 1974 and were killed in the facility that the intelligence service called “Londres 38.” According to testimony, both Maria Alvarado Borgel and Martin Elgueta Pinto were tortured prior to being killed in the facility. Maria Alvarado Borgel was twenty-one years old and worked as a secretary. She was apprehended by agents of the Intelligence Service as she walked with a friend. On July 17th, 18th, and 25th, the agents took Ms. Borgel to the home of her mother and other family members who testified seeing her in deplorable conditions, including burns to her body. The other victim, Martin Elgueta Pinto was twenty-one years old and a student at the University of Chile studying commercial engineering. Mr. Pinto was interrogated and suffered physical abuse by the agents.

The sentences imposed on the agents by presiding Judge, Leopoldo Llanos,  ranged from fifteen to four years in prison. In addition to the sentences, the Chilean state must pay seventy-seven thousand dollars to the brothers of the victim and all the activists belonging to the Revolutionary Left Movement.

In addition to the eleven agents, six other agents of the intelligence service under the Pinochet era have been sentenced for disappearances and murders during the dictatorship. These cases included the murder of Arturo Barría Araneda and Jorge Pardo Aburto.

For more information, please see:

La Patria—Condenado en Chile Oficial que Mató a Adolescente en Protesta Contra Pinochet—5 March 2017.

La Nacion—Dictan Condena Contra 11 Exagentes de la Dina por el Secuestro Calificado de dos Jóenes—27 February 2017.

Telesur—Chilean Court Sentences 11 Pinochet-Era Intelligence Agents—27 February 2017.

El Diario—Condenan en Chile a Cinco Agentes de Pinochet por una Victima de la Operación Colombo—13 February 2017.

Ecuador Will Hold Presidential Runoff

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Quito, Ecuador—In a closely watched election, the Electoral Commission of Ecuador announced that a presidential runoff will be held on April 2nd. Left-wing party candidate Lenin Moreno did not meet the 40% of votes needed to win the election.

Conservative party members demonstrate outside the National Electoral Council. (Picture Courtesy of The New York Times)

Unlike in the past when results have been announced the same night, this election took four days for the results to be released. The delay according to the National Electoral Council President, Juan Pablo Pozo, “blamed the numerical inconsistencies in 5.5% of the ballots.” They also stated that the delay in arrival of the ballots from remote regions of Ecuador led to the delay, including ballots from consulates abroad. The final results are still not accounted for but Lenin Moreno has won 39.3% of the votes—just short of what was needed to win the election.

Lenin Moreno has been running on a platform of increasing employment opportunities and higher education for all. He is a close ally of current president, Rafael Correa. Guillermo Lasso is a former banker running for the right wing party. Mr. Lasso is hoping to create jobs with foreign investment. It is believed that the other conservative candidates will endorse his candidacy.

Concern has been expressed by many, including the presidential candidates, regarding the length of time it took for the results to be released. Mr. Lasso and his supports are claiming fraud in the elections. But there has been no evidence to support irregularities. Hundreds of his supporters were demanding a runoff outside of the National Electoral Council office in Quito. Current president, Correa, released a statement in response to the fraud claims stating that the conservative party was using the fraud allegations to prompt violence.

In other elections through out Latin America, such as Argentina, Brazil, and Peru, conservative leaders have won the presidential office replacing leftist parties.

For more information, please see:

BBC—Ecuador Will Hold Run-Off Poll to Choose New President—23 February 2017.

The New York Times—Ecuador to Hold Runoff in Tense Presidential Election—23 February 2017.

The Wall Street Journal—Ecuador’s Presidential Election Heading to Runoff—23 February 2017.

US News Week—Official: Ecuador’s Presidential Election Headed to Runoff—21 February 2017.

Human Rights Activist Attacked in Medellin

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia — Late on Sunday, February 12, human rights defender and well known activist, Yudy Andrea was attacked in her home in Medellin and was critically injured. Yudy’s daughter was also injured in the attack.

Colombia has seen a rise in attacks against human rights activists. (Photo Courtesy of Colombia Reports)
Colombia has seen a rise in attacks against human rights activists. (Photo Courtesy of Colombia Reports)

It is believed that local gang members were the culprits behind the attack, but no suspects have been detained. The suspects went to Ms. Andrea’s home and moments after she opened the front door she was shot in the face and head. Her injuries are severe and currently remains in the hospital. In addition, her eleven-year-old daughter was shot in the leg but was able to escape. Ms. Andrea has been an active defender of rights in the Belen neighborhood of Medellin. A note was left by the suspects that stated, “death to snitches.” This attack comes after a rise in the number of urban paramilitary inspired violent acts, which had only taken place in rural areas. Many of the targets have been human rights activist, leftist party members, and journalists. Local community members have issued an early warning for all human rights leaders to take precautions in the area although no imminent threats are known.

This is not the first human rights activist attacked in recent days. Last month, well known Afro-Colombian human rights leader, Emilsen Manyoma, was killed along with her partner Joe Javier Rodallega. Both were tied up and decapitated in a rural jungle area near a highway. They had been outspoken critics of right-wing paramilitary groups, international mining, and agribusiness interests. Additionally, she created a truth commission documenting attacks on human rights.

Colombia is known for attacks against human rights defenders. In 2016, there were at least 85 murders according to the human rights organization, Front Line Defenders.

For more information, please see:

Colombia Reports—Colombia Human Rights Leader Attacked in Medellin—14 February 2017.

El Colombiano—Herida a Bala Una Líder de Altavista—14 February 2017.

El Espectador—Atentan Contra Una Líder de Derechos Humanos en Altavista, Medellín—13 February 2017.

TeleSUR—Colombian Human Rights Leader Assassinated—18 January 2017.


Arrest Warrant Issued for Peruvian ex-President Alejandro Toledo

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Lima, PERU—The Peruvian attorney general has issued an arrest warrant for the former president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo, on charges of laundering assets. Prosecutors are accusing the former president of accepting $20 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht.

Ex-President of Peru, Alejandro Toledo, is accused of obtaining millions in bribes. (Courtesy of The New York Times)
Ex-President of Peru, Alejandro Toledo, is accused of obtaining millions in bribes. (Courtesy of The New York Times)

Prosecutors claim that Mr. Toledo accepted bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for infrastructure contracts. These contracts included the right to build a highway extending from Brazil to Peru. It is believed that Mr. Toledo obtained the payments through Peruvian-Israeli businessman Josef Maiman, who is also being investigated. The Peruvian attorney general, Pablo Sánchez, has requested for the “precautionary imprisonment” of Mr. Toledo for 18 months during the investigation. Currently, Mr. Toledo is in Paris, France and has told the media he is innocent of the accusations. He stated, “Say when, how and where and in what bank they’ve given me $20 million.” Mr. Toledo is set to travel to Stanford where he is a visiting scholar but is willing to travel to Peru as long as he is given a fair trial.

Odebrecht has been involved in similar scandals in the region that involved the Brazilian government and the administration of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In addition, the CEO of Odebrecht was sentenced to 19 years of prison for corruption and money laundering charges. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Odebrecht had created a department within its company dedicated to bribing international government officials in exchange for public works contracts.

Mr. Toledo was president of Peru from 2001 to 2006 and rose to power after protests toppled his predecessor, Alberto K. Fujimori, who is currently serving time in prison.

For more information, please see:

ABC News—Peru Attorney General Seeks Arrest of Ex-President Toledo—7 February 2017.

New York Times—Corruption Scandal Ensnares Leaders of Peru and Colombia—7 February 2017.

Wall Street Journal—Peru Seeks Detention of Ex-President Alejandro Toledo—7 February 2017.

BBC—Peru’s ex-President Alejandro Toledo Denies Taking Bribes—6 February 2017.

Trial has Been Granted for the Murder of Transgender Leader

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Buenos Aires, Argentina—The Judicial System of Argentina has decided to send Diana Sacayán’s murder case to trial. Diana Sacayán was an activist and transgender leader murdered in 2015.

Diana Sacayán, trans gender activist was murdered in 2015. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)
Diana Sacayán, trans gender activist was murdered in 2015. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Diana Sacayán was murdered by Gabriel David Marino and Felix Alberto Ruiz. They stabbed Ms. Sacayán in her apartment in Buenos Aires thirteen times, and her body showed signs of violence. Both Mr. Marino and Mr. Ruiz are accused of aggravated murder and gender violence. The same weekend Ms. Sacayán was murdered, she was set to participate in the National Women’s Conference. Ms. Sacayán was the leader of the International Association of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals, as well as the leader of the Antidiscrimination Liberation Movement. Upon her death, both the president of Argentina and Amnesty International expressed their concern over the murder. Amnesty International Director of Argentina, Mariela Belski, stated, “A dark cloud has set over Argentina’s trans community, unless this latest wave of murders is effectively investigated and those responsible are taken to justice, a message will be sent that attacking trans women is actually ok.”

Prosecutor, Matías Di Lello, and prosecutor of crimes against women, Mariela Labozzeta, submitted the request for trial. They believe there is sufficient evidence that the murder of Ms. Sacayán should be treated as a hate crime and femicide.

The same month Ms. Sacayán was murdered, two other transgender women, Marcela Chocobar and Coty Olmos, were also murdered. The wave of murders within the transgender community is not the first of its kind. Latin America accounts for a significant percentage of all transgender deaths in the world. Statistics from January 2008 and December 2014 demonstrated that seventy-eight percent of the 1,731 reported murders of transgender and gender-diverse people occurred in Latin America.

For more information, please see:

El Diario—El Crimen de Diana Sacayan Ira a Juicio Oral—01 February 2017.

TeleSur—Argentina Ordena Juicio Oral Por Asesinato de Lider Transexual—01 February 2017.

BBC—Argentina Transgender Killings Spark Outcry—15 October 2015.

Amnesty International—Argentina Must Investigate Horrific Wave of Attacks Against Trans Activists—14 October 2015.

FARC ‘Abortion Nurse’ Will Face trial in Colombia

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA—Former Farc member, Hector Arboledo Albeidis Buitrago, a Spanish national, is accused of carrying out three-hundred forced abortions on female FARC fighters. Buitrago was arrested in Madrid Spain in 2015. Spanish officials have agreed to extradite Buitrago to face trial in Colombia at the request of the Colombian Justice Ministers.

FARC gueriila fighters were forced to have abortions from 1998-2000. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)
FARC gueriila fighters were forced to have abortions from 1998-2000. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Buitrago had been working as a nurse in Colombia where, with no medical training, he performed illegal abortions on women fighters, including an estimated fifty juvenile girls. A majority of the pregnancies were the result of rape by other FARC fighters. The abortions occurred between 1998 and 2000. His arrest came after a formal investigation related to 150 cases of forced abortions. Colombian prosecutors claim that Buitrago took part in most of the abortions. Lead prosecutor, attorney general Eduardo Montealegre, stated that “there was evidence that FARC fighters used forced abortions to avoid losing female fighters ‘as an instrument of war.’” FARC has denied these accusations. In Colombia, Buitrago was known as ‘The Nurse.’ Buitrago is facing charges of murder, attempted murder, abortion without consent.

According to the women forced to have these abortions, they were “carried out in filthy conditions, with no medication, on women who were often in their final months of pregnancy.” Another woman stated that “she had been forced to have five abortions [because] women in that organization were expected to fight, and those who were allowed to have babies considered themselves lucky.” Prosecutors believe these women should have been protected and relieved from fighting during their pregnancies.

A date of extradition has not been revealed.

For more information, please see:

BBC—Colombia: Spain Agrees to Extradite Farc ‘Abortions Nurse’—28 January 2017.

International Business Times—Spain Agrees to Extradite Former Farc ‘Abortions Nurse’ to Colombia—28 January 2017.

The Guardian—Spain Arrests Man Known as ‘The Nurse’ for Forced Abortions on Colombia Rebels—13 December 2015.

Venezuelan Government Releases Political Prisoners

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

 CARACAS, VENEZUELA—The Venezuelan government released several political prisoners from the Helicoide prison. Among the political prisoners released included former opposition presidential candidate. The release of the prisoners comes as talks mediated by the Vatican continue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.

Francisco Marquez shares his experience as a Venezuelan political prisoner.
Francisco Marquez shares his experience as a Venezuelan political prisoner. (Photo Courtesy of NBC News)

The political prisoners released included former 2006 opposition presidential candidate Manuel Rosales who was detained and imprisoned in October 2015 for illicit enrichment upon his return from exile in Peru. He is the leader of the Venezuelan political party “A New Era.” Mr. Rosales will continue in house arrest until trial. In addition to his release five other activists belonging to the opposition were released. The prisoners included, Nixón Leal, Yeimi Varela, Skarlyn Duarte, Gerardo Carrero and Ángel Contrera who were all detained during a violent barricade protest in 2014. The released prisoners will not be able to leave Venezuela and will report to a parole officer. Furthermore, opposition journalist and owner of Venezuelan media outlet “6 to Poder”, Leocenis García was released after being detained in 2013 for tax fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.

Their release comes after the opposition demanded the Venezuelan government to release political prisoners. The opposition claimed that they will not attend the following mediation talks on January 13 until 100 political prisoners are released and a new board to the government-controlled electoral council is put in place. Alfredo Romero, executive director of Foro Penal, a group that defends jailed activist stated, “Without a doubt, Venezuela is living a deep social crisis and these releases in some way are an escape valve that takes some pressure, especially international, off Maduro. But it is important to remember that in 2016 there 55 people jailed and only 43 released.”

Most recently, ex- Venezuelan Prisoner, Francisco Marquez, was released in October 2016 after being detained on his way to obtain signatures for the recall referendum against president Maduro. He stated that “people need to know that Venezuela is a country that systematically tortures its political and common prisoners.” He recounted his time in prison, although he was never tortured, he recounted the torture of other prisoners.

For more information, please see:

NBC News—Ex-Venezuela Political Prisoner Still Raining Voice for Others’ Freedom—06 January 2017.

Venezuela Analysis—Former Opposition Presidential Candidate Freed in Venezuela—02 January 2017.

USA Today—Venezuela Frees Jailed Activists, Ex-Presidential Candidate—31 December 2016.