South America

Venezuela Elected to UN Security Council

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela — Today Venezuela was victorious in their bid to fill a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.  Angola, New Zealand and Malaysia were also successful in their bids.  In another round of voting Turkey lost their bid to Spain.

It is speculated that the daughter of Hugo Chavez will play a more prominent role in international politics after Venezuela was elected to the security council.  Maria Gabriela Chavez is Venezuela’s deputy ambassador at the UN mission.

UN Security Council | Image courtesy of

It took 181 votes from member states to secure one of five rotating seats on the Council.  Before the vote, special attention had been on Turkey, who has been under consistent pressure to do more concerning war in Syria.

Venezuela’s socialist government was unopposed for the single seat allocated to Latin America and the Caribbean. Venezuela’s foreign minister, Rafael Ramirez, dedicated “this huge triumph” to Chávez and said it came despite a “malign campaign against our country”.

The United States, which shut-down Venezuela’s last attempt to join the security council in 2006, did not discuss how it voted in the secret ballot.  Ten countries abstained from the vote.

Though Venezuela’s partners are United States enemies, the US chose to not publicly oppose Venezuela this year.  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has close ties with Syria’s Bashar Assad and Iran and he has shown support for Russia over the Ukraine in the crisis.

Rights observers expressed concern over some of the newly elected council members. Philippe Bolopion, the UN director of Human Rights Watch, said: “The security council’s new membership could prove more problematic on human rights issues, with several generally rights-friendly countries leaving and others coming on board with poor voting records.

“This is particularly true of Venezuela, which has consistently challenged protection efforts at the [UN] Human Rights Council, but also of Angola and Malaysia, which need to demonstrate a more human rights-oriented approach in New York than they did in Geneva.”

The new members will join the council on 1 January and serve to the end of 2016. The five will replace Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, South Korea and Rwanda.

There are five permanent Council members, which each wield the power of veto, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Along with Lithuania, the non-permanent members that will remain on the Council until the end of 2015 are Chad, Chile, Jordan, and Nigeria.

Described in the UN Charter, the Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Each of the Council’s members has one vote. Under the Charter, all UN Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.

For more information, please see: 

the guardian – Venezuela elected to UN security council – 16 Oct. 2014

UN News Centre – Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela elected to serve on UN Security Council – 16 Oct. 2014

BBC News – Turkey loses out on UN Security Council seat – 16 Oct. 2014

ABC News – Venezuela Jubilant Over UN Security Council Win – 16 Oct. 2014


Prisoners Riot and Hold Wardens Hostage At Guarapuava Jail in Brazil

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil — The riot that began at Guarapuava jail Monday, has dissipated today.  Most of the hostages were released with injuries, but no deaths have been reported.


Prisoners hang warden upside down during riot. / photo courtesy of

Monday, on their way to work at a construction site several prisoners overpowered guards.  The prisoners took 13 guards hostage and control of the prison.  Shortly after they were taken hostage three of the guards were freed.

Following a two-day standoff the other ten hostages were released.  A local official said the “rebellion” ended when prisoners demands to be transferred to other facilities was granted.

Initially, the prisoners had a long list of demands including: better food, treatment, conditions and the transfer of some prisoners to other penitentiaries.

For Brazil, jail riots seem to be as common as weekdays.  This is Brazil’s 21 prison riot this year.  Brazil has the world’s fourth largest prison, with 500,000 inmates held in prisons equipped to hold 300,000 people.

A spokesman for the Parana state’s justice secretary said 28 prisoners involved in the riot would be transferred from Guarapuava jail to other detention centres in the region.

News broadcast of the rebellion showed the inmates on the roof of the prison holding the guards, whom they had stripped of their clothes.  Prisoners were armed with knives and clubs beating some of the disrobed guards and fellow inmates atop a prison building roof.  At least six men were injured when they were thrown from the roof onto the ground below.  One report noted that guards were set on fire before being thrown from the roof.  At one point the prisoners tied up a warden by his feet and dangled him off the roof.

Prison riots in Brazil often turn extremely violent. Five people were killed in August in a riot in Cascavel prison also in Parana, two of them were decapitated.

Earlier this year the UN called for an investigation into the high number of violent deaths in Brazil’s prisons, after previous riots at a jail in the north left dozens of people dead.

For more information, please see: 

BBC News – Brazil prisoners end hostage drama at Guarapuava jail – 15 Oct. 2014

Aljazeera – Brazil Prison Guards Held Hostage by Inmates  – 14 Oct. 2014

Int’l Business Times – Rioting Brazilian Prisoners Set Fire to Guards and Throw Them From Rooftops – 14 Oct. 2014 – Horrifying Moment Warden held hostage by inmates at Brazilian jail has his feet bound and is DANGLED from the roof of the prison – 15 Oct. 2014


Goldcorp Halted in Its Developmental Tracks by Chile Supreme Court

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s Supreme Court suspended the development of the El Morro mine owned by Canada’s Goldcorp on Tuesday.  The Court sided with indigenous groups that oppose the mine because of its potential environmental impact.

The Diaguita community filed a request to cease mining, arguing that the mine could cause pollution in a local river.

El Morro mine | Photo courtesy of

The top court ordered the project’s environmental permit be withdrawn until the Diaguita indigenous community is consulted about the $3.9 billion gold and copper mine. In doing so, it overturned a lower court decision dismissing an appeal the Diaguita filed in April.

“The Diaguita people are happy that justice is on the side of the humble, of those who defend Mother Earth, our water resources and our indigenous land,” Diaguita leader Maglene Campillay said after the ruling.

Goldcorp, based in Vancouver, owns 70 percent of the mine, while New Gold Inc. owns the remaining 30 percent.  Currently Goldcorp is trying to determine its next step.

“It may put us back a bit from a time standpoint. But we need… to get that deposit to the point where it’s ready to build anyway,” Jeannes said.

“If we have to go back to … permitting at the very beginning, it could take another two to three years before we’re even allowed to start,” he said.

The company’s five-year plan does not include any production from El Morro.

Goldcorp, the world’s largest gold miner by market value, expects gold prices to increase steadily after next year, when it says its output will peak, but Jeannes said he expected prices to stay roughly between $1,150 and $1,400 through 2015.

Spot gold rose to $1,227.40 an ounce early on Thursday, before paring some gains to trade up 0.3 percent at $1,225.64 by 0708 GMT.

“Goldcorp remains committed to open and transparent dialogue with its stakeholders and to responsible practices in accordance with the highest applicable health, safety and environmental standards,” Marks said.

Chile’s economy widely relies on the mining industry.  Chile is the top copper producer in the world.  The country boasts some of Latin America’s most stable ground rules for mining.  However, mining and energy projects have been delayed  as environmentalists and indigenous communities go to court demanding tougher protections for nearby populations and natural resources.

The mine is expected to be worth USD $4 billion.

The Diaguita stresses that local communities were never consulted on the El Morrow mine.  Goldcorp has ceased construction on the mine twice before in 2012 and 2013.  

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Chilean Supreme Court Orders Halt to Mine – 7 Oct. 2014

ABC News – Chile’s Top Court Halts Goldcorp’s El Morro Mine – 7 Oct. 2014

Jurist – Chile Top Court Halts Mining Development for Consultation – 8 Oct. 2014

Reuters – Goldcorp Looks to Cut Costs on Delayed El Morro Project in Chile -CEO – 9 Oct. 2014

Dictator, Torturer, Kidnapper and Murderer Bignone Sentenced to Additional 23 Years

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina– The last military president in Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship received another prison sentence on Tuesday, this time for the kidnapping and torture of 32 factory workers.

Reynaldo Bignone being escorted by a police officer. Photo courtesy of

A court in Buenos Aires sentenced Reynaldo Bignone to 23 years in prison for the human rights violations. The workers were forcibly disappeared by the military during the so-called Dirty War against leftist dissidents and other opponents.

The 86-year-old Bignone is already serving combined life sentences in more than two dozen cases involving crimes against humanity.

Bignone, was convicted in 56 cases involving torture, illegal detentions and other crimes in one of Argentina’s largest torture centers, the Campo de Mayo army base.  Supposedly 4,000 dissidents were taken to the base and only 50 came out alive.

The same base also had a maternity center where dissidents would give birth.   Their babies were taken away by an official and adopted into a military family.  Nearly 400 infants were kidnapped after birth before their mothers were tortured to death.  About 102 people born to vanished dissidents have since recovered their true identities with the aid of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a leading human rights group, which helped create a national database of DNA evidence to match children with their birth families.

Bignone, was appointed president by the military junta in the final years of the dictatorship and it fell to him to protect the military as Argentina returned to democracy. He granted amnesty to human rights violators and ordered the destruction of documents related to torture and disappearances of political opponents before agreeing to transfer power to the democratically elected Raul Alfonsin.

He has denied responsibility for the crimes in past court proceedings.

“In times of peace the disappearance of a single person means one thing and in times of war it means something else,” said Bignone.

The Buenos Aires court also sentenced former Gen. Santiago Omar to life in prison for his role in dozens of illegal raids, kidnappings, torture and the killing of three people.

According to human rights groups about 30,000 people died or disappeared in Argentina’s brutal dictatorship.

For more information, please see:

Charlotte – Another Sentence for Argentine Ex-Dictator – 7 Oct. 2014 – Another Sentence for Argentine Ex-Dictator – 7 Oct. 2014

ABC News – Another Sentence for Argentine Ex-Dictator – 7 Oct. 2014

Star Tribune – Court Sentences Former Dictator Reynaldo Bignone to 23 Years in prison – 7 Oct. 2014

Huffington Post – Argentine Dictators Go On Trial For Baby Thefts – 1 March 2011

Amidst Drug Trafficking Investigation Peruvian Governors Re-Elected

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru — The unofficial count of election ballots from Peru Monday evening shows at least two gubernatorial candidates under investigation for drug trafficking related crimes have won their elections.  An additional two face run-offs, after a nationwide vote for mayors, governors and municipal councils.  While many on the outside are shocked at the outcome, others are not.

Peruvian man votes. From

Hundreds of candidates suspected of ties to drug trafficking were on the ballot Sunday in what authorities called the Andean nation’s most violent campaign since 2000.

The Ipsos Apoyo polling firm compiled unofficial results of the election.  According to their tally the winners included Manuel Gambini, a former coca grower in the Amazon state of Ucayali.  Gambini is known for promoting the planting of Cocoa beans and other alternative crops, in place of the crop that produces cocaine.  A clean image that earned him praise from the U.S. and a trip to Miami to showcase his efforts.

However, this past August a judicial order launched an investigation of Gambini, detailing that he amassed a fortune and extensive land holdings, which would have been unlikely funded by his salary as mayor.  Gambini vehemently denies the allegations saying they are lies pitted against him by his competitors.

Also victorious was Gilmer Horna in the northern state of Amazonas.  The owner of a chain of chicken restaurants, he is under investigation for possible money laundering.

One of every three Peruvian voters lives in a region where candidates were investigation, on trial or previously convicted of drug-related crimes. Peru’s state attorney for drug enforcement, Sona Medina, said her office had identified 700 such candidates.

Electoral authorities reported more than 100 incidents of election-day violence, including the destruction of ballot boxes, temporary seizures of polling stations, threats to elections officials and destruction of vehicles.

“We haven’t had situations of this magnitude in Peru for some time,” said Gerardo Tavara, secretary general of the citizen watchdog group Transparencia.  “Hit men are being hired to assassinate candidates” he said.

Two mayoral candidates were slain in gangland-style killings during the campaign, both in cocaine-trafficking corridors, and on Friday, two police officers were shot and killed in an ambush blamed on drug-funded rebels in the Apurimac and Ene river valley, the world’s top cocaine-producing region.

Peruvian law allows convicted criminals to run for office as long as they have been rehabilitated by court order. More than 1,300 candidates convicted of crimes — including rape and graft — were on Sunday’s ballot, and two governors jailed under preventative detention pending possible corruption trials were re-elected, according to unofficial results.

This election day boasted 30 deaths from car accidents.  Mostly from people attempting to navigate Peru’s mountainous terrain.  In Peru voting is mandatory, if a citizen does not vote they can be subject to fines.

Official electoral results remained incomplete Monday.

For more information please see:

Sky – Thirty Killed in Peru Election Day Accidents – 6 Oct. 2014

ABC News – 2 Peru Governor Candidates Win Despite Drug Probes – 6 Oct. 2014

Fox News – In No.1 Cocaine-Producer Peru, Narco Candidates are Tainting Nationwide Elections – 4 Oct. 2014

SBS News – 30 Killed in Peru Election Day Accidents – 6 Oct. 2014