South America

Lawmaker Kidnapped & Released in Northeast Colombia

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

BOGOTA, Columbia — The Colombian politician Carlos Omar Angarita Navarro, deputy of the Assembly of the Department of Norte de Santander, was released today by the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) who had kidnapped him Monday in that area of ​​Northeast, said official sources.

Diputado Navarro / Photo courtesy of rackspacecloud.com

The ELN has been classified as a terrorist organization by the governments of Colombia, Peru, the United States, the European Union and Canada.  The group has been violently active in Colombia since 1964, advocating for a composite of Communist Marxism and Liberation Theology.  

Navarro, a member of the Conservative Party, was abducted Monday afternoon on the outskirts of the town of Hacari as he was returning from a meeting with the community at which the town’s health problems were discussed.  The politician was in a meeting with members of an IPS in that town, they were complaining about the alleged poor performance of its services. 

Currently the Conservative Party is the second largest political force in the government’s congress.

He was captured on the highway that links Hacari and Ocaña, the provincial police commander, Col. Eliecer Camacho, told reporters on Tuesday.

“No criminal group has said anything about the motive for the kidnapping,” the police chief said, although he refrained from confirming ELN rebels were responsible.  Navarro’s relatives believe that the ELN rebels were responsible.

Three armed men forced the vehicle Navarro was traveling in with his two sons to stop at a spot known as El Espejo, kidnapped the lawmaker and took him toward the mountains, Hacari spokesman Diogenes Quintero said.

Col. Camacho said that although a family member said the politician was abducted by the ELN, often criminal bands perpetrate their crimes using the name of another group.  But he added that the ELN does indeed operate in the area, along with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas and the Popular Liberation Army.  

The deputy was released after negotiations with the participation of several Colombian authorities and mediated by a local priest, the chief investigator said in a statement , who also participated in these efforts.  

According to officals, the presence of these armed groups poses a risk to the inhabitants of the towns of Hacarí, El Tarra, San Calixto and Teorama, belonging to the troubled region of Catatumbo.

For more information, please see:

W Radio – Norte de Santander: secuestran en Hacarí al diputado Ómar Angarita – 21 Oct. 2014

El Pais.com.co – En libertad diputado secuestrado por el ELN en Norte de Santander – 21 Oct. 2014

ABC.es – El ELN libera a diputado regional secuestrado en el noresete de Colombia – 21 Oct. 2014

Fox Latino – Regional lawmaker kidnapped in NE Colombia – 21 Oct. 2014

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 Britannica.com

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 dailymail.co

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

dailymail.co.uk – 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 newgold.com

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 diaadia.com

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

BND.com – 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