South America

Is Venezuela Increasing Censorship?

By Mridula Tirumalasetti

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela–A longtime editorial cartoonist in Venezuela was fired from the El Universal newspaper because of the caricature she drew. The cartoon was used to satirize the health care system in Venezuela. Although nothing has been confirmed by the newspaper, Rayma Suprani, who was the cartoonist, said via Twitter, “I was informed of my sacking from El Universal over this caricature and  my awkward attitude over graphic satire.”

The cartoon pictured a normal- looking electrocardiogram with the title “health” underneath it and another that combined Chavez’s signature with a flat heartbeat line, symbolic of a cardiac arrest. Under that electrocardiogram was the title “health in Venezuela.”

Printed version of the cartoon by Rayma Suprani in a newspaper (photo courtesy of Reuters)

El Universal’s editorial page published the cartoon. The newspaper’s editorial page has always been critical of the socialist government of Venezuela. However, a pro-Chavista government company acquired the newspaper this summer, and the anti-government stance has softened. Many columnists have left the newspaper since.

The cartoon touched on two sensitive topics for Venezuelans: the legacy of Chavez and the way the socialist government has been managing healthcare.

Supporters of Chavez argue that Chavez transformed the healthcare system to one that is friendlier towards the poor. Chavez initiated the “Barrio Adentro” (Inside the Neighborhood) program, which established a network of small health clinics around Venezuela. The health clinics were staffed by Cuban health care professionals and offered free treatment.

The opposition does not deny the welfare advance made by Chavez, but they insist that the advances were patchy and are critical of the shortages of medicine and equipment. Henrique Capriles, who is an opposition leader, not only paid public tribute to Suprani after the cartoon incident, but also used the incident to take a stab at the Maduro government, which is currently in power.

According to a statement issued by the staff on the newspaper, Suprani’s firing reflects a bigger issue: the country’s “increasing censorship.” Under the governments of Chavez and Maduro, any critical media outlets became extinct. For example, the RCTV station, which was a critical TV station lost its broadcast license in 2007. Since 1999, when Chavez became president, several indenpendant radio stations and newspapers were forced to close. El Nacional remains the only opposition newspaper.

Suprani told local radio, “[m]y immediate boss called me and told me he didn’t like my caricature and I was out. We’ve become a country where if you say things, have your own criteria and try to provoke reflection, it’s not well-viewed.”

For more information, please see:

LA Times–Firing of editorial cartoonist raises censorship concerns–19 September 2014

The Guardian–Venezuelan cartoonist ‘fired’ over healthcare satire–18 September 2014

The Tico Times–Venezulan cartoonist fired after sketch slamming health care–18 September 2014

Reuters–Venezuelan cartoonist says fired for health satire–18 September 2014

Justice Sought for Kidnapped Babies in Argentina During Dictatorship

By Mridula Tirumalasetti

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—Argentina is bringing suits against the two doctors and one midwife who allegedly delivered political prisoners’ babies and helped Argentina’s former military regime kidnap the babies from their parents. This is the first case of healthcare professionals being accused of falsifying birth certificates of babies.

During the dictatorship, the regime fought the “dirty war” in which Argentinians lived in a period of state terrorism. Approximately 30,000 people who were left wing guerrillas or political groups, or perceived to be associated with socialism were killed or abducted. Prisoners who were pregnant were blindfolded and handcuffed when they gave birth. Once the babies were born, they were taken away and given to regime friendly families, including military or police families, or even their parents’ killers.

Mothers of the “disappeared” children in 1977 pictured above (photo courtesy of BBC News)

Prosecutors argue that the midwife and doctors provided “essential assistance” to conceal the identity of the babies. Moreover, they helped give the babies to regime-approved families, who raised the stolen children as their own.

Francisco Madariaga was one of approximately 500 children taken at birth by the former regime  during the dictatorship, which lasted from 1976 to 1983. Madriaga was born in a military hospital in Buenos Aires. The midwife who delivered him was Luisa Yolanda Arroche. Arroche is now charged with falsifying Madriaga’s birth certificate and aiding in the kidnapping.

“It’s a very important trial because it will judge the complicity of doctors and midwives who were directly responsible for these crimes against humanity,” Madriaga said. He continued, “[w]ith this trial we’ll be able to learn what they did with our mothers the day after we were born, know that there will be a punishment and justice will triumph because we are the living proof of the crime.” Madriaga’s mother, Silvia Quintela, has never been found.

Of the 500 stolen babies, approximately 115 have been located due to genetic testing and because of the efforts made by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which is a group dedicated to finding their stolen grandchildren.

Arroche faces charges alongside doctors Norberto Bianco and Raul Martin, all of whom are in their 80s. Prosecutors are also bringing charges against former military officer, Santiago Omar Riveros and Dictator Reynaldo Bignone, who have both already been sentenced for various crimes against humanity.

For more information, please see: 

BBC News–Argentina tries doctors for “baby theft” during military rule–18 September 2014

Yahoo News–Argentina tries doctors for dictatorship baby thefts–17 September 2014

TeleSur–Argentine Doctors Tried  for Baby Theft During Dictatorship–18 September 2014

Prensa Latina–Trial Against Doctors from Dictatorship Begins in Argentina–17 September 2014

Eduardo Campos, Brazilian Presidential Candidate, Reportedly Dies in Plane Crash

By: Delisa Morris

News Reporter, South America

Eduardo Campos, Brazilian presidential candidate, was reportedly aboard a plane that crashed in Brazil today.  Campos, 49, was a front – runner for the Brazilian presidency.  The plane crashed in the coastal town of Santos, São Paulo.

Eduardo Campos, Brazilian Presidential Candidate, Dies in Plane Crash at 49. Photo Credit: psbrs.org

Campos, was the leader of the Brazilian Socialist Party and was reportedly out of contact with his team since 9:30 a.m.  According to witnesses, the plane crashed into three homes in Santos on the coast of São Paulo around 10 a.m.  First responders report that there were at least ten casualties.

Representative Julio Delgado said “[w]e’re stunned.  It seems that there are no survivors.  It seems we have lost Eduardo.  Eduardo could not land, there are no survivors in the aircraft.  It’s an irreparable loss.”

Brazilian air authorities report that the downed plane was a Cessna 560XL.  The plane had been flying from Rio de Janeiro to Guarajá in São Paulo state.  In bad weather, the plane prepared to land in São Paulo when air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft.

The Brazilian Air Force released a statement.  “The Air Force Command reports that on Wednesday, around 10am, an aircraft Cessna 560XL, prefix PR-AFA, crashed in the city of Santos on the coast of São Paulo.

“The aircraft took off from Santos Dumon Airport in Rio de Janeiro, bound for the airport Guarajá (SP).

“When preparing for landing, the plan lunged due to bad weather.  Then, the air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft.

“The Air Force has initiated investigations to determine the factors that may have contributed to the accident.”

Campos was formerly a governor of the north-eastern state of Pernambuco.  Campos was one of three forerunners in the presidential election in Brazil.

The election is due to take place in October 2014.

The most recent polls put Campos third behind incumbent Dilma Rousseff, with 38 percent, and Aecio Neves, of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party.

Walter Feldman, a former representative, told Brazilian reporters he had spoken with the politician who was expecting to receive Campos.  He said “Márcio França called and said it was confirmed that the prefix of the plane is Campos’s.”

Marina Silva, Campos’s running partner, was reportedly not on board the flight.

For more information, please see:

The Telegraph – Brazilian presidentail candidate Eduardo Campos’ plane thought to hae crashed in Sao Paulo state – 13 August 2014

Bloomberg – Brazil Presidential Candidate Campos Reported Dead in Crash  – 13 August 2014

BBC News – Brazil presidential candidate Campos in plane crash – 13 August 2014

ABC News –Local Officials Say Brazilian Presidential Candidate Eduardo Campos Has Died in a Plane Crash – 13 August 2014

South America Governments Pull Ambassadors from Israel

By: Delisa Morris

News Reporter – South America

Last week five South American countries pulled their diplomats out of Gaza including: Chile, Peru, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Brazil.

A photo of Israel’s operation in Gaza. Photo courtesy of naharnet.com

To protest Israel’s operation in the Gaza strip five South American countries pulled their ambassadors out of Israel this week.  The spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, said recalling ambassadors encourages Hamas.

“Israel expresses its deep disappointment with the hasty decision of the governments of El Salvador, Peru and Chile to recall their ambassadors for consultations,” said Palmor. “This step constitutes encouragement for Hamas, a group recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world.”

Palmor believes these countries are handing terrorists a prize.

“Israel expects countries that oppose terrorism to act responsibly and not to hand terrorists a prize,” he said. “So far, every time Israel accepted plans for establishing a cease-fire and restoring calm, it was countered by Hamas’s sustained rocket fire. El Salvador, Chile and Peru would have been much better advised to promote the international move intended to assist Israel in its efforts to defend innocent civilians and instate a durable cease-fire with the demilitarization of Gaza.”

Jorge Montero, the Chilean ambassador  was called back because of “the escalation of Israeli military operations in Gaza” said the Chilean Foreign Ministry.

“Chile notes with great concern and dismay that such military operations, which at this stage of development are subject to a collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, do not respect fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.”

The Chilean Foreign Ministry went on to note that over 1,000 Palestinian lives, including civilians, have been lost during Operation Protective Edge, which is now in its 27th day.

Furthermore the statement condemned rocket fire by Hamas on the civilians of Israel, but said “the scale and intensity of Israeli operations in Gaza violate the principle of proportionality in the use of force, an essential requirement to justify self-defense.” The statement also called “for an immediate end of hostilities” in Gaza.

The Peruvian foreign ministry, in Lima, published a similar statement condemning Israel’s operation in Gaza.

The executive director of the American Jewish Committee that is active in Latin America, David Harris, said that it was astonishing that the Mercosur statement did not even mention Hamas.

Harris said “the notion that Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay would issue a joint statement with Venezuela voicing concern about human rights anywhere would be laughable, if it weren’t so terribly tragic. Caracas has been one of the main defenders of Syrian President [Bashar] Assad, who is responsible for some 170,000 deaths and millions of refugees, and is a staunch ally of Iran, the principal state sponsor of terrorism in the world, including at least two deadly attacks in Argentina in 1992 and 1994.”

For more information, please see:

NBC News – Chile, Peru Recall Ambassadors from Israel Over Gaza Offensive – 30 July 2014

Israel National News – Chile Recalls Israeli Ambassador Over Gaza – 30 July 2014

The Jerusalem Post – Israel ‘deeply disappointed’ at El Salvador, Peru, and Chile for Recalling Envoy – 30 July 2014

Haaretz – El Salvador Becomes Fifth Latin America Country to Recall Israel Envoy – 29 July 2014

 

First Contact with Indigenous People in Brazil

by: Delisa Morris

News Reporter – South America

Recently, rare video footage has been released by the Brazil Indigenous Affairs department.  In the video you can see first contact being made with indigenous people at the Brazil/Peru border.  These indigenous people are from the Panoan linguistic group and in the video you can see their hesitation at making contact with people from the department.

Panoan linguistic group making first contact with FUNAI Image courtesy of YouTube and Telegraph.co

To sweeten the deal the Brazil Indigenous Affairs department offered the Panoan linguistic group bananas for making the connection.  The contact was made in northern Brazil, along the banks and inside of the Envira River, in the western Acre state of Brazil, close to the Peruvian border.

Another indigenous people, the Ashaninka tribe, laid clothes along the edges of the forest, near the Panoan settlement, in June, as a gesture of friendship.  After, the Panoan’s tried to make contact with the Ashaninka tribe by visiting their settlement.  This was the first time in several decades that an Amazonian Indian tribe visited a settled population without first being contacted or invited.  The Ashaninka often help FUNAI by giving them hints about the whereabouts of other tribes.

Later, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), travelled to the area with health specialists and interpreters and filmed the second contact on June 29.

The footage from the first encounter shows one of the interpreters handing over a few bunches of bananas to the natives before they cautiously retreated.

There was concern early in July when news spread about the tribe making contact with a village, because some natives were showing flu like symptoms before they returned to their forrest home.  According to FUNAI, at least seven people were suffering from flu like symptoms and a virus normally found in outside populations.  This alarmed many campaigners to tune into the rights of indigenous peoples.

It is unknown if the members of the tribe were sick and refused medical treatment.  This raises concern that the natives will spread disease when they return to their home.

Many Brazilian experts believe that the Indians were forced to cross from Peru into Brazil because of illegal loggers and drug smugglers taking over their land.

Currently Peru has two reserves where there are un-contacted tribes including the Murunahua Indigenous Reserve.

According to the 2013 census in Brazil, there are 810,000 indigenous people in the country and 560 of them have been murdered in the past decade.  There are at least 18 tribes spread throughout the amazon region, with no contact to the outside world.

Please view the video of the first contact with the Panoan linguistic group below.  Video courtesy of BBC News.

For more information, please see:

The Independent – Amazonian Indian Tribe Filmed Making Contact with Brazil Village in Rare Video Footage – 31 July 2014

The Washington Post – Indigenous People in Brazil Contacted for the First Time – with Bananas – 31 July 2014

The Guardian – Amazon Tribe Makes First Contact with Outside World – 1 August 2014

BBC News – Face to Face with Isolated Amazon Tribe in Brazil – 31 July 2014