Historic human rights ruling in Argentina (Dec. 12, 2018)
Two former Ford Motor Co executives were convicted yesterday of human rights violations during Argentina's last dictatorship. A three-judge panel sentenced Pedro Müller, then a manufacturing director at a Ford factory in Buenos Aires province, to 10 years, and Héctor Francisco Sibilla, then the security manager at the plant, to 12 years for assisting in the kidnapping and torture of 24 workers. They will be detained under house arrest because of their advanced age.
The historic ruling marks the first time executives of a foreign company were convicted for this kind of crime, though collusion between civilians and the military during the 1976-1983 dictatorship was significant. Union leaders were among the 30,000 estimated "disappeared." Testimony at the trial demonstrated that executives provided the military with lists, addresses and photo IDs of workers they wanted arrested. and even provided space for an illegal detention center at the plant.
(Guardian, New York Times, and Página 12)
About 37,000 people have disappeared in Mexico during the past 12 years. A journalistic investigation found 1,978 clandestine graves, the municipalities where they were located and the number of bodies and remains extracted — more than double the number reported by the federal government. The data found by the project, Adonde van los desaparecidos, "show the collapse of justice and the level of impunity in Mexico," write the authors in the Washington Post.
A gunman killed four people in the Campinas Metropolitan Cathedral yesterday, he then killed himself at the scene. While Brazil leads the world in homicides (in terms of absolute number of victims), mass shootings are relatively rare. Experts worry loosening gun restrictions, as president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has promised to do, will backfire and increase violence. (Guardian, New York Times, and Washington Post)
Bolsonaro has promised to significantly cut Brazilian government spending, a move that will affect a wide-range of state owned companies that employ over 505,000 people. (Wall Street Journal)
Two of Brazil's major bookstore chains are in crisis. Book lovers have embarked on a quixotic quest to help the failing sector with the hashtag #DêLivrosDePresente – the gift of books -- ahead of Christmas. (Guardian)
Under Bolsonaro, Brazil will become the third Latin American country to pull out of the U.N. migration pact, reports AFP. (See Monday's briefs.)
Has Venezuela's humanitarian crisis reached a tipping point? President Nicolás Maduro's acceptance of moderate amounts of U.N. humanitarian aid means yes, according to the Washington Post.
Haiti's police force is is being outgunned by heavily armed gangs and paramilitary units within its own ranks, reports the Miami Herald.
Protester's in Santa Cruz burned down the regional Supreme Electoral Court building in a protest against President Evo Morales' bid for a fourth term in office. (Reuters)
El Salvador is among the world's most homicidal again -- 51 murders per 100,000 inhabitants this year, reports El Faro. The silver lining? Central America's homicide rates are lower than in 2017, when El Salvador had 60 murders per 100,000. Honduras is down to 40 from 44 and Guatemala went down to 23 from 26.
Some Salvadoran lawmakers seek to replace an overturned amnesty law, in order to shield human rights criminals from the country's civil war. On the eve of the 37th anniversary of the El Mozote massacre -- in which 978 people were killed -- El Faro reports on a U.S. embassy cable warning of this move over a year ago. Then-ambassador Jean Manes spoke favorably of the trial against the alleged perpetrators of the killing, calling it a potential "barometer for the ability of the Salvadoran justice system to tackle its complex history and stubbornly entrenched impunity." (See May 29's briefs, briefs for Dec. 14, 2017, and briefs for Sept. 28, 2017.)
Honduran prosecutors accused 21 people of corruption yesterday, including five current congressmen and six former ones, reports the Associated Press. Investigators said nearly $900,000 that were supposed to go to social programs were instead diverted to personal accounts. The accused lawmakers are of the ruling party.
The conviction of seven men involved in the murder of Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres is a remarkable achievement in a country known for impunity in its many homicides. Though Cáceres' family has complained that the investigation failed to focus on the intellectual authors of the crime, the capture and conviction of the killers is notable and in part due to international and activist pressure on Honduran authorities who committed to the case, writes former U.S. ambassador James Nealon in a Dallas News opinion piece with Kurt Alan Ver Beek.
Former Honduran lawmaker Fredy Renan Najera Montoya pleaded guilty in the U.S. to conspiring to import cocaine and possess machine guns and destructive devices, reports the Associated Press.
Ecuador's lawmakers appointed a 35-year-old broadcaster to the post of vice president. Otto Sonnenholzner replaces María Vicuña who resigned in the midst of corruption allegations last week. (Reuters)
The incarceration rate for drugs related crimes in the Americas is higher than anywhere else in the world, according to a new SSRC report highlighting the dangers of exporting the U.S. "drug courts" policy. (WOLA analysis)
Peace with the FARC has not made everywhere safer in Colombia, but some towns are slowly reviving after destruction during the country's long war. (Washington Post)
Victims of alleged illegal wiretaps ordered by former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli warned of interference in the court case. (EFE)
Dozens of women have accused a Brazilian celebrity "miracle healer" of serial sexual abuse of vulnerable patients, reports the New York Times.
In Argentina more than 400 actresses backed Thelma Fardin, who accused actor Juan Darthes of abusing her while on tour in Nicaragua in 2009, when Fardin was 16 and Darthes was 45. She pressed charges this month in Nicaragua. (Página 12)
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