Thursday, January 07, 2010

Around Latin America

-A public prosecutor in Honduras has filed charges against the Honduran military for illegally removing Manuel Zelaya from Honduras forcibly when it overthrew him on June 28. The file charges the military with "abuse of authority." Meanwhile, Roberto Micheletti announced that he would not resign before the inauguration, staying on until January 27, but neither will he be attending the inauguration, which will certainly make the ceremony even more interesting.

-Argentine President Cristina Kirchner issued a decree this week that will open Argentina's military archives, declassifying thousands of documents from the period of Argentina's military dictatorship/"Dirty War" between 1976 and 1983. Upon issuing the decree, Kirchner declared, "The classified information and/or documentation which was not made public was not designed to protect the legitimate interests of a democratic State, but, on the contrary, served as a means of hiding the illegal actions of a de facto government." Now, if only Brazil could follow suit and open its military archives...

-A couple of cases and events in Brazil have stirred some concerns over freedom of the press in Brazil. The Supreme Court upheld a court ruling from July that barred one of Brazil's major newspapers, O Estado de Sao Paulo, from using legally-obtained information regarding a corruption investigation into former president and current president of the Senate Jose Sarney. That ruling alone would have set some media outlets and critics of the government on edge, but has in no way been aided by statements Lula made at the opening of the National Conference on Communications in Brazil, where he criticized Brazilian media, which he claimed "commits 'excesses', publishes 'lies', fabricates news and gets involved in campaigns that disseminate 'slander and abuse.'" While he's often right, particularly when one looks at O Globo or some of the more salacious and ridiculous daily newspapers that adorn kiosks throughout the country, he also insisted that he has "a sacred commitment to freedom of the press." While Lula's contempt for the media is well-known (and understandable), there's no reason to believe he's launching an attack on free speech; even if he were interested in doing so, why he would begin with just 10 months left in an 8-year presidency stretches logic and credibility. Still, these two events back-to-back have many of his most vocal critics speaking out, and has left even some traditionally-responsible news sources on edge.

-Suriname's first president, Johan Ferrier, has died at 99. Ferrier played an important role in Suriname gaining its independence from the Netherlands in 1975, and was rewarded with the presidency. While his arrival to office seemed like a major accomplishment, his departure was much darker; Ferrier resigned and relocated his family to the Netherlands as a military dictatorship established itself.

-Hopes for finding survivors in mudslides in Rio de Janeiro state are fading fast, in the wake of torrential rainfalls that hit the state and city over the New Year's holiday. At least 75 are reported to have died already, but that number could go up as the count and search continue. Meanwhile, the mudslides have prompted calls for shutting down Brazil's nuclear power plant. The plant is located near Angra dos Reis, where many of the mudslides have occurred.

-Finally, in the mildly salacious department: four Mexican priests have been defrocked for violating their vows of celibacy. The Church's position on celibacy is pretty hard to defend, but I guess if you're going to lose your job for something, that's a pretty good cause for job dismissal.