Monday, February 08, 2010

Around Latin America: Human Rights

-While ending DADT continues to stir debate in the U.S., it's far from the only country dealing with the issue of homosexuals in the armed forces. A Brazilian general has caused outrage in Brazil after commenting that gay soldiers should not be able to have troops under their command. Gen. Raymundo Nonato, who has been nominated to the top military court in Brazil, commented that while he believes homosexuals who kept their sexuality private should be allowed to remain in the military, he also believed that homosexual officers "will not be obeyed by his subordinates in combat situations."

-In a baffling decision that defies common sense and mocks justice, a Swiss court ruled that "at least $4.6 million from Swiss bank accounts previously awarded to charities must be returned to the family of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier." The Duvalier family attained "its" wealth via the monopolization of the tobacco industry in Haiti, helping to keep the Haitian population in poverty even while the Duvaliers became millionaires. That this ruling happened just 12 hours before the earthquake was an extra thumb in the eye of Hatians; according to the report, the $4.6 million could have fed one million Hatians for two weeks.

-As General Reynaldo Bignone, the final dictator of Argentina's military dictatorship (1976-1983) went to trial for human rights abuses this week, he hopefully felt extremely uncomfortable upon seeing the images of the disappeared in the public gallery of the court.

-Finally, the Human Rights Watch report on Colombia came out. Not surprisingly, paramilitaries are a major focus, though exactly who these paramilitaries consist of and what to call them is increasingly challenging and complex. What is clear is that the current activities of paramilitaries draws upon the groundwork and actions of previous paramilitary groups, even while branching out and coming to incorporate elements of gangs as well as drug traffickers. The report also says that the AUC continues to be a major threat, as many of its soldiers never demobilized and new elements have entered into its forces. Overall, the report paints a very grim picture of the human rights situation in Colombia, and given Alvaro Uribe's neglect of these issues and connections to some of these paramilitary groups, and the likelihood that he will be elected to a third term later this year, there seems little hope that the situation will improve in Colombia anytime soon. The report is worth reading in its entirety (~120 pages) for those interested in human rights, Latin America, or policy. Still, gird yourself - it's depressing news all around, made even moreso by the fact that we're unlikely to see any improvements as long as Uribe is in office.