Sunday, April 17, 2011

Around Latin America

-Uruguay has successfully overturned the amnesty law that pardoned military torturers and assassains during the military regime of 1973-1985, making prosecution of military officials possible. The congressional overturn was made possible in 2009, when Uruguay's Supreme Court declared the "Expiry Law" unconstitutional.
-In another case of military regime leaders finally paying for their blatant human rights violations, Erwin C. has a good write-up of the case of Reynaldo Bignone, the last president of the military regime of 1976-1983, which oversaw the murder of at least 30,000 of its own citizens during the so-called "Dirty War." Bignone had originally gone to trial early last year, and was convicted and given a life sentence for his role in the military regime.
-It is not just military leaders who are increasingly facing pressure for their ties to human rights violations. A Rio de Janeiro politician has been arrested under suspicion of leading a paramilitary group responsible for murdering citizens in Brazil's second-largest city.
-Chiquita is also under scrutiny for its ties to paramilitary groups. New court documents reveal that the banana producer voluntarily paid Colombian paramilitary and guerrilla groups for "protection," suggesting the company's claims that they were "extorted" are hollow. Families in both Colombia and Panama already sued Chiquita for its involvement in violence in the two countries, and these court documents seem to suggest that Chiquita's economic contribution to violent movements was more voluntary than the company had suggested.
-The Brazilian government continues to try to move forward with the Belo Monte dam. The dam, which would be the world's third largest if it were to go through (behind China's Three Gorges dam and Brazil's/Paraguay's Itaipu dam), would also flood hundreds of square miles of Amazonian forest and displace indigenous peoples. However, in spite of the government's determination, a broad coalition of forces is forming (including high-profile supporters like James Cameron) to oppose the dam's construction, and human rights groups have now gotten involved, making the dam's completion far from a certainty still, in spite of recent governmental victories in the court system.
-The Belo Monte dam isn't the only environmental concern in Brazil, as a new report suggests that farming to fuel the meat industry is causing catastrophic damage to Brazil's cerrado, or savannah.
-As today marks the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion and Raul Castro's recent proposals of limited reforms in Cuba, Boz has an interesting piece up regarding the bureaucracy of authoritarian regimes. The nuance he suggests between top-most positions (in this case the Castros) and the bureaucracy beneath them is an important and oft-overlooked component of military goverments, especially those in places like Chile or Egypt, where dictatorial rule is associated with a particular name/face (Pinochet, Mubarak, etc.). Although his post is just a brief reminder of the complexities of rule, rather than an intense analysis of how such relations between technocrats and autocrats work, it's always worth keeping in mind when discussing modern military regimes, be it in Latin America or elsewhere.
-Finally, there is an article up on the progress of scientific research and study in Brazil that is fascinating for many reasons. The growth of scientific R&D in Brazil is yet another indicator that Brazil's ascension in the international arena most likely is not fleeting.