Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hunger Strikes End in Several LatAm Countries

In recent days numerous hunger strikes held in some Latin American countries came to their respective ends.  But were the protesters’ demands met?  The answer varies:
  • Bolivia
Twelve wives of Bolivian policemen upset at the poor working conditions of their husbands ended their three-day hunger strike on Saturday.

The women claimed that police commanders did not go through with the promises made in June 2012 to the police officers’ union before the organization was dissolved. As a result, the group went on a hunger strike and called for an increase in the salaries of policemen, changes to the reform system and other demands.

In the end, the hunger strike was halted after the government agreed to the creation of two working groups aimed at seeking a fair resolution.  The hunger strike could be renewed, however, if a deal is not reached within the next ninety days.

Political tensions remain high in Bolivia where the government and the country’s largest labor union have knocked heads over a two-week-long nationwide strike.  The protest was suspended for 48 hours in order to allow for negotiations.
  • Colombia
A group of seven women who chained themselves to the from gates of the main cathedral in Villavicencio put a stop to their hunger strike after approximately one week.

The protesters alleged that they were “arbitrarily” targeted as part of official actions aimed at relocate street vendors.  One of the demonstrators claimed that they were not breaking the law and complained that the police unfairly confiscated their wares and carts.  Hence, they demanded the creation of a working group with the local government as well as meting with officials to voice their complaints.

Unfortunately, there is little in the Colombian press mentioning if the women’s demands were met even though the hunger strike ended.  The group was reportedly grateful to the local Red Cross chapter for their medical supervision during the manifestation.

Daily Headlines: May 22, 2013

* U.S.: The bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill will move to the U.S. Senate for debate after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the proposal in a 13-5 vote.

* Venezuela: Pro-government TV host Mario Silva said that he would go on sick leave after opposition politicos revealed an alleged recording of him talking to a Cuban intelligence official and criticizing the Maduro regime.

* Brazil: Truth Commission investigator Heloisa Starling believes that former officials protected by a 1979 amnesty law could be tried at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

* Bolivia: The government enacted a law that would permit President Evo Morales to seek a third term in the December 2014 elections.

Video Source – YouTube via user NewsyPolitics (Video uploaded on April 16, 2013.)

Online Sources- CNN; ABC News;; LAHT

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Argentina: Controversy Over Potential Videla Burial Site

Officials of the Argentine city of Mercedes are none too pleased that their neighborhood will reportedly be chosen as the burial site for former “Dirty War”-era dictator Jorge Videla.

“He must have been the most nefarious person this country has ever had and it’s a weight that the people of Mercedes must carry,” said Marcelo Melo, the city’s human rights government representative.

Despite his “repudiation” of burying the infamous ex-strongman in Mercedes, Melo noted “we cannot prevent his family from bringing his remains to privately-owned burial plots.”

Some residents of the city where Videla was born and raised are upset over the burial plans announced by the late ruler’s lawyer.

“We had to put up with many hardship during the dictatorship.  I don’t want him in my city,” said Aida Ibaldi according to

“Videla’s family has his body, which was not tortured or abused, and they can bury him when and where they want,” said Juan Ignacio Ustarroz, the nephew of one of the tens of thousands of Argentines who “disappeared” during Videla’s five years in power.

In anticipation of the burial, nineteen social and political organizations will hold a protest against Videla on Wednesday night.  The demonstrators are expected to gather outside of the cemetery in Mercedes where posters of some of the local political activists killed under the Videla military regime have been placed.

The 87-year-old passed away in a civilian prison on Friday where he was serving a fifty-year sentence for the illegal kidnapping of dozens of babies from political prisoners.   Videla had also been serving a life sentence since 2010 for the deaths of thirty-one dissidents during his de facto presidency.

Videla’s death comes as proceedings began in a trial over Plan Condor, a secret intelligence operation by South American dictators to kidnap and murder their opponents. Videla was one of the most senior former officials indicted by prosecutors and he neglected to provide testimony to the case.  Nevertheless, prosecutors hope there is some evidence they can use that Videla has not taken to his grave:

Daily Headlines: May 21, 2013

* Guatemala: In a 3-2 decision the Guatemalan Constitutional Court annulled the recent historic conviction of former strongman Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide.

* U.S.: At least 23 student groups at Harvard University called for an investigation of the doctoral thesis of Jason Richwine, an ex-Heritage Foundation policy analyst who claimed in 2009 that Latino immigrants have lower IQs than white natives.

* Latin America: Alicia Barcena, the head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, expressed her concerns over weaker exports possibly hurting the region's economic growth.

* Mexico: Venture capitalists are reportedly being attracted to purchasing and refurbishing thousands of homes that were foreclosed and abandoned.

Video Source – YouTube via PBS NewsHour (“Efrain Rios Montt, former dictator of Guatemala, was found guilty (on May 10th) in the massacre of more than 1,700 Mayan Indians in the early 1980s”.)

Online Sources- Fox News Latino; Bloomberg; Reuters; The Latin Americanist; USA TODAY

Monday, May 20, 2013

Daily Headlines: May 20, 2013

* Latin America: A new report from the Organization of American States called for major changes to the “war on drugs” including the possibility of decriminalizing the use of marijuana.

* Mexico: Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam met with a group of mothers on hunger strike for over ten days and announced the creation of a government unit aimed at investigating the cases of thousands of missing people.

* Venezuela: Dozens of protesters participated in a march on Saturday in Caracas and urged the end of discrimination against gays and lesbians in Venezuela.

* U.S.: Will U.S. President Barack Obama mention later this week any major changes to the policy regarding detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison?

Video Source – YouTube via ContactoFESCOL (Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria is one of several ex-Latin American leaders allied to the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which is a campaign seeking for changes in drug laws).

Online Sources- The Guardian; GlobalPost; AFP; The Latin Americanist; NBC News