Monday, January 4, 2010

WNU #1019: Uphold 25-Year Jail Term for Peru’s Fujimori

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1019, January 3, 2010

1. Peru: Uphold 25-Year Jail Term for Ex-President
2. Guatemala: 2 Charged as “Authors” of Lawyer’s Murder
3. Mexico: Activist Cleared in Journalist’s Murder--Again
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, US, Canada

ISSN#: 1084‑922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to . It is archived at

Note: There will be no Update on January 10, 2010. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Peru: Uphold 25-Year Jail Term for Ex-President
On Jan. 3 a five-member panel of the Peruvian Supreme Court unanimously upheld a 25-year prison sentence for former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) for deaths and serious injuries caused by a paramilitary unit during his administration; Supreme Court justice César San Martín Castro had handed down the sentence on Apr. 7, 2009 [see Update #993]. The panel also voted 4-1 to confirm Fujimori’s conviction for two kidnappings. The ex-president, who is 71, could remain in prison until 2032; the two years since he was arrested in Chile in 2007 count as time served. He would be eligible for parole in 2025.

The homicide and injury convictions stem from two massacres of unarmed civilians carried out by the Colina Group, a death squad organized by military intelligence and allegedly reporting to the president: the November 1991 killing of 15 people at a family barbecue in the Barrios Altos neighborhood of Lima, and the July 1992 abduction and murder of nine university students and a professor from the Enrique Guzmán y Valle (La Cantuta) university [see Update #784]. The group also kidnapped journalist Gustavo Gorriti [see Update #394] and business owner Samuel Dyer in 1992; both were subsequently released. The kidnapping conviction is significant because presidential pardons are not allowed in kidnapping cases. According to opinion polls, Fujimori’s daughter, Congress member Keiko Fujimori, is the second most popular candidate for the 2011 presidential race; she has said she would free her father if elected. (El País (Spain) 1/3/10 from correspondent; Prensa Latina 1/3/10)

Many Peruvians supported Fujimori in his campaign of repression against rebel groups, and random interviews by the daily El Comercio in the streets of Lima on Jan. 3 found a sizeable minority opposing the Supreme Court decision. But the paper reported that a clear majority approved of the sentence. “The crimes were real,” one person said. “There had to be a guilty party, and everything starts from the head. I don’t believe he wasn’t informed on the subject.” (El Comercio (Peru) 1/3/10)

Meanwhile, US activist Lori Berenson, arrested by Fujimori’s government in 1995, continues to serve a 20-year sentence for allegedly collaborating with the rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) [see Update # 775]. In 2003 she married a fellow prisoner, former MRTA member Anibal Apari, who was released from prison that year and is now a lawyer in Lima; the couple had their first child in May 2009. Berenson, who insists on her innocence, becomes eligible for parole in November of this year. (Huffington Post 5/6/09)

*2. Guatemala: 2 Charged as “Authors” of Lawyer’s Murder
According to local media, on Dec. 10 a Guatemalan court issued arrest warrants for the brothers Francisco José and José Estuardo Valdez Paiz in the May 10, 2009 murder of attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano. The Valdez brothers, who own pharmaceutical businesses and are reportedly distant relations of Rosenberg, are charged as the “intellectual authors” of the crime. Three of 11 people arrested in the case told the authorities that the brothers had contracted them to kill an alleged extortionist, who turned out to be Rosenberg. The suspects are thought to be out of the country.

Shortly before his death, Rosenberg made a video in which he said: “If you are reading this message, it is because I, Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano, have been murdered by the private Presidency secretary Gustavo Alejos and his colleague Gregorio Valdez, with the approval of Mr. Álvaro Colom [the Guatemalan president] and Sandra de Colom [his wife]." The release of the video after Rosenberg’s death led to a political crisis, with the opposition demanding that President Colom step down. Colom refused, insisting on his innocence.

The investigation is being conducted by the UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) [see Update # 1004]. (EFE 12/31/09; Prensa Latina 12/31/09)

*3. Mexico: Activist Cleared in Journalist’s Murder--Again
Mexican district judge Rosa Ileana Ortega Pérez in Oaxaca city issued an order on Dec. 30 giving the federal government 10 days to release activist Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno, who has been held since Oct. 16, 2008 for the murder of New York-based independent journalist Brad Will. Martínez Moreno, a member of the leftist Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), had already been cleared of the murder charges on Nov. 9 by magistrate judge Javier Leonel Santiago Martínez, who asked Judge Ortega Pérez to release the prisoner within 48 hours [see Update #1012, where we reported incorrectly that the magistrate judge “ordered” the district judge, his superior, to release the activist]. However, the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) appealed, as it is expected to do again with Judge Ortega Pérez’s decision.

Will, who was openly sympathetic to the APPO, was shot dead while covering an APPO-sponsored demonstration against Oaxaca state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz on Oct. 27, 2006; the government failed to produce any witnesses claiming to have seen Martínez Moreno shoot Will. The defendant’s lawyer, Alba Cruz Ramos, said Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) and organizations in APPO may hold a sit-in in early January in front of the local PGR office to demand Martínez Moreno’s immediate release. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/31/09)

In other news, as of Jan. 3 the semi-governmental National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) had issued a recommendation to Zeferino Torreblanca, center-left governor of the southern state of Guerrero, in the unsolved case of two indigenous leaders kidnapped by three armed men on Feb. 13, 2009 in Ayutla de los Libres municipality, Guerrero, and found dead on Feb. 20 in Tecoanapa municipality. The CNDH noted irregularities in the state’s investigation, and asked Torreblanca to correct them and to offer protection to witnesses and to the families of the victims, who were leaders in the Organization for the Development of the Mixteco Méphaa Peoples. (LJ 1/3/2010)

Although media reports failed to identify the victims, presumably they were Raúl Lucas Lucía and Manuel Ponce Rosas, Guerrero indigenous leaders whose bodies were found on Feb. 20, 2009 “with visible signs of torture and in an advanced state of decomposition,” according to the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center. (El Universal (Mexico City) 2/21/09 from AP)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, US, Canada

Argentina: First Same-Sex Marriage in Latin America

Brazil: Guarani leaders murdered, tortured

An Independent Candidate Jolts Chile's Center-Left Coalition

Bolivia Debates Media Law Reform

Report on Massacre of Native Protesters in Peru Biased, Says Head of Inquiry

Peru: hostage crisis follows Huancas prison revolt

Colombians Refuse to Be Displaced: Over 5,000 Occupy the Piñuña Negro Police Inspectors Office in Putumayo

Mary O’Grady Incites Violence in Colombian Peace Community

Venezuela and China Consolidate “Strategic Alliance,” Expand Bilateral Trade

Guatemala: The Incessant Search for the Disappeared: Exhumation in Villalobos

Mexican Editor Detained, Interrogated

Cuba-US: Stuck at a Standstill

Militarizing Latin America

Canadian Mining in Latin America: Paramilitaries, Assassinations, and Impunity

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