Tuesday, October 30, 2012

WNU #1149: Chilean Court Annuls Two Mapuche Convictions

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1149, October 28, 2012

1. Chile: Supreme Court Annuls Two Mapuche Convictions
2. Chile: Court Approves Call for US Officer’s Extradition
3. Mexico: Torture and Abuse Cases Continue to Increase
4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Grenada, Haiti, US

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. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Chile: Supreme Court Annuls Two Mapuche Convictions
By a unanimous vote, on Oct. 24 Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice overturned the convictions of two young Mapuche prisoners for the attempted homicide of Gen. Iván Besmalinovic, a commander of the carabineros militarized police, in November 2011. The two prisoners had been on a liquids-only hunger strike along with two other Mapuche prisoners since Aug. 27 in the city of Angol in the southern region of Araucanía [see Update #1148]. After receiving word of the court’s decision, the hunger strikers met with members of their home community, Wente Winkul Mapu, and on Oct. 25 they decided to end their fast.

“We assess the decision positively,” Wente Winkul Mapu spokesperson Daniel Melinao told the Associated Press wire service on Oct. 24. “[W]e’ve been saying for a long time that the brothers didn’t intend to murder the general, and today the court agreed that at no time there was an attempted homicide.” Mapuche activists hold that they are subjected to exaggerated charges and inflated sentences—sometimes under an “antiterrorist” law from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet—for political actions caried out in their struggle to regain ancestral land.

A criminal court in Angol had sentenced Paulino Levinao Montoya and Paulino Levipán Coyán to 10 years in prison on Aug. 13 on the attempted homicide charge, plus 541 days for illegal possession of firearms. In its Oct. 24 decision the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of Levinao Montoya, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of intending to kill police agents. In the case of Levipán Coyán the justices found that the youth had wounded carabineros as they carried out a raid on Wente Winkul Mapu, but the court determined that he hadn’t fired with an intention to kill. His sentence was reduced to three years, which he can serve on parole. The court upheld the sentences for arms possession for both prisoners.

The two other hunger strikers, the brothers Erick and Rodrigo Montoya, are awaiting trial for attempted homicide of a police agent in a separate incident.

Five Mapuche prisoners in the city of Temuco ended a 23-day hunger strike on Oct. 23 when prison authorities agreed to their demand to be moved to the Angol prison, where they would be closer to their communities and other Mapuche prisoners. They went without food or water for the last five days of their fast. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/24/12 from correspondent, 10/25/12 from correspondent and unidentified wire services, 10/26/12 from correspondent; AP 10/25/12 via Univision)

*2. Chile: Court Approves Call for US Officer’s Extradition
A panel of Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice voted 4-1 on Oct. 17 to approve a request for the extradition of former US Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis to stand trial for his involvement in the murders of two US citizens, journalist Charles Horman and graduate student Frank Teruggi, in the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende Gossens. Chilean investigative judge Jorge Zepeda asked for the extradition in November 2011 when he indicted Davis for allegedly failing to prevent the murders; the indictment was based in part on declassified US documents [see Update #1108]. The court’s one dissenter held that a 15-year statute of limitations applied in the case, but the majority held that the charges were for a crime against humanity and therefore were not subject to the limitation.

Horman’s widow, Joyce Horman, has persistently sought justice in the case. In 1977 the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a suit on her behalf in the US charging former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and other high-ranking US officials with complicity in the murders. The suit was eventually dismissed after the US government used “national security” as a pretext to prevent the discovery of evidence. Later Joyce Harmon filed a suit in Chile with the assistance of Chilean attorney Sergio Corvalán and CCR vice president Peter Weiss, and this led to Judge Zepeda’s 2011 indictment.

“It is gratifying that, while our own government invoked the state secrets doctrine in the US case, the investigating judge in the Chilean case spent years of determined effort to get at the truth,” Weiss said in response to the Supreme Court’s decision. According to the CCR, this is probably the first time a country has sought the extradition of a high-ranking US military official in a human rights case. (CCR press release 10/18/12; El Mostrador (Chile) 10/18/12; New York Times 10/18/12)

*3. Mexico: Torture and Abuse Cases Continue to Increase
Mexico’s Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (PRODH) held a press conference in Mexico City on Oct. 23 to announce the release of a report on the alleged torture of Israel Arzate Meléndez, a resident of Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua, by state police and the military. According to the report, Tortured, Imprisoned and Innocent, two soldiers arrested Arzate on Feb. 3, 2010, charging him with participation in the massacre of 15 youths in Ciudad Juárez’s Villas de Salvárcar neighborhood the previous Jan. 30 [see Update #1065]. The report says the soldiers took Arzate to a military installation, stripped him naked, tied up his hands and feet, placed a plastic bag over his head and tortured him with electric shocks to get him to confess to involvement in the killings.

Torture and arbitrary detention “continue to be daily bread” in Mexico, Javier Hernández Valencia, the Mexico representative of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the press conference. These are “a mechanism for investigation which the police and military never give up resorting to,” he added. The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (CSJN) has agreed to consider the Arzate case. (Milenio (Mexico) 10/23/12; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/24/12)

On Oct. 24 government officials denied that there is systematic use of torture by the police and the military. “The only public servants in the armed forces that haven’t had a course on human rights are the new ones,” Governance Secretary Alejandro Poiré said, “but in practice they are given this course within three or four months of joining.” (LJ 10/25/12)

Complaints of torture and other abuse by the police and the military have increased dramatically since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa escalated the military's involvement in Mexico’s “war on drugs” shortly after he took office in December 2006. The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) released a report on Oct. 11 charging that the Calderón administration has “effectively turned a blind eye” to the problem. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) received 1,669 reports of police and military torture and abuse in 2011, almost three times as many in 2008, when the commission received 564 complaints, according to the report, Known Abusers, but Victims Ignored: Torture and Ill-Treatment in Mexico. (Los Angeles Times 10/11/12)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Grenada, Haiti, US

Contradictions and Discrepancies: Media Coverage in Argentina

The Chilean Safe Abortion Hotline: Assisting Women With Illegal, But Safe, Misoprostol Abortion

Uruguay rejects “the war on drugs”

Brazil: Guarani threaten mass suicide?

Bolivia enacts new "Law of Mother Earth"

Peru: OAS rights commission to hear Conga case

Peru: indigenous development plan for Amazon

Peru: will land titling undercut Sendero?

Peru: land, water conflicts grow in Cajamarca

Riots rock Lima —in footsteps of Hillary Clinton (Peru)

UN experts urge Colombia to reconsider reform of military criminal law

FARC factionalizing amid peace talks?

Colombia: judge orders return of usurped lands

Venezuelan Think Tank Panelist Condemns 100 Percent of Venezuelans

Venezuela’s Chavez to Ministers: Now is the Time for Self-Criticism

Venezuela joins Mercosur: A New Strategic Alliance

Panama: strikes halt trade zone land sale

Guatemala: Peaceful Resistance in the Face of Violence

Criminal gangs threaten Maya Biosphere Reserve (Guatemala, Mexico)

“Walking the True Word Around the World”: State Violence, Global Solidarity, and a New Campaign to Support the Zapatistas

Treaty Tolls Death Knell for Mexican Countryside

Mexico: lives claimed in Chihuahua water wars

Labor Law Reform Stalled as Mexican Congress Debates Process

Despite Major Legal Victory, Electrical Workers Not Back at Work

Yaqui Resistance: Against the Aqueduct, Agricultural Chemicals and Transgenics Crops on their Ancestral Lands (Mexico)

The Fight for Corn (Mexico)

A Bitter Anniversary: Remembering the Invasion of Grenada

Celebrities and Foreign Officials Tout Caracol, While Report Finds 95% of Factories Fail to Pay Minimum Wage

Double defeat for the White House and the Pentagon (Latin America)

The Maria Moors Cabot Prizes: Better Than Ever This Year (US)

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