Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Reopening Old Wounds in Latin America So They Can Heal Properly

article from November 2, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

There are those nations that can confront the horrendous human rights violations of their recent past by aggressively investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the suffering and hardships caused by the despicable crimes committed (Argentina, Peru, Uruguay), and then there are those who give lip service (Brazil, Chile, Ecuador) or completely ignore the past to never learn from it (Colombia, Bolivia).

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, who herself was held and tortured by the military dictatorship in the early 70s, is getting ready to sign a toothless bill passed by the Brazilian House and Senate establishing a Truth Committee, yet leaving intact the unjust 1979 Amnesty Law, which forgave virtually all crimes committed. Sadly, the Brazilian supreme court just last year upheld this aberration of a law.

This new Truth Committee will be charged with investigation the disappearance and murders as well as unspeakable human rights abuses committed by successive dictatorships between 1946 and 1988. According to the bill’s authors, it is to “guarantee the people’s right to memory and historic truth and promoting national reconciliation.”

In the opinion of this writer, it is a monumental whitewash. The committee will get a whopping two years to investigate 42 years of misdeeds committed. Anyone familiar with Brazil’s overwhelmingly corrupt bureaucracy will look at this as a major farce. In the first two years, half of the members will have to be recused for having been involved directly, while the other half will have close relatives that need to be absolved. The ringer here is that regardless of any findings, the amnesty law will prevail. It is a blind tiger without teeth or stripes.

The Andean nation of Peru, on the other hand, is taking a completely different approach to its shameful past, particularly the many abuses that were committed under the administration of now-imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori. Under his direction, the government of Peru instituted a program of forced sterilization to reduce poverty by applying the Third Rich’s eugenics policies.

Of course, no middle- or higher-class Peruvians were subjected to this incredible violation, nor were any Peruvians of Japanese descent. But an estimated 300,000 mostly indigenous Quechua speaking women were coerced into signing consent forms. Most of the women were poor and illiterate, and the forms were in Spanish, a language not very familiar to them. The coercion lay in the fact that these poorest of the poor were threatened with fines and imprisonment if they did not cooperate with the powers that be. Former officials of Fujimori’s administration have denied all accusations, flatly stating that the women had signed the consent forms of their own free will.

President Ollanta Humala made this issue one of his campaign promises, and he is following up on it. His opponent in the recent elections, Keiko Fujimori, the former president’s daughter, had her father’s vice minister/minister of health, Alejandro Aguinaga, as one of her top lieutenants during her election campaign. When he was challenged by reporters about his role in the forced sterilization campaign, his response was a curt “The case has been closed.”

Aguinaga has just been reelected to the Peruvian Congress for another five-year term, carrying the banner of the Fujimorist Alliance for the Future Party. If justice is to be served, he will be charged and tried in a court of law. Fujimori, who is already serving a 25-year sentence for crimes committed while in office, will likely face more charges as well. However, under Peruvian law, any further sentences will run concurrently to his present convictions, so his incarceration time will likely not be increased.

Of course, it must be stated that the enablers of the grave crimes committed in Latin America, in the name of US capitalism, will never be prosecuted. Henry Kissinger and Operation Condor are the legacy of the CIA and US State Department. The tens of thousands of nameless faceless victims of US meddling will never see justice meted out to those ultimately responsible.

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza 

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