Posts filed under ‘Latin America’

Argentina ‘dirty war’ priest jailed

The first Roman Catholic priest charged for crimes committed under Argentina’s past military government has been sentenced to life in prison.

Christian von Wernich was convicted on Tuesday of involvement in torture, kidnapping and murder during a trial that focused attention on the church’s role in the 1976-1983 “dirty war”.

The former police chaplain was found to have been a “co-participant” with police in seven homicides, 31 torture cases and 42 kidnappings during the military rule that critics say the church did little to oppose.

One judge described the offences as crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors said he extracted information from prisoners during the Catholic practice of confession and took money from families of prisoners ostensibly to help send the detainees into exile when they had already been killed.

Verdict welcomed

Fireworks exploded outside the federal courthouse after Judge Carlos Rozanski announced the conviction and prison sentence handed down by a three-judge federal panel.

Inside the court, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group still seeking “missing” sons and daughters from the period, cheered loudly.

“Justice has been done. This is a historic day we Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo never thought we’d live to see,” Tati Almeyda, a member of the group said.

Adriana Calvo, of the association of former detainees and the missing, said: “That a court has acknowledged that genocide exists in our country is an encouragement for us to carry on and justifies so many years of struggle.”

Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman said von Wernich showed little emotion when the verdict was read out.

She added that in theory, von Wernich, 69, had the right to be moved to house arrest once he turned 70.

Earlier, using biblical language, the priest professed his innocence during mere minutes of final testimony after his defence spent hours in closing arguments.

“False testimony is of the devil because he is responsible for malice and is the father of evil and lies,” he said, prompting murmurs in the courtroom packed with torture survivors and human rights activists.

Detention centres

Prosecutors said von Wernich had been linked by survivors to at least five clandestine detention camps in Buenos Aires province.

During the three-month trial, more than 70 witnesses testified and judges toured former torture centres at police stations with survivors.

The “dirty war” officially left some 13,000 dead or missing, although human rights groups have put the toll at nearly 30,000.

Juan Martin Cerolini, von Wernich’s defence lawyer, argued that as part of his duties as a priest, the defendant was obliged to visit police detention centres but that did not mean he played any part in the state crackdown.

He rejected survivor testimony suggesting von Wernich – who wore a bullet-proof vest over his clerical collar during the trial – conspired with police to help extract information from prisoners under the guise of giving them spiritual assistance.

Von Wernich said in his last words to the judges that he never violated the priestly prohibition against revealing information obtained in the Roman Catholic practice of confession.

“No priest of the Catholic church … has ever violated this sacrament,” he said.

Stricken with pain

The Catholic church, in a statement issued immediately after the verdict was announced, said it was stricken with pain at seeing “a priest participating in very serious crimes.”

“If any member of the church … by recommendation or complicity, endorsed the violent repression, he did so under his own responsibility, straying from and sinning gravely against God, humanity and his own conscience,” Jorge Bergoglio, Buenos Aires archbishop, said.

Rights organisations allege that the church turned its back to the atrocities committed during military rule and even covered up rights violations, which included the deaths and disappearances of priests and nuns.

The von Wernich case is the biggest human rights trial in Argentina since former police chief Miguel Etchecolatz was convicted in September 2006 in the same La Plata courthouse.

The trials came after the Supreme Court in 2005 annulled amnesty laws blocking prosecution of scores of former state security agents or their civilian allies.

Argentina ‘dirty war’ priest jailed



October 11, 2007 at 4:11 am 1 comment

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez Ashamed of Himself

CNN has reported an Associated Press story about the latest insane ramblings of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (or ‘el Presidente Loco’).

Chavez’s latest flavor of the day is to try to shame his people into not drinking, smoking and indulging in “shopping-mall materialism”.

Aside from raising the tax rate to 50 percent on a range of alcoholic beverages and increasing the 52% cigarette tax to 70 percent, he has several of initiatives (which are strangely reminscent of Cambodias Pol Pot) to change the daily lives of average Venezuelans. Such as Don’t douse foods with too much hot sauce, exercise regularly, eat low-cholesterol foods, respect speed limits. He also wants parents to stop buying Barbie dolls — and breast jobs — for their daughters.

“Now some say, ‘When my daughter turns 15 years old, we’re going to give her phony breasts.’ What a horrible thing! It’s the latest degeneration,” Chavez told one packed auditorium.

Now I can’t speak for Hugo, but when I see a Venezuelan girl with big hooters in a tight t-shirt washing a car… I NEVER say “What a horrible thing!”

CNN reports:

“We’re one of the countries that consumes the most whisky per capita in the world. We should be ashamed,” Chavez said recently on national television. “I’m not willing to continue offering dollars to import whisky in these quantities. What kind of revolution is this? The Whisky Revolution? The Hummer Revolution? No, this is a real revolution!”

The Venezuelan people do not seem as ready to embrace the puritan lifestyle as their coo-coo leader.

“If I drink my bottle of whisky it’s because I worked for it. I made the sacrifice and therefore I can drink whatever I want,” said shopkeeper Ernesto Gonzalez, 49.

Chavez: ‘We should be ashamed’


October 11, 2007 at 3:08 am Leave a comment

Chavez’s latest nationalization move: Indoctrinate the Children

OR: A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Use

Hugo Chavez is now threatening to close down or nationalize any Venezuelan private schools that refuse to bow down to his socialist government and teach from his new textbooks and curriculum.

In a shining example of his thoughts on free thought and free enterprise, he proclaims:

“Society cannot allow the private sector to do whatever it wants”

 CNN reports:

“Anticipating criticism, Chavez said the state’s role in regulating education is internationally accepted and it is not possible for a school administrator to insist on autonomy in countries such as Germany or the United States either.”

However, to compare state regulation of education to mandatory party written texts and curriculi is apples and oranges.

This idiot is ruining his country and pushing democracy back by decades. Out of control oil prices have created a windfall of cash for Venezuela (as well as several other despots and questionable democracies such as Iran and Russia) allowing him to buy influence into several other Latin American countries – some of whom are buying into his “Bolivarian Bloc” nonsense, some of whom just need the money.

His sycophants and supporters seem oblivious to the fact that his economic policies, which have put his country completely at the mercy of world oil prices, are set to bankrupt Venezuela if a sudden drop in prices occurs.

I predict bad times for Mr. Chavez’s “revolution” when this happens, and I wish him all the worst.


Chavez threatens to nationalize non-compliant private schools


September 18, 2007 at 10:11 pm Leave a comment

“Dead” man wakes up under autopsy knife

 I can only laugh because this sort of thing happens to me every week!

CARACAS (Reuters) – A Venezuelan man who had been declared dead woke up in the morgue in excruciating pain after medical examiners began their autopsy.

Carlos Camejo, 33, was declared dead after a highway accident and taken to the morgue, where examiners began an autopsy only to realize something was amiss when he started bleeding. They quickly sought to stitch up the incision on his face.

“I woke up because the pain was unbearable,” Camejo said, according to a report on Friday in leading local newspaper El Universal.

His grieving wife turned up at the morgue to identify her husband’s body only to find him moved into a corridor — and alive.

Reuters could not immediately reach hospital officials to confirm the events. But Camejo showed the newspaper his facial scar and a document ordering the autopsy.

“Dead” man wakes up under autopsy knife


September 18, 2007 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

Chiquita Brands Intl. : Corporate Sponsor of Terrorism

 Or: Is that a banana in your pocket,

or do you just want to kill me?

 So Chiquita Brands International is being fined $25 million and put on probation for 5 years by the U.S. Justice Department for supporting terrorists in Columbia (upon approval by U.S. courts).

They are accused of paying in excess of $1.7 million to the AUC (The United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia). In addition to this, they are also charged with making payments to FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia) and ELN (National Liberation Army) over a period of time stretching from 1989-1997. 

Charges filed in the case claim that senior company executives knew about the payments. From the CNN story:

“In a written statement issued in March, Chiquita Brands International CEO Fernando Aguirre said the company viewed the plea agreement “as a reasoned solution to the dilemma the company faced several years ago.”

How is it that Fernando Aguirre and his co-horts are avoiding prison time? We have people at Guantanomo Bay held for years without charges for associating with the wrong people at the wrong time, and slime bags like this can pay millions to known terrorists (designated as terrorists by the U.S. government, I might add) and tra-la-la home?

Chiquita: $25M fine for terror payments


September 12, 2007 at 10:57 pm 2 comments

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