A Chilean judge found eight former members of the military guilty of murder on Dec. 23 for their roles in killings perpetrated during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The men were members of the "Caravan of Death," a military operation involved in the suppression of political opponents during the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power. The Caravan of Death was responsible for the deaths of nearly 100 people between September and October of 1973. The group travelled to at least 16 towns during that time, though this conviction only relates to killings that took place in the city of Antofagasta. The accused have been sentenced to between three to 15 years in prison, though their sentence may still be subject to appeal.
Elements of the Special Operations Tactical Unit (UTOP), Bolivia's elite anti-riot force, used tear-gas Nov. 19 against survivors of the country's military dictatorship who protested in front of the Government Palace in La Paz to demand indemnification for torture they suffered in the 1970s. "Here they repressed us just as in the time of the dictatorship," said the group's leader, Victoria López. The survivors had maintained a vigil outside the Justice Ministry for over a year, but decided to move to the Government Palace, on the city's central Plaza Murillo, after receiving no response. Communications Minister Amanda Dávila told the press that the protesters were not on the registered list of victims who are entitled to restitution. The government is recognizing a list compiled by the Association of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of the Dictatorships (ASOFAM), which the protesters charge is incomplete. (Erbol, Nov. 19) Survivors of the military dictatorships have long pressed the government of President Evo Morales on a full accounting for the abuses of the "dirty war" era.
An unidentified man assassinated Rocío Mesino Mesino, the director of the leftist South Sierra Campesino Organization (OCSS), in the early afternoon of Oct. 19 near the community of Mexcaltepec, Atoyac de Alvarez municipality, in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero. Mesino was hit by four bullets, apparently from an AK-47 assault rifle. The killer escaped in a vehicle driven by another man; the military and the municipal police searched for the assailants but reported no success.
A judge in Quito on Oct. 1 ordered the house arrest of three army and police officers in Ecuador's first trial involving alleged crimes against humanity. They are part of a group of 10 former senior officers accused of abducting and torturing three members of an illegal opposition group, the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces, in 1985. Activists converged on the capital for the opening day of the landmark trial. The events took place under the conservative government of late Leon Febres Cordero, who was elected to a four-year term in 1984. Judge Lucy Blacio turned down prosecutors' request to have one elderly army general detained, on the ground that he is seriously ill; however, he is barred from leaving the country. The three victims—Susana Cajas, Javier Jarrin and Luis Vaca—are to testify in the case next week. The charges were brought by a special Truth Commission created to address rights abuses. (Jurist, Oct. 2; BBC News, AFP via Milenio, Oct. 1)
Chilean judge Mario Carroza on Aug. 5 rejected a request by human rights lawyer Eduardo Contreras to prosecute former general Fernando Matthei for murder. Matthei oversaw the military facility where Gen. Alberto Bachelet was tortured to death in 1973 after Bachelet refused to support the military coup lead by Augusto Pinochet. Contreras has attempted to bring charges against Matthei before and argued that new evidence has come to light which shows that Matthei was aware of Banchelet's death. However, Carroza ruled that there were insufficient grounds to prosecute. Contreras frequently represents families who were victimized during Pinochet's regime and has stated his intention to appeal the decision. Both of the generals' daughters, Evelyn Matthei and Michelle Bachelet, are opponents in the upcoming Chilean presidential election.
On May 7, thousands filled the streets of Lima, as notables and activists from across the spectrum of Peru's political left joined the funeral march for Javier Diez Canseco, longtime leader of the progressive bloc in the country's Congress and veteran of generations of struggle, who died of a sudden cancer three days before at the age of 65. Three rallies were held as the procession made its way through the capital's central district, each swelling the ranks of the mourners: congressional deputies at Plaza Bolívar, outside the Congress building; popular organizations at Plaza Dos de Mayo, overlooked by the offices of the CGTP labor federation; and leftist political parties at Plaza Bolognesi. Many expressed a sense that Peru's progressive forces have been left adrift without their most respected figure.
Col. Alberto Julio Candiotti, a former Argentinian military officer who was wanted for crimes committed during the country's 1976-1983 "Dirty War," was arrested May 23 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Information for the whereabouts of the 68-year-old, who was residing in the city with his wife, was valued at 100,000 pesos (USD $20,000). The former officer was arrested by Uruguay's National Police. Authorities are currently uncertain whether Candiotti sneaked into the country or falsified documents to gain admittance.
Former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) died the morning of May 17 in the Marcos Paz prison in Buenos Aires province, where he was serving a 50-year sentence for crimes against humanity. He was 87. Videla led the coup that removed then-president Isabel Perón from office on Mar. 24, 1976 and started a period of military rule that lasted until 1983. Videla himself was made de facto president on March 29, 1976 and held the office until March 1981, when he was replaced by Gen. Roberto Viola.