For the second year in a row, Brazil has witnessed a deadly prison riot on the first day of the year. A death toll of nine is reported from the central state of Goias. One inmate was decapitated. The violence began New Year's Day afternoon at the rural penitentiary in the outskirts of the state capital, Goiania. Rival criminal factions clashed, broke the barriers of the compound and escaped, by the BBC News account.
Back in September, Brazilian army troops were deployed to quell fighting between rival drug gangs in Rocinha, the most notoriously violent of Rio de Janiero's favelas—the informal urban settlements in the north of the city, virtually abandoned by the government for anything other than militarized anti-drug operations. On Dec. 6, authorities announced the apprehension of the fugitive gang leader who was said be behind that wave of violence but eluded capture at the time. Rogerio Avelino da Silva AKA "Rogerio 157" was detained in Arara, another favela.
The 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was held this week in Buenos Aires, marked by internal discord within the venue and angry protests in the streets. Inside, talks collapsed before any new agreement could be reached. Outside, demonstrators from groups including the Left Front and Front of Organizations in Struggle (FOL) clashed with police, resulting in six arrests. The conference also came amid ongoing protests in Buenos Aires against President Mauricio Macri's proposed legislation that would take money from workers' pensions to close Argentina's fiscal deficit. The bill passed the Senate last month, but the lower-house Chamber of Deputies suspended the vote on Dec. 14 when the floor debate degenerated into shouting matches. Street mobilizations against the package repeatedly turned violent, with riot police massively deployed and tear-gas and rubber bullets used on protesters. Argentina's main trade union alliance, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), has threatened to call a general strike if the legislation moves ahead. (Reuters, AFP, La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 15; Reuters, La Jornada, La Nación, Buenos Aires, Dec. 14; Télam, TeleSur, TeleSur, Dec. 13; La Nación, Dec. 12; AFP, Dec. 11)
An Argentine judicial panel on Nov. 28 sentenced (PDF) 29 former officials to life in prison, and 19 to between 8-25 years, for murder and torture during the military junta's 1976-1983 "Dirty War." The sentencing concluded a five-year trial and represented Argentina's largest verdict to date for crimes against humanity. Collectively, the 48 defendants were charged with the deaths of 789 victims. The prosecution called more than 800 witnesses to make their case. Additionally, the court acquitted six former officials.
Argentine Judge Carlos Bonadio ordered (PDF) the arrest of current senator and former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Dec. 7 for her possible involvement in a cover-up of Iran's participation in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that left 85 people dead. Kirchner served as president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015 before being elected senator. During that time, Kirchner is alleged to have signed a deal with the Iranian government that would allow for Argentine magistrates to interview the officials suspected of ordering the attack in Tehran rather than in Buenos Aires, in an attempt to impede the investigation. For this, Kirchner faces a charge of treason. The crime of treason is punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison in Argentina.
Brazil's ongoing favela wars have taken a dramatic turn for the bloody—prompting the government to send military troops into Rio de Janiero's notorious Rocinha. This is the most violent of the city's sprawling favelas—informal urban settlements virtually abandoned by the government for anything other than militarized anti-drug operations. The army on Sept. 22 deployed nearly 1,000 troops in Rocinha, responding to a request from the Rio state government, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told local TV. Rio Times reports that the violence in Rocinha is the deadliest since the launch of a "pacification" program in 2011 to push warring narco-gangs out of the city's favelas.
Tens of thousands of Argentines held protests across the country Sept. 1, demanding answers one month after the disappearance of an indigenous rights activist. Demonstrators held photos of Santiago Maldonado, who was last seen when border police evicted a group of indigenous Mapuche from lands in the southern Patagonia region owned by Italian clothing company Benetton. In Buenos Aires, protesters converged on the Plaza de Mayo, iconic for its role in the struggle to demand justice for the "disappeared" under the military dictatorship. The Buenos Aires march ended in running street battles with the riot police.
A court in the Argentine province of Mendoza on July 26 sentenced four former federal judges to life in prison for crimes against humanity carried out during the country's 1976-1983 dictatorship. The judges were originally tried as accomplices for failure to investigate the abduction, torture and murder of dissenters. The prosecutors eventually charged the judges as principals, arguing that their "inaction on the petitions preceded the disappearance of more than 20 dissidents." The sentence has been applauded by several human rights groups, including the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which has advocated for civilian perpetrators being brought to justice for their role during the dictatorship.