Latin America

Landmark Case Sentencing Former Guatemalan Military Officials for Forced Disappearances

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Amanda Martin of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA provides this important update on the arduous search for justice in the cases of disappeared Guatemalans.

On December 3, 2009, a former military official and three former commissioners were sentenced to 53 years in prison for the forced disappearance and illegal detention of six people in El Jute, Guatemala in 1981. This marks the first time in Guatemalan history that a high-ranking military official has been sentenced for forced disappearance. In the sentence, the tribunal also ordered an investigation of former defense minister Angel Anibal Guevara, former head of Defense Security (EMD) Benedicto Lucas Garcia, and other officials and soldiers assigned to the same military base as the guilty parties in 1981.

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Ecuador: “We Cannot Continue Living This Way.”

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Marlon Santi

The Amazon Rainforest is famously known as the “lungs of the earth.” In the Ecuadorian Amazon, indigenous groups have united in an effort to protect our proverbial lungs from multinational corporations who they say have spent many years exploiting these sacred lands for profit and harming the communities that live there.

On Thursday November 5th, 2009, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Amazon Watch and the Washington Office on Latin America hosted an event that allowed members of the Ecuadorian Indigenous Rights Movement to share their stories. The following quotes were taken from Marlon Santi’s remarks at that event.

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False Start on Latin America: Obama’s First Year

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As I advocate for a U.S. policy towards the region based on justice and human rights, I’ve had easier years during the Bush Administration. For an administration that promised hope and change, both are in short supply.

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“Ten years from now, perhaps we will not be able to say we survived the brutality of these times."

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Bertha Oliva speaks at the briefing.

The international community initially celebrated an agreement negotiated  in Honduras, on October 28th, between coup regime leader Roberto Micheletti and deposed President Manuel Zelaya, which could have put an end to the crisis. But, less than a week later, the accord started crumbling apart.

On November 5th, 2009, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) sponsored a briefing of civil society leaders and activists on Capitol Hill to talk about the human rights violations that have been occurring in Honduras since the coup and give their vision for the future.  The leaders’ visits were coordinated by the Quixote Center and Just Associates, and LAWGEF pitched in to help. The following quotes were taken from that briefing.

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Floods Lash El Salvador in the Wake of Hurricane Ida

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Once again, Central America is battered by natural disaster.  As our partner the Share Foundation describes it:

“While the National Hurricane Center in the United States has downgraded Hurricane Ida to a Tropical Storm, El Salvador has experienced the full brunt of hurricane force winds and rain.  Over the weekend, the storm destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged many more.  The most recent data… indicates that approximately 130 people have been killed by the storm, and thousands more injured.   This total is sure to rise as emergency relief workers continue to work their way through damaged buildings and areas that have experienced landslides.

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