Today in Latin America
Top Story — Colombian Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday, after being convicted of the forced disappearance of 11 people during the storming of the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in 1985.
The M-19, a left-wing guerrilla group that has since been disbanded, occupied the Palace and took judges hostage. The Army, led by Colonel Plazas, counterattacked and a day-long battle ensued, destroying the building and leading to the deaths of more than 100 people, according to The BBC.
Plazas was not convicted for violence that occurred during the battle, but rather of the forced disappearance of 11 survivors, who went missing after they left the Palace on Nov. 7, 1985, according to Colombian daily El Tiempo.
The conviction was seen as a landmark by Colombian human rights groups, The BBC reports.
Colombian President Álvaro Uribe criticized the decision, saying that Plazas was “a member of the Armed Forces of Colombia who was simply trying to fulfill his duty.”
Uribe made the comments at a press conference at the Casa de Nariño with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was visiting to discuss security issues and sign a bilateral agreement on science and technology.
Clinton affirmed the U.S. commitment to Colombian anti-drug and anti-insurgency efforts, regardless of who wins an upcoming, second-round presidential election.
“The United States has been proud to stand with Colombia and we will continue to stand with you in the future,” Clinton said at the press conference with Uribe, according to The Associated Press.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
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- Alison Bowen in her blog, Beyond Borders, reports on New York groups drawing attention to immigration reform in the U.S.
- A case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights may challenge Brazil’s amnesty law, which shields people from punishment for political crimes committed during the military dictatorship.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- The Mexican government is advising businesses and government offices to allow employees to watch the 2010 World Cup inaugural match between Mexico and host country South Africa.
- After exchanging information with U.S. authorities, the Mexican navy seized 45 pounds of explosives Wednesday from a residential neighborhood in Mexico City.
- Spain’s largest bank, Banco Santander, will pay $2.5 billion for a stake in its Mexican unit that it sold to Bank of America in 2003.
- The U.S. Congress is urging the government of Haiti to move faster to schedule elections.
- U.N. special investigator on torture Manfred Nowak said the government of Cuba will not receive him to review prison conditions on the island before the end of his mandate.
- Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said that he has found out that some political opponents plan to overthrow him and that he knew the names of those who are plotting against him.
- Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador said that Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes has made “significant steps” in democracy during his first year in office.
- Moody’s Investors Service, citing “significant improvement” in the country’s fiscal policies and strong economic growth, raised Panama’s credit rating to investment grade.
- Reporters Without Borders said it was concerned about the Venezuela’s investigation into a website critical of the government of President Hugo Chávez.
- The Obama administration said it will continue to support Colombia whoever is elected president of the South American country, according to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
- Sen. Christopher Dodd said Inca artifacts from Machu Picchu held at Yale belong to the people of Peru.
- The Spanish news agency EFE reports that Bolivian President Evo Morales was re-elected the director of the country’s main coca growers’ unions.
- A Brazilian man has been arrested for allegedly imprisoning his daughter, raping her repeatedly, and having seven children with her.
- China has halted imports of Argentine soy due to a trade dispute.
- Representatives from more than 100 countries gathered in Chile this week to push for a ban on cluster bombs.
Image: justinrudisille @ Flickr.