Today in Latin America
Top Story — The former leader of the Argentine military dictatorship Jorge Rafael Videla was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for crimes against humanity during the country’s period of military rule between 1976 and 1983.
A court in the central Argentine city of Córdoba found the 85-year old Videla, who has been accused of being the main architect of Argentina’s “Dirty War,” guilty of the killing of dissidents during his rule.
“Videla … is a manifestation of state terrorism,” Judge Maria Elba Martinez said, according to The Telegraph newspaper.
The Argentine court already has sentenced a group of former military members who served Videla’s government to life in prison for crimes against humanity. They were convicted for kidnapping, torturing and murdering more than 180 people in three secret detention centers during the “Dirty War.”
Videla ruled Argentina after the coup against Isabel Martinez de Perón in 1976 until 1981, when tens of thousands were killed or “disappeared.”
A court had already sentenced and jailed Videla for crimes in the “Dirty War” after the country returned to democracy in 1985, but was pardoned and released by President Carlos Menem in 1990. Recently departed Argentine President Néstor Kirchner annulled the pardons against former junta members in 2007.
A large crowd of families and supporters of victims cheered on the streets in response to the sentencing.
Seeking justice “is the only thing we have left in life. Our children haven’t appeared — we don’t know anything about them,” said Nair Amuedo of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo human rights group, according to The Associated Press. “At least these murderers were condemned for who they are.”
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Mexican politician Diego Fernández de Cevallos, who was freed this week after nearly eight months in captivity, paid his captors $30 million to release him.
- After originally saying there was no evidence of the crime, the Mexican government is now investigating the possible kidnapping of 50 migrants in the southern state of Oaxaca.
- El Salvadoran citizen Francisco Chávez Abarca has been convicted on terrorism charges for helping plan and carry out a string of bombings against Cuban tourist sites and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Cuban state media said Wednesday.
- The front-runner in Haiti’s disputed presidential elections, Mirlande Manigat, is urging the international community not to impose its own political solution on the quake-hit nation.
- Puerto Rican students kept up protests on Wednesday against a new fee at the island’s main public university after a week of demonstrations that led to several of the protesters’ arrests.
- Two former LatiNode executives were arrested this week for paying more than $500,000 in bribes to government officials in Honduras in a deal to create a long-distance phone network between the Central American country and the United States.
- Security forces seized a small plane, 150 AK-47 assault rifles and the equivalent of nearly $63,000 in cash Tuesday during operations against suspected drug traffickers in the northern Guatemalan province of Alta Verapaz, where a state of siege was imposed over the weekend.ç
- The Senate approved Wednesday a six-week extension of trade measures that provide job training for displaced workers and give duty-free access to exports from Andean countries.
- New laws governing radio, television and the internet in Venezuela “could be very dangerous,” anti-censorship campaigners said Wednesday, two days after the controversial laws passed.
- Ecuador’s Minister for Production, Employment and Competitiveness said Wednesday customs duties on small and medium-sized vehicles are to rise to 40% from a current 35%.
- The Inter-American Development Bank on Wednesday approved a loan of $22 million for Ecuador’s Bank of Pichincha, the biggest financial institution in the country by assets and clients.
- Bolivia has formally declared its recognition of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.
- Flight and ground crews for airlines in Brazil announced Wednesday that they plan to go on strike Thursday for higher pay.
- Chile announced Wednesday plans to divest its minority stakes in four water utilities and says the country expects to raise some $1.6 billion from the sales.
- Uruguayan soccer coach Óscar Tabárez was robbed of about $500,000 in a systematic attack on his back account.
- A human rights activist filed a court request Wednesday, which he hopes will imprison the son of Paraguay’s late dictator Alfredo Stroessner for illegal enrichment if he returns from exile.