Today in Latin America
Top Story — Former Argentine dictators Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone are on trial on charges they presided over a plot to steal babies from political prisoners during their rules.
The former dictators are accused of kidnapping some 30 children whose parents died or disappeared during the 1976-83 military rule, in which the Argentine government waged what is known as the “Dirty War.” Six other people are also on trial, including ex-officers and a doctor.
More than 100 children weren given for adoption to military or police couples during this period.
The theft of children was “one of the darkest episodes in Argentina’s history,” said federal prosecutor Federico Delgado, according to The Telegraph.
The case opened 14 years ago at the request of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a leading human rights group, and it may take up to a year to hear testimony from about 370 witnesses.
Videla, 85, has been sentenced to life in prison, and Bignone, 83, is serving a 25-year term for other crimes committed during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. There are 13,000 people on the official list of those killed, although rights groups estimate as many as 30,000 died.
“This trial is necessary to set things straight,” said Leonardo Fossati, whose mother was three months pregnant when she was kidnapped in 1977. “For a long time now, they have denied there was a systematic plan to steal babies.”
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Mexican marines arrested Sergio Mora Cortés, alias “El Toto,” the alleged leader of the Zetas cartel cell in San Luis Potosí state.
- The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested three people suspected of smuggling guns to Mexico.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office in El Paso charged an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent with embezzling government funds.
- The Cuban Communist Party has moved forward the election of new leadership to a congress in April where longtime party leader Fidel Castro is expected to step down, sources close to the party said over the weekend.
- The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is investigating last year’s series of fervent campaign “robo-calls” by Haitian presidential candidate Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, which led to evacuations at the Fort Bragg military base.
- Three weeks after the Haitian government gave a diplomatic passport to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country’s exiled former president, his planned return appears to have stalled amid unresolved security and logistical concerns.
- Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate rose to 15.7 percent in January, up from 14.7 percent the previous month, according to figures released Monday by the Department of Labor and Human Resources.
- Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega has accepted the Sandinista Party’s nomination to run for president again, even though he has served the maximum allowed under the Constitution.
- Two Spanish journalists arrested over the weekend while covering protests in the Panamanian capital will be repatriated to Spain, diplomatic officials said.
- The attorneys general of El Salvador and Mexico agreed to share information to bolster efforts by both countries to fight crime and organized crime groups, the press reported Sunday.
- A Venezuelan lawyer says a prominent union leader has been sentenced to seven years in prison in connection with a strike that temporarily paralyzed the state iron mining company.
- Panama defender Luis Moreno is facing sanctions after he kicked an injured owl that had landed on the field during a match for his Colombian club Deportivo Pereira against Atlético Junior.
- Sudden seismic activity caused a “mega-mudslide” in the Bolivian capital of La Paz Sunday.
- Brazilian police are questioning a man accused of driving his car at high speed through a crowd of cyclists, injuring at least 12 of them.
- Late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy allegedly planned to rent a brothel in Chile, according to an F.B.I. file.
- Uruguay offers the best business climate out of eleven countries from Latin America, according to the Brazilian Getulio Vargas Foundation.