Today in Latin America
Top Story — Guatemalan Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez ruled Thursday that former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt could not receive amnesty from prosecution for war crimes. Ríos Montt, who ruled Guatemala from 1982-83 during some of the bloodiest years of the country’s civil war, faces charges for the murder, torture, and forced displacement of thousands of Guatemalans, most of whom were indigenous Mayans. The ruling, which Ríos Montt and his lawyers will appeal to Guatemala’s highest court, could open the door for prosecutions of other former generals who ruled Guatemala during the period of conflict, as well as many lower-ranked members of the military. Judge Gálvez ruled that an amnesty law passed by Ríos Montt’s successor was invalid due to international treaties Guatemala had signed. According to Gálvez, “There are crimes like genocide and crimes against humanity that have no statute of limitations, and for that reason there can be no amnesty decree.”
Read more from the Washington Post.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Leo Sharp, an 87 year-old American horticulturalist accused of acting as a drug mule, was indicted on charges that he helped Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel transport about 1,500 pounds of cocaine into Detroit.
- Polling from GEA/ISA shows that the lead of Mexican presidential front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto has dropped to seven points from a 20-point lead in January.
- Arizona Senator John McCain said in an interview that jobs and the economy, not immigration, were the biggest issues in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign.
- U.S.-Cuban citizen Rene González, one of the “Cuban Five” currently serving his first year of probation after a 13-year sentence, has asked for permission to travel to Cuba to visit his cancer-stricken brother.
- A judge sentenced former Puerto Rican senator Héctor Martínez to four years in prison and a fine for bribery.
- U.S. Rear Admiral David Woods, in charge of the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, defended the decision to build a $774,000 soccer field for well-behaved prisoners.
- Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla called for a “serious” debate on the legalization of drugs after Honduras and Panama weighed in on the issue.
- A solar-powered lamp that won a prize at the Energy Innovation Contest forLatin America will help save energy costs for low-income people in rural areas and will employ Salvadorans with special needs.
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he was doing well Thursday in his first public address since undergoing surgery on a recurrent tumor in Havana, Cuba.
- Six inmates and ten guards were injured in a riot at the Centro de Rehabilitación Número Uno in Quito, Ecuador.
- A free trade agreement between Peru and Japan took effect on Thursday.
- Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said that she would work to establish direct flights between Buenos Aires and the Falkland Islands.
- Brazil’s foreign ministry said it was surprised the U.S. cancelled a $355 million defense contract with Brazilian plane manufacturer Embraer due to reported documentation problems.
- The Brazilian Air Force reported Thursday that air accidents in Brazil increased 42 percent in 2011.
Image: Surizar @ Flickr.