Just Americas Blog

Guatemala: A Blow to Hopes for Justice

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Guatemalans dreaming of and campaigning for a nation governed by the rule of law were devastated June 7th when the head of a UN-supported body set up to investigate organized crime resigned in frustration. Carlos Castresana had labored valiantly, as head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), to investigate the organized crime that has penetrated the nation.

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Colombia's Authoritarian Spell

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The year was 2004. I was contacted by Colombian human rights activists. Would I please come to Colombia to join them in a book launch of the second edition of The Authoritarian Spell? They were worried that the book, a collectively written critique of what they saw as authoritarian tendencies by the administration of President Alvaro Uribe, would provoke a reaction, and wanted international accompaniment. I said yes, and went to one of the book launches in Medellín, where a professor at the local university spoke and introduced me and several of the book’s coauthors, and we had a genteel, scholarly discussion of current events, in an auditorium filled mainly with students and professors. 

Little did we know that the book, criticized by the government as exaggerated, was in fact far too light a critique of the government’s authoritarian tendencies.

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Guatemala's Week of Natural Disasters

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Here’s an update on the recent natural disasters that have hit Guatemala from Kelsey Alford-Jones of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA (GHRC/USA):

A week after Guatemalans experienced a dual assault from Pacaya Volcano and Tropical Storm Agatha, volcanic ash still hangs in the air. Over 80,000 people wait in emergency shelters—the homes, crops and livelihoods of many completely destroyed.

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The Head-Honchos of Cuban Civil Society Set the Record Straight on U.S. Citizens' Travel to Cuba

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Many in the United States Congress continue to hem and haw when it comes to repealing the unjust ban on U.S. citizens' travel to Cuba, but the head-honchos of Cuban civil society know where they stand -- and, presumably tired of the hardliners invoking their name in opposition to any change to the status quo, they've decided to set the record straight. In a letter made public on June 9th, 74 Cubans urged members of Congress to vote in favor of H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, legislation currently being considered by the House Committee on Agriculture that would restore the right of each and every U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, without getting a permission slip from Uncle Sam, and ease the sale of U.S. food to the island.

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Colombia's President Rails against Justice, Clinton Stands By

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Colombia’s outgoing President has launched an assault against his country’s courts for taking some initial steps to bring high-ranking military and government officials to justice for their role in murder, illegal wiretapping, disappearances and torture.  This is no abstract political debate. When the President takes to the airwaves to denounce those working for justice, the judges, lawyers, witnesses and victims’ families know that death threats, and sometimes murder, often follow.  The threats and attacks usually appear to be from paramilitary groups. Colombia’s Supreme Court made a call for help:  “We make an appeal to the international community to accompany and show solidarity with the Colombian judicial system which is being assaulted for carrying out its duties.” 

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