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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
Latinamerica Press
2/27/2017
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Argentina, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua

The Supreme Court of Argentina ruled on Feb. 15 that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/ACourt) cannot revoke a sentence handed down by that tribunal. The decision stems from the demand for damages filed by former President Carlos Menem (1989-1999) against two journalists for mentioning the existence of a child born out of wedlock. The Supreme Court sided with Menem in 2001, action that motivated journalists Jorge Fontevecchia and Hector D’Amico to file a claim before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. In 2011, the I/ACourt ordered to revoke the sentence. According to Andrea Pochak, General Director of Human Rights of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the verdict constitutes a “terrible setback in matters of human rights” as this puts in jeopardy the binding nature of the decisions handed down by the I/ACourt and leaves unprotected the victims of human rights violations.

Jovenel Moïse, of the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (Balded Head), was sworn in as President of Haiti on Feb. 7, one year after President Michel Martelly (2011-2016) ended his constitutional term and was temporarily replaced by the President of the Senate, Jocelerme Privert. Moïse, member of the ruling party, won the first round of elections on Nov. 25, 2015 with 33 percent of the vote, followed by opposition candidate Jude Celestin, of the Alternative League for Haitian Progress and Emancipation (LAPEH), with 25 percent of the vote. However, the Provisional Electoral Council decided to suspend the second round that had already been scheduled for Dec. 27, 2015, due to the violence that erupted in the country after accusations that fraud had taken place. After three more postponements, the elections finally took place on Nov. 20, 2016, when Moïse was declared the winner with 55.6 percent of the vote, while Celestin received 19.5 percent. Moïse will govern until 2022.

Honduras is the deadliest place to defend the planet, said Global Witness in a report spread on Feb. 1. According to the organization that dedicates its efforts to the protection of enviromental and land activists, 123 people who opposed hydroelectric plants, mines, logging or agriculture on their lands, have been killed by forces of the government, security agents or paid assassins since 2010. It also mentions that dozens of activists have been threatened, attacked or jailed. The prime victims belong to indigenous and rural communities, and whose cases in their majority remain unsolved, the report adds. The investigation reveals that the judicial system, the Army and the Police support the interests of companies, and “although the government theoretically has the power and resources to protect activists, in practice a lack of political will, endemic corruption and undue influence from elites means it fails to do so.”

Indigenous leader Juan Ontiveros was found dead on Feb. 1 in the municipality of Guadalupe y Calvo, in the state of Chihuahua, in Northern Mexico. Ontiveros, who battled against uncontrolled logging in the Sierra Madre, had been kidnapped a day before by armed men. Days before the crime, Ontiveros had met with other indigenous leaders and defenders of human rights to discuss issues regarding the problems facing their communities. He was in charge of security of the Tarahumara community of Choréachi which has “a long-standing history of defense of its territory, including disputes over land limits with neighboring non-indigenous towns and peaceful struggles to stop logging in the area,” said Amnesty International in a statement. The death of Ontiveros occurred two weeks after the murder of Tarahumara indigenous leader Isidro Baldenegro, who won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2005 for his fight against illegal logging in the Sierra Madre.

Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan priest and poet, was sentenced on February 10 by a court in Managua, Nicaragua, to pay US$800,000 in restitution “for damages, consequential damages, lost profits, damage to property and loss of assets caused by the noncompliance with contractual obligations” to Nubia del Socorro Arcia, administrator of a hotel in Solentiname Island, in lake Cocibolca, where Cardenal founded a Christian community in the 70s. The property belonged to the Association for the Development of Solentiname (ADS) which in 1990 decided to turn it into a hotel. In 1994 Arcia widowed and the ADS gave her the administration of the hotel, but not so the property, something that she is claiming in court. A week later, a judge annulled the edict of the sentence due to procedural errors. The priest will be notified again and may appeal. Cardenal, 92, said he is a victim of “political persecution” by current President Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo.


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