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Posts tagged ‘Latin Land of Argentina’

Argentine Senate rejects historic abortion law

August 09, 2018

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s Senate has rejected a bill to legalize elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The issue has divided the homeland of Pope Francis. Lawmakers debated for more than 15 hours and voted Thursday 31 in favor to 38 against.

Crowds of supporters and opponents of the measure braved the heavy rain to watch the debate on large screens set up outside Congress. The lower house of Congress had already passed the measure and President Mauricio Macri had said that he would sign it.

Argentina now allows the procedure only in cases of rape or risks to a woman’s health.


Argentine group IDs 128th person taken during ‘Dirty War’

August 04, 2018

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — DNA tests have determined the identity of a person taken from his mother as a baby by Argentina’s former dictatorship, a human rights group said Friday, bringing the number of such cases to 128.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo said that the person who was identified only by the name Marcos is the biological son of Rosario del Carmen Ramos. Former military and police authorities in the northern province of Tucuman kidnapped Ramos and her then five-month-old son and one of his half-brothers in 1976. Ramos was forcibly disappeared and was never found, while the two boys were taken to separate homes.

Marcos, who is now 42, found out the news about his true identity Thursday night and met with family members. The announcement was made at an emotional news conference attended by two of his half-brothers.

“It was an emotional shock,” said Camilo Suleiman, one of his half-siblings. “We want to know his whole life story in 20 seconds. This is the restitution of 42 years of love that has yet to be lived.”

Officials during the dictatorship have been convicted of organizing the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners who were often executed. About 500 or so newborns were whisked away and raised by surrogate families. Several hundred have yet to be accounted for.

Human rights group estimate that more than 30,000 people were jailed, tortured, killed or forcibly disappeared during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Argentina pays homage to Brit who recovered Falklands dead

March 24, 2018

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — They looked eye-to-eye and shed tears together: On one side the families of Argentine soldiers killed in the 1982 war with Britain, across the table the former British army officer who helped recover and rebury their loved ones.

A forensic study recently identified the remains of 90 Argentine soldiers buried in a Falkland Islands cemetery after the war. The families of the fallen troops will travel next week to the faraway graves on a lonely hillside in the South Atlantic, where until now gravestones have read: “Argentine soldier known only to God.”

The identification process was led by the International Red Cross under an agreement between the two nations. But it was only possible thanks to the efforts of Geoffrey Cardozo, who is a retired British colonel.

When the war ended on June 14, 1982, most Argentine bodies were left untouched on the battlefield or in temporary graves during the southern winter. Britain tried for months to send them to Buenos Aires, but the ruling military junta said they were already in their homeland.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher finally agreed to build a cemetery. Cardozo, then a 32-year-old captain, was ordered in January 1983 to recover and rebury the dead. “They very quickly became my boys because they were orphans. Their mothers and fathers were not on the island and I was the only one who could look after them,” Cardozo told The Associated Press. “And so I took great care to bury them, to look after them. And every step I took along the way with each body, I had in my mind their mothers, their families.”

Cardozo assembled a team of British funeral directors that rappelled into minefields from helicopters and dug up mass graves to recover Argentine corpses. They carefully prepared each one for reburial in individual coffins.

On Friday, the families of the soldiers and Argentine officials paid homage to Cardozo at an emotional ceremony in Buenos Aires. “Today, I feel a great joy, a great tranquility,” Cardozo told the relatives as they broke into tears.

A multinational team of 14 experts exhumed the remains last year. Tissues were analyzed and compared with DNA samples from family members of some of the dead soldiers at a laboratory in Argentina. Laboratories in Britain and Spain conducted quality control of the DNA analyses.

The Red Cross has said the identification process of the more than 120 graves was highly successful. “I would have never imagined 35 years later that we would achieve this kind of success,” Cardozo said. “It’s formidable, miraculous.”

On Monday, Cardozo will join the families as part of the mission to the Falklands to explain how he organized the cemetery with its rows of white crosses and dark gray tombstones. “What will happen next Monday will bring a huge relief to these heavy hearts,” he said.

Many families of the Argentine fallen troops had long distrusted the idea of sending experts to the islands to identify their war dead. “One day, my mom finally told me: ‘Who am I to impede another mother from finding her son,'” said Maria Fernanda Araujo, who was 9 when her brother Eduardo was killed in the war. She now leads a group for the relatives of the fallen soldiers.

“We had to make other families understand that this was not impossible,” she said. In all, 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers died in the war. “The angels lined up — 649 of them — and Geoffrey was there. And we can all be friends,” Araujo said as she turned to Cardozo, who was sitting next to her, and they embraced.

Argentina’s Patagonia Rebels Against Oil Field Waste Pits

By Daniel Gutman

BUENOS AIRES, Mar 1 2018 (IPS) – A project to install a huge deposit of oil field waste pits has triggered a crisis in the north of Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, and brought the debate on the environmental impact of extractive industries back to the forefront in this Southern Cone country.

Catriel, in the province of Río Negro, about 1,000 km southwest of Buenos Aires, was a small town untilan oil deposit was discovered there in 1959. Since then, the population has boomed, with the town drawing people from all over the country, driving the total up to around 30,000 today.

The conflict broke out in 2016, when the city government announced a plan to set up a “special waste deposit” on 300 hectares of land, for the final disposal of waste from oil industry activity in the area.

This generated social division and resistance that ended last November, when opponents of the project were successful in their bid to obtain an amendment to the Municipal Charter – the supreme law at a local level – which declared Catriel a “protected area”, and prohibited such facilities due to the pollution.

Mayor Carlos Johnston described the modification of the charter as “shameful” and asked the courts to overrule the amendment, arguing that those who drafted the new text overstepped their authority.

The court decision is still pending.

“At all times it was practically impossible to access information. When we went to ask, the city government gave us a document that had a map of where they want to install the plant and practically nothing else,” said Natalia Castillo, an administrative employee who is part of the Catriel Socio-Environmental Assembly, a community group that emerged to fight the project.

“We are very worried about the possible impact of the plant and we are trying to raise public awareness. The problem is that many people around here work in the oil industry and prefer not to meddle with this issue,”Castillo told IPS.

Mayor Johnston confirmed his position to IPS: “We have had environmental liabilities since 1959. It is our obligation, as the State, to address them. It would be much worse not to do it.”

“The environmental authorization came from the provincial authorities. It may be that we have so far failed to provide enough information to society. But we value the work of environmental organizations and are ready for dialogue because this project is necessary,” he added.

Johnston said the waste that will be accepted at the plant will come from Catriel and other municipalities in the province of Río Negro.

However, environmental organizations suspect, due to the large size that is projected for the deposit, that it could receive waste from oil industry activity in the entire area and not just from the municipality.

Catriel happens to be located in the so-called Neuquén Basin, the main source of oil and gas in the country, and is very close to VacaMuerta, the unconventional oil and gas deposit in the neighboring province of Neuquén, which fuels Argentina’s dreams of becoming a major fossil fuel producer.

The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated the recoverable reserves in the 30,000-square-km Vaca Muerta at no less than 27 billion barrels of oil and 802 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The Argentine government also places its hopes in this field to bolster its hydrocarbon production, which has been declining for 20 years, and has forced the country to import fuel to make up for the deficit.

“The problem is that ‘fracking’, which is used to extract unconventional hydrocarbons, generates waste on a much larger scale than conventional exploitation,” said Martín Álvarez, a researcher at the non-governmental interdisciplinary Oil Observatory of the South (OPSur).

He explained that with this technology, which drills rocks at great depths through large injections of water and additives, “not only do the chemicals used to carry out the drilling and hydraulic fracturing come back to the surface, but also radioactive materials of natural origin that are in the subsoil.”

“There is a saturation of oil waste in the Neuquén Basin from fracking, which is a dirty technique. Then came this new business, waste disposal, which has a huge environmental impact because contaminants can seep into the groundwater,” added the expert.

Together with the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation and Greenpeace Argentina, two of the most influential environmental organizations in the country, OPSur requested access to information from different provincial bodies in Río Negro.

In addition, it issued a critical report, drawing attention to the size of the project. Covering 300 hectares, it would be almost 10 times larger than what is currently the biggest South American plant of its type, with an area of 34 hectares.

The document refers to Comarsa, an oil waste deposit that is only 135 km from Catriel, in the province of Neuquén, near the provincial capital. The installation has been questioned for years by residents, forcing the local authorities to promise to close it once and for all last November, although it has not yet happened.

The environmental organizations also complained that during the Mar. 31, 2017 public hearing where the project was discussed, many questions and objections raised by the participants were not answered.

They also questioned the approval of the environmental impact assessment conducted by the Rìo Negro Secretariat of Environment, “despite the rejection by different sectors in the community of Catriel.”

In the middle of this conflict, Catriel had to reform its Organic Charter, a task that is to be carried out every 25 years.

With the issue of the plant at the center of the debate, the local ruling party, Juntos Somos Rio Negro (Together We Are Río Negro) won the elections with 35 percent of the vote and obtained six seats on the reform committee. But the other nine seats went to different opposition parties, which joined forces against the waste pit project.

“The establishment or installation of nuclear power plants, reservoirs, landfills, repositories of final or transitory disposal of contaminated material from the nuclear, chemical or oil industry, or any other polluting activity, is prohibited,” says Article 94 of the new Charter, which came into force on Jan. 1.

But the mayor argues that it must be revised because “it is not feasible.”

Johnston also rejected the possibility of calling a referendum on the authorization to install the plant, as requested by the Catriel Socio-Environmental Assembly.

In a communiqué, the assembly asked: “What will happen when diseases become visible in the people who live in Catriel, due to the environmental contamination caused by the oil waste deposit?”

A fact that has not gone unnoticed is that the company that is to install the treatment plant is Crexell Environmental Solutions, which has strong political connections, to the point that its president, Nicolás Crexell, is the brother of a national senator for Neuquén, and nephew of the person who governed that province until 2015.

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS News).


Finally, Argentina Has a Law on Access to Public Information

By Daniel Gutman

BUENOS AIRES, Sep 28 2017 (IPS) – After 15 long years of public campaigns and debates in which different political, social and business sectors held marches and counter-protests, Argentina finally has a new law that guarantees access to public information.

This step forward must now be reflected in reality, in this South American country where one of the main social demands is greater transparency on the part of the authorities.

The Law on the Right of Access to Public Information, which considers “all government-held information” to be public, was approved by Congress in September last year and enters into force Friday Sept. 29.

Eduardo Bertoni stressed the importance of the new law. He is the academic appointed by the government of President Mauricio Macri to lead the new Agency for Access to Public Information, which will operate within the executive branch, although “with operational autonomy,” according to the law.

“There are already 113 countries that have right of access to information laws and 90 countries have incorporated it into their constitutions,” Bertoni said during the public hearing where his appointment was discussed.

Bertoni, a lawyer with a great deal of experience regarding the right to information, served as Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIADH) between 2002 and 2005.

“We must now encourage society to demand more information from the authorities. And it is essential to push for better organisation of the public archives, because if we do not find the information people seek, we will fail,” he added.

The text is broad in terms of the list of institutions legally bound to respond to requests for access to information: besides the various branches of the state, it includes companies, political parties, trade unions, universities and any private entity to which public funds have been allocated, including public service concessionaires.

The Agency was created to ensure compliance with the law. Its functions include advising people who seek public information and assisting them with their request.

“This was clearly a pending issue for Argentina. It is incomprehensible that the governments of Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) did not push for approval of this law, which should be an incentive for provinces and municipalities to do the same, since very few have regulations on access to public information,” Guillermo Mastrini, an expert on this question, told IPS.

For Mastrini, a former director of Communication Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, “this does not change the worrying scenario with respect to the right to information, since the government is regulating by decree issues related to audiovisual communication services in a way that does not favor plurality and transparency.”

The bill was sent to Congress by the government a few months after Macri took office in December 2015, and passed with large majorities in both legislative chambers.

Until now, at the national level, there was only decree 1172, signed in 2003 by Kirchner with the aim of “improving the quality of democracy”, which was not only below the status of a law, but only covered the executive branch with regard to the obligation to provide information.

José Crettaz, a journalist and the coordinator of the Center for Studies on the Convergence of Communications, told IPS that “Néstor Kirchner’s decree, which applied to the executive branch, worked very well at first, but then public officials began to leave most requests for information unanswered.”

“Now we are seeing a huge step forward, since the law encompasses all branches of the state, and I see a government with a different attitude. The decisive thing will be how the law is implemented. The only valid criterion should be: if there is public money involved, it is public information,” he said.

The law was passed after dozens of bills on access to information were introduced in Congress in recent years. The first was presented under the government of Fernando de la Rua (1999-2001), with the support of a network of civil society organisations, but with little backing from journalists.

The initiative obtained preliminary approval from the lower house of Congress in 2003, passed to the Senate and then the main Argentine media outlets joined the public campaign demanding that it be approved. However, they later distanced themselves from the bill.

They did so, Bertoni recalled in a paper written in 2011 for the World Bank, when a senator warned that the media should also respond to requests for information submitted by any member of the public, as they receive state advertising, which is considered a subsidy.

In 2004, the Senate approved the bill, but with modifications that included private entities among the subjects obligated to provide information, and sent it back to the lower house, where it was shelved. Another bill was passed by the Senate in 2010, but it also failed to prosper.

Now one thing that stood out is that just two days before the law went into effect, the government modified it through a questioned channel: based on “a decree of necessity and urgency”, putting the new Agency in the orbit of the chief of the cabinet of ministers.

“The government thus gave a lower status to the Agency, which according to law was to depend directly on the Presidency of the Nation; the decision, moreover, cannot be taken by decree when Congress is in session,” said Damián Loreti, professor of Right to Information at the University of Buenos Aires.

“That the law is in force is good. But I am concerned about a number of things, such as not including among its objectives a guarantee for the exercise of other rights, such as housing or sexual and reproductive rights. The model law of the Organisation of American States was not followed,” he told IPS.

For Sebastián Lacunza, the last director of the Buenos Aires Herald, a well-respected English-language newspaper that closed this year, “in a country that does not have a culture of transparency, there is a risk that the law will fail.”

“This government promised a regeneration of the country’s institutions, but in some aspects it ended up aggravating the shortcomings of the previous administration, which was not prone to being open with information,” he told IPS.

In his view, “in a context of global crisis in the media industry and a shrinking of plurality of information, the most important thing is that there is an active state that combats the concentration of the media in a few hands.”

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).


Abundant fish draw 1 million penguins to Argentine peninsula

February 18, 2017

PUNTA TOMBO, Argentina (AP) — More than a million penguins have traveled to Argentina’s Punta Tombo peninsula during this year’s breeding season, drawn by an unusual abundance of small fish. Local officials say that’s a record number in recent years for the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins, offering an especially stunning spectacle for the tens of thousands of people who visit the reserve annually.

The peninsula’s tiny islets are well-suited to nesting and have sardines and anchovies close to the shoreline. The flightless birds come on shore in September and October and stay while the males and females take turns caring for their eggs and hunting for food.

The warm-weather birds breed in large colonies in southern Argentina and Chile and migrate north as far as southwestern Brazil between March and September. They are around 20 inches (50 centimeters) tall and have a broad crescent of white feathers that extends from just above each eye to the chin and a small area of pink on the face.

Argentine leader mentions Falklands in chat with British PM

September 21, 2016

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Argentine President Mauricio Macri said he spoke informally with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday and brought up the dialogue the countries have re-established in hopes of resolving the dispute over the Falklands Islands.

Macri told reporters the encounter after a United Nations lunch was “a minute” and “very informal.” The two leaders had a similar encounter 10 days ago at the G-20 summit in China. He separately told the official Argentine news agency Telam that he greeted May and told her that “he is ready to start an open a dialogue that includes, of course, the issue of the sovereignty of the Malvinas.” The islands are referred to as the Malvinas in Argentina.

Macri said the British leader responded with a “yes, that we should start to talk,” according to Telam. Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra later cautioned that while the sovereignty of the disputed islands is something to be discussed with Britain, it would be “a big step to say that the issue is on the table.”

There was no comment from the British government. Tensions between Argentina and Britain have eased since Argentine President Cristina Fernandez left office and Macri assumed the post promising a less-confrontational stance.

Last week, the two governments announced that they had agreed to lift restrictions affecting the islands, in a thawing of relations. The sides agreed to increase the number of flights between the Falklands and Argentina, adding one new stop a month in each direction.

Argentina lost a 1982 war with Britain after Argentine troops seized the South Atlantic archipelago. Argentina claims Britain has illegally occupied the islands since 1833. Britain disputes the claim and says Argentina is ignoring the wishes of the 3,000 residents, who wish to remain British.

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