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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
Latinamerica Press
3/25/2015
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Latin America, Guatemala, Chile, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Suriname.

The Latin American Catholic Church denounced before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on March 20 the “accelerated” and “irrational” expansion” of extractive activities affecting the environment and people of Latin America. On behalf of the Latin American Conference of Catholic Bishops (CELAM), Monsignor Alvaro Ramazzini, Bishop of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, said that in many cases multinational extractive companies “do not respect the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of local communities.” He added that the conservation of nature is “subordinated to economic development; quality of life for people, as for animals and plants, is sacrificed to the pollution caused by mining and oil.”

Hundreds of people protested on March 21 in Osorno, Chile, during the appointment of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of having concealed and allowed the sexual abuse of children and young teenagers by former priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s in that country. Karadima was banned for life by the Vatican in 2011 on charges of ephebophilia. Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic, created in February a network called “Unidos” (United) to fight the cover-up by the Latin American Catholic hierarchy of sexual abuse and bring to justice the perpetrators and accomplices of such crimes.
 
The Latin American Federation of Journalists (FEPALC) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the killings of media workers in Guatemala and Honduras, in a statement released on March 19. Three journalists in each country have been attacked between January and March 2015. “Throughout Central America, sectors of political power and organized crime coexist, which — separately or together — threaten journalists who expose corruption and report on those responsible, who are protected in most cases by a judicial system that does not make progress on investigations (the impunity levels throughout the region surpass 95 percent) or detaches journalism from the motive for the crimes,” according to the statement.

Puerto Rico will recognize marriages between same-sex couples married in other parts of the United States, the island’s Secretary of Justice César Miranda announced on March 20. However, gay marriages are not still allowed in Puerto Rico, which is a commonwealth of the United States. Miranda said his government would not challenge in federal court the demands of five couples demanding that their unions be recognized in Puerto Rico. “The state cannot promote discrimination,” Miranda said, adding that the government will not defend the constitutionality of a Puerto Rican Civil Code article limiting marriage to unions between a man and a woman. The US Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding gay marriage throughout the United States in late April; more than half the states in the country have approved same-sex marriages.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomed the decision on March 3 of Suriname to abolish the death penalty. The IACHR stressed that the elimination of the death penalty from Suriname’s Criminal Code “represents an opportunity for Caribbean countries to make significant progress in guaranteeing human rights in the region.” Several other states still allow for capital punishment in their legislation. For that reason, the IACHR reiterated “the need to promote legislative reform in these countries in order to abolish the death penalty throughout the region, or at least to impose a moratorium on its application.” In this regard, the IACHR urged states that have not done so, to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.


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