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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
Latinamerica Press
3/31/2016
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Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras

A judge in the western province of San Juan, Argentina, brought indictments on Mar. 10 against nine executives of Barrick Gold, a Canadian mining company, for the spill of one million liters of cyanide solution at its Veladero gold mine, which occurred on Sept. 12 Sept, 2015, and resulted in the contamination of several rivers in the area. Also, the Mining Ministry of the province imposed the company a fine of US$9.3 million. Judge Pablo Ortija considered that the executives had acted in a negligent manner and infringed legislation regarding the management of hazardous substances. Greenpeace, the environmental organization, demanded that the provincial government immediately shuts down the Veladero mine for having caused damage to the environment and for operating in an area protected by the National Glaciers Law.

The House of Representatives in Chile approved on Mar. 17, by a vote of 66 in favor and 44 against, a bill that would decriminalize abortion under three circumstances: when the life of the mother is in danger, the embryo is afflicted with a life-threatening structural congenital alteration and when the pregnancy is a product of rape. The bill was sent to the Senate to continue with the legislative process. According to the numbers provided by the Health Ministry, there were 30,000 abortions performed in 2012, of which 3,000 were performed on girls and teens of between 10 and 19 years old. In Chile, as is the case in El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti and Nicaragua, abortion is illegal under any circumstance, which doesn’t prevents this procedure from being performed secretly while putting the life and health of these women at risk.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the government of Costa Rica on Mar. 1 to allow in vitro fertilization (IVF), a practice outlawed since 2000 after the Constitutional Chamber determined that it attempted against life when discarding fertilized embryos. In 2012, the IACHR ruled to repeal the ban because this infringed on the rights of people’s decision to have biological children through an assisted reproduction technique and to sexual and reproductive health, among others, but the mandate was not followed. The new ruling obliges the State to enforce the executive decree passed in 2015 by President Luis Guillermo Solís giving way to this technique.

Community leader Walter Manfredo Méndez Barrios, a defender of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in Guatemala, was found dead as a result of gunshot wounds on Mar. 16, reported the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP). Méndez, who had previously received death threats, was also a member of the Petén Front against Dams, a group that opposes the construction of hydroelectric projects in the Usumacinta River. ACOFOP said that the assassination of Méndez is the result of “the systematic violence suffered by Central American leaders who are waging a fight to defend nature, the culture and territories, from threats such as are those posed by large hydroelectric companies and extensive croplands.”

The National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) denounced the assassination of leader Nelson Noé García that occurred on Mar. 15 in the context of an eviction against the community of Río Chiquito, department of Cortés, where the police may have resorted to excessive use of force. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the crime that took place only 12 days after the assassination of his colleague, the renowned leader and defender of human rights, Berta Cáceres. García was the beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. The Inter-American organization urged the Honduran authorities to investigate both homicides and to prosecute and punish those found responsible.

 


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