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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
Latinamerica Press
4/28/2016
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Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru

Patricio Aylwin, the first democratically elected president of Chile after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), died on Apr. 19 at age 97. Founder of the Partido Demócrata Cristiano (Christian Democratic Party), Aylwin governed between 1990 and 1994 as the head of the Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia (Coalition of Parties for Democracy). During his term, he created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) to investigate the human rights violations committed during the dictatorship. In March 1991, Aylwin presented the CVR report — known as Rettig report — that included 3,550 cases of extrajudicial executions and disappearances and apologized to the victims “for having been denigrated by accusations of crimes that were never proven and for never having the opportunity or adequate means to defend themselves.”

With six votes in favor and three against, the Constitutional Court of Colombia approved civil same-sex marriage on Apr. 7. In 2011 the Constitutional Court ruled that Congress had until June 2013 to approve same sex marriage, else gay couples could go to notaries and judges to formalize their union, what happened. However, contractual unions with notaries did not granted legal protection to the relationship and the Attorney General’s Office intervened to determine that judges were not forced to marry gay couples. Following the ruling of the Constitutional Court, Colombia joins Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and some states in Mexico were same-sex marriage is legal.

On Mar. 30, the Criminal Court of Limón, in eastern Costa Rica, sentenced four turtle eggs traffickers to 50 years in prison for the murder of environmentalist Jairo Mora — protector of leatherback turtles in Costa Rica ‘s Caribbean coast — killed on May 30, 2013. Donald Salmon, Ernesto Rivas, Hector Cash and Joseph Bryan Quesada brutally beat Mora when he was patrolling the Moin beach, causing his death by asphyxiation. It is the second time they are sentenced for this case; in January 2015, they were absolved due to errors in the investigation. Mora worked with the environmental organization Widecast, which fights looting of turtle eggs for human consumption.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported on Apr. 15 that the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, in charge of investigating the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, on Sept. 26, 2014, will not continue with the investigation because of the Mexican government’s refusal to extend its mandate which ends on Apr. 30. President of the IACHR, James Cavallaro, said that because the case has not been solved, there will have to be a negotiation with government authorities and relatives of the victims to create a “special monitoring mechanism” to comply with the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR and to find out what happened to the students.

Máxima Acuña, a farmer from Cajamarca, in northern Peru, received on Apr. 18 the prestigious 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize — award given to environmental advocates worldwide — for her campaign to continue living in peace and in the land of her property, under which is a gold and silver deposit that the mining company Yanacocha, owned by US company Newmont and Peruvian company Buenaventura, sought to exploit with the Conga project that would have affected five headwaters and a wasteland. The day before, Newmont had announced it was taking Conga off its reserves list because of the strong opposition from the community. The project, with an estimated cost of US$5 billion, had planned to extract 350,000 ounces of gold and 120 million pounds of silver a year.


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