8 Ex-Military Behind Operation Condor Sentenced to Life

Many human rights advocates will be disappointed by the court's failure to sentence 19 other military officials charged in the case.

A court in Rome handed down Tuesday life sentences to eight former military officers from Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay who were found guilty of the forces disappearance and death of about 20 Italian nationals as part of the bloody "Operation Condor" in South America in the 1970s and 1980s.

RELATED: Nazis Trained and Supported Chile's Operation Condor Activities

Only eight of the 27 military officers charged from the four countries received jail time in the high-anticipated sentencing hearing after a lengthy 9-year investigation.

"We are disappointed by the decision," said Uruguay's Vice President Raul Sendic, who was present at the hearing. The prosecutor had asked for life sentences for the 27 officers.

The former military men sentenced were Chile's Hernan Jeronimo Ramirez and Rafael Ahumada Valderrama; Uruguay's Juan Carlos Blanco; Bolivia's Luis Garcia Meza and Luis Arce Gomez; and Peru's Francisco Morales Bermudez, Pedro Richter Prada and German Ruiz Figueroa. 

The investigation, opened by Italian attorney Giancarlo Capaldo, initially included 140 people accused of human rights abuses, but the list was eventually whittled down to the 27 who were charged, as many of the accused had died or were found too old to be tried.

When the trial launched on Feb. 12, 2015, the case involved 34 former heads of state, military officials, police and secret services agents and other operatives of military regimes in South America int he 1970s and 1980s. 

On Dec. 28, 2016, former president and military dictator of Uruguay from 1982 to 1985, Gregorio Alvarez, died while serving a sentence for human rights abuses carried out during his reign.

The deadly multi-state Operation Condor intelligence operation was designed to destroy opposition to U.S.-backed right-wing regimes in Latin America.

Operation Condor operations are thought to have led to the death or disappearance of 50,000 people throughout Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s.

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Venezuela 'Concerned' By Colombian Talks to Join NATO

Venezuela argues that this violates the principles of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

Venezuela expressed “deep concern” over an announcement made by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that he has begun the final discussions for his country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

RELATED: Colombian Attorney General Says NATO Deal 'Unconstitutional'

In an official statement, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the announcement "breaks” a p made in 2010 to by Santos to late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to not join the military alliance.

"The Venezuelan government strongly rejects the attempt to introduce external organizations with nuclear capability into our region, whose past and recent actions claim the policy of war," the statement from Rodriguez said.

Venezuela argues that this would violate the principles of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, or NAM, which prohibits its members to form part of international military alliances.

"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will use all diplomatic and political mechanisms to prevent war organizations with a pernicious record of war and violence in the world from disturbing the peace of our region," Rodriguez added.

Colombia, who chaired the NAM between 1995 and 1998, joined the movement as an observer in 1974 before becoming a permanent member in 1983 after the 7th Summit held in New Delhi. During its time as the head of the bloc, the South American nation defended the movement and promoted its modernization and strengthening.

During his Christmas speech to the army on Friday, Santos welcomed NATO's approval for the start of talks, which he considered "an acknowledgment of the country's military and police forces."

RELATED: NATO Deploys Thousands More Troops on Russian Border

The peace nobel laureate says the deal with NATO will be only for information exchange and to increase the fight against transnational crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.

NATO is the world’s largest intergovernmental military alliance, formed during the height of the Cold War to guard members states against purported “Soviet expansionism.” The pact currently has 28 member states across Europe, North America, as well as Turkey.

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Coming together for democracy and against neoliberalism

Activities in Cuba today, Continental Day for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism, will focus on defending the island's sovereignty.

Different sectors of Cuban society will come together today, November 4, in the University of Havana's Ignacio Agramonte Plaza to observe Continental Day for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism.

The events focused on defending the island's sovereignty were planned by organizations which are part of the city's Social Movements Articulated with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

Marches in several Latin American countries, including Mexico, Peru, Panama, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil have been called to protest neoliberalism, under the banner of "Not one step back! The peoples' struggle continues for integration, self-determination, and sovereignty and against free trade and transnationals!"

The decision to hold the continental day of protest on November 4 was made by participants in the hemispheric conference held on the 10th anniversary of the defeat of the U.S. sponsored Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, last year in Havana, with the purpose of demonstrating the strength and resistance of the left across the continent.

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Black Market for Latin American Cultural Heritage Revealed

Between 2008 and 2016, the main auction houses of Europe and the U.S. sold more than 7,000 items that are part of the archeological heritage of Peru.

Five investigative journalism teams have joined forces to bring to light the trafficking of cultural heritage items from Latin America. The group includes Ojo Publico from Peru, La Nacion from Costa Rica, Plaza Publica from Guatemala, Animal Politico from Mexico, and Chequeando from Argentina.

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Through collective work, the teams published several articles showing the multi-million-dollar business of illicit trafficking of cultural goods from Latin America to the U.S. and Europe. They also found that this type of trafficking had many identifiable operators but very few were prosecuted and most avoided justice through the use of legal loopholes.

The research was done by analyzing thousands of prosecuting documents, databases, direct sources and interviews of those prosecuted. The overall picture obtained from the research showed the routes that link the countries with the largest cultural heritages to the centers of international antique markets, ultimately ending up at some of the most well-known academic institutions and research centers in the world.

According to Ojo Publico, the “struggle against the crime has failed in many countries” and “proof of it is the freedom enjoyed by almost all those accused of the biggest cases of stealing, exporting, commerce, and possession of illegal pieces of art discovered in the last decades.” Ojo Publico also found that the number of Latin American pieces sold to collectors in the main capitals of the world is larger than the 4,907 cultural objects that the International Criminal Police Organization is looking for.

The portal Chequeando documented that Interpol lists Argentina with the most cultural goods reported as stolen totaling 2,816. Argentina is followed by Peru with 1,031, Ecuador with 556, Bolivia with 449, and Mexico with 320.

All 39,000 cultural pieces reported stolen to Interpol in the last 100 years from 132 countries were compiled by Ojo Publico in a web database. However, the research demonstrated that the reported items are only a fraction of the total. The database also revealed auction houses from 14 countries where stolen pieces are frequently sold.

The investigation showed the problem is complex. The business of trafficking cultural items has an ample number of actors including people with important political connections like Matteo Goretti who is a former advisor to Argentine President Mauricio Macri. Goretti is currently under investigation because 59 archeological pieces stolen from a museum in Cordoba, Argentina, were found at his home.

RELATED: Native Americans Slam France Over 'Slave-Like' Artifacts Sale

Other people involved in trafficking of cultural goods are also being investigated for drug-trafficking. Such is the case with Guatemalan Raul Contreras. The day he was arrested, police found 12 paintings from colonial times and 12 religious figures. Eleven out of those were stolen six months before from the Fine Arts Foundation of Guatemala by an armed group and two more were stolen from Honduras.

Another group of people involved in the trafficking of these goods are famous collectors like Nestor Janier Aude. In Buenos Aires, he has one of the best-known and largest antique stores in Latin America. However, he has a large judicial file for cultural trafficking. He has not served any time in prison for trafficking despite the fact that the Argentine government found 4,000 objects belonging to pre-Colombian cultures in Peru and Ecuador at two of his previous stores. The legal battle to repatriate the objects took 15 years and Janier’s crimes expired before he could be sentenced.

The five research portals published many other case studies of people involved in the trafficking of cultural heritage. However, they stated that this is just the beginning of their investigations and they will continue publishing details on how the market works. 

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Cuban Intellectual Calls for Ideas to Stop Fascist Onslaught

Bolivia, Oct 11 (Prensa Latina) Cuban Intellectual and Culture Minister, Abel Prieto, convened to stop the fascist onslaught in Our America and the world promoting among young people the ideas of Marti, Che Guevara and the great liberators.

Speaking to Prensa Latina during the tributes to Che in this Bolivian city and La Higuera, where he was assassinated 49 years ago on instructions from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Prieto reflected on the current world situation.

Now, there is an attack against all progressive processes, and I think we need of paradigms, models that young people know of the history of our region, as Marti, Che, Bolivar and many others, who left a seed for future generations, he said.

Because we all know that the great project of the imperialism is that the contemporary youth keep busy on other more trivial things, and it is essential that those ideas remain in force, he said.

It is also essential that young cadres be trained as Bolivian Culture Minister, Marco Machicao, committed to the historical project of the great heroes of Our America, Prieto said.

He highlighted the recently concluded meeting of Culture Ministers from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz and some of them were in Vallegrande to pay tribute to Ernesto Che Guevara.

The Cuban writer and leader stressed that the CELAC bill has much to do with Marti and Che. They were convinced that Our America and the Southern nations had to rise, creating two, three, many Vietnams.

Che was confident that, at short or long term, people would reach victory over imperialism, and that faith in victory, that tenacity and revolutionary stubbornness that is in Fidel and Raul Castro, Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez, have led our region to win an exceptional place in the world, he stressed. Prieto praised the role the Cuban Medical Brigade has played in many countries, those health collaborators have been here for 10 years with new waves of professionals and the same Guevara, revolutionary, Latin Americanist spirit, and they continue working to preserve these historic sites and defending Che's ideas.

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Uruguay's Pepe Mujica: 'Inequality Is the Enemy of Democracy'

"The biggest threat to democracy is the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few," said the former Uruguayan president.

Former President of Uruguay Jose Mujica said Latin America was the richest and at the same time the most unjust region in the world, and that all democracies should seek to end economic injustice, remarks that came during the third annual Latin American Summit of Progressive Movements Wednesday in Ecuador on Wednesday.

RELATED: Uruguay's Mujica Campaigns for FARC Peace Deal in Colombia

"The biggest threat to democracy is the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, and therefore the concentration of power," Mujica told an audience in the coastal city of Guayaquil.

Lenin Moreno, former vice president of Ecuador and the U.N.’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility, greeted Mujica and recalled one of his most important sayings: "If you like money, don't go into politics. Keep making money, for that is not the fruit of politics."

According to “Pepe” Mujica, to achieve a socialist vision of an ideal society, governments need to fight for equality, not charity.

"We live in the most unequal and unjust continent in the world," said Mujica, now an Uruguayan senator. "We have so many debts to our people."

RELATED: Uruguay's Jose Mujica Says 'Coup' in Brazil Was Premeditated

Mujica said that people can’t live in an idealistic world, since there is a deep economic inequality in the region, and cited the example of the Mexican billionaire businessman Carlos Slim.

"The richest man in the world is from this continent. He would have to live 250 years, spending US$1 million a day, to spend it all," said Mujica.

Mujica said leftist parties and governments should not let the right-wing destroy everything for which they have fought.

“Inequality is the enemy of democracy,” said Mujica. Mujica called on progressive movements to find unity, since “without unity, we lose our strength.”

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Ecuador: Progressive Forces Analyze New Condor Plan and Ethics Pact

Quito, Sep 28 (Prensa Latina) ''Unveiling the new Condor Plan for Latin American Ethics Pact'', is the name of the 3rd Progressive Meeting ELAP 2016, which opened today in this capital, in the presence of representatives of parties and social movements throughout the world.

More than 80 political parties and organizations besides world and regional leaders attend the event, scheduled until next September 30 in the cities of Quito, Guayaquil and Montecristi.

Round tables, lectures and special days for local and subnational governments, as well for young people distinguish the event, which aims to be a forum for exchange and analysis among progressive people, on the reality of Latin America, its challenges and the social, economic and political perspectives of the area.

More than 80 movements and parties will attend the three days of debate, as the ruling party of Ecuador, Alianza País, and organizer of the event confirmed it.

The debates will seek to analyze the correlation of forces in the region, the main problems regarding the local and transnational opposition powers, as well as to reflect on the creation of the process called by Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, and the new Condor Plan.

It also seeks to consolidate a Latin American Ethics Pact against tax evasion, which destiny is the tax havens.

Among the personalities who will give lectures during the first day are the Ecuadorian president with the theme: The left wing and the economy in times of change, and the deputy head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, Liu Hongcai, who will deliver the lecture: China and its relationship with Latin America in times of change.

Tomorrow is scheduled the participation of the member of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Cuba, Jose Ramon Balaguer, with the presentation: Central America and the Caribbean in the Latin American gained decade.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez will speak about the rethinking of the regional integration, sovereignty and development, while Argentina's former president, Cristina Fernandez, will dedicate her speech to the current situation in her country and the organization for victory.

Meanwhile, the discussions in Guayaquil contemplate speakers such as the Uruguayan Jose Mujica with the subject: Progressive Governments, evaluation and proposals.

At the same time will be held a meeting of the progressive youth in Montecristi, including tours in the Ciudad Alfaro, panel discussions on current topics and a solidarity day in a hostel of Portoviejo, the city severely damaged by the earthquake last April.

The 3rd Latin American Progressive Meeting closes on Friday 30th, in the Chapel of Man, a monument to humanity by the internationally recognized artist, Oswaldo Guayasamin.

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Cuba reaffirms its Level at Argentinian Philatelic Exhibition event

The Cuban philately showed its value when it achieved outstanding results at the International Philatelic Exhibition - Córdoba 2016t which was carried out in the cultural center from Córdova city in Argentina in which there were more than 450 related collections from 15 nations from the Latin American continent and Spain.

Humberto Vélez Blanco gained the gold medal and the special prize due to the unusual material of the Cuban collection on display: it was a stamping piece of paper. Moreover, this is the main award granted by the experienced exhibitor.

Joaquín Espinosa, on his part, also deserved the gold medal given the excellence of its collection about fiscal stamps of the colonial period.

Leonardo Palencia achieved the Vermeil medals by the collection entitled ´El Cohete postal cubano´ and ´Patriotas cubanos 1917´.

Among the young people, Elizabeth Losa, aged 16 only, achieved the apecial award of the youth category and the big Vermeil medal, which is the main related one for his age, due to his collection entitled´Las Flores deleite de la naturaleza.´

Likewise, Dayron Anier Giro and Brian Morera, aged 13 and 15, were granted the local Plata Grande medal due to their collections entitled´ El Agua, fuente de vida.´ and ´Los Vehículos, ruedan, corren, impactan,´respectively.

We should highlight that the Cuban President Philatelic President, José Raúl Lorenzo was the General Coordinator of the exhibition in his capacity as director of the Latin American Philatelic Federation.

The International Cordoba 2016 exhibition was organized by the Argentinian stamp collectors and it was an excellent opportunity for the exchange and fraternity among the stamp collectors from our mainland and Spain.

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