The Lost Children of FARC Guerrilla Fighters

 columbia female farc fighter on the march, photo by reuters courtesy of trustorg

columbia female farc fighter on the march, photo by reuters courtesy of trustorg

BOGOTA, Colombia — On the heels of a grandmother's reunion with her missing grandson after his kidnapping by the Argentinian army 36 years ago, a wider secret is beginning to unravel. Government and guerrilla forces alike in South America have, for decades, stolen infants from their soldier mothers on account of what they consider "insubordination".

Estela Carlotto had been searching tirelessly for her grandson, Guido, who went missing two months after his birth in 1978. Estela's daughter and Guido's mother, Laura, was a guerrilla fighter for the Argentine group known as "Montoneros."

According to CNN, after Laura was already two-and-a-half months pregnant when she was arrested by government forces in 1977. She then gave birth to her son Guido in a military hospital and executed sometime thereafter. Until now, Guido's whereabouts were unknown.

His grandmother, Estela, started the activist group called "Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayoor", known as simply the "Abuelas". Estela and the Abuelas carry out searches to find their missing grandchildren that had been kidnapped by the government from their rebel parents in Argentina's Dirty War. This month the Abuelas have reunited Estela and the man proven to be her missing grandson. Guido Montoya Carlotto is Ignacio Hurban, who is now 36-years-old and a music teacher in Olavarria, Argentina.

There is also a search for stolen children in Colombia where the guerilla armies take infants from their mothers as they consider is a crime for a guerilla to become pregnant, according to BBC News. Many of these women that are in the guerilla Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, the FARC, are in it forcedly.

BBC News interviewed Teresa, a woman who demobilized from the FARC five years ago. They killed her mother and forced her to join their army at 16-years-old. She soon became pregnant. She explained to BBC News, "I was 16 years old, they forced me to. How would I confront the FARC all by myself to prevent them from taking my daughter if not even a whole army is able to [defeat them]?"

Teresa pleads to have her daughter back saying, "From the bottom of my heart, I beg you to put yourselves in my place. I did not give up my daughter. They took her from me." She was told by an official, according the BBC News that she cannot get her daughter back "because what kind of example can I be to her with my subversive thinking".

Another girl profiled by BBC News was merely 13-years-old when forced into the FARC. She became pregnant at seventeen. She knew that FARC would make her get an unwanted abortion, so she hid her pregnancy for seven months. BBC News says that Maria was allowed to give birth out of fear that a late-pregnancy abortion would kill her. However, she was forced to give her baby to a local family that she knew to raise as their own. She recalled the moment she handed off her infant with her partner saying, "I waited for him at a distance, I couldn't go there. I cried for four days. It was very difficult. But taking the baby and deserting wasn't an option."

While many of the stolen children were supposedly adopted by local families, there are reports of the children being killed. Still, many of these mothers from Argentina to Colombia are committed to finding their lost children in the hopes of one day reuniting with them.

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

President Otto Perez Molina Accused of Genocide

genocide-human-skulls-sedlec-ossuary-kutna-hora-czech-republic-photo-courtesy-of-sean-malloy.jpg

Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 14:04 DST, 10 April 2013

Otto Pérez Molina, Presidente de Guatemala, Photo Courtesy of Casa de Americas

GUATEMALA CITY - During the trial of the former U.S.-backed military president Efrain Rios Montt, a former soldier implicated the former army general and current Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina in civil war atrocities.

Hugo Reyes, a soldier who was a mechanic in part of the engineering brigade in the area where atrocities were carried out, told the court that Molina ordered soldiers to burn and pillage during Guatemala’s civil war with leftist guerillas in the 1980s, reports Latino Fox News.

Molina was elected president for the conservative Patriotic party and assumed office on January 14, 2012.

Reyes said that “the people who were to executed arrived at the camp beaten, tortured, their tongues cut out, their fingernails pulled out.”

Montt is also being held on trial for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, with connection of the deaths of 1,771 Mayan Indians during his military dictatorship that lasted from March 1982 to August 1983, backed by the U.S. in his counterinsurgency against guerillas.

Victims of the Guatemalan massacres also gave testimonies. Julio Velasco Raymundo told the court that he witnessed the Guatemalan army shelling villages full of civilians.

The Guatemalan civil war lasted between 1960 and 1996, with heightened violence and terror during the reign of Montt in the 1980s. Several guerilla groups were rebelled against the government in a response to state repression and lack of representation.

Two guerrilla groups emerged in the early 1980s: the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) and the Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA). The geographical areas of activity of both guerilla groups corresponded with zones of high indigenous presence. The EGP and ORPA drew large numbers of members from the indigenous population, and they had bases of support among the poor and ladino middle classes of the capital city.

The government viewed the indigenous population as a threat and began the systematic killing of indigenous Mayan Indians assumed to be associated with the guerilla groups. The “kill list” of indigenous Mayans continued to grow, including non-violent leaders. From the start, the Guatemalan government was not fond of the indigenous Mayans, and were especially brutal toward them.

The Guatemalan Truth Commission estimated during the 36-year conflict, 200,000 people were murdered, 85 percent of whom were indigenous.

The Guatemalan government could not have performed these atrocities without outside assistance from their allies, Israel and the United States. From the U.S. assistance in a coup d’etat in 1954 to the Carter Administration, the U.S. provided the Guatemalan government military aid and troop training to assist with the combat of guerilla groups. When the U.S. decreased their aid to Guatemala, Israel stepped up in the 1970s and created an intelligence network within Guatemala, providing Guatemala with military intelligence, weapons, and military training.

Throughout the trials, Latino Fox News reports that Montt has remained silent, his lawyers saying that there was a lack of clear evidence that proved Montt is responsible for the crimes committed by Guatemalan troops.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki

Brazilian Night Club Fire Kills Celebrants

brazilian-night-club-photo-by-foto-filip.jpg

Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 14:08 p.m. EDT, 29 January 2013

Night Club Dancer, Photo by Bryan GoslineSANTA MARIA, Brazil - There should be no surprise that with only one exit, non-functioning fire extinguishers, flammable material covering the ceilings, no sprinklers, and a club 1,000 people over a capacity, and a bands pyrotechnics, this night at the club would not end well.

At the Kiss nightclub in Brazil, a fire broke out early morning hours of Sunday 27 January 2013, resulting in the deaths of more than 230 people.

Given the magnitude of this tragedy, one would surmise that the club would have prior citations for numerous violations. However, according to reports, this surprisingly was not the case, which has raised many questions regarding safety regulations governing buildings and other commercial and residential buildings.

This tragedy has raised grave concerns for citizens and visitors alike as the country is slated to host both the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

According to the Associated Press, documents have been obtained which included building and fire plan permits. Although the building was technically with compliance, Sunday's fire highlighted the fact that Brazilian codes are not on par with other developed or developing nations which is both a hazard for its citizenry and nearly 5.5 million visits annually according to the ministry of tourism.

In a document obtained by the Associated Press, the club was already at a “medium” risk for having a fire. The club owner was then informed that the nightclub would need to be inspected annually in order to stay open.

Records show that the last inspection was conducted in August of 2011. Fire extinguishers were among the items scheduled to be checked during the next inspection. After the fire it was determined that the extinguishers in the club were non-functioning. Survivors stated that they tried to use the extinguisher when the fire initially erupted but quickly discovered to their horror that they did not work.

Police investigator, Marcelo Arigony, stated in a press release on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 that it was known that the fire extinguishers were not inspected and further, that the models that were used were of inferior quality and in his opinion should not have been used in the club or any other facility.

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Published: 30 January 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

On Sunday morning, around 2:30 a.m., country music band, Gurizada Fandangueira performed at the club. The band is known for using pyrotechnics during their performances; however, the nightclub owners either did not take this into account or decided to take a risk because of the anticipated revenue.

The band’s guitarist told media that the club was packed with an estimated 1,200 to 1,300 people, which matched police observations. This figure greatly exceeds the club’s authorized capacity which was under 700 people.

Also at fault is the band because the pyrotechnics which they use are approved for outdoor use only. Once again, it appears that the use of incompatible flares was driven by economic considerations. The band utilized flares which cost $1.25, whereas the pyrotechnics intended for indoor use were priced at $35.

In Brazil, an exit is only required for every 131 feet. The farthest point from the door in the club was only 105 feet, thus making it acceptable to have only one exit, no sprinklers nor alarms. According to Jaime Moncada, a US-based fire-safety consultant with experience in Latin America, stated “In the US, the club would have failed an inspection at least three ways”. He adds, “…three separate exits would be required; the foam on the ceiling would have to be treated, and it would need sprinklers.

It is clear that Brazil is behind when it comes to fire-safety and prevention; however, after the world’s deadliest night club fire in a decade, changes seem to be coming. The mayor in Santa Maria has ordered all night clubs to be closed for 30-days while inspections were completed and lawmakers consider what legal measures can be instituted to prevent a repeat of this type of tragedy.

Since the fire at the night club, over 60 phone calls have been made to a complaint hotline announcing dangerous conditions at other night clubs, theaters, supermarkets, hospitals, and shopping malls.

Citizens are in outrage and are demanding change is Santa Maria. About 500 protestors stood outside City Hall, chanting, “We want justice!”. Eighteen year old, Elise Parode was amongst the protestors. She expressed, “We want the government held accountable, just like the owners of the bar!”.

Follow Patrice Ellerbe on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe
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