Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Take three

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on November 25, 2010

by D.P  for The Economist – Americas View, November 25th, 2010.

Nestor Kirchner, Argentina’s late former president, first became popular by pushing for the repeal of the amnesties and pardons that prior governments had granted to members of the country’s bloody 1976-83 dictatorship. Argentines cheered when the Supreme Court ruled the laws unconstitutional in 2005, and have supported the hundreds of prosecutions for human-rights abuses that have been launched since then.

Just across the River Plate in tiny Uruguay, the Argentines’ cultural cousins have taken the opposite approach. First in 1989 and then again in 2009, they voted in referendums to reject the repeal of the country’s “Expiration Law”, an amnesty for members of the 1973-85 junta. Many Uruguayans pride themselves on being more consensus-minded than their confrontational Argentine neighbours, and credit the law with cementing the country’s peaceful transition to democratic rule. Moreover, because the law is riddled with loopholes—it permits prosecution of forced adoptions of political prisoners’ children and of crimes committed abroad (a category that includes the vast majority of kidnappings)—many of the era’s worst offenders, including two former de facto presidents, have already been convicted.

Nonetheless, the law is now coming under fire both in the country’s Congress and its Supreme Court. Its critics, mainly from the ruling centre-left Broad Front coalition, argue that it violates Uruguay’s obligations under international human-rights treaties, and that it has prevented the prosecution of torture. Despite losing last year’s referendum, they were emboldened when José Mujica, a former guerrilla leader and political prisoner, became the country’s president in March. Spurred by the vocal support of Mr Mujica’s foreign minister, Luis Almagro, the Broad Front passed a bill in the lower house of Congress on October 20th that would effectively nullify the Expiry Law by establishing a constitutional right to investigate crimes against humanity. (continue reading… )

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