Friday, March 29, 2013

BLOUIN: Unlikely troika to fight drug trade?

Unlikely Troika to fight Drug Trade?
W. Alejandro sanchez
Blouin Beat: Politics
March 29, 2013
Originally published:

Phyllis Powers, the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, declared this week she didn’t see Russian cooperation with Nicaragua in fighting the Zetas and other drug cartels as a challenge to the DEA, but rather as complementary support. That statement showcases the dramatic changes in Central American geopolitics that have taken place since the Cold War as perhaps no other statement could (or at the very least demonstrates that fighting the drug war can make very strange bedfellows). Consider, also, the March arrest of Martin Flores, a leading member of the Zetas, along with several of his associates: it hints not just at passive approval of the kind expressed by Powers, but at the possibility of an emergent troika of cooperation between Nicaragua, Russia and the U.S. to combat Central American drug trafficking.
In recent years Moscow has taken a growing interest in fighting drug trafficking in Latin America, due largely to cocaine shipments finding their way from this region to the Russian market. This development has brought about a number of initiatives such as the construction of a Russian counter-narcotics training center to offer Central American police officers the expertise of Russian instructors. Moscow has also donated weapons and financial aid (reportedly $30 million in military cooperation) to Nicaraguan security forces. In addition to the positive aspects of this aid in the war against drug trafficking, such initiatives will serve Russia to, once again, expand its influence in Latin America. Likewise, the U.S. continues to maintain a strong presence in Central America, via bases in Honduras and El Salvador used to stage military exercises and initiatives undertaken by the DEA.
Nevertheless, Central American governments — including Nicaragua — have called for a greaterU.S. involvement, including financial aid, to combat drug traffickers in the region. This call from Managua for greater Washington cooperation is ironic to say the least. Nicaragua’s current president is Daniel Ortega, who previously ruled his country in the 1980s’ Sandinista government, from which position he fought a bloody war against U.S.-backed guerrillas, the Contras, who wanted to topple him from power. Much has been written about how Nicaragua’s internal war became a symbol of the proxy wars that the U.S. and the Soviet Union carried out in Central America (Ortega was backed by Moscow). Hence, it is logical that Ortega would turn to his past allies in Moscow to fight drug trafficking and for other joint-cooperation projects.
But it is also just as interesting that Ortega’s government is also asking Washington, who once meant to topple him from power, for greater involvement as well. Recent developments and declarations portray Managua as attempting to obtain greater U.S. cooperation. In 2008, Ortega met with high-level U.S. government officials (including DEA boss Michael Braun) and asked more help to fight drug trafficking. Later, in 2010, Nicaraguan Vice President Jaime Morales made similar declarations, stating that “don’t forget that the main victim of drug trafficking is the United States, so its government should help combat drug trafficking in the region.”
Nevertheless, Ortega has maintained his distrust of the U.S., as exemplified by his 2007 statements in which he said that “you have to be careful with the DEA. You can’t be blind . . .  We have to wage the war against drugs, but don’t come to us with stories about involving your Cobra helicopters and troops.” More recently, after the U.S. decided to cut aid to Nicaragua in 2012,Ortega declared that “if there is no money for [government] health, if there is no money for environment, if there is no money for the war on drugs, then there won’t be any money for the agents of the empire either.” In other words, in spite of aforementioned requests for greater aid, it is clear that Ortega’s distrust for Washington remains.
So far it is unclear if direct communication between the DEA and Russian police officers in Nicaragua have taken place (such as intelligence-sharing meetings) or if the Nicaraguans are serving as some kind of intermediary between the two. If trilateral meetings have not happened, then they should. A police-oriented troika between Washington, Moscow, and Managua may not serve to drastically improve Washington-Moscow relations, but the unlikely three-way alliance could provide the high-octane institutional firepower needed to contain the expansion of the Zetas and other transnational criminal networks in the region. That Ortega should be the one to broker it attests to the transience of ideological conflicts in the face of pragmatic ones.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

VOXXI: In the post-Chavez era, tensions between Venezuela and the US likely to remain

In the Post-Chavez era, tensions between Venezuela and the US likely to remain
W. Alejandro Sanchez
March 28, 2013
Originally published:

As Venezuela prepares for its upcoming presidential election on April 14, great apprehension remains as to who will succeed late President Hugo Chavez. This will be the first election in the South American nation since 1998 (when Chavez was first elected) without the iconic leader on the ballot. The new government will need immediately to address several concerns, such as the country’s deteriorating economy and the future structure of its foreign policy (i.e. the future of regional organizations like ALBA and PetroCaribe). So far, the polls show that Vice President Nicolas Maduro, handpicked by Chavez in December 2012 to be the “heir” of the Bolivarian Revolution, is likely to be elected.

Vintage Hugo

A trademark of the Chavez presidency was Venezuela’s tense relationship with the US One of the earliest clashes between the two occurred after the April 2002 coup, in which Chavez was toppled from power for two days. The provisional government of Pedro Carmona was eventually forced to resign due to major pro-Chavez protests that returned power to the deposed Bolivarian president. Chavez claimed that the US had orchestrated the coup. In addition, at a 2010 United Nations summit, Venezuela and the US clashed verbally when Chavez called former President George W. Bush “the devil.” These stressed relations also brought about numerous diplomatic incidents; for example, Chavez expelled the US ambassador to Venezuela in September 2008, while Washington expelled the Venezuelan consul general in Miami in January 2012.
When Chavez’s cancer forced him to seek treatment in Cuba last December, Latin American experts began to hypothesize that the emergence of a post-Chavez government would improve the US-Venezuela current relationship. For instance, in November 2012, Maduro held a long discussion with Roberta Jacobson, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs; that meeting was regarded as a tentative restarting of communications between the two governments.

Vintage Maduro?

After the iconic Venezuelan leader’s death, along with the highly anticipated victory of Vice President Maduro on April 14, it appears that US-Venezuelan bilateral affairs will remain strained, since recently there have been a number of clashes between the Obama administration and the post-Chavez government. In particular, Venezuela expelled two US military attachés in mid-March; in retaliation, the US expelled two Venezuelan diplomats. Given events like this one that have frequently occurred between the two governments over the past decade, it is amazing that there are still diplomats left to be expelled in each country.
Moreover, another recent diplomatic incident arose from declarations that Jacobson made to the Spanish daily El Pais. Although Jacobson stated that opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski “could be a good president” if he was elected, she also clarified that the US government does not have a favorite for the upcoming elections. Furthermore, she also called for Venezuela to allow international observers to monitor the elections and discussed the lack of press freedom in the country. These statements were not well received by Caracas. Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Elias Jaua Milano declared that his government had “suspended any contact and any communication that had been established with the call of Mrs. Jacobson in the month of November.” He went on to accuse the US of interfering in Venezuelan domestic affairs (namely the presidential election) by supporting the opposition’s Capriles. In a recent televised speech, Milano said that he wanted the Venezuela-US interaction to be based on “mutual respect.” (A video of the Milano’s original statements in Spanish is available by clicking here). Furthermore, adding to this already complicated picture, Maduro recently made a bizarre accusation—the US (namely the CIA and Pentagon) was trying to murder Radonski (who would arguably be more Washington-friendly if elected) in order to blame his death on Maduro.

The aforementioned declarations pose a confusing picture of how policymaking is being reshaped in Caracas in the post-Chavez era. On the one hand, we have Maduro claiming that the CIA and Pentagon are trying to kill Capriles and frame the vice president, while on the other hand Milano says that the State Department’s Jacobson is supporting the opposition figure in the elections. These statements are contradictory (not to say that they are arguably untrue, though, as previously mentioned, Washington would probably prefer a Capriles victory). Nevertheless, it seems clear that the US will remain a “devil”-type figure in the eventual Maduro government, whether justified or not, and will be the center of conspiracy theories coming out of Caracas.
One can only wonder what advice, if any, Minister Jaua Milano gave to Maduro, before the interim head of state made such declarations and decided to expel the American diplomats. If anything, these statements give us a hint of what the Maduro-Milano partnership will be like regarding the reshaping of Venezuela’s foreign policy. Chavez was generally considered to be a one-man show when it came to formulating the country’s external relations, so it will be interesting to see how Maduro will handle things with Jaua Milano regarding foreign affair issues. Like the vice president, Milano was also a man, who Chavez deeply trusted, as he occupied several posts during his lengthy presidency in the ministries of agriculture, economy and was also vice president. He was chosen by Chavez to be the minister of foreign relations in January 2013 while he was in Cuba, which demonstrates the late president’s confidence in him.

Venezuela’s Post-April 2013 Diplomacy

While Chavez was in Cuba, media speculation revolved around a potential struggle for power between Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly. Now, with the road clear for Maduro to be elected in April, concern is focused on what kind of government the vice president will carry out, and whether the country’s foreign affairs will mimic Chavez’s caudillo presidential style or whether some kind of troika will emerge with other Chavez heavyweights. As for US-Venezuela relations in the post-Chavez era, are the recent clashes signs of things to come? It would seem so.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

COHA: The BRICS Summit in South Africa: A Setting for a Shootout Between BRICS Foreign Policy Makers

The BRICS Summit in South Africa: A Setting for a Shootout for BRICS Foreign Policy Makers
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
March 26, 2013
Originally published:

The fifth annual BRICS summit began today Tuesday, March 26, in Durban, South Africa. [1] While it is unlikely that a high profile declaration or initiative will be agreed upon by the five member states, this gathering will provide Brazil with the opportunity to strengthen its ties with a number of other global powers. Following the election of President Dilma Rousseff (who succeeded the popular President Lula da Silva), Brasilia is aggressively enhancing its image to move itself somewhat more proximate to global status. This has been exemplified by its desire to be awarded a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Moreover, Brasilia’s attempts to mediate between Iran and the West over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program can be regarded as an attempt by the Brazilian government to utilize its diplomatic clout outside the Western Hemisphere.
From left to right: Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, China’s former President Hu Jintao and South African President Jacob Zuma pose for a picture after a BRICS leaders’s meeting in Los Cabos June 18, 2012. (Source: REUTERS/Victor Ruiz Garcia)
While reform of the UNSC is unlikely to occur anytime soon, the ongoing BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) summit will, at the very least, give more of a pedigree to Brazil as a rising global player. Such credentials will only increase if Brazil is to host the proposed BRICS development bank. This would be seen as a victory for the Rousseff administration, though probably not as high profile as the inauguration of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as the first ever non-European Pope.
BRICS and Brazilian Foreign Policy
The term BRIC (sans South Africa) was first coined by the renowned economist Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in a 2001 report entitled “Build Better Global Economic BRICs.” [2] At the time, BRIC states were regarded as a quartet of global powers that were believed to be the future axis of the world’s economy. This labeling enhanced Brazil’s international credentials, placing it in the same category with countries like China and Russia (both are nuclear powers that have permanent seats in the UNSC). Nevertheless, Brazil still has not managed to achieve what is arguably its ultimate diplomatic objective—to see the UNSC reform achieved and for Brazil to become a permanent member in the body (this dream is shared by fellow BRICS nations India and South Africa, which also want to achieve such a permanent status).
Since the term was coined (South Africa joined the group in 2011), the BRICS countries have attempted to carry out integration initiatives, including summits among their heads of state. [3] In the upcoming South African summit, the group is scheduled to discuss the creation of a development bank and an alternative to Western rating agencies for educational institutions. [4] In addition, BRICS heads of state will address food security, namely specific initiatives to fight hunger among BRICS countries by maximizing the productivity of their farming sectors. [5]
Source: Reuters/ Jason Lee
An interesting aspect of the summit is the likelihood that the BRICS meeting will not address international security issues, such as North Korea, Iran, or the civil war in Syria. As a preamble to the meeting, scholars from member states met at the BRICS Academic Forum and recommended that BRICS heads of states be “more active in the peaceful resolution of conflict, dealing with issues of international terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and drug and human trafficking.” [6] Nevertheless, the group fell short of mentioning specific conflicts, and it is expected that the BRICS presidents will follow suit. Hence, it will be interesting to see what the Brazilian presidential delegation will say at the summit and whether President Rousseff will openly argue for the group to address specific international security issues.
 Is IBSA Out the Door?
It is important to highlight that there is one loose alliance that encompasses three BRICS countries, known as IBSA (India, Brazil, and South Africa), which was created back in 2003 but which has not carried out major joint projects. One of the group’s most interesting initiatives has been joint naval exercises, known as IBSAMAR (India-Brazil-South Africa Maritime), which were most recently held in India in 2012. [7] An analysis by the online African news agency publication DefenceWeb explained that the naval exercises carried on by IBSAMAR III “marked the first time that an Indian naval ship had refueled a Brazilian ship at sea.” The report also quoted Captain BK Munjal, Indian Commander Task Group, who praised the IBSAMAR exercises, “we achieved more than we desired. We look forward…to the next Ibsamar to enhance our maritime connection and our relationship.” [8] The next naval exercises, IBSAMAR IV, are scheduled to take place in South Africa in 2014.
Despite its military exercises, IBSA is slowly being overshadowed by BRICS and it has been argued that IBSA may fall into a destitute status. It will be interesting to see if any new initiatives come out of the June 2013 IBSA summit scheduled to be held in New Delhi as this will show if the three governments are interested in pursuing greater joint projects with renewed energy. One of IBSA’s supporters is Oliver Stuenkel, Professor of International Relations at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV) in Sao Paulo. In an August 2012 commentary for The Diplomat, the Brazilian scholar argues that IBSA remains an important entity and should not be merged with BRICS:
 All three IBSA members are multiparty democracies and are thus able to freely debate how to implement difficult reforms necessary to boost growth in a messy and complex political context. These matters cannot be discussed openly at BRICS Summits. In the same way, issues related to human rights and civil society are not mentioned when the BRICS meet. [9]
In other words, Professor Stuenkel is explaining that, because Russia and China have more crypto autocratic type governments, certain issues, such as human rights, cannot be openly discussed at BRICS meetings, which stresses the importance of IBSA. The Brazilian academic goes on to stress that “IBSA provides an intimate setting undisturbed by at times strained bilateral ties—after all, relations among India, Brazil, and South Africa are simply too incipient to hit any meaningful roadblocks or clashes of interest.” Indeed, the three member states enjoy relatively close diplomatic and commercial ties, though this does not mean that damaging clashes have not occasionally occurred. For example, in June 2012, Brazil took South Africa to the WTO court over tariffs imposed by Pretoria on chicken imports from Brasilia:
South Africa imposed extra tariffs ranging from 46.6 percent to 62.9 percent (depending on the exporting company concerned) on whole chicken and chicken breast imports from Brazil, alleging that the Brazilian suppliers were dumping their products on the South African market. These tariffs were in addition to pre-existing tariffs of 5 percent on whole chickens and 27 percent on chicken breasts. The Brazilian Ministry of Development has estimated that the South African measures are costing the Brazilian economy $70 million a year. [10]
Nevertheless, in spite of disputes during the 2012 chicken wars, New Delhi, Brasilia, and Pretoria continue to have similar goals that bind them together. All three countries are pushing for UNSC reform and for them to be their regions’ respective permanent representatives. The international community will have to wait and see how the IBSA alliance will consolidate in the coming years.
As an appendix to this analysis on Brazil and its relations to BRICS and IBSA, it is worthy to note that Brazil has not forgotten its traditional cooperation with the United States. As an example of ongoing military cooperation between the two governments, the Brazilian submarine BNS Tikuna visited the Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia last June 2012. [11]
Brazil’s Chance to Shine
For Brazil, elite groupings such as BRICS allow the country to interact with major regional and global powers. In the cases of South Africa and India, the South American giant shares with them the goal of reforming the UNSC and achieving permanent member status in this elite club. These developments do not imply that Brazil has lost interest in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially given that these regions are the source of Brasilia’s growing geopolitical influence. Instead, IBSA and BRICS demonstrate that Brazil wants to take on greater global responsibilities, such as attempting to mediate the Iran nuclear crisis. This week’s BRICS summit in South Africa and the June 2013 IBSA summit in India will serve as a critical tool for Brazilian President Rousseff to continue to promote her country’s global image, which may be the most significant development that will take place at the meetings.
According to the loose association’s website, the goal of the BRICS summit is to “seek common ground on areas of importance for these major economies.” However, given the lack of consensus on sensitive political and security related issues, the BRICS governments should focus on promoting financial integration among its members, making economic issues a priority at this summit. For example, in 2012, BRICS member states discussed a proposal through which each of the five members would contribute approximately $10 billion in seed capital to the bank, which would then borrow from global capital markets by issuing bonds as the World Bank does. If they fail to adequately address this issue at this week’s summit, the bank initiative cannot be considered as a serious proposal. Finally, regarding Brazil’s “going with the flow” attitude on having sanitized and uncontroversial resolutions may be the most obvious sign that Brasilia is behaving like a global power in substance as well as in style.
This article was written with the collaboration of Senior Research Fellow W. Alejandro Sánchez.
Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated.
For additional news or analysis on Latin America, please go to: Latin News
 Selected COHA Publications on Brazil
By COHA Research Fellow W. Alejandro Sánchez
W. Alejandro Sánchez “Brazil’s Grand Design for Combining Global South Solidarity and National Interests: A Discussion of Peacekeeping Operations in Haiti and Timor.” Globalizations. Volume 9, Issue 1. 2012 Special Issue. Pages 161-178. Available:
 W. Alex Sánchez, “An Easy Way to Improve U.S.-Latin American Relations” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, July 28, 2011). Available:
 W. Alejandro Sánchez, “India: The Relatively Quiet but Growing Presence of the New Asian Powerhouse in the Western Hemisphere, Particularly Brazil,” Report, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, September 10, 2007. Available:
 W. Alejandro Sánchez, “Embraer: Brazilian Military Industry becoming a Global Arms Merchant?” Report, Council on Hemispheric Affairs,  September 1, 2009. Available:
 W. Alejandro Sánchez, “Endgame for Brazil’s Role in Minustah,” Report, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, August 29, 2011. Available:

[1] BRICS Summit website. Available:
[2] O’Neil, Jim, “Building Better Global Economic BRICs,” Goldman Sachs, Global Economics Paper No. 66, November 30, 2011,
[3] Sebastien Hervieu, “South Africa gains entry into BRIC club,” The Guardian (UK), April 19, 2011. Available:
[4] “BRICS experts back Development Bank,” BRICS Summit website, March 20, 2013,
[5] “Food Security high on BRICS agenda,” BRICS Summit website, March 20, 2013,
[6] “BRICS Academic Forum: Recommendations,” South African Foreign Policy Initiative, Open Society Foundation for South Africa,  March 18, 2013,
[7] Wingnin, Dean, “IBSAMAR naval exercise ends on dramatic role,” DefenseWeb, October 29, 2012,
[8] Ibid.
[9] Stuenkel, Oliver, “Keep BRICS and IBSA Separate,” The Diplomat, August 13, 2012,
[10] Campbell, Keith, “A game of chicken as Brazil takes South Africa to the WTO,” Engineering News, June 22, 2012. Available:
[11] Isa, Mariam, “BRICS Summit expected to establish Development Bank,” Business Day Live, African Business, March 22, 2013,

Friday, March 22, 2013

VOXXI: Guatemala’s Rios Montt, Argentina’s Carlos Menem and Latin American presidential immunity

Guatemala's Rios Montt, Argentina's Carlos Menem and Latin American Presidential Immunity
W. Alejandro Sanchez
March 21, 2013
Originally published:

Latin America has experienced a busy couple of weeks given the recent passing of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the referendum in the Falklands/Islas Malvinas and the election of the first ever non-European Pope of the Catholic Church, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. These major developments have overshadowed two recent events despite their historical significance. In Argentina, former President Carlos Menem has been convicted of illegal arms sales during his rule in the 1990s. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, former President Jose Efrain Rios Montt is on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s bloody civil war.
Latin America has long been regarded as a region of presidential impunity, where caudillo-like heads of state committed human rights abuses during the Central American civil wars and Operation Condor. Nevertheless, the number of former Latin American presidents that have been prosecuted since the turn of the century is staggering, and hopefully signals that judicial immunity for presidents is slowly coming to an end.

Argentina: Carlos Menem

In Argentina, a court found President Carlos Menem guilty of selling 6,500 tons of weapons to Croatia (in 1991) and to Ecuador (in 1995) while he was president (1989-1999). Menem has claimed that he is innocent and that those weapons were meant to go to Venezuela and Panama but ended up in the aforementioned countries without his consent. On April 3, 1991, the UN imposed an arms embargo on Croatia (then Yugoslavia). In Ecuador’s case, Argentina could not sell weapons to Quito, because Buenos Aires was a peace guarantor between Ecuador and Peru. Several other Menem-era government officials were also convicted of illegal arms sales. The Argentine Congress is expected to discuss Carlos Menem’s trial in the near future.
Menem had already been put on trial for similar charges in 2011 but was never convicted until now. He could serve anywhere between four and 12 years in prison. Nevertheless, it is unlikely Carlos Menem will serve any jail time given his advanced age of 82, dire health status and the influence he still possesses as former president and former senator.

Guatemala: Rios Montt

General Jose Efrain Rios Montt ruled for a relatively short period of time (1982-1983), but his actions during this brief time in power were egregious enough to put him on trial for genocide. The former general came to power and left via military coup. His own defense minister overthrew him in August 1983, due to his dictatorial power grab and unpopularity among the masses. During Montt’s arguably brief time in power he carried out extreme policies, such as “scorched earth” tactics and other government-supported human rights abuses against the guerillas. Over 200,000 individuals, mainly Mayan indigenous people, were killed throughout the country’s 36-year civil war.
Specifically, Montt’s trial has to do with the massacre of 201 villagers in 1982. It occurred in the town of Dos Erres, where the government suspected that the villagers were sheltering left-wing guerrillas. In a 2011 interview published in the Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre a survivor of Dos Erres explained his memories of the massacre, the survivor recollected how the male villagers were locked in a school while the women were placed in a church. “When they finished killing the men, they started with the women and children [… I imagine that] the women were raped and then killed,” he explained.
Despite losing power in a military coup and his unpopularity among his country’s citizens, Montt managed to maintain a presence in Guatemalan politics and was elected to Congress in 2007. The BBC explains, “As a congressman, he had enjoyed immunity from prosecution for 12 years.”
“The immunity was lifted on 14 January 2012, when his term in office ran out.” Human rights organizations have regarded the Montt trial as a huge victory against the ongoing impunity of Guatemalan military officers, who perpetrated abuses (i.e. extrajudicial killings) throughout the country’s civil war.
Incredibly, Montt maintains his innocence regarding the Dos Erres massacre and other accusations against him. Even though he was the de facto president of the country, commander in chief of the military and a career soldier, Montt’s defense lawyers are arguing that “he did not determine the level of force that the army used.” In other words, they’re claiming that Montt did not have control of the military even though he was commander of the armed forces. The Open Society Justice Initiative created the website to report on the most recent developments of this historic trial.

Other presidents and impunity

The conviction of Argentina’s Carlos Menem and the trial of Guatemala’s Rios Montt must be placed in the proper context of former Latin American and Caribbean heads of state that are currently being prosecuted for various crimes. The conviction ratios vary, and understandably there is concern that the political influence of these former presidents will allow them to either be acquitted or escape with reduced jail sentences. Besides the two aforesaid examples, we can also mention how Peru’s dictator, Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), is currently carrying out a 25-year prison sentence in a special detention center in Lima. Moreover, there are concerns that his family and supporters, several of which are members of the Peruvian Congress, are trying to convince President Ollanta Humala to pardon the former dictator as he may be terminally ill.
Meanwhile, in Haiti, former dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier (1971-1986) is also currently on trial. Surprisingly, he is being tried solely for financial crimes, rather than human rights abuses. If he is convicted of these charges, he would only face a maximum of five years in prison. But, it is perhaps the lack of a trial Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) that reminds us best that former Latin American heads of state can use their high levels of influence or successfully use excuses such as health issues to help them avoid being judged and prosecuted for crimes committed during their time in power. Pinochet managed to avoid being extradited to Spain when he was in the U.K., and Chile’s judicial branch found him mentally unfit to stand trial for human rights abuses committed during his lengthy dictatorship. He died in 2006 as a free man.
In spite of some successes to combat presidential immunity and hold former presidents accountable for their crimes, the fate of former Latin American leaders show that, paraphrasing George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, some people are still more equal than others.