‘The Torture Coloney’

For your Wednesday evening reading pleasure, a very long, very strange article on Colonia Dignidad, a German colony founded in Chile by a child molester/Nazi named Paul Schaefer. In addition to being the personification of the evil cult leader, Schaefer – who died last week in prison – got into evil politics as well, torturing people on behalf of Pinochet.

The whole thing’s too weird and creepy to excerpt. Just print it out.

(H/T BoingBoing.)

Also posted in History, Human Rights, Odd | Tagged , | 1 Comment


Everyone seems to agree that the economies of Latin America are experiencing a nice little recovery. The IMF, for example, just raised its forecasts for the region and is now projecting 4.1% GDP growth for the region, with 4.2% growth for Mexico and 5.5% for Brazil. Oh boy, numbers.

But here’s something interesting.

In an analysis of the region’s sovereign debt prospects (PDF), Fitch Ratings divides the region’s economies into three “camps.” One camp includes countries like Venezuela, Argentina, and Ecuador, whose recovery will be slower than that of the rest of the world for reasons that should surprise no one (high inflation, weak institutions, poor fiscal discipline, if you must know).

In a second camp are countries like Chile, Peru, and Brazil, whose good fiscal discipline, low political risk, and safe investment environments mean their economies will be growing like weeds this year and next.

Then we have the middle camp, which is basically countries that cast their development lot with the United States: Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador. And here’s the interesting part. Fitch projects this group will see only a moderately-paced recovery specifically because they’re tied to the US.

Meanwhile, Fitch says the Chile/Peru/Brazil group is doing particularly well partly because it does more business with China.

So I ask you: At what other point in recent history has easy access and close ties to the US economy been seen as a disadvantage?

(Original image courtesy H. Langos via Wikimedia Commons.)

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Kissinger and Operation Condor

The good folks at George Washington University’s National Security Archive project report that recently-declassified memos show U.S. Secretary of State and Nobel Prize winner Henry Kissinger directly ordering underlings to cancel warnings against launching Operation Condor to military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay .

Four days later, a car bomb killed former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his secretary Ronni Karpen Moffitt as they drove through Washington, D.C.

Frankly, I don’t find these documents as scandalous as the NSA does, although the AP says controversy over this particular point of history has been raging for some time. Avoiding warning other governments against committing atrocities is not nearly as outrageous as directly participating in or encouraging those atrocities. I suppose the implication is that if you avoid issuing warnings, you’re probably involved somehow.

What is interesting to me is the tone of the State Department communications. To wit:

What we are trying to head off is a series of international murders that could do serious damage to the international status and reputation of the countries involved.

Really? That’s what you’re concerned about? The “reputations of the countries involved?” I would have been concerned about the people to be extra-judicially tortured and murdered.

Anyway, it’s not like we needed further proof that Kissinger is a war criminal. Can you un-nominate someone for a Nobel Peace Prize?

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The collapse that shouldn’t have been


One of the most dramatic images from the Feb. 27 Chilean earthquake is that of the Alto RAi??o building in ConcepciA?n, split in half, lying on its side. Eight people died in that building, and the broken structure served as an emblem to the world of the earthquake’s incredible power.

Except, Alto RAi??o was a glaring exception. Amazingly, almost nothing else straight-up collapsed from the 8.8 earthquake, and certainly nothing else that had been built in just the last few years.

People immediately sensed this was odd. So did the company that built the building – Constructora Socovil – which stealthy transferred its assets to three other corporations to avoid losing them in a civil trial. The sneakiness caused a scandal that culminated in the resignation of the regional head of the Chilean Construction Chamber.

Now with a report out from the Chamber saying that the building could have been damaged, but shouldn’t have fallen, the civil complaints have begun in earnest, with 72 apartment owners suing the company for fraud. At least five families are bringing murder charges against Socovil as well.

The collapse of Alto RAi??o was bad. But it’s a stark reminder that absent Chile’s generally effective building codes and enforcement, the earthquake would have been much, much worse.

(Image courtesy nazgulhead.)

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Rockin’ and a rollin’

This is what a 2-minute long, 8.8-on-the-Richter-Scale earthquake looks like on the 12th floor of a hotel in Valvdivia, Chile. Sweet Jesus.

Posted in Chile | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Harder than it looks

Chile is good at a lot of things, but it turns out tallying up death tolls is not one of them.

First we were told it was over 800. Then the government revised it down to 279 because a municipal government had counted a bunch of missing people as dead. Then the death toll went back up to 700 when many of those missing were added to the list of the dead. Then it went back down to 452 from 497 (wait, what?) with 96 people still missing. And now Diario del Sur is reporting that the official official list of the dead – with ID numbers and death certificates – is 342, revised down from 359 after it was discovered that 17 names on the list (PDF) were duplicates.

The official number is sure to go up again as more missing people are added to the list of the dead, but maybe they could just stop releasing numbers until they get the whole thing sorted.

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Chilean officials say that about 100 prisoners are still on the loose after the Feb. 27 earthquake that knocked down walls and caused a fire in the ChillA?n prison. A total of 260 prisoners escaped that day. The government is offering “special treatment” to the fugitives who turn themselves in. [link]

Also posted in Side notes | Leave a comment

Shopping spree

These ones are on sale.

Two reports were issued recently on Latin American arms purchases. Venezuela has recently given the impression of being particularly spendy on new weapons, perhaps because ex-military man ChA?vez likes to talk about guns and things. According to the Washington Office on Latin America, however, everyone’s going shopping. Brazil is the region’s biggest buyer of arms, followed by Chile.

The thing that gets me is that in addition to the usual jet fighters and whatnot, everyone is buying tanks. From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s report:

A number of states in South America are investing in tanks and armoured vehicles. In September 2009 Venezuela received $2.2 billion in credit from Russia, which will be used to purchase an unknown quantity and type of air defence systems, artillery and armoured vehicles, as well as 92 TAi??72M1M tanks. In 2009 Brazil began to take delivery of 220 secondAi?? hand LeopardAi??1A5 tanks from Germany, while Chile completed the acquisition of 140 secondAi??hand LeopardAi??2A4 tanks, also from Germany. In late 2009 Peru announced that it was planning to sign a deal for 80 MBTAi??2000 tanks from China.

I guess it’s no crazier than Chile spending US$2.71 billion in 18 F-16s, or Brazil picking up a French nuclear submarine, but at least those weapons have some sort of broader range, added value, use in “diplomatic” displays of force, what-have-you. But tanks?

They’re pretty much only good for parades. Or arms buildups.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

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The final numbers are in for the Feb. 27 earthquake and tsunami in Chile: 700 dead and an estimated $30 billion in damage. The death toll had previously been up near 800 after a local government mistakenly added the missing to the list of the deceased. [link]

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Chile inaugurated billionaire Sebastian PiAi??era as its new president on Thursday. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has produced a brief document giving an excellent overview of the history of U.S.-Chile relations and the historical and political context in which PiAi??era takes office. [link]

Also posted in Politics, Side notes | Leave a comment

    • The Nation has a long, wonky, wonderful article on Mexican maize cultivation, the effects of NAFTA, and the dangers of genetically-modified seeds. Author Peter Canby backs up his excellent writing with piles and piles of meticulous research. Not to be missed. [link, via SM] (Image from Joel Penner.)

    • Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas ended his hunger strike yesterday after 134 days. Farinas decided to end his strike after the Cuban government said it would release political prisoners rounded up in the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003. Get well soon. [link]

    • The Uruguayan selection, which has made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, just received a shipment of half a ton of fine cuts of beef for the mother of all asados in preparation for a contest against Ghana on Friday: "450 kilos of lomo, 200 of entrecot, 75 of vacAi??o, 75 of colita de cuadril, 150 of ojo de bife and 50 kg of picaAi??a."Ai??[link]

    • Hitmen have assassinated the PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas State, Rodolfo Torre CantA?. Torre was gunned down along with six others at about 10:30 this morning on a highway on the way to a campaign event. Drug mafias are assumed to be responsible. [link]

    • From the days when coups were something of a regional sport, new documents detail a famous British ballerina's role in a plot to topple the government of Panama. The plan was to use her yacht to gather men and arms, then "land somewhere and collect in the hills." It didn't work. [link]

    • Mexico's Attorney General's Office has posted on its web site irrefutable evidence that gold-plated AR-15s and diamond-studded pistol grips are not nearly as cool-looking as they sound. The deadly knick-knack collection is said to belong to Valencia Cartel leader El Lobo. [link]

    • Two Brazilian ranchers were sentenced to 30 years in prison apiece for ordering the killing of an environmentalist nun: "Prosecutors said the pair offered to pay a gunman $25,000 to kill the 73-year-old [Dorothy] Stang because she had prevented them from stealing a piece of land that the government had granted to a group of poor farmers." [link]

    • This video of a kidnapping and car chase in Mexico is notable mainly for the bad-assitude of the TV journalists who were on this like white on rice. Well done, gentlemen.

    • The Economist takes a peak at the Mockus phenomenon in Colombia: "His moustacheless beard gives him the air of a Baltic pastor... He is financing his campaign with a bank overdraft. His supporters rely on Facebook and make their own posters; street vendors sell unofficial campaign T-shirts." [link]

    • Some cruise lines will cease traveling to Antarctica after this cruise season, as a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil goes into effect next year. The ban came after a 2007 incident when a Gap Adventures ship got punctured by ice and sank, causing a mess. [link]