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Conservationist, philantropist Douglas Tompkins dies at 72.

U.S. conservationist and philanthropist Douglas Tompkins, who dedicated his later years to environmental efforts in South America’s southern cone, died yesterday as a result of a kayaking accident in Southern Chile. Tompkins and his wife were admitted to a local clinic with severe hypothermia after a kayak they were in turned over in the General Carrera Lake, approximately 1,300 miles south of Santiago. He was later pronounced dead.

Tompkins, the Ohio-born founder of The North Face outdoor apparel company in 1964, had been living in Chile since 1990 and was at the head of environmental conservation efforts on both side of the Andes. In recent years he had spent more time on the Argentine side of the border, where he owned vast tracts of land in Santa Cruz and Corrientes Provinces.

His Tompkins Conservation foundation is involved in environmental projects in the Argentine Patagonia as well as in the Esteros de Iberá wetlands in Corrientes Province. Tompkins, by way of trusts and foundations, purchased private land with the overarching goal of creation national parks and promoting wildlife and environmental restoration and recovery. One of Tompkins’ trusts acquired 150,000 hectares (375,000 acres) of land adjacent or in the vicinity of the existing Iberá National Park as part of a project to establish a 700,000-hectare (1.1 million-acre) protected area.

His efforts have met with local resistance at times, particularly from those who called him an "environmental extremist." He also had run-ins with former Chilean president Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle over the Pumalín Park in southern Chile. He was, however, supported by the outgoing Argentine Tourism Minister, Carlos Meyer, who had known Tompkins well since the latter's 1992 purchase of a ranch along the scenic Santa Cruz River.

A multimillionaire, Tompkins sold his stakes in The North Face and Esprit in the late 1980s to dedicate himself in earnest to his land conservation efforts. In his most recent interview with Chilean magazine Paula to mark his 25 years in Chile, Tompkins said that he had seen “dozens of politicians pass him by: ministers, governors, six presidents” but that his efforts were set to continue.

“Lately I pay more attention to my biological clock. It is telling me to hurry up, that I have to do all this before death grabs me.”

Tompkins is survived by his wife, mother, brother, two daughters, and five grandchildren.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/204638/conservationist-philantropist-douglas-tompkins-dies-at-72

Argentina's historic Trial of the Juntas turns 30.

Thirty years ago today, six judges issued sentences against five of the nine military leaders who commanded the bloodiest dictatorship ever suffered by the country. The country will pay tribute today to the trial that is widely seen as the cornerstone of Argentine democracy, as well as making history as the first time in world history that a former dictatorship was tried for its abuses by civilian courts (Nuremberg was a military tribunal).

Many still remember that fateful afternoon on December 9, 1985, when Judge León Arslanián cleared his throat and started reading the verdict that changed the country’s history and that was seen as an example across the world of what some define as “transitional justice.” General Jorge Videla, President between 1976 and 1981 and the iconic face of the state terror era in the country, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Admiral Emilio Massera, the head of the Navy during the first Junta (until 1979), received the same sentence. Massera, probably the most infamous figure from the dictatorship for his brutality and corruption alike, was the man in charge of the country’s most infamous clandestine detention center, the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA); at least 5,000 died at ESMA.

Army General Roberto Viola (president during the 1981 economic collapse), who succeeded Videla, was sentenced to 17 years. Former Navy chief, Admiral Armando Lambruschini, to eight years, and General Orlando Agosti, head of the Air Force until 1979, to four and a half years in prison.

Other Junta leaders were acquitted, however. These controversial acquittals included Air Force General Basilio Lami Dozo, Admiral Jorge Anaya, and General Leopoldo Galtieri - the trio best known for their disastrous invasion of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands in 1982, which killed over 300 British soldiers and over 600 Argentine soldiers. The three were, however, sentenced in 1986 to prison for Criminal Malfeasance for their role in the war.

The conclusion of this historic trial is honored on each anniversary; but it's easy to forget that 30 years ago there were no celebrations. The acquittals, and the fact that hundreds of other repressers were not charged during the trial, left a bitter taste in the mouths of human rights activists. “This is unacceptable,” said Adriana Calvo at the time according to Pablo Llonto’s book El Juicio que no se vio (The Unseen Trial). Calvo was the first survivor to testify at the trial.

President Raúl Alfonsín in 1984 entrusted prosecutors Julio Strassera — who died in February — and Luis Moreno Ocampo with one key task: to prove the existence of clandestine detention centres, of forcibly disappeared people and of systematic repression. The National Commission on the Forced Disappearance of Persons (Conadep) and its report Never Again were fundamental tools for those prosecuting some of the country’s most powerful men.

On April 22, 1985, human rights activists packed the special Federal Court presided by Judges Arslanian, Ricardo Gil Lavedra, Jorge Torlasco, Jorge Valerga Aráoz, Guillermo Ledesma and Andrés D’Alessio. Between April and September, Strassera and Moreno Ocampo listened to more than 800 witnesses. Throughout their testimonies it suddenly became clear the tortures, rapes, kidnapping, murders and forced disappearances did not constitute mere excesses by individual military officers — they were part of a systematic plan.

Strassera’s closing remarks, delivered September 18, would remain the memorable moment in the trial: “Your Honors,” Strassera said, “I would like to use a phrase that does not belong to me, but to all Argentine people — Your Honors, Never Again!”

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/204645/the-verdict-that-changed-a-country-turns-30

A historic anniversary, for Argentina and the world alike. It should also be noted though, that it wasn't until President Néstor Kichner signed the bill nullifying the 1986 amnesty laws protecting the hundreds of officers charged with Dirty War human rights abuses that the guilty were systematically brought to trial for their crimes against humanity.

Over the last twelve years, 1,046 have been charged, and 592 have been convicted. The Argentine right has, of course, never forgiven the Kirchners for finally throwing the book at these people - and the new President, Mauricio Macri, should be observed closely for any signs of turning back the clock of these trials. He will certainly try.

Kirchner to step down at midnight; but Macri fails in bid move up his own inaugural 12 hours.

Argentine Federal Judge María Servini de Cubría today ruled in favor of an injunction allowing President-elect Mauricio Macri to have outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner step down 12 hours early, tonight at midnight.

The decision, published by the Supreme Court spokesperson on Twitter, originated in a case filed by Federal Prosecutor Jorge Di Lello (a close Macri ally) yesterday at the behest of Macri, Vice President-elect Gabriela Michetti, and their "Let’s Change" coalition. Their lawsuit asserted that President Fernández de Kirchner’s term ends Wednesday, December 10, at midnight - 12 hours before the actual end of the constitutionally mandated term of four exact years (Article 90).

Judge Servini de Cubría, however, denied Macri and Michetti their demand to be allowed to take office at midnight. They would instead, the judge ruled, do so the moment they are sworn in before Congress tomorrow at noon.

Accordingly, the Provisional President of the Argentine Senate, Federico Pinedo, will act as Interim President of Argentina for 12 hours between midnight and noon on December 10.

Senator Pinedo, whose right-wing PRO caucus holds only 4 out of 72 seats, was elected to the largely ceremonial post by way of a compromise a week ago with the support of President Kichner's center-left FpV (the majority party, with 43 seats).

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/204655/servini-de-cubr%C3%ADa-cfks-term-expires-tonight

It's good to see that the courts gave Macri a 12-hour time-out for pulling this asinine tantrum (I understand his father always had the same problem with him).

Cristina Kirchner, for her part, came out of this fracas with two victories in one: seeing the petulant Macri being put in his place (he'll be sworn in at noon, not at midnight as he demanded); and allowing her to step down at midnight will her plenty of time to make it to her sister-in-law's inaugural as Governor of Santa Cruz Province.

Senator Pinedo was an excellent compromise choice. While belonging to Macri's far-right PRO, Pinedo himself is a moderate conservative with an excellent record of reaching across the aisle - and none of the nouveau riche egomania that afflicts Macri and many other PRO figures.

I wish Pinedo well, and if I had my way I'd let him stay on as President for the next four years.

Argentina's leading progressive daily, Página/12, suffers 5-day online attack.

The online edition of the Buenos Aires-based progressive news daily, Página/12, was subjected to a 5-day online attack that culminated with the site's being rendered inaccessible on Monday and Tuesday. This blockade, a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack meant to flood the website and thereby preclude new (legitimate) connections, is one of the biggest such attacks ever suffered by any Argentine media site.

The dimensions of the attack and its technical sophistication hampered a rapid response. The newspaper and its software suppliers, however, are developing mitigation mechanisms against future attacks. They will likewise pursue all available legal remedies that apply to such aggression lest it remain unsolved, as has happened with previous attacks on the media.

This attack on freedom of expression did not affect not this publisher as much as it did the right to information for the millions of readers of the country and abroad who choose Página/12 as an essential source to understand and interpret what is happening in the Argentina and the world.

Página/12 readers and employees alike deserve that answer. Finding it is furthermore a prerequisite to prevent risks to the health and continuity of the democratic culture shared by 42 million Argentines.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/ultimas/20-287799-2015-12-08.html&prev=search

Macri uses prosecutor to take office 12 hrs. early and bar predecessor from inaugural.

The director of the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI), Oscar Parrilli, told reporters this afternoon that “conditions are not given” for outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to attend the swearing-in ceremony in Congress next Thursday for President-elect Mauricio Macri.

The decision came after Federal Prosecutor Jorge Di Lello upheld an injunction filed by Macri asserting that President Fernández de Kirchner’s term ends Wednesday, December 10, at midnight - 12 hours before the actual end of the constitutionally mandated term of four exact years (Article 90).

After a crisis meeting held earlier today at the Senate Office Building between Parrilli, Presidential Chief of Staff Eduardo de Pedro, and representatives from Macri's right-wing PRO party, the director of the AFI explained that as a result the president cannot attend the swearing-in because if “they are saying she will no longer be the president, she could easily be charged with usurping public offices" if she does appear at Macri's swearing-in without his invitation.

Di Lello’s decision, which must be reviewed no later than tomorrow by Appellate Judge María Servini de Cubría, contradicted statements made by the National Notary Public Natalio Etchegaray, who on Monday assured that the Head of State would end her term when the president-elect is sworn in Thursday at noon as President Kirchner herself was.

"We consider this matter closed. She won’t attend Congress under these circumstances, and will instead let the incoming president take office when he considers he must do so,” Parrilli said, warning as well that due to its failure to act the judiciary will leave the country without a president for 12 hours.

The situation, he concluded, is “institutionally serious. I don’t see any difference between this and a coup.”

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/204596/parrilli-cfk-wont-attend-congress-under-these-circumstances

Di Lello is one of a number of prosticutors controlled by Macri, to the point that they will actually move up the presidential inaugural 12 full hours to suit their boss.

You can imagine what stooges like him might do once da boss actually takes office (the GOP is no doubt taking notes).

Incoming Argentine Foreign Minister contradicts Macri: "no reason to expel Venezuela from Mercosur."

Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri's own Foreign Minister designate, Susana Malcorra, said today in a Radio Mitre interview that she will not request that the "democratic clause" be used to suspend or expel Venezuela from Mercosur, the five-nation Southern Common Market covering approximately 290 million people.

Both before and after his own presidential election victory two weeks ago, Macri had indicated that upon taking office he would file a motion to implement the democratic clause in order to expel Venezuela from Mercosur if President Nicolás Maduro did not release the opposition leader Leopoldo López. López had been responsible for leading a series of unauthorized protests that resulted in the deaths of 43 people.

Malcorra, currently Chief of Staff to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, affirmed that after the opposition victory in the parliamentary elections held in that country on Sunday, "the margin of victory (for the opposition MUD coalition) is really significant and has been recognized by President Maduro, which indicates that there is no reason for the application of the democratic cause."

"The democratic clause applies to concrete evidence of violations," Malcorra pointed out. "Elections in Venezuela have unfolded within the duly established democratic framework."

Yesterday, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) achieved a resounding victory in Venezuela's parliamentary elections, garnering 99 deputies against 46 for the ruling PSUV; the remaining 22 seats, out of 167, remain at stake.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201512/10277-la-futura-canciller-de-macri-afirma-que-no-hay-razon-para-pedir-expulsion-de-venezuela-del-mercosur.html&prev=search

Macri nixes talk show producer as Secretary of University Policy nominee after political firestorm.

Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri's initial nominee for the post of Secretary of University Policy, talk show producer Juan Cruz Ávila, has been withdrawn from consideration yesterday after days of bitter controversy within Macri's "Let’s Change" (Cambiemos) coalition as to his appointment.

The post, one of the most important within the Ministry of Education, will instead be filled by Dr. Albor Cantard, the Chancellor of the National University of the Littoral (UNL).

The University Policy Secretariat serves as an intermediary between the Education Ministry and the 45 autonomous national (public) universities. The post, under outgoing Education Minister Alberto Sileoni, has been held since 2009 by Dr. Aldo Caballero, who has ample academic experience including four doctorates from Argentine and foreign universities.

Ávila would have been the first Secretary of University Policy with no academic credentials in Argentine history. The controversy over his nomination came after several national universities had already expressed their concerns over statements made by Let’s Change coalition officials and by Macri himself ahead of the November 22 runoff about what he sees as the irrelevance of the 15 new universities created during the Kirchnerist administrations since 2003.

Ávila's nomination was especially controversial with students’ unions, scholars, and with Macri's own allies in the centrist UCR. The UCR is Argentina's oldest existing political party (1891), has a long history supporting public education, and is represented at the universities by the influential Franja Morada students' society. Their objections and advice led Macri to instead nominate Dr. Cantard, who has close ties to the Santa Fe Province UCR and headed the CIN (the National University Council, a roundtable of college presidents and deans from across Argentina) in 2011.

At: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/204412/tv-exec-nixed-from-team

The nomination of the eminently unqualified Mr. Ávila as Secretary of University Policy had two main motives: as a spiteful insult on Macri's part against the National University Council for having endorsed his opponent, Daniel Scioli, for President; and the fact that Ávila is the son of the founder of a sports channel controlled by the Clarín Media Group (Macri's most vocal supporters).

The CIN's reasoning was simple: public higher education budgets had tripled in real terms during the Kirchner era, 15 new public colleges had been opened, thousands of academics had returned from Spain, enrollment was way up, and so on. For them it was a simple question of rewarding a good record.

But for Macri, it was a personal slight. His reaction? Nominating the boorish Mr. Ávila as a very deliberate insult against both the CIN and Argentina's 170,000 faculty staff.

What Macri did not count on, was the clout academics have in Argentina (when they're united) and the public outcry against the nomination of the decidedly unprofessorial Mr. Ávila - a man who could have easily been cast as one of Rocky Balboa's trainers (with apologies to Burt Young).

After a few days of that, Macri relented. Save the photo, as they say, because it doesn't happen too often.

As an aside, I should mention that the man who held the U.S. counterpart post (Asst. Secretary of Postsecondary Education) during President Obama's first term, Dr. Eduardo Ochoa, is an Argentine-American. I'm sure he's quite relieved Macri came - or was brought - to his senses.

Argentina commits to restoring one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of woodland.

Argentina committed yesterday to restoring one million hectares of degraded and deforested land as part of the 20x20 Initiative, a Latin American effort seeking to significantly restore the region's woodlands by 2020. This makes Argentina's commitment one of the largest in a total 24.8 million hectares to be restored around the world hope thanks to US$730 million on funds assigned by governments and investors globally as part of the broader Bonn Challenge.

The new commitments announced yesterday are built on pledges by eight countries, two regional initiatives and five investors. The 20x20 initiative had already been launched last year at the climate change summit in Lima, hoping to restore 18 million hectares; but now thanks to the new pledges - including this one - an additional 6.18 mil. hectares will be restored.

Land restoration is a key strategy for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
“Argentina is one of the leading countries in the region on agricultural production so its involvement in the project was essential. It has a strong potential to restore a lot of its degraded land,” Walter Vergara, head of the initiative, told the Herald. “We hope to have a constructive dialogue with the newly elected government (Macri) so the one million hectares objective becomes a reality.”

Following Argentina’s commitment, Nicaragua agreed yesterday to restore 2.8 million hectares; Costa Rica and Honduras, one million each; Chile, 500,000; the State of São Paulo (Brazil) 300,000 hectares; the State of Espirito Santo (Brazil) 80,000; and the American Bird Conservancy, a regional program, 100,000.

Land-use change, forestry and agriculture account for roughly one half of the emissions from Latin America and the Caribbean, in contrast to highly industrialized and less forested areas where emissions are typically dominated by energy use and industrial emissions.

More than 200 million hectares (500 million acres) of land are available for restoration in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI). Through the initiative, countries will work to restore forests on cleared land and improve the productivity of landscapes through better use of trees in agriculture and livestock production.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/204462/argentina-commits-to-restoring-one-million-hectares

There's the rub: “We hope to have a constructive dialogue with the newly elected government so the one million hectares objective becomes a reality.”

This commitment will probably feel as left out in a neocon administration like Macri's, as a bible in a brothel.

New rightwing Buenos Aires Gov names Justice Minister opposed to abortion in case of rape or incest

The incoming governor of Buenos Aires Province, María Eugenia Vidal, nominated Judge Carlos Mahiques as the next Justice Minister for the province, Argentina's largest. Mahiques is best known for his controversial judicial dissent in 2006 against a disabled teen who had sought an abortion after being raped by her uncle.

Judge Mahiques was the sole dissent against the landmark, July 31, 2006, tribunal court ruling which granted a 19 year-old disabled woman the right to obtain an abortion on account of her mental deficiency and of her being raped. While abortion in nearly all other circumstances remains illegal in Argentina, her request was upheld by the Supreme Court as being within the circumstances provided for in Article 86, paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code, and as such a constitutional right that does not require court authorization.

Conservative judges in Argentina such as Mahiques have periodically tried to nullify this right despite the fact that abortion in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is in danger has been protected as a right within the Argentine Criminal Code since 1921.

"I had a long talk with Vicenta (the victim's mother) because they heard the news and couldn't believe that he (Mahiques) had been named Justice Minister. This is someone who was so unjust to her daughter and her family, that they still live with the psychological consequences of what happened," said Estela Díaz, the Secretary for Gender Equality for the CTA labor union and a supporter and adviser to the young woman throughout the 2006 trial and its aftermath.

The Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), one of Argentina's foremost human rights organizations, has condemned Judge Mahiques for this dissent, as well as for his rulings against prisoners' rights and against the decriminalization of drug use. Mahiques' rulings were overturned in each case by appeals courts or the Argentine Supreme Court.

Mahiques specializes in Criminal Law, has a Doctorate in Law from the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA), and teaches at the Opus Dei-owned Austral University.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201512/10235-el-polemico-ministro-de-justicia-bonaerense.html&prev=search

Expropriation of Hotel Bauen, and transfer to co-op that recovered it, passed by Argentine Congress.

In the final, "marathon" session of the year for Argentina's Lower House of Congress, the center-left majority Front for Victory (FpV) caucus joined forces with a number of smaller, leftist parties to approve some 90 bills. Other opposition parties, who were hoping to avoid having any new bills passed until right-wing President-elect Mauricio Macri takes office December 10, walked out of the Chamber in an attempt to deny them quorum (50% of congressmen present).

The maneuver failed, however, and the package of bills - expected to be the last ones signed by outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner - was approved in its entirety.

These 90 bills included two that were of particular note: the formal reestablishment of YCF, the state coal firm privatized in 1994 and renationalized in 2002 after its private owners made off in with $144 million in state subsidies for improvements that were never carried out; and the federal expropriation and transfer of the Hotel Bauen to the workers' cooperative that has operated the hotel for 12 years.

Located in midtown Buenos Aires, the Bauen's history is a veritable parable of neoliberalism in Argentina. The hotel was inaugurated in April 1978 in time for the World Cup that June. It was originally owned by the Iurcovich family, who built the 19-story, 200-room hotel in part with a $4 million loan from the former National Development Bank. Granted in 1976 during the early days of the Videla dictatorship, the loan was never repaid. Overlooking one of the most congested avenues in Buenos Aires, business slowly declined at the hotel. The hotel became saddled with debts, back taxes, and contractual disputes in the late 1990s, and ultimately closed in December 2001.

A number of its laid-off workers then organized the Bauen Work Cooperative in 2003, and occupied the empty modernist building that March. The hotel became one of the most prominent of the over 200 "recovered businesses" under worker self-management in Argentina. The Iurcovich-controlled Mercoteles Corporation regained interest in the hotel as Argentina's economy recovered, however. The resulting dispute led to years of legal wrangling, including court rulings in 2005, 2007, and 2014 (all appealed), ordering the eviction of the cooperative. The co-op's 30 initial employees had by then grown to 130.

This last court ruling in favor of Mercoteles prompted the introduction of a bill in Congress (four blocks south of the hotel) for its federal expropriation and transfer to the Bauen Work Cooperative. The co-op would, in return, partner with the University of Buenos Aires in the establishment of internships for students majoring in hotel management and related fields.

The passage of this bill is "very important to the peace of mind of the 130 workers of the cooperative, and is the fruition of many efforts," said the Bauen Co-op's legal counsel, Diego Carbone. The bill, he added, was passed "thanks to the fact it was introduced and debated in the National Congress; it would have probably never passed in the Buenos Aires City Legislature."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://notas.org.ar/2015/11/27/en-una-maraton-legislativa-se-aprobo-la-expropiacion-del-bauen/&prev=search
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