JUDGMENT DAY IN CHILE
Peter Kornbluh writes: Chileans and the international human rights community marked a historic day of justice on January 28 when Gen. Manuel Contreras, the former head of the Chilean secret police known as DINA, and four other high-ranking officers from the Pinochet regime were sentenced for human rights crimes and began serving lengthy prison terms. Contreras resisted arrest; he brandished a pistol before being subdued at his home and transported to the Tribunal of Justice in downtown Santiago. A large crowd of his victims gave Contreras a send-off “with a rain of eggs and fruit,” according to press reports, to the Cordillera penitentiary, where he is scheduled to reside for the next twelve years. Joining Contreras are four of his deputies, who were also convicted for the disappearance of a young leftist named Miguel Angel Sandoval in 1975. In a separate case, Gen. Hugo Salas Wenzel, the chief of the Center for National Intelligence (DINA’s successor), was sentenced along with two of his lieutenants for what is known as the “massacre at Corpus Christi”–in which twelve members of a militant group opposed to the Pinochet regime were ambushed and executed in 1987. Barring a successful appeal, General Salas will serve a life sentence.
John S. Friedman writes: JPMorgan Chase is the first company to admit that its predecessor firms owned large numbers of slaves. The bank acknowledged that two antecedent banks–Citizens Bank and Canal Bank of Louisiana–had accepted about 13,000 slaves as loan collateral from 1831 to 1865 and took ownership of about 1,250 slaves when their owners defaulted on loans. In a letter last month to employees from chairman William Harrison Jr. and president James Dimon, JPMorgan Chase, which recently merged with Bank One, apologized to the African-American community and promised to provide $5 million to fund undergraduate scholarships for black students from Louisiana. The Nation broke the story connecting JPMorgan Chase and slavery in an article published more than four years ago [Friedman, “Chase’s Historical Ledger,” October 9, 2000]. In 2003 a Chicago City Council ordinance took effect requiring companies doing business with the city to disclose specific links to slavery. In March 2004 Alderman Dorothy Tillman, who had sponsored the ordinance, accused JPMorgan Chase of profiting from the slave trade and lying about it in a sworn affidavit. About a month later, threatened with the loss of city business, JPMorgan Chase hired History Associates to examine past records. Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, adjunct professor of law at Southern New England School of Law, who did the original research alleging JPMorgan Chase’s ties to slavery and who has spearheaded the drive for reparations from corporations, praised the company’s action as “a good start.” But she added that litigation against firms that had apparent financial links to slavery will continue and singled out Fleet Bank, now owned by Bank of America. The bank has denied the alleged connections.
THE DOCUMENTARY THEY WON’T SHOW
Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer recently extolled a BBC film by Adam Curtis titled The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear. The three-hour documentary argues that the threat of international terrorism “is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians”–mainly Administration neocons seeking to consolidate their power. The documentary does not deny that there are radical Islamic terrorist groups; but Curtis told Katrina vanden Heuvel that “the terrifying image of Al Qaeda as a hidden and organized network with sleeper cells across the world is largely a fantasy” (see “Editor’s Cut”). He said America “has become trapped by that fear.” The film was well received in England, but US networks have turned it down.
Human Rights Watch has issued a report scoring the dangerous and inhumane working conditions in the meatpacking industry, which hires large numbers of immigrant workers and is largely nonunionized. Readers have followed this story in several Nation articles, including Marc Cooper’s “The Heartland’s Raw Deal,” February 3, 1997. The HRW report, Blood, Sweat and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants, was written by former Nation contributor Lance Compa.