Uruguay’s first female vice president is convicted ex-guerrilla

Uruguay’s newly named Vice President Lucia Topolansky presides over a session in Senate chambers, in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. (File photo by AP)
Updated 14 September 2017
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Uruguay’s first female vice president is convicted ex-guerrilla

MONTEVIDEO: Uruguay’s new vice president is a 72-year-old formerly imprisoned ex-guerrilla who is also the wife of popular former president Jose Mujica.
Lucia Topolansky begins her first full day on the job Thursday after the country’s General Assembly appointed her following the resignation of vice president Raul Sendic over allegations he used public money for personal shopping. Sendic denies the charges.
By law, the job second to President Tabare Vazquez should have gone to the senator who won the highest number of votes in the last election — but that happened to be Topolansky’s husband, who was president 2010-2015.
Mujica cannot take the position because of a five-year ban on re-election. Enter Topolansky, a leading member of the party with the highest number of votes in Uruguay’s governing leftist coalition.
Like her husband, Topolansky was member of the National Liberation Movement MLN-Tupamaros guerrillas in the 1960s and 70s.
She spent 13 years in prison for her activities, most of it during Uruguay’s military regime, and once escaped but was recaptured.
Topolansky’s job includes being head of the National Assembly and leader of the Uruguayan senate.
She is Uruguay’s first female vice president.


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 24 May 2019
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.