September 2013 News Update – South America Region

As we explained in a post in July, as a local group we are signed up to the South America Region Network. Their coordinators focus specifically on the countries featured below and send us actions when they turn up. Some have already featured on this blog – such as Chile – but most of the actions you can still send letters.


On 22 August Danilo Rueda, a member of the human rights NGO Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission was threatened by two men. This follows an attempt to kill a member of the organisation in the Curvaradó River Basin, in the north-western department of Chocó. The Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission has been working with the communities of the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó River Basin but had to leave due to death threats. Urgent action:
Elker León Cataño is a community leader of families forcibly displaced from the Hacienda Bellacruz farm in Cesar Department in 1996 by paramilitaries operating with the armed forces. On 20 August three armed men asked to see him at his home but he managed to escape. He is also a member of the Horizon Colombian Association of Displaced Population (Asociación Colombiana Horizonte de Población Desplazada, ASOCOL). Three members of this group were shot at on their way back from filing a complaint with the Valledupar office of the Human Rights Ombudsman about threats by paramilitaries. Other members of the group have found men who appeared to be keeping the ASOCOL office under surveillance. These threats have taken place after a ruling earlier this year which could result in restitution of land to the families. Urgent action:

Paramilitaries have arrived in areas around the Cacarica River Basin in north-western Colombia. They are said to be in possession of a list of community leaders who they label as guerrilla collaborators. Many paramilitaries left Unguía Municipality in Chocó Department to go to the Cacarica River Basin reportedly to “teach a lesson” to the inhabitants. Witnesses say around 100 paramilitaries were seen boarding boats and on 9 September paramilitaries entered the Cacarica River Basin. There are regular army checkpoints in this area but they had been removed when the paramilitaries arrived. Urgent Action:

On 11 September a member of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was stopped by the army. He was threatened with a gun and told that the Peace Community would not last long. There are also reports that there are paramilitaries and armed forces in the area. Buenaventura Hoyos Hernández, a farmer was detained by paramilitaries. He was last seen, tied up, on 3 September, as paramilitaries were taking him away from La Hoz. His family and others have now fled the area. Witnesses say they have seen soldiers 400 metres from paramilitaries in the area but they have taken no action. Paramilitaries have been visiting several hamlets of the Peace Community, particularly in late August, asking for specific members of the Peace Community on lists of names, labelling them as guerrillas. Urgent action:


On 10 September Venezuela left the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Amnesty has called on the country to reverse its decision. Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director of the Americas Programme at Amnesty International said, “Over the years, through the Inter-American Commission and Court, the inter-American human rights system has represented the only possible way of obtaining justice and reparation for thousands of victims and their families across the continent. To deprive Venezuelans of the option of turning to the Court is scandalous”.

The Barrios family who received protection as 10 family members have been murdered since 1998 have received further threats. Despite the fact that their whereabouts is meant to be confidential, three Aragua state police officers forced their way into Lilia Isabel Solórzano Barrios’ home on 12 September, without presenting a warrant. They told her nephew, Víctor Cabrera Barrios that they know where he lives and that he should be careful because they will kill him next time they see him. Urgent action:

Amnesty have raised their concerns over prisons in Venezuela. On 16 and 17 September 16 inmates were killed and 5 wounded in clashes in Maracaibo prison in Zulia state. Despite a capacity of 700 inmates, the prison actually houses 3700 prisoners. Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons (Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones) found that 289 people have died in prisons nationwide in the first semester of 2013. Amnesty also report that Luis Rafael Escobar Ugas, a human rights activist has been tortured and refused medical treatment following his arrest for taking part in a protest with a group of residents demanding adequate housing. Urgent action:


As part of Amnesty’s one-month-long feature special to mark 40 years since Augusto Pinochet’s brutal coup d’etat in Chile (11 September 1973) there have been a number of articles published on life under Pinochet:
Lelia Pérez (
Isabel Allende (
Mario Irarrázabal (


Amnesty issued a press release concerning enforced disappearances in the Americas including Brazil and Colombia. In Brazil, Amarildo, a bricklayer from Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s biggest favela was detained by a police officer on July 14 after he was reportedly mistaken for a wanted drug dealer. His whereabouts is still unknown. The BBC have published an article about Amarildo: