South America Newsletter August 2016


In this month’s newsletter, we report on Amnesty’s work to highlight human rights violations in Brazil in the context of the Olympic Games. We also feature developments in Colombia, where the welcome ceasefire has not brought an end to human rights abuses. There are also brief updates on the eviction from their land of an indigenous group in Brazil, continuing efforts to secure the release of Belén from prison in Argentina and other developments in Venezuela (including a disturbing move towards forced labour) and Peru.


Much recent work on Brazil has been focused on the human rights violations which spike in the context of public security operations around sporting events – this year the Olympics. Earlier this month, Ellie May, Country Coordinator for Brazil, and Jon Cornejo, Amnesty UK Campaigner, met with the Human Rights Attaché at the Brazilian Embassy to discuss the issues raised in the report “Violence Has No Place in These Games” released in June. The meeting was productive, including the Brazilian authorities being keen to collaborate with Amnesty International to understand how they can tackle the issues of police violence.

brazil newsletterAt the end of July, Amnesty International Activists delivered 40 body bags to the offices of the Olympic Organising Committee – one for person killed by the police this May in Rio de Janeiro. It marks another high profile act by Amnesty Brazil to raise concerns around the increased risk of human rights violations the context of the Rio 2016 Olympics after abuses were documented in relation to the 2014 World Cup and the 2007 Pan American Games. They also delivered a petition signed 120,000 people from more than 15 countries demanding public security policies that respect human rights during the Olympics. You can read full story on the Amnesty Website.

Amnesty has also launched the Crossfire App In Rio de Janeiro. It allows residents living in areas affected by gun violence to immediately report the impact it is having on them – from closed schools to injuries. Amnesty are building a publically available, crowd-sourced map of information – something never before done. Since it was launched 3 weeks ago, there have been over 600 notifications. You can find out more on the Amnesty Brazil website (In Portuguese)

If you haven’t already signed the petition calling for an end to police violence, please do so here.

The Apika’y, the most of the vulnerable Guarani Kaiowá peoples and the subject of our Urgent Action in May, have been forcibly evicted from their home in Mato Grosso do Sul despite your letters. There are now nine families living on the road sides in precarious conditions. You can take action on the Amnesty Brazil website.


Although a definitive ceasefire between the FARC guerrilla group and the Colombian government was announced in June, there appear to have been multiple violations. The Peace Community of San Jose Apartado has reported FARC intrusions and fighting between FARC rebels and paramilitaries in its locality as well as threats from army officers.

This July the Supreme Court published a 1,157 page report investigating the paramilitaries operating in the capital. It describes how criminal gangs operating in Bogota since the 1980s linked up with the military to control large parts of Bogota in the 2000s. Targets included members of the Patriotic Union (set up by the FARC and the Communist Party), lawyers and trade unionists assumed to be working for the FARC. Implicated is a former Vice-President of Colombia. The paramilitaries were allowed to collect protection money from businesses in the areas of the city they controlled.
From there they spread out into the countryside and provinces. On 12 July Amnesty issued a Public Statement stating that

“a death threat naming a journalist and a cameraman, received by one of them as a chat message on 8 July, will do little to move forward stalled peace talks between the government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) if it is confirmed that the threat was indeed sent by the guerrilla group.”

Amnesty International.  For the full statement click here.

NGOs have published a new report on the impact of the oil industry on Colombians. Although a large source of revenues, “the social and economic context [of oil extraction] in Puerto Gaitan is marked by poverty, a lack of access to public services such as education and health care, unemployment, inadequate working conditions, social conflicts, repression, the criminalization of community leaders and trade unionists, corruption, environmental damage, and the acculturation of indigenous communities living in reserves located near oil installations.” Read the report here.

For a revised version with maps of the peace accord between the Colombian government and the
FARC rebels, click on this link to

The London Mining Group has issued a call to action on the violation of human and environmental rights of people living near the Cerrejon coal mine. You can take action and read more here.


Amnesty Argentina have delivered a petition, with over 120,000 signatures gathered worldwide, to the Argentine Government demanding freedom for Belén, who remains in detention after suffering a miscarriage which she was accused of self-inducing, leading to a charge of aggravated murder.


There are reports of a fresh wave of detentions without charge, arbitrary detentions, the excessive use of force by security forces and other human rights violations in Venezuela. In response to a question in the House of Commons, a Foreign Office minister said that the government was concerned about the deteriorating political situation.
The Venezuelan Government has issued a new decree establishing in effect that any employee in Venezuela can be made to work in the country’s fields as a way to fight the current food crisis. Amnesty has denounced the measure as unlawful as it amounts to forced labour. Details here.


It is reported that the outgoing Humala government announced on the last day of its administration that the case against public officials alleged to be responsible for the forced sterilisation of thousands of women in the 1990s had been shelved. Exactly what this means for the hopes of reparations for the women affected is not yet clear.

Graham Minter, Richard Crosfield and Ellie May
AIUK South America Team