South America Newsletter August 2018

We have good news from Chile and Paraguay this month, but human rights violations in Colombia  continue to deteriorate with new killings of HR defenders and more forced displacements as armed groups roam the countryside. There are petitions on Argentina and Brazil for you to sign as well as 3 urgent actions (Chile, Paraguay and Colombia)


Hundreds of thousands of Argentinians have taken to the streets in support of the bill approved by the Chamber of Deputies in June to decriminalise abortion.  The bill is very close to having enough support in the Senate to be passed. Amnesty has organised a petition that will be delivered before the Senate vote.  Sadly since the newsletter was published the vote narrowly failed.


Good news! Mapuche Indigenous spiritual leader Machi Celestino Córdovahas ended his hunger strike after the Chilean authorities granted him access to his ceremonial altar to carry out a renewal ceremony, essential to guaranteeing the Mapuches’ psychic and physical well-being.  Thank you to all those who wrote to the Chilean authorities.  No further action is required.

Amnesty has issued an Urgent Action about Chilean lawyer Karina Riquelme, who was followed and surveilled by police intelligence agents because of her work as a defender of Mapuche Indigenous rights.  You can still take action here.


Good news! The Paraguay Supreme Court of Justice has acquitted 11 people and ordered the release of four imprisoned fieldworkers, unfairly convicted over the death of six police officers during a violent eviction in the district of Curuguaty in 2012.  Details here.

Amnesty has issued an Urgent Action about200 families at imminent risk of forced eviction in the Guahory Campesino Community, Caaguazú department, Eastern Paraguay.  You can take action here.


Human Rights Watch have called for the Human Rights Council to mount an international investigation into the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.  Details here.


A recent press release by Amnesty International states that the lack of progress in the investigation  after four months since the killing of human rights defender and councillor Marielle Franco,  is a testament to the failings of the institutions and the Brazilian criminal justice system.  Telesur reports  that a former  military policeman and a former fireman were arrested in connection with her assassination. They are both suspected of being in the vehicle from which the shots were fired at Marielle Franco and her driver. Both suspects were detained on suspicion of being part of a militia group, and killing a military policeman and a former military policeman at the behest of the illegal organization.

Please sign the Marielle Franco petition which asks  the Brazilian authorities to conduct an urgent, thorough and impartial investigation into the deaths of Marielle Franco and her driver.

Amnesty International remembers the 1993 Candelaria massacre in which eight young boys were killed by off-duty police officers in Rio de Janeiro. The boys were sleeping rough near the city’s Candelária Church. “Police violence in Rio de Janeiro has been stimulated by the state’s own policies in the 1990s, which rewarded officers based on the number of ‘criminals’ they killed.”


Following up on the murder of Bernardo Cuero, the leader of the Association of Forcibly Displaced Afro-Colombians, Amnesty has received information from his family that the prosecutor office sent Bernardo a letter asking him to present himself in his own murder trial. Beyond the incompetence of the prosecutor’s office, we believe this constitutes a re-victimization of his family.

Amnesty has issued an Urgent Action after seven bodies, all male, were found piled on a road of the municipality of Argelia, in the southwest region of Cauca, Colombia. The bodies are being identified by authorities as they were presumably not from the municipality. In the past few weeks, paramilitary groups have been circulating pamphlets threatening to kill certain groups of people. Please continue to respond to the urgent action here.

In response to the killing by armed individuals of nine people, among them Frederman Quintero, social leader and president of a Community Action Committee, Amnesty International said: “The situation in Catatumbo is a reflection of the ongoing violence across Colombia. Targeted and collective killings are a reminder of the worst moments of the armed conflict. The authorities must take immediate measures to protect civilians and urgently respond to this critical situation.”

Amnesty reports that 430 Afro-descendant people in Nariño were displaced in the past few days and more than 16,000 people in the Catatumbo region have been displaced since March, . This is due to clashes between armed groups such as the People’s Liberation Army, the National Liberation Army (ELN), paramilitary groups, FARC-EP dissidents and state security forces.

Colombia faces a grave human rights crisis as a result of repeated targeted killings of human rights defenders, while the authorities look on unperturbed, Amnesty International said today. According to the Ombudsman’s Office of Colombia, a state body, the murder of a human rights defender is reported every three days.

Amnesty insists that Ivan Duque, the President elect, must strengthen the state’s commitment to human rights. ‘Violence continues to be a reality for thousands of people and communities. We are worried that armed actors, such as paramilitary groups, are still committing crimes under international law, including collective forced displacement, sexual violence against women and girls, and targeted killings of human rights activists’.


We have written to the FCO calling on their support in encouraging Latin American and Caribbean Governments to sign and ratify the Escazú Agreement, a regional agreement that seeks to ensure access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.  Details here.  We have received an encouraging response.

All the best,

South America Team – Richard Crosfield (Colombia), David Palmer (Brazil) and Graham Minter (rest of South America).