South America Newsletter February 2016

This is the latest newsletter from the South America Team:-


Welcome to the South America Team’s February newsletter. We
have updates on campaigns supporting Human Rights
Defenders from the new Amnesty regional team in Mexico City,
some positive news in Brazil regarding the Belo Monte Dam, and
some alarming developments regarding rural land rights in both
Brazil and Colombia. In Colombia too, despite some positive
forward movement with the Peace Process, AB Colombia have
reported that the situation for Human Rights Defenders is again
deteriorating. Meanwhile we have some Urgent Actions
from Argentina and Venezuela.


Amnesty has set up a new team in Mexico City to lead its work in
support of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas. In January,
Richard participated in a conference call to share views on a new
project aimed at supporting and protecting defenders of
territorial, land and environmental rights. The project is
expected to be launched in June with publication of a short report.
Meanwhile, a campaign in support of defenders of sexual and
reproductive rights is well under way. We expect to write to you
again shortly with a request for further action. The recent outbreak
of the Zika virus, and the advice to women from several
governments in the region to avoid pregnancy, has led rights groups
to point out that most pregnancies in the region are unplanned due
to traditional cultural attitudes that discriminate against women and
a lack of access to contraceptives. See Guardian article here.


ABColombia reported that “the situation for human rights
defenders in Colombia once again worsened in 2015 with 51 human
rights defenders killed during the first nine months. Despite the ever
increasing numbers of human rights activists being attacked and
killed – 2015 has seen no one sentenced for these attacks and
The repeated theft of sensitive information from the human
rights platform Colombia Europe United States Coordination
(CCEEU), a partner organisation of Christian Aid, is aimed at limiting
their activities in Colombia. For more about the harassment and
consequences Read more here
The forced eviction of villages on land being mined for coal by
Cerrejon Coal Company is an ongoing concern reported by the
London Mining Network reported here. The owners of the mining
company are three UK listed companies, BHP Billiton,
AngloAmerican and Glencore. Colombia is now the second largest
exporter of coal to the UK after Russia.
The Peace Process between the Colombian government and
the FARC guerrilla group took a small step forward when the
United Nations agreed to validate the peace negotiations via a
commission composed of representatives of the region. The other
armed force engaged in the conflict, the National Liberation Army
(ELN), has so far refused to participate in the peace process.
Human Rights Watch has just published its always interesting
annual report on Colombia. The continued use of land mines by the
FARC and ELN, the continued atrocities committed by paramilitary
forces in the port of Buenaventura and the impunity that senior army
officers enjoy in the case of ‘false positive’ extrajudicial executions
illustrate the long road Colombia has still to follow. You can read the
report here.


Military police in São Paulo have violently repressed a series of, largely
peaceful, protests opposing the fare hikes in the city occurring last
month. The dispersal of protestors using tear gas and stun
grenades, leaving an unknown number of casualties has been
described by Amnesty International as a “threat to constitutional
guarantees of freedom of expression” ahead of the Olympic Games
later this year. You can read the full statement on the Amnesty

Belo Monte Dam Operation License Suspended
Last month, the Public Prosecutors Office started legal proceedings
against the Brazilian government and Norte Energia, builders of the
controversial Belo Monte dam for “ethnocide” of indigenous groups
located in Pará state. This month, a court in the state has order
the suspension of its license until certain conditions are met.
Head to Latin Correspondent’s website to find out more.

Gunmen have been firing on a Guarani village of indigenous
peoples in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The gunmen, hired
by local ranchers, are thought to be retaliating to the Guarani’s land
reoccupation of their ancestral land, which they have rights to. The
DOF boarder security forces are present, yet there are reports they
are supporting the ranchers. The Head of the Brazilian Congress’
Human Rights Commissions noted that the DOF are acting as
private security forces. Survival International has more on the
situation and an action you can partake in.


Amnesty has called on the recently elected National Assembly to
take urgent measures to ensure the protection and promotion of
human rights of everyone without discrimination. Details here.
We sent you an Urgent Action in respect of Rosmit Mantilla, an
opposition member, LGBTI activist and prisoner of conscience,
who is at risk of being transferred to a common prison where his
physical integrity may be in jeopardy. You can still take action here.


Amnesty has called on the Bolivian parliament to debate the
establishment of a Truth Commission during its current session,
with a view to bringing to light full and truthful information about the
grave human rights violations committed in Bolivia during the 18
years of military and authoritarian rule from 1964 to 1982. More
information here.


You can still take action on the two Urgent Actions that we
have sent to you in January:
Sixty-one prisoners were threatened and punished for
exposing human rights violations in a prison in Buenos Aires
Province while Karina Valenti, the human rights defender who
reported these grave abuses, has been banned from entering all
penal institutions in the province. Details here.

Community leader Milagro Sala, who has been detained since 16
January for peacefully protesting in San Salvador de Jujuy. Details here.


GOOD NEWS! Community leaders Manuel Trujillo and Manuela Pacheco, who were recently the subject of an Urgent Action, have been acquitted of the
unsubstantiated charges of organized terrorism. More information here.
Thank you for reading and we wish you all the best with your actions
and campaigning. If you’d like to share any news with us, or any of
the work you’ve been doing, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We
really enjoying hearing what groups are up to.
Best wishes,
The Amnesty UK South America Team
Richard Crosfield (Colombia)
Ellie May (Brazil)
Graham Minter (Rest of South America)