South America Newsletter January 2017

The latest newsletter from the South America Team at AIUK – Ellie May (Brazil), Richard Crosfield (Colombia), Graham Minter (Rest of South America).

“Let us start by wishing you a Happy New Year! We hope you’re all rested after the holiday season and ready to get stuck into some human rights campaigning as we’ve got plenty to keep you busy over the next few months.

In this newsletter we have actions for Venezuela and Brazil and we’re excited to see the launch of the Amnesty Latin America wide platform for Human Rights Defenders. We also have updates from Colombia following our Colombia Coordinator’s meeting with the FCO and his written requests to the Colombian Ambassador.


On 9 December, Amnesty launched an online platform to register and raise awareness of attacks against territory, land and environmental rights defenders in Latin America.  The platform consists of an interactive map that displays individual stories of people and communities who defend these rights and who have suffered threats or attacks due to their work.  You can access the platform hereThere are opportunities to take action throughout the region on some of the cases but please note that not all the “take action” boxes link you to an action page, as some of the cases do not have a current action attached to them. However, this could be an excellent resource for Local Groups. This launch marks the latest stage of Amnesty’s campaign in support of territory, land and environmental rights in the region and there will be follow-up action in the coming months, about which we shall keep you informed.


 In late November, four young men, Andrés Moreno Febres-Cordero, Marco Trejo, James Mathison and César Cuellar were granted conditional release after having been arrested in September for producing a video for the opposition party Primero Justicia.  The four are required to appear every 30 days before the military court which is hearing the allegations of their crimes committed under the Organic Code of Military Justice.  A decision on the case from the Supreme Court of Justice is still pending. There is an Urgent Action here on which we encourage you to take action.


Agustín Wachapá

Agustín Wachapá

On 21 December, officers from the National Police forced their way into the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar and Achuar Centres facilities in Morona Santiago and arrested their leader Agustín Wachapá. His arrest follows a series of acts of violence, harassment and pressure from the state authorities towards members of the Shuar Indigenous Peoples’ community due to their opposition to a copper mining project in Morona Santiago. On 20 December the Ministry of the Interior filed a complaint against the local organization Ecological Action Corporation accusing them of acts of violence after they published information on their social networks about the environmental impacts which mining activities in the zone could have and also highlighting the human rights violations which the project could involve.  There is a risk that the organisation could be closed down as a result.


Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira

Picture of Eduardo held by his mother

Last month, we highlighted the case of Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira, the ten year old boy killed by military police, and asked you to sign Amnesty Brazil’s online petition. Thank you to all those that have signed it so far.

We’re keen to put lots of pressure on the authorities regarding this case and show some solidarity with Eduardo’s mother Terezinha whom we’ve gotten to know through her struggle over the last 18 months. So, if you and your groups have time please do take the time to write her a solidarity card, or send an appeal letter to the Minister of Justice or Public Prosecutors Office, or even just send a tweet. [please note, the latter links are to sample letters]

Indigenous Peoples

The Brazilian government is threatening to cut and freeze funding to FUNAI, the Brazilian indigenous affairs department charged with protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. This would have a devastating impact on tribes like the Guaraní, whom many of you have taken action in support of, and uncontacted tribes, such as the Yanomami(left), who are already under incredible pressure. To take away FUNAI, is another terrible nail in the coffin. If you’d like to take action, Survival International have an online action you can take.


The Colombian ambassador responded at length on 12 December to Richards’s written requests concerning the Peace Community of San Jose Apartado, the continued killings of human rights defenders and the ongoing lawsuit brought against the leader of the field-workers’ union Fensuagro. From his letter it is clear that the authorities are working, via both added security and social initiatives, to seize control of rural areas of the country that had fallen under the influence of rebel groups and former paramilitaries, now dubbed Criminal Bands. The effectiveness of these actions remains to be seen.

Following the peace agreement with the FARC, the negotiations with the second rebel group, the FLN (National Liberation Front), are still pending the liberation of a former congressman held captive by the group.
Previously unpublished evidence strongly suggests that a former top commander of Colombia’s military

“did not take reasonable steps to stop or punish hundreds of illegal killings”,
Human Rights Watch 21.12.16

The Colombian Attorney General should revive the stalled prosecution of the general, Mario Montoya Uribe, who has been seen as responsible for the ‘false positive’ killings of the early 2000s. For the full report click here.
The FCO gave five NGOs, including Amnesty, a debriefing on the state visit by President Santos to the UK. The UK has increased the aid it provides for development and for human rights in the country. The British embassy in Bogota told Richard that they would send someone to the trial of Huber Ballesteros, which was due to resume on 19 December. Sr. Ballesteros, former leader of the Fensuagro Union, has been in preventative custody since August 2013, and his trial is regarded as unfair by Amnesty International.

Many thanks for reading. We hope you enjoy getting stuck into these campaigns and actions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, queries or just want to let us know how your campaigning is going – we love to hear from you.”