South America Newsletter May 2016

In this month’s newsletter we have updates on Colombia’s peace process and Urgent Action required to help protect Human Rights Defenders and Trade Unionists in the South-West of the country. We also have updates from the Team’s meeting with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Latin America where we discussed issues relating to Territorial, Land and Environmental Rights Defenders. Abuses by security forces remain a serious issue in the region with accusations of human rights violations by Chile’s security forces and accounts from the Amnesty staff in Rio on killings by military police ahead of the Rio Olympic games. We also have some good news regarding the rights of LGBTI people and the Arara Tribe in Brazil.


On 20 April, we visited parliament for a meeting with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for South America. Accompanied by Tilly Lavenas from the Mexico and Central America Team and Kieran Aldred from the AIUK office, we had a very useful discussion, focused especially on Land, Territorial and Environmental Rights Defenders, and identified ways in which we can work together to promote human rights in the region.


We have sent you a copy of a new Amnesty report about the failure of military courts in Chile to deal adequately with allegations of human rights abuses by the Chilean security forces, especially those committed by the carabineros, the militarised police force responsible for maintaining order during public demonstrations. You can still access it here.
We are seeking a meeting with the FCO to discuss this and you can still sign the petition on Amnesty Chile’s website here


The Presidential election on 10 April has reduced the battle to a run-off between Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Promotion and protection of human rights have been largely absent from the campaigns of either candidate. Amnesty is continuing to urge the candidates to commit to implementing a human rights agenda in support of those who suffer marginalisation and discrimination. You can still sign the petition on the AI Peru website here.

Newmont Mining has abandoned its plans to develop its Conga copper and gold project, citing local opposition as an important factor. Máxima Acuña, who has been at the forefront of opposition to the project, has suffered harassment as a result and has been the subject of several Urgent Actions, has been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. More information here.


After more than two years of exploratory conversations, Colombia’s government and second largest insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), reached agreement on an agenda for formal negotiations. This is an important step forward in the peace process, as up to now only the FARC had agreed to formal peace negotiations.

A coalition of NGOs and academics has demanded that, as part of the peace process, there must be ‘territorial peace’. They refer specifically to the extractive industries, which have been used by both parties in the conflict as a source of revenue at the cost of local people. They are particularly concerned that operations run by the FARC are not replaced by illegal organisations at the end of the peace process. You can read more here.

A large number of human rights defenders and trade unionists in south-west Colombia, are in danger after receiving death threats, apparently from the paramilitary Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia.

Alexandra Bermudez Osorio, leader of the Peoples’ Congress (Congreso de los Pueblos) and forcibly displaced in 2005, is now living in Spain under the protection programme organised by Amnesty International Spain. Her predecessor, Carlos Pedraza, was killed by paramilitaries last year in the south of Colombia, and she has received death threats. For Spanish speakers, you can see a video sponsored by Medicina Legal here.

Good news! The Supreme Court has ruled gay marriage legal in Colombia.


During April, Brazil’s Congressional committee approved impeachment proceedings against the President, Dilma Rousseff, of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Worker’s Party) The political crisis is far from ending and has polarised Brazilian society. You can read more about it in the IPI Global Observatory summary.

April 27th marked 100 days until the start of the Rio Olympic Games and Amnesty is trying to  ighlight Rio’s darker reality. At least 11 people were killed at the hands of Rio de Janeiro’s  police during April, including a five-year-old boy, following the worrying rise in deaths at the hands of Rio’s police over the last three years.

Executive Director of Amnesty Brazil, Atila Roque, has called on the organising bodies of Rio 2016 ensure that public security operations do not violate human rights. He calls on the authorities to take a consultative and precautionary approach to public security rather the “shoot-first” mentality that currently prevails.

Naomi Westland, of Amnesty UK recently visited Rio and wrote an insightful article highlighting the reality of favela life with a trigger-happy police force. Over the coming months you can expect to see more on this and actions to take. Twenty years on from the brutal Eldorado dos Carajás massacre of landless farm workers by Brazil’s military police, impunity for crimes committed against rural communities is still the norm. Over 50 murders against rural communities took place last year, making it the deadliest year in more than a decade. You can read more on Amnesty’s website.

Good news for the Amazonian Arara tribe in Brazil. Survival International reports that after a 30 year long battle, the president has signed a decree establishing their land, CachoeiraSeca (Dry Rapids), as an official reserve. It was part of the legal conditions allowing the building of the Belo Monte Dam further downstream. Though there is still work to be done in enforcing this and ensuring their protection, it is very much a positive step in the rights of indigenous peoples.

Thank you for reading. We wish you well with your actions and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any interesting actions you’ve undertaken.

Richard Crosfield, Graham Minter, Ellie May – A.I.U.K. South America Team