South America Newsletter May 2017

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

“In this month’s newsletter, we highlight the renewal of serious unrest in Venezuela and a new Amnesty report and campaign on the situation. We describe the continuing paramilitary attacks on communities in Colombia.  There are further reports of threats to indigenous communities in Brazil. There are also updates on human rights concerns in Chile, Peru and Paraguay.  There are several options to take action, focusing this month on Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Paraguay.


amnesty international venezuela photo by reuters

venezuela photo by reuters

While Venezuela’s economic crisis is causing an increasingly serious deterioration in living standards, deep political polarisation continues to obstruct the search for a solution. The authorities are using their control over the justice system and the state security apparatus to persecute and punish their opponents. Renewed protests around the country have resulted in several deaths and hundreds of people injured or imprisoned. A new report by Amnesty, Silenced By Force: Politically-Motivated Arbitrary Detentions in Venezuela, describes the current situation. This marks the launch of a new campaign to showcase the suppression of free expression by force in Venezuela, about which we shall write to you shortly.

Leopoldo López

Leopoldo López

Meanwhile, we have sent Groups an Urgent Action update about Leopoldo López (see letters, as Leopoldo is Case File 2, on ACTION) who has been kept incommunicado since 8 April and has been placed in solitary confinement for reasons that have not been disclosed by the authorities. During this time, he has been illegally denied visits from his lawyer and family.


Attacks by paramilitaries on communities that have been vacated by the FARC rebels continue. Six indigenous Colombians were killed this last week in three departments. One of those killed was in the Government’s protection programme, highlighting its inadequacy. For more on this read Amnesty’s statement  here.

Residents of Puerto Lleras, Jiguamiandó collective territory in the department of Chocó, report threats and raids from paramilitaries near the Humanitarian Zone of Pueblo Nuevo, putting all the inhabitants at risk. Amnesty urges the authorities to take immediate action to break up paramilitary groups, in accordance with the commitments made by the government and recommendations from international bodies, among other recommendations. Please write before 30 May. Please click here to download the Urgent Action.

The challenge facing the implementation of the peace process in Colombia, including millions of forcibly displaced people, is the subject of a podcast in the Guardian, which you can listen to by clicking here.

Colombia Peace, which monitors the peace process, reports on former President Uribe’s attempts to sabotage the peace process, on possible delays from the FARC and other stumbling blocks on the road to peace. For more , read here.

The Good News is that  7,000 FARC guerrillas have handed in their weapons and are concentrated in 26 small zones. And the FARC have begun the process of identifying their arms caches.

Business and Human Rights reports that Hilduara Barliza, a Colombian lawyer and Wayúu indigenous leader, received death threats in December 2016. She and her people oppose the expansion of El Cerrejón coal mine and its proposal to divert a river, due to the negative impact on their lands and water resources. Javier Rojas Uriana, another representative of the Wayúu , continued to receive threats due to his work, which includes a successful case in which the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted provisional measures asking the Colombian Government to protect children from serious risks of lack of access to water linked to the mining project. Cerrejon is wholly owned by 3 companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange – BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo-American.


Human Rights Watch has submitted an amicus brief on two cases of abortion. “Abortion is legal in Brazil only in cases of rape, when necessary to save a woman’s life, or when the foetus suffers anencephaly – a fatal congenital brain disorder. Women and girls who terminate pregnancies under any other conditions face sentences of up to three years in prison, while people who perform abortions face up to four years.” For the full report, click here.

Survival International reports that the Brazilian government is considering abandoning uncontacted tribes to loggers and ranchers. There are an estimated 100 plus tribes that are uncontacted in Brazil, representing over two-thirds of such people in the world. For more, read here.

The Guardian reports on protests by indigenous Brazilians in the capital to recognise their land rights and demark their land. Although indigenous rights are guaranteed by law, in practice their land has been seized by loggers, soon followed by farmers. For images click here.

AFP reports on the massacre of nine poor farmers in a remote area of Matto Grosso state, where the struggle between large landowners, loggers and poor farmers has been marked by torture, killings and forced displacements. Read more here.


We sent Groups an Urgent Action relating to members of the Defence Movement of Earth, Environmental Protection and Access to Water, who are facing death threats because of their work defending the right to water in Petorca Province.  There is still time to take action here.


The Supreme Court have postponed until 3 May their ruling on the spurious charges of land invasion against human rights defender Máxima Acuña on the grounds that some of the judges had not had enough time to reach a decision. Amnesty have described this as “the latest attempt by the authorities to obstruct her legitimate work to defend the environment”.  More information here.


You can still sign here the petition on AI Paraguay’s website calling on the authorities to investigate and guarantee freedom of expression in the wake of the recent protests and the heavy-handed response of the authorities.  One person has died, dozens have been injured and over 200 detained. However, the Chamber of Deputies has now rejected the proposed constitutional amendment allowing for presidential re-election, which was the original cause of the protests.

New Brazil Coordinator

We shall shortly be interviewing for a new Brazil Coordinator following Ellie May’s decision to move on to new challenges.  We shall miss Ellie and wish her well – and look forward to welcoming her successor soon.”