South America Newsletter November 2016

In this month’s newsletter, from the South America Team at AIUK, we encourage you to highlight two South America cases that feature in the Write for Rights Campaign.  There are updates on Brazil and Colombia and a reminder of three Urgent Actions that we have circulated during October.

Write for Rights Campaign

We have two cases in this year’s Write for Rights Campaign.  Máxima Acuña, a subsistence farmer in Peru, has been repeatedly harassed and physically attacked for standing up to one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mines.

Leopoldo López, a Venezuelan opposition leader who features in the on-line version of the campaign, is serving a prison sentence of 13 years and nine months prison sentence without any credible evidence against him.  [Leopoldo is already one of our casefiles – see take action].   We encourage you to feature Maxima and Leopoldo in your Write for Rights activities.

FCO Contacts

On 27 October, we called on Nigel Baker, the new Head of the FCO’s South America Department.  We identified a number of opportunities to work together in support of human rights in the region, especially in Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela.


Here is a link to a blog post about six activists from South America who are working together through Amnesty’s It’s My body! programme to empower young people aged 13 to 19 years old to claim and promote their sexual and reproductive rights.


In October Ellie met a delegation of Brazilian NGOs, UK Indigenous Rights Charities and a leader from the Guaraní-Kiaowá indigenous tribe, Elizeu Lopes, from the state of Mato Grosso Do Sul. Their meeting was to discuss how we can best support the Guaraní in their fight for access to and demarcation of their ancestral lands and the protection of their rights.

The Brazilian Constitution of 1988 stated that the all indigenous peoples’ land must be demarcated and titled within five years, and the Brazilian government has recognised 690 territories.  However, few of these are in Mato Grosso do Sul, where the Guaraní live.  There are currently 41 Guarani territories going through the demarcation process, yet not a single community has been able to regain their land legally.  This has led to some communities trying to retake the land themselves putting them at risk of retribution from landowners.

When Ellie spoke to Elizeu, he noted how desperate the situation was for them. He shared how they live under “systematic, constant massacres” and feel they have “no space”. Problems are so acute that one member of the tribe takes their own life every six days and every twelve days another is killed.

Amnesty is very concerned about the Guaraní and they were the subject of Urgent Actions last May. Amnesty Brazil’s director personally visited one of the tribes in 2013 and wrote an open letter to the Brazilian President last year. The International Secretariat’s Indigenous Researcher in London, Amnesty Brazil and our team are planning to undertake more work in support of them over the coming year. Keep your eyes peeled for actions.

In the meantime, you can read Ellie’s blog about the visit where there is a link to an action from Survival International supporting the tribe.


Although the referendum rejected the terms of the Peace Agreement between the FARC and the government, a new agreement, that will satisfy the opposition, is being negotiated. For Human Rights Watch’s verdict read here.

President Santos is making a State visit to the UK 1 to 3 November, and we had the opportunity to put Amnesty’s recommendations to the FCO. Santos will visit Northern Ireland to talk to leaders about the negotiations that ended that conflict. Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Peace Community San Jose Apartado is under threat by paramilitaries. Richard has been in contact with the British embassy in Bogota, who have met with PCSJA leaders. The UK is organising a EU wide approach to support the PCSJA.  To take action, please download the Urgent Action here.

New International reports that at Cerro Matoso, a British-Australian ferronickel complex, toxic particles end up in water and fields.  Children have been born with severe deformations.  Cows and chickens have given birth to offspring with two heads and excess limbs.  For further information, read here.


We sent you an Urgent Action in support of Rubén Ortiz, a human rights defender and social leader who is suffering from constant threats and intimidation related to his support for the rights of peasant farmer (campesino) communities and workers in Misiones province.  There is still time to take action here.


We sent you an Urgent Action in support of José Luis Urbano, a human rights defender whose son was murdered by police officers in the state of Anzoátegui on 10 October. The safety of his family is at risk.  You can still take action here.