South America Newsletter November 2017

SUMMARY

This month we have urgent actions for Brazil and Colombia and the sad news that the body of Santiago Maldonado has appeared in Argentina. You can still sign up to the Peru healthcare petition. The ongoing violations of human rights post the Peace Accord continue to be news in Colombia, while the new government of President Temer has a legislative programme to restrict human rights in Brazil. The deteriorating situation in Venezuela is the subject of a new Amnesty report on home raids by the police, and we bring you updates for Paraguay and good news from Chile too.

COLOMBIA

Amnesty issued a press release stating that nine peasant farmers have been killed and more than a dozen injured in the municipality of Tumaco, allegedly by members of the Colombian Army and National Police. This is a clear signal to the authorities of the need to protect to the civilian population during the implementation of the Peace Agreement, said Amnesty International. The communities were protesting against the slow implementation of the programme for the voluntary replacement of illicit crops, set out in the Peace Agreement signed in November last year. For the full press release click here.

We sent you an urgent action to respond to the killing on 24 October of Aulio Isarama Forastero, Indigenous governor of the Catru Dubaza Ancoso reservation Chocó department. He was killed by armed men, allegedly members of the ELN (National Liberation Army). There have been 21 instances of forced displacement so far this year in Chocó department and the community is at risk of forced displacement following this violence. For those of you who have not yet responded, please write to the authorities listed in the Urgent Action which you can download here.

kokonuko

Kokonuko community members confront riot police.

In a profound analysis of the ongoing land disputes in the Cauca Valley, The Guardian reports that “The 50-year civil war is over but, in the Cauca Valley, indigenous communities are on frontline of fight against drug gangs, riot police and deforestation.” The Peace Accord, by causing the FARC to abandon this area, has led to multiple incursions by armed groups. Indigenous communities, in an attempt to conserve the environment and respect traditional values, have responded. For the full article, please   click here.

The UN Assistant Secretary-General for human rights Andrew Gilmour said on 9 October “The armed conflict with the FARC may be over, but the country’s incredibly brave human rights defenders continue to be threatened and killed at an alarming rate. These attacks threaten the long-term stability that Colombia so desperately needs.” Since the beginning of this year, there have been more killings of human rights defenders, social and community leaders, particularly in areas formerly occupied by the FARC, than in previous years. For his full statement please click here.

In brief, 1) Human Rights Watch has reported on the hunger crisis in Guajira department. Click here. 2) More than 100,000 indigenous Colombians staged demonstrations in 21 departments demanding that the government live up to its commitments to their communities, reports El Espectador. 3) The London Mining Group reports that Cerrejón coal is again using force to remove farming families. Cerrejón is owned by three London listed companies – Glencore, BHP and Anglo-American. 4) 27 October, Ms. Charo Mina-Rojas, a leader of the Afro-Colombian community addressed the UN Security Council on the improved prospect for Women’s Rights in Colombia in the context of the Peace Accord.

 VENEZUELA

 In a new report, Amnesty has highlighted the intensification of illegal home raids on citizens suspected of dissent.  The report Nights of terror: Attacks and illegal raids on homes in Venezuela reveals how Venezuelan security forces and government-sponsored civilian armed groups have violently broken into people’s homes in recent months as a way of intimidating them against taking part in demonstrations or any other form of protest.  More information here.  We shall write to you shortly with options on actions that you can take in support of the campaign launched with the report.

PERU

Amid rumours of a possible pardon for former President Alberto Fujimori, Amnesty sent an open letter to President Pablo Kuczynski, calling on the Peruvian government to focus all its energy on ensuring that the thousands of victims of human rights violations committed during Fujimori’s administration receive truth, justice and reparation.  More here.

Last month we sent you Amnesty’s new report A Toxic State, which revealed how the Peruvian government has failed to provide adequate healthcare for two Indigenous communities in Peru’s Amazonian and Andean regions.  The petition is still live here, along with other options for action.

PARAGUAY

The Paraguayan Ministry of Education and Science has issued a resolution banning the dissemination and use of materials on what the ministry calls “gender theory and/or ideology”.  This follows a campaign launched by some sectors of society and religious groups to withdraw materials on sex, reproduction, gender equality and discrimination from the public education system.  Amnesty has denounced the news as a major step backwards for human rights and as contrary to Paraguay’s international obligations.  More here.

ARGENTINA

The body of Santiago Maldonado, who disappeared during when security forces violently entered a Mapuche community and was the subject of a recent Urgent Action, has been found in a nearby river.  Amnesty is calling for a full and independent investigation.  More here.

CHILE

Three of the four imprisoned indigenous Mapuche men, who were the subject of an Urgent Action in September, have ended their hunger strike after the Chilean authorities agreed to some of their demands.  An update to the Urgent Action will follow shortly.

BRAZIL

President Michel Temer sanctioned a law that transfers to the Military Court the ability to try human rights violations carried out by military personnel against civilians. This includes crimes against life, such as killing and extrajudicial executions. The move contradicts the fundamental principles of fair trial and judicial independence. Human rights organisations have expressed concerns that it will increase impunity in cases of violations by the military. It is now up to the Attorney General to appeal to the Supreme Court to stop the law from entering into force. You can download our urgent action here.

Federal Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber suspended a directive that endangered the fight against slave labour. The Ministry of Labour had earlier in the month published the directive which redefined what the government classed as ‘slave-like’ work, a move which Campaigners had described as a ‘social regression’ and which would have reduced the its ability to protect workers. As part of the directive, the Ministry would have ceased automatically publishing a list of employers whose workers are kept under abusive conditions. For The Guardian’s account of the story, click here.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a statement made to the upper house of Congress on proposed changes to the constitution which would allow prosecutors to try children aged 16 and 17 as adults. HRW called on the Senate not to adopt the changes. The organisation outlined five reasons against making the constitutional amendment, including that it would violate international law. For the full statement, click here.

President Temer survived a vote in the lower house of Congress on whether he should have been tried on corruption charges. If two-thirds of lawmakers had agreed, Temer would have been put on trial by the Supreme Court. This was the second time that he had survived such a vote. For The Guardian’s account of this story, click here.

This newsletter is managed by volunteers.

Richard Crosfield (Colombia), Graham Minter (Rest of South America) and Joe Smith (Brazil)

AIUK South America Team

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