South America Newsletter November 2019

There has been much happening in South America this month, hence a slightly longer than usual newsletter. There is good news regarding international support for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, however, there are troubling reports of human rights abuses in Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia in response to protests. Court action to secure LGBTI rights in Paraguay is reported in addition to the political situation in Argentina. There are concerning reports, including information about killings in Brazil and Colombia, together with news of attacks on political parties in Colombia.

There are urgent actions regarding Chile, Colombia and Bolivia and petitions concerning Colombia and Brazil.


The Colombian press reports the killing by dissident FARC guerrillas of five people of the Nasa indigenous community in Cauca Department. They were killed when they tried to stop a FARC column from crossing their territory. Four were unarmed ‘Indigenous Guards’ and the fifth was the local Governor. 14 Nasa people have been killed so far this year. The UN’s Special Rapporteur stated ‘This is not an isolated event. The communities and indigenous peoples of Cauca are suffering incessant and unacceptable violence. The situation is worsening despite the repeated calls to address it. We urge the Government to take urgent measures, within the framework of compliance with the Peace Agreements, to end these deadly attacks.’

Amnesty has issued an Urgent Action on behalf of Human Rights Defender Luz Marina Arteaga, who has received death threats and has been denied protection from the National Protection Unit. You can take action here. Please send a copy to Sr. Antonio José Ardila, Colombian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 3 Hans Crescent, London SW1X 0LN.

The UK NGO Justice for Colombia has denounced the simultaneous attacks on three political parties in the run up to regional elections in Colombia: ‘These attacks are a clear attempt to intimidate and threaten political candidates, activists and members of left-wing parties in Colombia and insinuate a return to the most extreme periods of paramilitary violence.’

In these regional elections, Claudia López became the first woman and first gay woman to be elected Mayor of Bogotá. Latin America Despatch adds, ‘A member of the Green Alliance party, López has prioritized fighting corruption, ending child labour, putting more police officers on the streets and improving educational opportunities for adults over the age of 45.’

There is still time sign Amnesty International’s petition urging President Duque to protect thousands at risk of death or displacement in the Chocó by clicking here.


Since 18 October, thousands have taken to the streets in Chile in response to a metro fare hike in the capital, Santiago. The demonstrations have broadened to reflect people’s anger over living costs and inequality.  The President decreed a state of emergency, enabling the army to police demonstrations and impose a curfew.

The Chilean government has reported that, so far, 18 people have died in the context of the demonstrations, the state of emergency and the curfew.  According to the National Human Rights Institute (INDH), five of these fatalities were at the hands of the security forces.  The INDH has also reported that some 2,600 people have been detained and 584 injured, 245 of them by firearms, among other serious human rights violations.

Amnesty has deployed its Americas Crisis Response team to the country after receiving hundreds of complaints about serious human rights violations that range from excessive use of force to torture, illegal raids and arbitrary detention.  The team will gather testimonies and examine documents to corroborate these complaints and possible crimes under international law in order to support the victims and demand that the state guarantee their rights to justice, truth, reparation and non-repetition.  Amnesty has urged the government to listen to the population’s grievances and take practical measures in response.

Please support this Urgent Action with a message to the Chilean President.


Protests began in multiple cities in Ecuador on 3 October in response to President Lenín Moreno announcing austerity measures.  Hours later, the president declared a state of emergency across the nation, thus authorising the mobilisation of the Armed Forces and the National Police to maintain order and prevent violence.

The Ombudsman has reported that between 3 and 13 October, 1,192 people were detained, 1,340 were injured and eight died in the context of the state of emergency.  The Ombudsman documented numerous cases where the security forces used excessive force; carried out arbitrary detentions; and subjected individuals, including journalists and human rights defenders, to torture and other ill-treatment; as well as violently entering private property.

Amnesty has called on members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to demand that Ecuador investigate promptly, thoroughly and impartially the human rights violations committed in the context of the security forces’ repression of the demonstrations, in order to guarantee truth, justice and reparation for the victims.  It has also called on the government to ensure that austerity measures, such as those that sparked the mass demonstrations in the country, are designed and implemented in accordance with international human rights law.


Amnesty has called on the Bolivian authorities to respect the right to peaceful protest following their repressive reaction to demonstrations by people who believe there was fraud in the recent elections

Amnesty has issued an Urgent Action in response to the intimidation of Edgar Villegas, systems engineer and analyst, who denounced irregularities in the elections on public TV, and Mónica Ximena Galarza, the journalist who interviewed him.  Please write to the Bolivian Minister of Government.


At an International Solidarity Conference on the Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis held in Brussels on 28-29 October, delegates sent a strong message of support to Venezuelan refugees and migrants as well as to their host countries and communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The event aimed to raise global awareness about the refugee and migrant crisis and the efforts of hosting countries and communities.  It confirmed international support for a regional and coordinated response, and called for a global and inclusive partnership, where solidarity and responsibility are shouldered by the entire international community but also shared between public and private sectors.


Amnesty, together with Diversxs Alto Paraná, and with the support of the  Red Paraguaya de la Diversidad Sexual (REPADIS) and It Gets Better Paraguay, has presented an Action of Unconstitutionality before the Supreme Court of Justice regarding two resolutions by the Board and Municipal Administration of the City of Hernandarias that violate the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people.


As expected, President Macri, who presided over a failing economy, failed to be re-elected on 27 October. The Peronist, Alberto Fernández, with the former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as his running mate, won the election. In the brief period prior to the election, the central bank spent $22 billion to defend the peso. The first act of the new Government was to reduce the amount a person could withdraw from the bank from $10,000 to $200. The BBC has a good report on the possible consequences of the change in government.


An AIUK press release dated 3 October refers to the arrest of four people in relation to last year’s murder of the human rights defender Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes.  This is in addition to the two former police officers who have been charged with this crime and as far as we are aware,  remain in custody.

A Guardian article reports that soon after the arrest of the four suspects in the above case, photographs have emerged of President Bolsonaro with one of them, named Josinaldo Lucas Freitas. In March a photograph emerged of President Bolsonaro with another suspect for this crime. states that the  Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI)    annual report on violence against indigenous peoples,   shows a sharp rise in murders and land grabs, including  135 indigenous peoples killed in 2018 — an increase of 23 percent from the previous year.  Preliminary data for 2019 indicate that, in the first nine months of the Bolsonaro government, there have already been reports of 160 cases of land invasion, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and damage to property in 153 indigenous territories — twice as many compared to the previous year.

Survival International reports that top Brazilian experts have released a damning statement warning that “genocide is underway” against uncontacted tribes, following the sacking of Bruno Pereira, the head of the government department charged with the protection of uncontacted tribes’ lands. The experts are “extremely worried” that Pereira has been sacked “for no apparent technical reason”.

 There is still an opportunity to sign an  Amnesty International Petition demanding the Brazilian government protects indigenous rights and the Amazon.

 An Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) press release dated 1 October states that the IACHR has granted precautionary measures (protection measures)  in favour of members of the Guyraroká community of the Kaiowá Guaraní indigenous people in Brazil, who were said to be at risk after suffering a series of threats, acts of harassment, and violence.


On 8 October The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights   (IACHR) published on 8 October  its report Situation of Human Rights of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Pan-Amazon Region.

In its report, the Commission lays down the context for the complex transformations that are impacting the Pan-Amazon region. The human rights of communities there have been affected by laws, public policies, and practices focused mainly on expanding the frontiers of land eligible for natural-resource extraction and for infrastructure megaprojects, which puts pressure on the ancestral lands of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples.

 On 17 October, Venezuela was elected to replace Cuba (whose term had expired) on the United National Human Rights Council, while Brazil was re-elected for a second term.

 All the best,

South America Team – Richard Crosfield (Colombia, Argentina), David Palmer (Brazil) and Graham Minter (rest of South America)