The Andes
Luis Arce

Bolivia: back to ‘socialism,’ or meet the new boss?

Luis Arce, candidate of the party of ousted president Evo Morales, has seemingly swept to victory in Bolivia’s¬†presidential elections. While the official count is technically still pending, results place him with more than 50% of the vote‚ÄĒwell above the second-place center-right contender Carlos Mesa and with far more than the required majority to avoid a runoff. This represents a significant recoup of losses for the Movement Toward Socialism-Political Instrument for the Peoples’ Sovereignty (MAS-IPSP), which Morales nominally still leads from exile in Argentina. As news of the victory broke, supporters gathered outside Arce’s campaign office to chant “The pollera will be respected!”‚ÄĒa reference to the traditional skirt that has become a symbol of the MAS-IPSP indigenous base. But¬†when Arce assumes the presidency, he will be taking over a country debilitated by deep recession. “We will have to have austerity measures. There’s no other option if we don’t have enough income to cover our current expenditures,” Arce admitted to reporters.¬†(Image via Carwil without Borders)

The Andes
jorge 40

Colombia: paramilitary boss returns to face justice

Rodrigo Tovar AKA “Jorge 40,” one of Colombia’s most wanted paramilitary leaders, was flown back to his home country after 12 years in US prisons for drug trafficking. Once an official in his hometown of Valledupar, Tovar became commander of the feared “Bloque Norte” of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary network. Revelations upon his demobilization in 2006 triggered the so-called “parapolitics” scandal, with his testimony implicating top government figures in the officially illegal armed networks. But Tovar stopped cooperatingwith Colombian justice after his brother was assassinated in 2009, a year after his extraditionto the US. He now faces multiple charges of war crimes and human rights violations in Colombia, most notoriously the 2000 massacre of 60 civilians at the village of El Saldado. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

The Andes
Oruro

Bolivia: street confrontations in prelude to elections

Tensions are escalating in Bolivia ahead of the first post-coup elections, which after numerous postponements are now slated for this month. In one incident, a¬†youth meeting of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) in the Manufacturing Complex of the working-class city of El Alto was attacked with tear-gas bombs by unknown assailants, causing an exodus from the cavernous space. Days earlier, MAS supporters in the mining hub of Oruro hurled stones at a vehicle caravan of the right-wing Creemos (We Believe) coalition, forcing it to retreat from their barrio, known as the Mining Helmet for the strength of organized labor there. The protesters shouted “Out, out, out! Oruro must be respected!”¬†(Photo:¬†Bolivia Prensa)

The Andes
Belalc√°zar

Monumental controversy hits Colombia

Local indigenous people toppled the statue of conquistador Sebasti√°n de Belalc√°zar in Popay√°n, capital of Colombia’s southwestern Cauca department. The statue came down 84 years after local authorities had erected it atop Morro de Tulc√°n, a hill that had been a sacred site for the Misak indigenous people. The Movement of Indigenous Authorities of the Southwest¬†issued a statement saying the move to overturn the monument was taken following a decision by traditional elders of the Misak community. Many Colombians have celebrated the toppling of the statue, calling it “historic.” Left-opposition senator Gustavo Petro said, “The monuments to the conquistadors and slaveholders are an insult to the people of Colombia, its indigenous and its Black ethnicity.” Supporters of right-wing President Iv√°n Duque, however, are appalled. Misak leaders report¬†an increase in threats and harassment from National Police troops since the statue was brought down. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

The Andes
Venezuela protests

UN report: ‘crimes against humanity’ in Venezuela

A UN report¬†accused Venezuelan state authorities, including the president, of being complicit in human rights violations and abuses “amounting to crimes against humanity.” An Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela found cases of extrajudicial executions, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture committed by the government or its agents. High-level authorities, including the ministers of the Interior and Defense, as well as President Nicol√°s Maduro himself, were not only aware of the violations but gave the orders and provided the resources to carry them out. “Far from being isolated acts,” said Marta Vali√Īas, chairperson of the Mission, “these crimes were coordinated and committed pursuant to State policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials.”¬†(Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

The Andes
Mauricio Jara

Rights group sees ‘political persecution’ in Bolivia

Human Rights Watch released a report¬†asserting¬†that Bolivia’s interim government, led by President Jeanine A√Īez, uses the judiciary to attack former President Evo Morales, his supporters, and former members of his administration. The report claims A√Īez’s government “has publicly pressured prosecutors and judges to act to further its interests, leading to criminal investigations of more than 100 people linked to Morales government and Morales supporters for sedition and/or terrorism.” The report states that these investigations “appear to be politically motivated.” Among those charged is Morales himself, who was accused of terrorism after he fled the country last November. (Photo:¬†Guider Arancibia¬†via HRW)

The Andes
bogota riots

Colombia: anti-police protests rock Bogot√°

Colombia’s capital Bogot√° has seen nightly protests since the¬†slaying of a law student at the hands of police. Video footage showed Javier Ordo√Īez, an attorney and father of two, being repeatedly shocked with a stun-gun before being taken to a police station, after he was stopped for public drinking in violation of COVID-19 containment measures. He died in a hospital later that night. Protests erupted after his death, with hundreds gathering outside the station where he had been held, and police responded with tear-gas and flash-bang grenades. At least seven have been killed and 80 arrested since then, as protests have spread throughout the city. The Defense Ministry says 53 police stations and posts have been attacked, with 17 incinerated. The military as well as elite National Police anti-riot force ESMAD have been mobilized to put down the protests. (Photo via¬†Colombia Reports)

The Andes
paro

Peru: high court rules ‘social protest’ protected

In a decision made very timely amid new mobilizations against oil and mineral operations on peasant and indigenous lands, Peru’s high court struck down a provision of the country’s penal code that rights advocates said criminalized the right to “social protest.” The ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal voided an amendment to Article 200 of the Penal Code that had been instated under Legislative Decree 1237, issued by then-president Ollanta Humala in September 2015. The decree expanded the definition of “extortion” to apply not only to use of force to gain “economic advantage” but also “advantage of any other nature.” This expanded definition has been used to bring criminal charges against protesters who have blocked roads or occupied oil-fields or mining installations. (Photo: IDL)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: Duque denies ongoing massacres

Amid the relentless and escalating wave of massacres and assassinations in Colombia, President Iv√°n Duque is adopting openly euphemistic terminology in an attempt to downplay the crisis. This week he acknowledged that massacres at various points around the country over the past days had left more than 30 dead‚ÄĒbut refused to call them “massacres.” Visiting Pasto, capital of Nari√Īo department which has been the scene of several recent attacks, he said: “Many people have said, ‘the massacres are returning, the massacres are returning’; first we have to use the precise name‚ÄĒcollective homicides.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes
samaniego

Students massacred in Colombian village

Eight young people at a social gathering were killed in Colombia’s southern Nari√Īo department when unknown gunmen barged in and opened fire. The victims, between the ages of 17 and 25, were university students who had returned to the village of Samaniego due to the pandemic. They were enjoying a small party at a family farm on the edge of the village when the attack took place.¬†One woman and one minor were among the dead. Nari√Īo Gov. Jhon Rojas did not name any group as responsible for the attack, but noted presence in the area of ELN guerillas, “dissident” FARC factions that have remained in arms despite the peace accord, and right-wing paramilitaries. Rojas called on national authorities to “return tranquility to the region” by fulfilling terms of the 2016 peace accords, which President Ivan Duque has opposed. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
Abelardo Liz

Colombia: indigenous journalist slain by army

An indigenous journalist was among two killed when army troops were called in to evict a land occupation in Colombia’s southern Cauca region. The lands of three haciendas had been under occupation for months by Nasa indigenous campesinos at El Guan√°bano, Corinto municipality, as part of a land reclamation campaign dubbed “Liberaci√≥n de la Madre Tierra.” The National Police riot squad¬†was first mobilized to clear them, burning their huts and destroying crops. When the occupiers fought back, the army was sent in, and troops opened fire. Abelardo Liz, who was covering the confrontation for Naci√≥n Nasa community radio station, was shot in the abdomen, and died while being rushed to the hospital in Corinto. (Photo via RSF)

The Andes
Mamani

US court rules against Bolivian ex-prez in rights case

The US Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit in Miami vacated a lower court judgment that had exonerated former Bolivian president Gonzalo S√°nchez de Lozada and his defense minister Carlos S√°nchez Berza√≠n of responsibility for the killing of protesters during the 2003 “Gas War.” The pair fled to exile in the United States after repression failed to put down the protests. In 2018, surviving relatives of eight killed in the repression brought suit against the two exiled leaders in a US district court under the Torture Victims Protection Act. The case, Mamani et. al v. S√°nchez de Lozada, marked the first time a former head of state was brought to trial for human rights violations in a US court. The jury found the two liable under the TVPA and awarded plaintiffs $10 million in damages. But in an unusual move, Judge James I. Cohn set aside the jury verdict and entered its own judgment, holding the defendants not liable based on insufficient evidence. The Eleventh Circuit has now reversed Cohn’s ruling, and remanded the case to the district court. The lower court is instructed to weigh whether the jury verdict should be reinstated or if a new trial should be held. (Photo of¬†plaintiffs Eloy and Etelvina Mamani, center, and legal team via¬†Harvard Law Today)