Southern Cone
santiago protest

Protests erupt in Santiago, São Paulo

Protesters and riot police clashed on the outskirts of the Chilean capital Santiago, amid growing anger over food shortages during the lockdown imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Police deployed armored vehicles, water cannons and tear-gas to put down protests in the poor district of El Bosque. Residents blocked traffic and hurled stones at police in running clashes that lasted most of the day. Sporadic incidents were also reported in other parts of the city. Nightly pot-banging protests have been held for weeks in several neighborhoods, promoted under the hashtag #CacerolasContraElHambre—or, pot-banging against hunger. That same day, hundreds poured out of the favelas to fill the main streets of São Paulo, Brazil. In an audacious move, the favela residents marched on the state governor’s palace, demanding more support in the face of the lockdown. (Photo: Piensa Presna)

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Plaza Dignidad

Chile: protest against ‘new normality’

For the first time since Chile was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, protesters gathered in Santiago’s Plaza Italia—which had been renamed “Plaza Dignidad” during last year’s popular uprising. Demonstrators were opposing President Sebastián Piñera’s call for the country to return to work under a “new normality,” in spite of the COVID-19 threat. The protesters wore masks, but were nonetheless quickly dispersed by the Carabineros, with 14 arrested. Gatherings of more than 50 continue to be banned nationwide. (Photo via Twitter)

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lithium

Chile: indigenous win a round in lithium struggle

The First Environmental Tribunal in the Chile’s northern city of Antofagasta ruled in favor of indigenous communities that had brought suit against Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), the world’s second-largest miner of lithium. The court found SQM’s compliance plan for water preservation submitted to Chile’s Environment Superintendency (SMA) was “insufficient,” citing the “particular fragility” of the lithium-rich but extremely arid salt-flats where the company hopes to expand operations, the Salar de Atacama. Under the ruling, SQM must submit a new compliance plan, pay multi-million fines to the SMA for being out of compliance, or suspend operations. “We must protect sensitive ecosystems even more when they constitute the ancestral habitat of our native peoples whom the State of Chile is obliged to protect,” the court’s chief justice, Mauricio Oviedo, said in a statement. The case was brought by the local Council of Atacameño Pueblos, representing the impacted indigenous communities of Peine and Camar. (Photo: First Environmental Tribunal of Antofagasta)

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Chile protest

Chile to vote on new constitution next year

Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera signed a law allowing a referendum on a new constitution for the country. The law was passed by the Chilean congress following more than two months of mass protests. The referendum is scheduled for April 26, and asks voters two questions: should Chile have a new constitution; and who should write it, an assembly of elected citizens or an assembly that would include a mix of current lawmakers? Revocation of the Pinochet-era constitution has been a key demand of the protest movement, which began with an uprising against transit fare hikes in Santiago. (Photo: Carlos Figueroa/Wikimedia via Jurist)

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Chile protests

UN documents rights abuses in Chile protests

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a new report that international human rights norms had been violated by both police and army personnel during the recent mass protests in Chile which led the government to declare a state of emergency. The report said that these rights violations should be prosecuted. The 30-page report, based on research during the first three weeks of November, extensively details multiple allegations, including of torture, and rape and other forms of sexual violence, against people held in detention. The leader of the OHCHR mission in Chile, Imma Guerras-Delgado, told journalists in Geneva, that the overall management of demonstrations by the police “was carried out in a fundamentally repressive manner.” (Photo: KaosEnLaRed)

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Salar de Atacama

Chile: lithium interests under pressure by uprising

Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), under pressure from the government amid falling prices and rising protests, committed to define by year’s end the destination for lithium from its lease area at the Salar de Maricunga. SQM, one of the world’s top producers, already has a larger lithium mine in production at another area of salt-flats, the Salar de Atacama—but operations there were suspended for several days as campesinos blocked roads to the site as part of the popular uprising in Chile. Leaders of the Consejo de Pueblos Atacameños, representing 18 indigenous communities, pledged to resist any expansion of lithium operations in the area, citing threats to local water sources. (Photo via El Ciudadano)

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Montevideo protest

Uruguay: mass march against militarization

Some 60,000 marched in Montevideo against the “Vivir sin Miedo” (Live Without Fear) campaign, an anti-crime initiative that goes before the voters in this week’s elections in Uruguay. The referendum, pushed by Sen. Jorge Larrañaga of the right-wing National Party, would create a new military police force, the National Guard; allow security forces to carry out night raids; and impose mandatory life terms for serious crimes. The group Madres y Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos, made up of survivors of those “disappeared” during the years of military rule in Uruguay, issued a statement warning that approval of the initiative could be a step back toward dictatorship. (Photo: La Izquierda Diario)

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Chile: Mapuche join protest mobilization

Leaders of Chile’s Mapuche indigenous people announced their support for the massive protests that are sweeping the country, saying they will press their demands for local autonomy in their traditional territories. Aucán Huilcamánn of the Consejo de Todas las Tierras (Council of All Lands) made the declaration in the city of Temuco, Araucanía region, standing beside Marcelo Catrillanca—father of a young Mapuche man killed by the paramilitary Carabineros last year, an outrage that sparked local protests. Camilo Catrillanca was shot in the back last November while working his lands in the community of Temucuicui. He had been driving his tractor away from an outpost of the Carabineros’ Special Police Operations Group (GOPE)—the same elite force that now being unleashed on protesters in Chile’s cities. Four ex-Carabineros have been arrested in the case. (Photo: Soy Chile)

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Santiago protest

Econo-protests from Santiago to Beirut

A state of emergency has been declared in Chile following protests that initially erupted over transit fare hikes in Santiago but quickly escalated to an uprising over general economic agony. Youth have blocked thoroughfares, burned buses and ransacked shops, while whole families have filled the streets in a nationwide cacerolazo—beating pots and pans to express outrage over the high cost of living. Protesters have similarly taken the streets, erected barricades and clashed with police in Lebanon, where a state of “economic emergency” has been declared. Again, demonstrations were initially sparked by government plans to impose a tax on text messaging, but protests have continued even after the tax was rescinded in response to the upsurge of popular anger. Demonstrators have revived the slogan from the 2011 Arab Revolution, “The people demand the fall of the regime.” (Photo: KaosEnLaRed)

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Italy

Calabrian connection in Brazil narco busts

Brazilian police arrested a man accused as a leader of the notorious First Capital Command drug gang, who was named as a top contact in South America of southern Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta crime network. “Andre do Rap,” detained in Sao Paolo in an operation that included US DEA agents, is said to have overseen massive cocaine exports to Europe via Italy’s southern region of Calabria. In July, police arrested two Italian nationals at a luxury seaside apartment in Sao Paulo, who were also said to be ‘Ndrangheta operatives. A month earlier, accused top ‘Ndrangheta figure Rocco Morabito escaped from a prison in Uruguay—angering Rome, which had been awaiting his extradition. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

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Italy hands down sentences in ‘Operation Condor’

An appeals court in Rome sentenced 24 to life in prison, including former senior officials of the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The officials were found to have been involved in Operation Condor, under which opponents of military rule were hunted down across South America’s borders in the 1970s and early ’80s. The exact number killed is not known. The case focused on the disappearance of 43 people, including 23 Italian citizens. Prosecutors applied the “universal jurisdiction” precedent from the 1998 arrest in London of Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. They also referenced the 2016 conviction of leaders of Argentina’s military dictatorship, which confirmed the existence of Operation Condor for the first time. (Image via Deep Dives)

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Chinese ‘spaceport’ military outpost in Argentina?

Announcement of a joint Chinese-Argentine satellite production company comes amid growing concern within Argentina about activities at the Chinese-operated "spaceport" at Bajada del Agrio in Patagonia—and the apparent role of the People's Liberation Army in the facility. The Bajada del Agrio facility played a part in tracking China's recent lunar probe, but is overseen by companies that answer directly to the PLA's General Armaments Department. Only personnel authorized by Beijing have access to the facility, arousing much suspicion about the site in Argentina's news media. (Photo via InfoBae)