Southern Cone

Brazil: police implicated in Sao Paulo massacre

Gunmen killed at least 18 people in outlying districts of Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, in a series of overnight attacks Aug. 14. Witnesses and video footage in several locations indicated that masked gunmen pulled up in a car before opening fire. In many cases they checked the victims' names before shooting, or asked if they had criminal records. At least six other people were injured in the attacks, in the districts of Osasco and Barueri. Authorities are said to be investigating whether the attacks were a coordinated campaign of revenge by off-duty officers following the deaths of two colleagues in the targeted districts the previous week. Police in Brazil are responsible for more than 2,000 deaths per year, and off-duty officers rarely face prosecution for vigilante justice. (Reuters, BBC News, Aug. 15)

Chile: suicide follows 'dirty war' conviction

One day after Chile's Supreme Court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for a "dirty war" crime, retired Gen. Hernán Ramírez Rurange shot himself in the head in his apartment in Santiago on Aug. 13. Ramírez was convicted as intellectual author of the "disappearance" of Eugenio Berríos, a chemist with the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA). Berrios disappeared in 1992 after fleeing to Uruguay to avoid testifying in assassination cases  carried out under Operation Condor. Among the cases at issue was apparently that of former foreign minister Orlando Letelier, slain by a car-bomb attack in Washington DC in 1976. (EFE, 24Horas, Aug. 14; TeleSUR, La Trecera, Aug 13)

Labor split on Argentine transit strike

A transport strike in Argentina brought Buenos Aires and other parts of the country to a standstill June 9. The 24-hour walkout—the second in three months—affected bus, train, plane and subway services. The strike was called by the Automotive Transport Union (UTA) to oppose a move by the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to cap salary increases at 27%, complaining that the figure does not match the forecast 30% inflation expected this year. Highways were blocked and a mass rally held in front of the Labor Mnistry building—but Ministrer Carlos Tomada was dismissive of the action. "This strike is anything but a strike which seeks to defend workers," he told reporters, charging that the workers were "striking against the popular government, and not against their employers."

Argentina: indigenous summit in Buenos Aires

Indigenous leaders from across Argentina's 17 provinces met in Buenos Aires on May 27-9 to coordinate resistance to dispossession from their ancestral lands by interests of fracking, mining, hydroelectric development and soy cultivation. The First National Summit of Indigenous Peoples was called by the inter-ethnic association QOPIWINI, which since February has been maintining a protest encampment in in downtown Buenos Aires to oppose land-grabs in indigenous territories across the country. The summit was especially called to respond to a recent wave of violent attacks on indigenous protesters—including a Molotov cocktail hurled at the QOPIWINI camp by unknown assailants on April 24.

Argentina: golpe or auto-golpe?

A federal judge in Argentina on Feb. 26 dismissed charges against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, who had been accused of covering up Iranian involvement in the deadly 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA). Judge Daniel Rafecas concluded that there was "no legal basis" to pursue the charges, which had been prepared by special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, just before he was found dead in his apartment last month. Rafecas also dismissed related charges against lawmaker Eduardo "Wado" de Pedro and two leftist leaders close the the government, Luis D'Elía and Fernando Estreche. (BBC News, InfoBAE, Feb. 26)

Argentina and Iran in oil-for-terror deal?

Organizers are claiming that up to half a million marched in the pouring rain in Buenos Aires Feb. 18 to demand justice in the case of Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who was found dead in his apartment exactly one month earlier, just after he had filed a criminal complaint charging that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman (among others) had conspired to cover up Iran's role in the deadly 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building. Although slogans against the government were not heard, the "silent march"—called by a group of prosecutors—was seen as a direct challenge to Fernández de Kirchner's administration. Members of Nisman's family, including his eldest daughter, also attended the march. Opposition parties such as the left-wing Broad Front UNEN and centrist Radical Civil Union (UCR) had a visible presence, but prosecutors who had taken on figures close to the Fernández de Kirchner government won the loudest applause, despite the official "silent" nature of the march. Significantly, the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Police—under Mayor Mauricio Macri, who was also at the march—put the figure of attendees at 400,000, while the Federal Police—under Security Secretary Sergio Berni, a member of Fernández de Kirchner's cabinet—estimated only 50,000. (Buenos Aires Herald, BBC News, Feb. 19; InfoBAE, Feb. 18)

Argentina: Chinese spaceport plan protested

Protesters led by the Party of Labor and the People (PTP) held a march Feb. 13 at Bajada del Agrio, in Argentina's Neuquén province, to oppose plans for a spaceport to be built in cooperation with China. The PTP's Popular Front issued a statement accusing national and provincial authorities of "deepening the dependence of our country on Chinese imperialism." It said the deal would establish a "foreign enclave" and constitute a "cession of Argentine sovereignty." Protesters marched to the construction site at Quintuco, where the base is to be operated by China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General (CLTC), an agency closely linked to the People's Liberation Army. (, Neuquén Al Instante, Feb. 13)

Chile: Mapuche continue drive for land

A group of about 70 indigenous Chilean Mapuche from the José Llancao community peacefully occupied a section of a government research farm in Vilcún commune in Cautín province, in the central Araucanía region, to further their demand for 60 hectares of land that they say belong to the community. The Carillanca Farming Research Center (INIA Carillanca) started as a private estate but has been operated as a research facility under the Agriculture Ministry for the past 50 years. According to the community's werken (spokesperson), Juan Alguilera Esquivel, the residents have been trying to reclaim the 60 hectares, which they say were usurped illegally by the owner of the private estate, for more than 20 years. The Mapuche, Chile's largest indigenous group, have been using land occupations since the 1990s in a campaign to regain land they consider ancestral territory. Local estate owners are strongly opposed to the community's claims on the research facility. "Not one meter should be sold," said Marcelo Zirotti, president of the Agricultural Development Society (SOFO). If the government gives up any land, "they'll be telling us, the farmers, that we should close up and go elsewhere." (Radio Bío Bío, Chile, Feb. 6; El Ciudadano, Chile, Feb. 6)

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