Southern Cone

Chile: Bachelet promises new Mapuche policy

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced a new policy for the country's indigenous communities on June 24, We Tripantu, the last day of the June 21-24 New Year celebrations observed by the Mapuche, the largest of the indigenous groups. The new policy includes the creation of an Indigenous Affairs Ministry; a Council of Indigenous Peoples to develop proposals and oversee negotiations; designated seats in Congress for indigenous groups; a commission to establish an official version of indigenous history acceptable to all sides; and a continuation of an existing program through which the government buys territory in the south-central Araucanía region and transfers it to Mapuche communities that claim it, with the goal of ending land disputes and occupations that have troubled the region in recent years.

Chile: HidroAysén dam project is scrapped

Chile's environment, energy, agriculture, mining, economy and health ministers voted unanimously at a June 10 meeting to terminate plans for the $8 billion HidroAysén hydroelectric project, a complex of five dams that was to be built on the Baker and Pascua rivers in the Aysén region in southern Patagonia. Environmentalists and many area residents had vigorously opposed the project since it was first proposed in August 2007. HidroAysén supporters said the dams were necessary to meet energy requirements for the country, which currently gets about 40% of its power from hydroelectric projects. But Socialist president Michelle Bachelet, who began her second term on Mar. 11, has indicated that her government will push instead for more use of alternative sources and for the importation of liquefied natural gas. The companies behind the project—the Spanish-Italian electric energy consortium Endesa-Enel, which owns 51%, and the Chilean company Colbún S.A.—have 30 days to appeal the ministers' decision.

Brazil: homeless win some in the World Cup

The governments of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad reached an agreement on June 9 with the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) ending the threat that the group's protests would disrupt the June 12 opening game of the 2014 World Cup soccer championship. Officials agreed to build some 2,000 housing units in vacant private land where about 4,000 homeless people had set up an encampment, "The People's Cup," near the site of the first game, São Paulo's Arena Corinthians. The land occupation started a month earlier as a protest against the allocation of money to sports events rather than inexpensive housing. The MTST also won greater flexibility in the implementation of a federal housing program and a commitment to create a federal commission to prevent forced displacements of homeless people. In exchange the MTST in effect agreed to end its mobilizations, which were the largest of the protests that swept São Paulo in previous weeks.

Brazil: strikes and protests greet World Cup

Transit workers started an open-ended strike in São Paulo on June 5, just one week before the city, Brazil's largest, was to host the opening game of the June 12-July 13 World Cup soccer championship. According to the Subway Workers Union, the strike had paralyzed 30 of the city's 60 subway stations as of June 6; some 20 million people live in the São Paulo metropolitan area, and the subways carry about 4.5 million riders each day. Angry riders smashed turnstiles the first day of the strike at the Itaquera station, near the Arena Corinthians, the site of the June 12 game. The next day, on June 6, police agents used nightsticks and tear gas on strikers at the central Ana Rosa station when they refused to move their picket line; at least three unionists were injured.

Chile ends Pinochet embezzlement investigation

A Chilean court on May 30 said that it has completed the 10-year investigation into the origin of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's fortune and his suspected embezzlement of public funds. In an unanimous decision, an an appeals court in Santiago closed the investigation, allowing Judge Manuel Valderrama to formally accuse former military members who collaborated with Pinochet in the "Riggs Bank case." Pinochet was charged in 2005 with tax evasion in connection with the millions of dollars he held in foreign bank accounts, which was discovered after the US Senate's investigation into banking irregularities at the now-defunct Riggs Bank. Last year, a court decided not to charge any of Pinochet's family members, but did charge six former military officers for the suspected embezzlement of public funds. An audit done by the Universidad de Chile's Business and Economic faculty in 2010 estimated that Pinochet accumulated $21 million before his death, of which more than $17 million was of unknown origin.

Latin America: protests target Monsanto, Chevron

Latin American activists joined thousands of environmentalists and farmers around the world in an international protest May 24 against genetically modified (GM) crops and Monsanto, the Missouri-based multinational that dominates the transgenic seed industry. This was the third March Against Monsanto since May 25 last year, and organizers expected the day of action to include protests in some 351 cities in 52 countries.

Argentina: 'villa' residents fast for city services

As of May 18 a group of Argentine activists were continuing an encampment they had set up on April 21 at the Obelisk in Buenos Aires' Plaza de la República to push their demands for improved services in the city's 17 marginal communities, known in Argentina as "villas." The action's sponsor, the leftist Independent Villa Residents' Current, was calling on the government of right-wing Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri to declare a housing, health and educational emergency in the impoverished communities; to formalize their status as urban areas; to carry out audits of the cooperatives and businesses that work in the neighborhoods; and to regularize rents and housing subsidies. A statement by the group denounced what it called "the model of two cities that Macri proposes, where the rich city excludes the poor one…while officials of the city government don't hide their intention to fill their pockets." Leftist groups have confronted the Macri government in the past over plans that they say favor real estate interests over the needs of the majority of city residents.

Argentina: deal to probe AMIA blast struck down

An appeals court in Argentina ruled May 15 that a controversial agreement between Argentina and Iran to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center was unconstitutional. The two nations signed the agreement in January 2013, which permitted Argentinian authorities to question the Iranian suspects under Interpol arrest warrants, but only in Tehran. The agreement angered Jewish groups, who said that the deal empowered Iran without bringing any suspects to justice. Argentinine Foreign Relations Minister Hector Timerman announced that he plans to appeal the decision, saying that it was unprecedented for a court to strike down an international agreement. No one has been convicted in connection with the bombing, which killed 85 and injured more than 300 others.

Syndicate content