Colombia's Constitutional Court on June 11 overturned a government decree from 2012 that would allow mining in nine areas of the country, together making up 20% of the national territory—a collective area approximately the size of Minnesota. The designated "Strategic Mining Areas" were decalred by the National Mining Agency in decrees 180241 and 0045 of February and June 2012, respectively, affecting lands in some 20 departments, from the Pacific coast to the interior Amazon. The challenge was brought by the NGO Tierra Digna on behalf of several indigenous and campesino groups within these areas, who said to the decrees violated their right to prior consultation. The ruling virtually ends the government's declared ambition to make mining the “motor” of the Colombian economy. (El Tiempo, June 13; Colombia Reports, June 12; El Espectador, June 11)
The Colombian government announced June 22 that it has agreed to a bilateral ceasefire with the FARC guerillas—hailed as an historic step toward a deal to end the long civil war. Negotiators on both sides issued a communique in the Cuban capital, Havana, seat of the peace dialogue that was launched in September 2012. FARC commander Carlos Lozada tweeted: "On Thursday, June 23, we will announce the last day of the war." President Juan Manuel Santos will fly to Havana for the ceremony, which will be overseen by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Cuban President Raúl Castro. Addressing skepticism on the right, Santos asserted that "FARC will turn over the last pistol." But leftist lawmaker Iván Cepeda, who served as a facilitator in the talks with the FARC, hailed the ceasefire agreement as "historic for Colombia." The FARC has for months maintained a unilateral ceasefire, that the government has until now failed to answer. (El Espectador, Al Jazeera, Radio Australia, June 22; El Espectador, CM&, June 21)
Peru's president-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has unveiled a platform that calls for privatizing and "individualizing" communal lands to facilitate mineral and agribusiness development. On June 10, PPK's "virtual" minister for Economy and Finance, Alfredo Thorne, told Lima's Radio Capital: "A big part of the properties where the mines are located are today communal property. These properties must be individualized, to give the individual the power to use his land, or to sell it to a mining company or sell it for agriculture." He said he is already working on a map of Peru's properties, to begin "interchanging communal titles to individual titles."
Venezuelan police on June 10 raided the offices of the Trotskyist left-opposition organization Marea Socialista in Caracas on the orders of a local court. The raid was carried out by agents of the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigative Corps (CICPC), with a warrant to search the premises for "objects of criminal interest," including "counterfeit foreign currency," "firearms," "information storage units," and "documentation related to financial transactions." According to a press statement issued by Marea Socialista, the agents arrived at the offices heavily armed, offered no explanation for the search, and promptly departed a half-hour later after failing to find what they were looking for. The party's founder Nicmer Evans confirmed that following the raid the organization received two calls from the CICPC director, who "tried to justify that the cause for the raid was not related to MS." The statement called the incident a "grave violation of political liberties," and the latest in a series of "retaliations, threats, violations of privacy, firings, and limitations of social and political rights" that the party's members have suffered in the "last three years" and especially in the "last six months."
Four agonizing days after Peru's June 5 presidential race, the final tally was at last announced, giving the center-right Pedro Pablo Kuczynski the narrowest of victories over the openly fascistic Keiko Fujimori. (Diario Uno, DW) The uninspiriing "PPK" is a neoliberal technocrat and veteran cabinet minister. As a World Bank economist he promoted mining and extractive industries in the developing world. He was made minister of Mines & Energy by president Fernando Belaunde in 1980, and went on to become finance minister and cabinet chief under Alejandro Toledo in 2000. Under Toledo, he continued the privatization policies initiated under the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori. (Peru Reports) But his opponent Keiko is the now-imprisoned dictator's daughter—who intransigently defends her father's blood-drenched legacy. (As the race heated up, she did pledge not to repeat his "mistakes," a rather euphemistic term for massive human rights violations. She similarly pledged not to have him pardoned if she won—after having for years previously called for his pardon.) (TeleSur, Villager) In other words, she represented a return to fujimorismo—a mix of law-and-order populism and an aggressively pro-corporate economic program. Does this sound familiar?
A court in Ecuador's city of Loja on May 30 sentenced two indigenous activists to four years in prison for their role in protests last year. Supporters gathered outside the courthouse, calling the convictions a transgression of justice and asserting that the violence at the protests last August was sparked by police. The defendants, Luisa Lozano and Amable Angamarca, are among 29 comuneros from Saraguro village arrested during the protests and facing charges including "sabotage," "terrorism," and "paralyzing public services." On June 6, a rally in support of the "Saraguro 29" was also held outside the Consejo de la Judicatura, Ecuador's justice department, in Quito. Supporters from the indigenous alliance CONAIE chanted "Liberty, liberty!" Lozano and Angamarca issued their own private statement to Diego Zorrilla, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ecuador, condemning the sentence as a criminalization of protest movements. (CONAIE statement via INREDH, June 8; El Comercio, Quito, El Universo, Guayaquil, June 7; El Universo, EFE, June 6)
Campesinos launched a strike across Colombia May 31, with some 100,000 blocking highways and effectively shutting down at least half of the country's 32 departments. One is reported dead from clashes at a roadblock outside the main Pacific port of Buenaventura, and four soliders were briefly detained by protesters on the Quibdó-Medellín highway. The "indefinite" strike, or National Agrarian Minga, was called to protest the economic policies of President Juan Manuel Santos, and especially to press him on promises made in 2013 to end a similar national strike that left dozens dead. "They have not complied with 30% of the accords," said Robert Daza of the Agrarian Summit. He charged Santos with drawing up a National Development Plan that corresponds to the needs of the Free Trade Agreement with Washington rather than Colombia's small producers. Daza said Santos is "putting the strategic resources of the nation up for sale [and] distributing the land in an unequal manner."
As Venezuela lurches deeper into political crisis, President Nicolas Maduro has announced a new phase in the government's controversial "Operation Liberate the People" security program, pledging to cleanse the country of gang-related crime. Thousands of elite military troops have been deployed across Caracas, with five new "permanent" bases and over 130 checkpoints established in the city. Perhaps not coincidentally, this comes as Maduro has declared a "state of emergency" throughout the country in response to a supposed US-backed conspiracy against him by the political opposition, earning rebukes from Amnesty International, which called the declaration "alarming."