The Andes
Medellin march

Colombia: protests met with repression —again

The protest wave in Colombia was revived with a national mobilization—to be again met with repression from the security forces. Protest organizers explicitly rejected violence, but police and gangs of masked men sabotaged efforts by municipal authorities to maintain the peace in the country’s two biggest cities. In both Bogotá and Medellín, the progressive mayors who defeated President Ivan Duque‘s far-right Democratic Center party in local elections last year had adopted protocols to prevent attacks on peaceful protesters by the feared National Police riot squad, ESMAD. Yet in both cities, clashes erupted, with several injured and scores arrested. In a repeat of a strategy also seen in last November’s protests, police raided the homes of two Bogotá activists the night before the mobilization. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

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false positives

Colombia: ex-army chief called to trial over killings

The former commander of Colombia’s armed forces, retired general Mario Montoya, has been summoned to appear before a trial to take place under the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) concerning the grisly practice of “false positives”—the killing of thousands of non-combatants in the guise of military operations against the guerillas. Under terms of the JEP, Montoya will receive leniency if he confesses the full truth. However, if he is caught lying or trying to conceal even a portion of the truth, he may be expelled from the transitional justice court and could face a 40-year prison term. Montoya has always maintained his innocence in the “false positives” scandal, but the JEP judicial authorities say this is contradicted by evidence and the testimony of 11 of his former subordinates. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

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paramilitaries

Colombia: UN protests slaying of rights activists

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the killings of human rights defenders in Colombia last year. The statement said the commission is “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019.” The commission asserted that there were between 107 and 120 killings of rights activists in Colombia over the course of the year. It called on the “Colombian Government to make a strenuous effort to prevent attacks on people defending fundamental rights, to investigate each and every case and to prosecute those responsible for these violations, including instigating or aiding and abetting violations.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

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Chapare

Bolivia: regime threatens autonomous Chapare

The new Bolivian regime’s Government Minister Arturo Murillo is threatening a military invasion of the eastern lowland region of Chapare, heartland of support for ousted president Evo Morales, which has become a de facto autonmous zone outside the control of La Paz. Murillo implied to reporters that planned new elections will not proceed until control over Chapare has been re-established. In the aftermath of the November coup, the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba, the cocalero alliance once led by Morales, mobilized to resist the new regime. The region was cut off by cocalero roadblocks, and several National Police statons burned. The roadblocks have since been relaxed, but large areas of the province are without any police presence and effectively independent. (Photo: Ollie Vargas via Twitter)

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FELCC

‘Anti-terrorist’ militarization in Bolivia

The new Bolivian regime’s Government Minister Arturo Murillo has announced creation of a special “Anti-Terrorist Group” (GAT), drawn from elite units of the National Police force, to “completely disarticulate all the terrorist cells” operating in the country. Murillo made the announcement at a meeting of the National Police Special Anti-Crime Struggle Force (FELCC) in Santa Cruz, where he charged that recent political violence in the country had been instrumented by foreign “terrorist” operatives financed by Venezuela as part of a plan to “destabilize” the countries of South America. He later told reporters that he would seek Israeli security aid for the new anti-terrorist unit. (Photo: La Razón)

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sutesal

Peru next for regional protest wave?

Weeks after a nationwide uprising in Chile was sparked by protests over transit fare hikes in the capital, politicians in neighboring Peru are issuing nervous warnings in the wake of days of street demonstrations in Lima. This week, students occupied Central Station on Lima’s Metro to demand subsidized transit fares, workers marched to oppose the privatization of the city’s water system, and hundreds protested the pending release of imprisoned right-wing political leader Keiko Fujimori. President Martin Vizcarra took note of the threat of widespread unrest when he told the Annual Conference of Executives that Peru “is not free of protests” and must work to fight corruption and close the wealth gap. But his prescription was for an “authentic” free market—precisely the policies now being protested. (Photo: Diario Uno)

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Rafael Quispe

Bolivia: signs of de-escalation following dialogue

Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly passed an “Exceptional & Transitional Regime Law” that annus last month’s contested elections and calls for new elections to be held within 120 days—without Evo Morales as a candidate. The pact follows talks mediated by the Catholic Church and the European Union between the new government of interim president Jeanine Añez and leaders of the ousted Morales’ party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), which continues to hold a majority in both houses of the Assembly. As a part of the talks, Morales supporters in the countryside have agreed to dismantle their roadblocks. Rafael Quispe, a traditional Ayamara leader, was also appointed to head Bolivia’s indigenous development agency. (Photo of Rafael Quispe being sworn in via El Pais, Tarija)

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Cauca blast

War escalating in Colombia’s south

As Colombia’s major cities exploded into protest amid a national strike, a truck-bomb attack targeted a police station in the southern department of Cauca, leaving three officers dead. Authorities blamed the blast in the town of Santander de Quilichao on “dissident” elements of the FARC guerillas who have remained in arms despite the peace accords. The blast came two weeks after Colombia’s defense minister Guillermo Botero resigned amid outrage over an air-strike on a supposed guerilla camp in the neighboring department of Caquetá, in which several children were revealed to have been killed. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

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Bogota protest

Duque starts dialogue after Colombia strike

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque has convened his National Labor Concord Commission to begin the “National Conversation” he pledged this week in a bid to quell a fast-mounting anti-government protest wave. Social leaders, mayors and departmental governors from across the country are to participate in the talks. The protests escalated when trade unions, including the giant Unitary Workers Central (CUT), called a nationwide general strike, and repressive measures by the National Police only fueled the mass mobilization. (Photo: Hollman Morris via Colombia Reports)

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El Alto protest

Bolivia: security forces fire on protesters —again

At least six were killed and some 20 injured when Bolivian army and National Police troops opened fire on protesters demanding the reinstatement of deposed president Evo Morales in the working-class city of El Alto. Protesters had been blockading the entrance to Senkata gasworks and oil refinery in the city for three days when troops attempted to clear the gates to allow tanker-trucks through to supply gasoline to La Paz. The blockade of the Senkata plant has caused shortages in La Paz, and cut-backs in public transport. The hydrocarbons minister, appointed by the new de facto regime, appeared to justify the violence, saying, “Except for use of the gas, we seek to avoid aggression.” (Photo via Carwil Bjork-James)

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Sacaba

Massacre of indigenous protesters in Bolivia

Several are reported dead after National Police and army troops opened fire on indigenous demonstrators marching on the Bolivian city of Cochabamba. A march demanding the reinstatement of ousted president Evo Morales started that morning from the town of Sacaba, gateway to the Chapare region where Morales began his career as a campesino leader in the 1990s and still the heartland of his support base. When security forces attempted to block their way over a bridge, a clash ensued. The Defensoría del Pueblo, Bolivia’s official human rights office, confirmed the death of five, with 29 more injured, but local media put the death toll at nine. Some 200 were also detained. The National Police claimed on Twitter that the protesters attacked troops with “improvised firearms.” No casualties among the security forces were reported. (Image: Alba TV via Twitter)

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lithium fields

Bolivia: lithium interests at play in Evo’s ouster?

Bolivia’s government issued a decree cancelling a massive joint lithium project with German multinational ACI Systems Alemania—just days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by residents in the southern department of Potosí, where the lithium-rich salt-flats are located. Potosí governor Juan Carlos Cejas reacted to the cancellation by blaming the protests on “agitators” seeking to undermine development in the region. Plans for lithium exploitation were first announced over a decade ago, but have seen little progress—in large part due to the opposition of local communities, who fear the region’s scarce water resources will be threatened by mining. (Photo: Wikipedia)