Southern Cone

Chile: 'Caravan of Death' perps guilty of murder

A Chilean judge found eight former members of the military guilty of murder on Dec. 23 for their roles in killings perpetrated during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The men were members of the "Caravan of Death," a military operation involved in the suppression of political opponents during the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power. The Caravan of Death was responsible for the deaths of nearly 100 people between September and October of 1973. The group travelled to at least 16 towns during that time, though this conviction only relates to killings that took place in the city of Antofagasta. The accused have been sentenced to between three to 15 years in prison, though their sentence may still be subject to appeal.

Chilean anarchists to speak in New York City

Two Chilean anarchists, Gabriel and Pablo, are touring the US and will speak in New York City Jan. 25, on "Struggling to Win: Anarchists Building Popular Power in Chile." Gabriel is a militant of the Libertarian Students Front (FEL) and a veteran of the student protests that have rocked Chile in recent years; Pablo is a founding member of Librería Proyección, a social center and bookstore in downtown Santiago. In their talk at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS), 155 Ave. C on Manhattan's Lower East Side, they will discuss anarchist spaces, murals and street art in Santiago, and the role of such projects in Chile's larger social struggle. The presentation will be followed by a reception.

Argentina: anti-Monsanto protesters attacked

On the morning of Nov. 28 some 60 men and women attacked an encampment of protesters who for the past two months had been blocking construction of a seed-drying plant in Malvinas Argentinas, a town in the central Argentine province of Córdoba, by the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company. The attackers, arriving in two rented buses, used rocks and clubs to drive away protesters at two points where they were blocking access to the construction site. Once the road was cleared, seven trucks delivered construction materials. Later, a confrontation broke out between the attackers and the protesters, who included Malvinas Argentinas residents and environmentalists from other parts of Argentina. Police agents finally intervened by firing rubbers bullets. As many as 20 protesters were injured in the incident, along with three police agents; it was unclear how many attackers were hurt.

Argentina: residents block Monsanto plant

As of Nov. 23 residents of Malvinas Argentinas in the central Argentine province of Córdoba had succeeded for more than two months in their effort to stop the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company from building a corn seed-drying plant in their town. After more than a year of protests against plans for the $300 million, 27-hectare plant—projected to be the company's largest facility in Latin America—the Malvinas Struggles for Life Neighbors' Assembly announced a "Spring Without Monsanto" festival to be held outside the construction site on Sept. 19, three days before the start of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. The festival launched an open-ended blockade of the plant. With access cut off, the construction contractors removed their heavy equipment and the workers didn't come to the site. Monsanto acknowledged that the project was suffering a setback. 

Chile: four are sentenced for gay youth's death

On Oct. 28 the Fourth Oral Criminal Court in Santiago, Chile, sentenced Patricio Ahumada Garay to life in prison for a brutal assault on Daniel Zamudio, a gay young man, on Mar. 3, 2012; Zamudio died of his injuries three weeks later. The court sentenced three other men to prison for participating in the assault: Alejandro Angulo and Raúl López were each given 15 years in prison, and Fabián Mora Mora seven years. The sentences were the same as those requested by the prosecutor, Ernesto Vásquez, and by Jaime Silva, the attorney for the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh), except in the case of Fabián Mora; the lawyers had asked for an eight-year sentence.

Paraguay pressed on indigenous land restitution

Directors of the Americas sections of Amnesty International on Oct. 30 sent an open letter to Paraguay's senators demanding immediate restitution of usurped lands to the Enxet indigenous community of Sawhoyamaxa in the Gran Chaco region, charging that a 2006 ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) in favor of the community is going unenforced. In August, the government issued a decree calling for purchase of 14,000 hectares of usurped Sawhoyamaxa lands from a local rancher and their return to the community, but the rancher has refused to negotiate. Enxet communities began legal action for return of their lands in 1991, after which they were evicted from the usurped lands, where many had been employed as ranch hands. The Sawhoyamaxa community was forced to relocate to unused lands on the side of a highway, where they have since been living in poverty, with no access to basic services. The CIDH decision alo called for the restitution of Enxet communities Yakye Axa and Xámok Kásek—cases which likewise remain outstanding. (ABC Color, Nov. 8; Ultima Hora, Oct. 30; AI, Sept. 29, 2011)

Chile: Barrick suspends Pascua Lama construction

The Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation, the world's largest gold producer, announced on Oct. 31 that it was temporarily halting work on its unfinished Pascua Lama gold and silver mine high in the Andes on the Chilean-Argentine border. The only operations at the mine will be those required for compliance with environmental protection laws, according to the company, which said resumption of work would depend on costs and the outlook for gold prices. The projected cost of the massive mine, which was originally set to open in the second half of 2014, has risen from $3 billion in 2009 to $8.5 billion now. Barrick is short of cash after a dramatic drop in international gold prices in the spring; gold is currently selling for 20% less than it was a year ago. Barrick is cutting 1,850 jobs and is said to be considering the possibility of selling an interest in Pascua Lama, on which it has spent $5.4 billion to date.

Brazil: protesters target oil auction, transit fare

Hundreds of Brazilian unionists, teachers, students and leftists held a militant demonstration outside the Windsor Hotel in Rio Janeiro's Barra da Tijuca neighborhood on Oct. 21 to protest an auction being held there for rights to develop the Libra oilfield in the Bay of Santos. Denouncing the auction as a partial privatization of the country's largest source of petroleum, the demonstrators attempted to invade the hotel, confronting some 1,100 soldiers backed by agents of the National Security Force, and the federal, civil and militarized police. Protesters, some of them masked Black Bloc activists, fought with the agents, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. At least six people were injured, and a vehicle belonging to the Rede Record television network was set on fire.

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