Southern Cone

Brazil: deadly prison riot sets off angry protests

At least 13 inmates were killed and some 30 injured in a clash between rival gangs Oct. 10 at Pedrinhas prison in São Luis, in Brazil's northeastern state of Maranhão. Authorities said violence broke out after guards discovered inmates digging an escape tunnel. The inmates fought the attacking guards and started a fire, as members of rival gangs took advantage of the confusion to settle scores. Then, as news of the conflagration broke, relatives of inmates gathered outside the prison, demanding information. When this was not forthcoming, they began to throw stones at the guards, took over a roadway, and set several buses on fire.

Chile: special forces raid Mapuche community

Some 300 police agents carried out a raid the morning of Oct. 9 at an estate occupied by members of the indigenous Mapuche community of Temucuicui in Chile's southern region of Araucanía. According to community members, agents from the carabineros militarized police destroyed houses and crops, beat residents and ran over sheep with their vehicles, killing 15 animals and injuring many others. At least four people were arrested, including werken (spokesperson) Mijael Carbone Queipul; his wife, Susana Venegas Curinao; werken Jorge Huenchullán; and his brother, who was reportedly wounded by a bullet.

Will Iran thaw bring justice for AMIA victims?

Argentina and Iran have agreed to proceed with a joint investigation into the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, Argentine foreign minister Héctor Timerman said after a Sept. 28 meeting in New York with the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Argentina has formally charged several former members of the Iranian government with planning the attack, which left 85 dead and some 300 injured in the worst incident of anti-Semitic violence since World War 2; Argentine prosecutors say the Lebanese organization Hezbollah supplied the suicide bomber who carried out the attack. 

Argentina: students occupy to protest 'reform'

As of Sept. 20 Argentine high school students had occupied 10 schools in Buenos Aires to protest an "educational reform" program that the capital's rightwing mayor, Mauricio Macri, plans to institute at the beginning of the next school year in March 2014. The students held assemblies at each school to decide whether to take action. Some schools voted against the occupations: 495 of the 565 students at Julio Argentino Roca voted not to occupy, as did 340 of 420 students at Normal 6. Students from the occupied schools held a joint assembly and announced plans for a Sept. 23 press conference.

Chile: thousands mark 40th anniversary of coup

Tens of thousands of Chileans marched down the Alameda avenue in central Santiago on Sept. 8 in one of a series of events marking the 40th anniversary of the US-backed Sept. 11, 1973 coup that installed the military dictatorship headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet Urgarte (1973-1990). The marchers, some carrying signs reading "40 years since the coup, nothing and no one is forgotten," demanded justice for the victims. The organizers said 60,000 people participated in the action, which is sponsored each year by the National Assembly for Human Rights, while the police put the number at 30,000. A confrontation broke out at the march’s end between agents of the carabineros militarized police and masked protesters; 31 people were arrested and seven agents were injured, according to the police. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 9, from AP, AFP)

Brazil: 300 arrested in new round of protests

Some 300 people were arrested and 35 injured when thousands of Brazilians held protests in more than 150 cities on Sept. 7, Brazil's Independence Day. As in massive demonstrations that broke out in June, the protesters on Sept. 7 demanded improvements in healthcare, education and other public services and opposed the large expenditure of government funds to build sports stadiums for the 2014 World Cup soccer championship and the 2016 Olympic Games. The new actions were reportedly much smaller and more violent than the earlier demonstrations.

Argentina: Mapuche block oil facility after fires

Some 200 indigenous Mapuche blocked the entrance to a facility of Argentina's state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company on Aug. 31 in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén to protest the burning of five of their buildings. The residents blamed YPF security guards for the fires, which destroyed four homes and the meeting place for their community, Campo Maripe, on Aug. 30 and in the early morning of Aug. 31. The company denies responsibility, but Mapuche spokespeople noted that there is security at the YPF site, provided by the Neuquén provincial government, and that YPF is building a separating plant just 100 meters from the first of the houses to be set on fire. They asked how it was possible "that a building could be set on fire just hundreds of meters from the oil wells and derricks and no one observed anything."

Paraguay: military unleashed to fight guerillas

Paraguay's Congress on Aug. 22 voted up broad powers allowing the executive branch to use the armed forces for domestic policing—just one week after new President Horacio Cartes was sworn in, returning the once-entrenched right-wing Colorado Party to power after a hiatus of five years.  The vote follows a "state of alert" declared Aug. 18 after rebels of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) attacked the Brazilian-owned Kororó estate in Tacuatí, San Pedro department, killing four private guards and then engaging National Police troops who responded, injuring one. The left-nationalist EPP, which took up arms in 2005, has been increasingly active in the north of the country in recent months, attacking police posts and demanding redistribution of the landed estates to the peasantry. (BBC News, Ultima Hora, Paraguay, Aug. 22; La Nación, Paraguay, BBC News, DPA, Aug. 18; Ultima Hora, Aug. 17; BBC News, Aug. 15)

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