Southern Cone

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.

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)

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