Andean Theater

'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 Dec. 2 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 particularly mentioned Martín Serna Ponce, a supposed operative of Peru's defunct Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), and Facundo Morales Schoenfeld, a veteran of Colombia's FARC. (Aristegui Noticias, Mexico, Dec. 3; La Razón, La Paz, Dec. 2)

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. On Nov. 29, students occupied Central Station on Lima's Metro to demand subsidized transit fares, "adjusted to the real incomes of Peruvians." The riot police were mobilized to clear the station, and a tense stand-off with protesters ensued. (EuroNews, Peru21, Nov. 29) Nov. 28 saw an angry march throughout downtown Lima by municipal water-workers and their trade-union allies, to oppose the privatization of the city's water system. The march was called by the water-workers union SUTESAL after President Martín Vizcarra signed Supreme Decree 214, calling for the sale of shares in the Lima Potable Water & Sewage Service (SEDAPAL), initiating longstanding plans to privatize the state company.  (Diario Uno, Nov. 29; Gestión, Nov. 15)

Bolivia: signs of de-escalation following dialogue

Bolivia's Plurinational Legislative Assembly on Nov. 23 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 date for the new polls is to be set once new members of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal are appointed. 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. (EuroNews, Nov. 25; PaginaSiete, La Paz, AP, Nov. 24; Reuters, Nov. 23)

War escalating in Colombia's south

As Colombia's major cities exploded into protest amid a national strike on the nigt of Nov. 21, a truck-bomb attack targeted a National 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. President Ivan Duque dispatched Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and several of his top officials to Cauca after the attack to take stock of the security situation in the department. (El Espectador, Colombia Reports, Nov. 23)

Duque starts dialogue after Colombia strike

Colombia's President Ivan Duque on Nov. 24 convened his National Labor Concord Commission (Comisión Nacional de Concertación Laboral) to begin the "National Conversation" he pledged four days earlier 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 Nov. 21 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.

Bolivia: security forces fire on protesters —again

At least six were killed and some 20 injured when Bolivian army and National Police 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 on Nov. 19, when troops backed up by armored vehicles attempted to clear the gates, allowing tanker-trucks through to supply gasoline to La Paz. Bolivia's official rights agency, the Defensoría del Pueblo, confirmed the death of three in the incident, but local media are putting the toll as high as eight.

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 Nov. 15. 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 it arrived at the pueblo of Huayllani, on the edge of Sacaba municipality, security forces attempted to block their way over a bridge, and a clash ensued. The Defensoría del Pueblo, Bolivia's official human rights office, has confirmed the death of five, with 29 injured, but local media put the death toll at nine. Some 200 were also detained. The National Police claimed on Twitter that protesters attacked troops with "improvised firearms." No casualties among the security forces were reported.

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 (ACISA)—just days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by local 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. (DW, Nov. 4)

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