Social leader Milton Sánchez Cubas in Peru's northern Cajamarca region was acquitted July 16 of all criminal charges brought by the local subsidiary of US-based Newmont Mining. Prosecutors accused Sánchez of being "author" of the crime of "disturbance" in a protest concerning a land conflict between the company and a campesino family at the community of Tragadero Grande. Sánchez was represented by EarthRights International, which said in a statement, "[T]his case shows how the government uses legal tools to penalize freedom of expression, the right to information, freedom of assembly, and the right to protest." (ERI, July 16) Campesina Maxima Acuña de Chaupe, whose family lands were at issue in the dispute, was cleared of "land usurpation" by Peru's Supreme Court last May. (La República)
Colombia has taken significant steps back in a hardline pro-Washington direction since the election of the right-wing Iván Duque as the country's new president last month. Shortly after Duque's victory, the government announced that it will resume aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca crops—this time using drones rather than planes, to supposedly target the planted areas with greater precision. The move comes in response to a new report from the White House finding that Colombian coca cultivation has reached a new record. Data for 2017 indicates coca cultivation rose 11% to 209,000 hectares (516,450 acres), a level not seen in more than two decades of record-keeping. Estimated cocaine production increased 19 percent to 921 metric tons. "President Trump's message to Colombia is clear: The record growth in cocaine production must be reversed," said Jim Carroll, acting director for the US Office of National Drug Control Policy. (El Colombiano, June 26; AP, June 25)
Two opponents of a controversial hydro-electric project on Colombia's Río Cauca were slain by unknown assailants while they were working their fields in the riverside community pf El Pescadero, Puerto Valdivia municipality, Antioquia department, on May 8. Luis Alberto Torres Montoya and his brother Duvián Andrés Correa Sánchez were members of the Association of Artisanal Miners and Fishermen of Puerto Valdivia. Six days earlier, unidentified assailants killed Hugo Albeiro George Pérez, another community leader in Puerto Valdivia. All three were part of the Antioquia Ríos Vivos Movement that has publicly opposed construction of the Hidroituango project due to the environmental damage it has caused in the area, and had sought compensation for local families whose lands have been adversely impacted by the project. (Amnesty International, May 11; ¡Pacifista!, May 3)
Despite peace accords with the FARC guerillas, remnant right-wing paramilitary forces remain active across Colombia, and are escalating their reign of terror against indigenous and campesino communities. Several families have been displaced from the Afro-Colombian community of Juan Santos along the Río Naya (Cauca department) since an April 17 attack by a group of gunmen who abducted three residents. The families, numbering some 50 people, have taken refuge in nearby communities, fearing a new attack. (Prensa Rural, May 7)
Colombia’s voters on June 17 elected conservative Iván Duque as the country's president, handing a decisive defeat to leftist candidate Gustavo Petro in a run-off vote. Duque is political protege of ex-president Alvaro Urbe, a bitter opponent of the peace process with the former FARC guerillas, and campaigned on a pledge to revise the peace deal. A popular referendum on overturning the legislation that was passed to implement the peace deal has been broached. (Colombia Reports, Bogotá CIty Paper, Global Observatory, June 17)
Hundreds marched on Peru's Congress building June 5, in a rally that ended in clashes with the riot police in Lima's central Plaza San Martín, and a police car set on fire. The "Shut Down Congress" (Cierren el Congreso) mobilization was called to protest both economic austerity and official corruption, and came amid new revelations of vote-buying. It was the second such march since May 31, which saw a similar mobilization in downtown Lima. The press has dubbed the protest wave the "gasolinazo," as the high price of petrol (despite depressed global oil prices) is a key grievance.
There is a reasonable basis to believe that the Venezuelan government has committed crimes against humanity since at least 2012, according to the Organization of American States (OAS). After releasing a 400-page report (PDF) from a panel of independent experts, the OAS will be turning over its findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to aid in an investigation of Venezuela for government-sanctioned crimes. The panel documents claims concerning government-supported murder, false imprisonment, torture, sexual violence including rape, and enforced disappearance. The OAS asserts these crimes are part of a plan to suppress the political opposition in the country.
Peru's top public prosecutor Luis Landa Burgos on April 25 ordered that new charges be brought against ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori over the forcible sterilization of thousands of indigenous and peasant women during his time in power in the 1990s. Three of his former ministers, Marino Costa Bauer, Eduardo Yong Motta and Alejandro Aguinaga, are also to face charges, as well as his director of the National Family Planning Program, Jorge Parra Vergara. Also named are presidential advisor Ulises Jorge Aguilar and the health director for Cajamarca region, Segundo Henry Aliaga. Landa said he has an archive of testimony from survivors including Inés Condori, an indigenous woman from Cuzco region who was the first to speak out about the forced sterilization she underwent in 1995. She traveled to the regional capital from her remote village for a check-up after the birth of her fourth child; at the hospital, she was put under general anesthesia and sterilized without her consent.