Tag Archives: South America

Interim Bolivian Government Threatens Arrest of Opposition Legislators

Amid continuing political and social unrest in Bolivia, the interim interior minister, Arturo Murillo, threatened Sunday to arrest lawmakers loyal to ousted President Evo Morales for alleged acts of subversion and sedition.

The minister announced the creation of a “special apparatus of the Prosecutor’s Office” that will crackdown on elected officials from Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, which controls about two-thirds of the legislature.

Murillo said he would be publishing a “list” of legislators he claims are guilty of “subversion” and that those individuals will be blocked from continuing their duties as representatives and will be subject to arrest starting Monday.

On Thursday, the interim communications minister, Roxana Lizarraga, threatened that the government would arrest journalists, Bolivian and foreign, for supposed “sedition.”

Both ministers were appointed by Jeanine Anez, an ultraconservative senator who declared herself interim president after Morales was deposed in a coup on November 10.

Representatives from the MAS boycotted the vote in which Anez was recognized as interim president, rejecting her government’s legitimacy. Many MAS officials were also under threat of attacks from protestors at the time of the vote and were in hiding.

‘Crimes Against Humanity’ 

Anez, however, enjoys the support of the military and police forces, who have repressed mass protests from the mainly-indigenous supporters of Morales, sometimes violently.

On Friday, nine people were shot to death by government forces during a major demonstration in the city of Cochabamba.

The killings came after Anez issued a decree exempting military officials from prosecution when maintaining “public order.”

Murillo suggested without evidence that the nine victims, all of whom were reportedly coca growers, might have been killed by their own supporters to generate sympathy.

The minister’s comments outraged opponents of the interim government.

Thomas Becker, an American lawyer with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard University, told AFP that he interviewed 50 witnesses, all of whom said none of the demonstrators were armed.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an independent part of the Organization of American States, condemned Anez’s decree granting immunity to security forces as a “grave” move that will “stimulate violent repression.”

Tweeting from Mexico where he has been granted asylum, Morales said the killings were “crimes against humanity” and that they “must not go unpunished.”

Anti-Indigenous Backlash 

Indigenous Bolivians make up between 50 to 60 percent of the country’s population and have been historically marginalized and discriminated against.

Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, is widely beloved in indigenous communities, which have erupted in mass demonstrations following his ouster.

Leaders say that they fear indigenous people will once again be rendered second class citizens, particularly with Anez currently at the helm of the government.

The interim president has a history of making racist and insulting comments about indigenous Bolivians.

In 2013, for example, she tweeted, “I dream of a Bolivia free of Indigenous satanic rites, the city is not for Indians, they should back to the mountains or the fields.” 

During the protests calling for Morales’ resignation, right-wing demonstrators were seen burning the indigenous “wiphala” flag in public, and a group of police officers in La Paz were taped cutting the flag off of the patches on their uniforms.

A female indigenous mayor of a small, rural city was also attacked by a right-wing mob, which doused her in red paint and cut off her hair.

Immediately after being sworn in as interim president, Anez, a radical Christian conservative, declared that “the bible has returned to the palace,” an apparent shot at Morales and the indigenous, who are largely not Christians.

Though Anez insists that she is only taking power in an interim capacity and that elections will be held soon, she has already fundamentally reoriented the country’s foreign policy in two key areas.

Since taking power, her government has recognized Venezuela’s right-wing opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido and expelled Cuban doctors from Bolivia, pivoting away from two of the only leftist governments that remain in the hemisphere.

Anez’s opponents have denounced the moves, saying they are undemocratic and that she has no mandate because she’s never received a vote to be president.

Morales’ ouster came three weeks after he won reelection for a controversial fourth term, though the polls were marred by disputed allegations that the results were inflated in his favor.


Argentines to march for Evo Morales and Bolivia

Dozens of Argentine social organizations and movements, political parties and human rights activists from the southernmost region will send a strong message on Monday in support of Evo Morales.
Despite being a national public holiday, trade unionists, teachers and doctors in Buenos Aires will voice their position on the coup d’état against Evo Morales from midday, accompanied by Bolivian residents in Argentina, one of the most numerous migrant communities in this country.

It is expected that the emblematic Plaza de Mayo, a symbol of the Mothers and Grandmothers still fighting for justice and to find their children and grandchildren disappeared under the military dictatorship (1976-1983), will be filled with Bolivian, Argentine and representative flags of the indigenous peoples of the South American Andes.

Two marches will be held, one convened by the huge Bolivian community, indigenous communities and society in general to repudiate the coup d’état, and in which participants will demand an end to the violence, repression and expressions of hatred against indigenous peoples.

The second march, organized by the Encounter for Memory, Truth and Justice, in addition to rejecting the aforementioned coup and supporting the resistance of the Bolivian people in the streets, will also express solidarity with Chile with slogans such as ‘Out with the International Monetary Fund and US imperialism.’

Bolivian interim leader meets UN envoy as death toll mounts

Four more people have died in protests in Bolivia, raising the total number of victims in the political unrest to 23, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said on Saturday.

The new deaths were announced after five protesters were killed in clashes with security forces on Friday in central Bolivia, a political stronghold of exiled ex-president Evo Morales.

The Washington-based IACHR, a part of the Organization of American States, also recorded 122 wounded since Friday.

Bolivian interim leader meets UN envoy

A UN envoy met with Bolivia’s interim president to find a way out of the country’s political crisis while the world body expressed concern the situation could “spin out of control” amid a rising death toll.

On leaving the meeting with interim leader Jeanine Anez, envoy Jean Arnault said the United Nations hopes it can contribute to an “accelerated pacification process” leading to new elections following the resignation and exile of Evo Morales.

Meanwhile, another international body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, condemned Anez’s government for issuing a decree it says “exempts from criminal responsibility” soldiers who took part in efforts to break up protests and unrest that have left at least 23 people dead.

The norm was approved before the most violent day since the crisis began when at least eight pro-Morales coca growers were killed when security forces opened fire during a demonstration.

“It is not a license for the Armed Forces to kill,” Presidency Minister Jerjes Justiniano told a press conference. He said the decree is based on the Criminal Code, which states that “if one defends oneself in self-defence, there is no penalty.”

Earlier Saturday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet issued a statement calling the deaths “an extremely dangerous development.”

“I am really concerned that the situation in Bolivia could spin out of control if the authorities do not handle it sensitively and in accordance with international norms,” she said.

Protesters said police fired on Friday when demonstrators tried to cross a military checkpoint in Sacaba, a town near Cochabamba. Many of the protesters were coca leaf growers loyal to Morales, who had been Bolivia’s first indigenous president before being pressured to step down by Bolivia’s military chief after weeks of widespread protests over a disputed election.

Witnesses to the clash described seeing the bodies of several protesters and dozens of people rushed to hospitals, many covered in blood.

Contentious presidency

Morales stepped down following nationwide protests over suspected vote-rigging in an October 20 election, which he claimed to have won to gain a fourth term in office.

Morales, who was granted asylum in Mexico after his November 10 resignation, said on Twitter that a “massacre” had occurred and he described the interim government led by Anez as a dictatorship.

On Friday, Anez said Morales would face possible legal charges for election fraud if he returned home from Mexico City. She also has said Morales would not be allowed to participate in a new presidential election, which is supposed to be held within three months.

The ousted leader, meanwhile, contended this week that he is still president since the country’s legislature has not yet approved his resignation.

Morales has denied there was fraud, though an Organization of American States audit reported widespread irregularities.

Backers of the interim government deny there was any coup against Morales, saying police and the military withdrew backing from him only to avoid shedding civilian blood during the mass protests against him.

Supporters of Morales, who was Bolivia’s president for almost 14 years and was the last survivor from the “pink tide” of South American leftist leaders, have been staging disruptive protests since his resignation, setting up blockades that forced the closure of schools and caused shortages of gasoline in the capital.

Anez, who had been the highest-ranking opposition official in the Senate, proclaimed herself president after Morales resigned, saying every person in the line of succession ahead of her — all of them Morales backers — had resigned.

The Constitutional Court issued a statement backing her claim that she didn’t need to be confirmed by Congress, a body controlled by Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party.

Much of the opposition to Morales sprang from his refusal to accept a referendum that upheld term limits that barred him from seeking another term. He got the courts to declare the limits a violation of his human rights to seek office.


Weighing the Peace Agreement to transform the Colombian countryside

Bogotá, Nov 16 (Prensa Latina) The Peace Agreement signed by the State and former FARC-EP guerrillas is a very important tool for the structural transformation of the Colombian countryside, said Pablo Catatumbo, senator for the current FARC political party.

What was agreed there (in 2016) was nothing other than the resolution of social problems that led to the abandonment of the State to rurality and especially to the prioritized territories in what were called the Territorial Approach Development Program ( PDET), he said when speaking this week in a debate on political control in the Senate.

This is not an ideological problem, this is an imminently social problem and a solution to the problems and historical debt that this country has with the peasantry, he stressed.

In this regard, he emphasized, environmental zoning and delimitation of the agricultural frontier represents a fundamental need for the country to move forward in territorial planning with sustainability criteria.

This is not an ideological problem, this is an imminently social problem and a solution to the problems and historical debt that this country has with the peasantry, he stressed.

In this regard, he emphasized, environmental zoning and delimitation of the agricultural frontier represents a fundamental need for the country to move forward in territorial planning with sustainability criteria.

Environmental zoning is the way in which we can organize our territories with the participation of all, taking into account environmental wealth, biodiversity, the abundance of our waters and the diversity of our people, Catatumbo explained.

If we are clearly aware of the restrictions on land use and intervention of ecosystems, we can know how far agricultural and livestock activities can go, as well as the law of the communities that inhabit those areas of special environmental interest, he said.

The congressman also referred to the importance of closing the agricultural frontier in order to stop deforestation and give real productive uses to the lands that were already linked as production areas.

All this, he pointed out, without neglecting the conservation, preservation and restoration of the water-generating ecosystems source of life in the territories.

The State has a commitment to rurality, to the peasantry and to all Colombians who have the right to a healthy environment, he stressed.

Catatumbo explained that in Colombia there are 191 thousand 159 hectares of deforested forest, a situation caused by the expansion of road infrastructure, grasslands for extensive livestock raising, logging and burning of forests, illicit crops and agro-industrial crops.

The exorbitant concentration of land tenure, coupled with the structural abandonment of the countryside, has resulted in illicit crops being the only subsistence alternative for impoverished rural communities, which has consequently extended the agricultural frontier, he added.

Lebanon Bond Sell-Off Eclipses Argentina as Unrest Flares Up

Lebanese bonds have overtaken Argentine debt as the second-worst performer this year, showing the financial toll that the social uprising has taken on one of the world’s most indebted nations.

Investors in Lebanon’s dollar-denominated notes have lost 30% this year, eclipsing the 27% decline for holders of Argentine securities. Lebanese notes maturing in 2034 fell 7% on Friday, the worst for sovereign dollar bonds in emerging markets. Its 2033 is the next worst-performing among developing nations.

S&P Global Ratings downgraded Lebanon’s long-term foreign currency debt rating to CCC from B- after the market closed on Friday, following the rating company’s decision to downgrade three of the nation’s top banks the previous day.

The nation has been without a government since Saad Hariri resigned late last month in the face of mass demonstrations demanding the removal of a ruling elite blamed for corruption and mismanagement. The situation has deteriorated so much that the Lebanese army was deployed heavily across the country this week as protesters began to converge on the presidential palace.

Argentina’s overseas bonds reached new lows this week as investors await clarity on how President-elect Alberto Fernandez plans to save the nation from a looming default and dwindling reserves. Venezuelan debt has lost investors 55% this, the world’s worst performance.


Five Morales supporters killed, over 70 wounded in Bolivia clashes

Five supporters of former president Evo Morales were killed on Friday in violent clashes between protesters and security forces in central Bolivia, according to an AFP correspondent who saw the bodies at a hospital.

Authorities did not report any deaths in the protests outside Cochabamba, though it said 100 people were detained. 

Bolivian hospital director said five people were killed and 75 wounded in Sacaba town, the Associated Press reported.

Guadalberto Lara, the director of the Mexico hospital in Sacaba, said most of the people who were killed were hit by gunfire.

Lara, a 65-year-old doctor, said that it’s the worst case of violence that he has seen in his 30-year career.

Thousands of largely indigenous protesters had gathered peacefully in Sacaba in the morning. 

But fighting began when many tried to cross a military checkpoint near the city of Cochabamba, where Morales’ supporters and foes have clashed for weeks.

Ready to stand aside in new elections – Morales

Earlier, Morales said fresh elections could be held without him, potentially removing an obstacle to choosing a new leader in the South American country thrown into turmoil by his resignation.

”For the sake of democracy, if they don’t want me to take part, I have no problem not taking part in new elections,” Morales told Reuters in an interview in Mexico City. 

”I just wonder why there is so much fear of Evo,” he added.

Morales said in the interview he did not know who would be the candidate for his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, adding that it would be for the people to decide.

Morales, who has been given asylum in Mexico, said he wants to return to Bolivia as soon as his resignation is approved by the Bolivian legislature. 

“I repeat, if the assembly approves my resignation I can return like any other Bolivian citizen.”

Morales resigned under pressure on Sunday after weeks of protests and violence following an Oct. 20 election that awarded an outright win to him but was tarnished by widespread allegations of fraud.

Bolivian interim President Jeanine Anez, who took over on Tuesday after a spate of resignations, has said she wants to mend bridges with MAS party. She has said, however, that Morales himself would not be welcome as a candidate in the next election.

The interim government and MAS lawmakers appear to have reached an accord to hold a new presidential election but have not chosen a candidate.

Bolivia to expel Venezuelan diplomats

Bolivia will expel all officials from Venezuela’s embassy in La Paz for “violating diplomatic norms,” interim Foreign Minister Karen Longaric said on Friday.

Socialist Venezuela was a key ally of Morales before he resigned as president of Bolivia on Sunday, leading the way for right-wing interim leader Anez to take over.

“All the diplomatic personnel representing [President Nicolas] Maduro at Venezuela’s embassy in Bolivia will be allowed to leave the country for having interfered in internal state affairs,” said Longaric.

Morales to be charged if he returns

Anez said on Friday that exiled ex-president Morales would have to “answer to justice” over election irregularities and government corruption if he returns.

“He knows he has to answer to justice. There is an electoral crime. There are many allegations of corruption in his government,” Anez told journalists in La Paz.


EU extends sanctions against Venezuela for 1 year

The European Council on Monday extended restrictive measures against Venezuela for one year.

“In light of the ongoing political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with persistent actions undermining democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights, the Council today extended the restrictive measures against Venezuela for one year, until 14 November 2020,” the Council said in a statement.

It added the measures include an embargo on arms and on equipment for internal repression as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze on 25 listed individuals in official positions.

“These measures are intended to help encourage democratic shared solutions in order to bring political stability to the country and allow it to address the pressing needs of the population,” it added.

Since the beginning of the year, Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest as President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido engaged in a power battle, while the country’s economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil — the country’s main export.

Nearly 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day due to instability and uncertainty amid the economic and political crisis, and three million Venezuelans have left since 2015, according to the UN Refugee Agency.


Actions by Chilean police officers against protesters questioned

The President of the Chilean Senate, Jaime Quintana, pointed out the possibility of assessing modifications to the protocol that governs the actions by Carabineros (Chilean Police officers), in the face of growing allegations of violent repression against peaceful protesters.

Amid the social outbreak against the government this country has been living since October 18, the disproportionate actions of the latter have been repeatedly seen in clashes between protesters and police forces.

Senator Quintana said on Wednesday that the life of the Chilean Police officers is not under discussion and they must be protected, ‘but there is also a proportional action in the use of force,’ he said.

According to Radio Bio Bio station, many parliamentarians have called the Chilean Police officers to respect the protocols on the use of force and accused the government of denying the violation of human rights occurred during the rallies.

Undersecretary of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla defended the regulations, arguing that it was reviewed by the National Institute of Human Rights, and President Sebastian Piñera described the actions of the Chilean Police officers as exemplary, although he admitted that there may have been excesses.

The actions of the Chilean Police officers are questioned not only for their disproportionate repression against protesters, but also because in cases of looting stores and other facilities, which require rapid action, they have been practically absent in many cases.

Venezuela launches military drills along Colombia border

Venezuela has launched extended military drills along the border with Colombia in an effort to prepare for any foreign invasion, amid rising tensions between Caracas and Bogota.

The Venezuelan army deployed 150,000 troops, tanks, and missile carriers around La Fria airport in the border state of Tachira on Tuesday, said the armed forces’ Strategic Operational Commander Remigio Ceballos.

The exercises — expected to continue for several weeks — are “related to security, exploration and the interception of any invasion of Venezuelan territory,” he said.

“We respect the armed forces around the world, but we are not afraid of anyone,” Ceballos added.

The deployment came a week after President Nicolas Maduro ordered the commander of the armed forces “to declare an alert… in the face of the threatened aggression by Colombia toward Venezuela.”

The tense relations between Maduro and Colombian far-right President Ivan Duque grew even worse earlier his month when Duque accused Maduro of providing “shelter and support” to Colombia’s rebel group FARC.

FARC recently took up arms once again after three years of peace with the Colombian government.

Maduro, however, denied the allegation, saying that the Colombian government was “using unfounded accusations to threaten Venezuela and provoke a military conflict with our country.”

In a reaction to the military exercises, Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez said the military was prepared for “any external attacks.”

“We call on all Colombians for calm, knowing that we possess a sufficiently equipped and capable public force,” she said.

Meanwhile, US special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said Colombia would have Washington’s full support in the event of a military invasion by Venezuela.

“I hope [the Venezuelan military exercises] are just a political act without any security or military meaning,” he said in Brussels. “I hope [the armed forces of Venezuela] are not crazy enough to engage in any kind of attacks on Colombia, and it is certainly the case that Colombia will have full American support if that happens.”

The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela to oust Maduro and replace him with an opposition figure.


UN Human Rights Chief Cites Continued Abuses in Venezuela

The United Nations’ chief human rights official said Monday that millions of Venezuelans continue to suffer rights violations, including dozens of possible extrajudicial killings carried out by a special police force.

Nongovernmental organizations report that the Special Action police force carried out 57 suspected extrajudicial killings in July alone within Caracas, Michelle Bachelet said in an oral presentation on Venezuela to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Bachelet’s presentation followed a scathing written report issued in early July that drew a government backlash. It found a “pattern of torture” under the government of President Nicolas Maduro and citing violations like arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and enforced disappearances.

Bachelet’s latest presentation noted some areas of progress, while pointing to more cases of human rights violations and declining conditions as more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled a country beset by hyperinflation that leaves monthly minimum wages equal to $2.

While Bachelet said she had called for officials to dismantle the feared Special Action police force, the unit has actually received ongoing support from the highest levels of the government, she said.

Bachelet raised concern that groups that collaborated with her in the earlier report have since come under criticism and threats by senior officials.

“Reprisals for having cooperated with the United Nations are unacceptable,” she said. “I urge the authorities to take preventative measures.”

Bachelet said she worried about a proposed law criminalizing the activities of human rights organizations that receive money from abroad, which could further erode democracy in Venezuela, a once wealthy oil nation.

Areas of progress
Highlighting advances, Bachelet said a member of her team recently was allowed to visit the Ramo Verde Military Center — a prison commonly used to hold what opposition leaders consider political prisoners — with an agreement for visits to come. The government also has released 83 people whose arrests human rights observers considered arbitrary, she said, adding that officials have agreed to consider another 27 cases, expecting action soon.
The only way to overcome Venezuela’s human rights crisis is for Maduro’s government and the opposition led by National Assembly President Juan Guaido to return to negotiations overseen by Norway, Bachelet said, and renewed her offer to support all such efforts.

Maduro’s government didn’t immediately respond to Bachelet’s latest comments, but officials rejected earlier criticism as biased and demanded she make corrections.