Bolivia's President Evo Morales will run for re-election in October, the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) announced July 14. But the opposition accuses Morales of defying the constitution, which allows a president two consecutive terms in office. Morales was first elected in 2006 and then again in 2009. The term limit was adopted in 2009, with the constitutional reform overseen by Morales himself. In 2013 the Plurinational Constitutional Trbunal (TCP) ruled that his first term should not be counted as it preceded the new constitution. Morales is the clear frontrunner, polling at about 44%. His nearest rival, cement tycoon Samuel Doria Medina of the Unidad Demócrata (UD), trails by almost 30 points. Morales, anticipating a contentious campaign, appealed to MAS supporters for restraint, saying "I ask you all not to enter into a dirty war." (La Razón, La Paz, July 17; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, July 16; EFE, July 15; The Guardian, July 14)
Colombia's coca eradication program was cited by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as reason for historic lows in cocaine production in the Andean country. According to the UNODC's World Drug Report 2014, Colombian cocaine production fell 25% in 2012, driving a global decline in cocaine supply for the year. In 2012, Colombian security forces manually eradicated 34,486 hectares (85,217 acres) of coca and sprayed over 100,549 hectares (247,000 acres) with herbicide, by official figures. The country's potential cocaine production estimates for the year fell to 309 tons, the lowest levels in nearly two decades. Coca cultivation has been cut by half from 2007 to 2012, the report boasts. However, the area under coca cultivation remained stable between 2012 and 2013, at some 48,000 hectares. Colombia remained the second largest coca producer, ahead of Bolivia and behind Peru. Gains were also claimed in Peru and Bolivia. Peru reduced the area under coca cultivation by 17.5% between 2012 and 2013, bringing the figure down to 49,800 hectares. The area under cultivation in Bolivia dropped to its lowest in 12 years, decreasing 9% from 2012 to 23,000 hectares. (Colombia Reports, BBC News, June 26; AP, June 23)
A new report issued by Peruvian NGO Environmental and Natural Resrouces Law (DAR) counts 412 hydro-electric dams to be built across the Amazon basin and its headwaters if current plans go ahead, potentially leading to the "end of free-flowing rivers" and contributing to "ecosystem collapse." Of the 412 dams already in operation, under construction or proposed, 256 are in Brazil, 77 in Peru, 55 in Ecuador, 14 in Bolivia, six in Venezuela, two in Guyana, and one each in Colombia, French Guyana and Surinam, said anthropologist Paul Little at the launch of the English version of the report, "Mega-Development Projects in Amazonia: A Geopolitical and Socioenvironmental Primer." (PDF). The report finds: "This new wave of dam building in the headwaters of the Basin is a 'hydrological experiment' of continental proportions, yet little is known scientifically of pan-Amazonian hydrological dynamics, creating the risk of provoking irreversible changes in rivers." (The Guardian's Andes to the Amazon blog, May 6)
Coca-growers in Bolivia's lowland jungle town of Yapacaní on March 27 clashed with police in a protest against the construction of a new base of the Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR), the hated coca-eradication force. Protesters set up roadblocks in an effort to prevent construction crews from breaking ground on the new base. When National Police troops used tear-gas to break up the blockades, protesters replied by hurling rocks. Regional police commander Johnny Requena blamed drug gangs for the opposition to the base, which is being financed by the European Union to the tune of $1.3 million.
Thousands of miners blocked highways in five departments of Bolivia for five days starting March 31 to protest a pending new mining law. Members of mining cooperatives installed at least 10 roablocks in the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosí and Oruro. At least three were killed in clashes with the National Police. The protests were called off after the government agreed to suspend the legislation, which had already cleared the lower-house Chamber of Deputies. The bill sought to bar the cooperatives from seeking private investment, restricting them to contracts with the Bolivian state. In response to the protests, President Evo Morales is drafting a new bill that would allow private contracts while restricting investment by foreign companies. (Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, April 5; EFE, AFP, El Universal, Venezuela, April 4; EFE, April 3; El Deber, Santa Cruz, Reuters, April 1)
Chile's President Sebstián Piñera filed an official complaint Feb. 12 laying claim to 3.7 hectares (nine acres) of desert on the border with Peru—re-opening the border conflict between the two nations after a January ruling at The Hague had resolved a long-standing dispute on the maritime boundary. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Chile could maintain its sovereignty of fishing waters near the coast but granted Peru control of deeper waters to the southwest. After the ruling, Peru's government released a map designating the contested land triangle as its own—which was immediately rejected by Santiago, citing a 1929 treaty. Piñera's formal assertion of sovereignty over the contested strip follows friction with Peru's President Ollanta Humala at Pacific Alliance summit in Colombia earlier in the week. Following the meeting, Piñera publicly broached withdrawing from the Pact of Bogotá, the regional treaty granting the ICJ jurisdiction in international disputes.
The police-besieged offices of the divided Aymara indigenous organization CONAMAQ in La Paz were turned over on Jan. 15 to leaders of the faction aligned with Bolivia's ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). The pro-MAS faction, led by Hilarión Mamani, marched on the two-story building in the city's Sopocachi district, which was surrounded by a double cordon: first, a phalanx of riot police, then a vigil by supporters of the independent "organic" faction. Mamani's group, some 300 strong, reportedly advanced on the vigil, sparking a brief fracas. "Organic" CONAMAQ said in a statement that Mamani rejected an offer of dialogue on the spot, and that two "organic" leaders, Félix Becerra and Cancio Rojas, were physically threatened. Mamani and his group were then allowed to pass into the building by police, who were supposedly under orders to secure it from either faction until the dispute is resolved. (Erbol, Página Siete, La Paz, Jan. 15)
The Dakar Rally Raid motor-race across the Andes has already claimed three lives since leaving Rosario, Argentina, on Jan. 4—a motorcylist and two "spectators" who were following the race in a vehicle. Progress was finally halted five days later when residents and municipal workers in the Argentine town of Juan Alberdi, Tucumán province, blocked the road to prevent passage. (Al Jazeera, Jan. 11; EFE, El Gráfico, Buenos Aires, Jan. 9) Meanwhile, the Chilean Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the motor-race brought by the College of Archaeologists of Chile, who site damage to ancient petroglyphs in a previous Dakar Rally through the country. The group's vice president Paola González, told France24: "In Chile, a national monuments law considers this a punishable crime. Nevertheless, the destruction with impunity of our national heritage continues."