Andean Theater

Bolivia: Potosí mine at issue in regional strike

Protesters cut off access to the Bolivian mining city of Potosí for most of last month in a dispute with the central government over infrastructure investment. Access to the city of more than 130,000 was blocked by thousands of protesters as part of a civil strike called by the Comité Cívico Potosinista (COMCIPO). The strike was "suspended" after 27 days on Aug. 2, when the city had almost run out of petrol, food and money. But organizers declared President Evo Morales and his cabinet members "enemies of Potosí" and "persona non grata" throughout the department. They also called for the resignation of the city's mayor, William Fernández, and the departmental prefect, Juan Carlos Cejas, both from Bolivia's ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS).

Ecuador: UN expresses concern on repression

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz issued a statement Aug. 24 expressing concern about ongoing violence against protesters by security forces in Ecuador, and called for a "just and impartial" investigation. The statement made special note of "accusations of violence against indigenous women" who participated in peaceful demonstrations. (InfoBae, Aug. 25) Repression is reported from Quito and several rural areas affected by the strike, with homes raided and residents reportedly beaten by soliders and police in Saraguro, in southern Loja province. Among those beaten in the Amazonian province of Zamora Chinchipe was the prefect, Salvador Quishpe. (The Guardian, Aug. 19) Indigenous leader Nina Pacari called on Tauli-Corpuz to visit Ecuador to witness the "state strategies of social control and repression" in response to the national strike called this month by indigenous and labor leaders. By government figures, 126 have been detained since the strike began with 64 still held on "preventative detention" orders. Pacari says the number detained is actually 142. President Rafael Correa accuses to protesters of seeking to destabilize him in a "soft coup." (EFE, Aug. 25)

Colombia: FARC-paramilitary collaboration?

Colombia's FARC guerillas may be working under the table with their supposed bitter enemies in the ultra-right paramilitary groups. E-mails released by authorities on Aug. 5 reportededly reveal that the FARC and Los Urabeños paramilitary have been collaborating to traffic drugs and weapons. In one of the undated e-mails, a FARC fighter known as "Ruben Manteco" wrote to "Pastor Alape"—one of the FARC's top commanders and a representative in Havana for peace talks with the Colombian government. The message refers to a gift offered the FARC by "Otoniel," the notorious Urabeño warlord. According to the e-mail exchange, Otoniel sent $170,000 as a good-will gesture to prove his reliability as a business partner. Alape instructed Manteco to accept the gift, adding that he should pursue negotiations on arms deals once confidence in the partnership was established. Another e-mail exchange discusses plans for FARC-Urabeño collaboration in drug trafficking. In that exchange, "Roman Ruiz," a FARC commander killed in an army offensive earlier this year, suggests to Alape that the guerillas raise the price on cocaine exports. Other e-mails indicate the FARC has been providing security to the Urabeños during their drug operations while also helping to broker deals.

Peru: La Oroya protests turn deadly

Workers at La Oroya on Aug. 13 lifted an "indefinite strike" declared two days earlier, and relaxed their blockades of the highway through central Peru's Junín region. The first day of the strike saw one worker killed by a bullet to the chest and some 60 others injured in clashes with the National Police. The decision to "suspend" the strike was taken after union representatives met in Lima with officials from the Environment and Labor ministries, and National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS), a new body established to address social conflicts. Officials promised union leaders to try find a way to keep the troubled Oroya Metallurgical Complex open. But deadlines are looming: the workers say they will resume their strike if a solution is not found within eight days. Meanwhile, creditors of complex owner Doe Run say if there are no bidders for the smelters and associated Cobriza mine by Aug. 27, the company will go into liquidation. Peru's government rejected worker demands to ease the legal limit on sulfur dioxide emissions for the complex to allow it to re-open.

Peru: mine opponents disrupt Arequipa festivities

Opponents of the disputed Tia Maria mega-mine project organized a dissident contingent at the "Friendship Parade" through the capital of Peru's southern Arequipa region, during festivities marking the 475th anniversary of the city's founding. Farmers from the Tambo Valley, barred by organizers from having a politically themed float in the Aug. 15 parade, marched alongside it, chanting "¡Agro sí, mina no!" (farming yes, mine no!). (Correo, Andina, Aug. 15; Peru this Week, Aug. 12) Protests over the project have resumed since a 60-day state of emergency instated for Islay province in May ran out. Mine opponents are meeting to discuss a region-wide general strike against the project. (Peru This Week, Aug. 10)

Peru: naked protesters storm congress

National Police troops used tear-gas and armored vehicles against marchers for abortion rights in Lima Aug. 13, who attempted to storm Peru's Congress building. Many of the hundreds of women at the protest were partially naked, with demands for reproductive freedom written on their torsos in red—symbolizing blood. Protesters were pressing for passage of a bill to remove penalties for abortion in the case of rape. A simialr measure was introduced to Congress last year, but failed to pass.

Colombia: peace negotiator implicated in atrocity

A imprisoned ex-commander of Colombia's far-right AUC paramilitary network on Aug. 12 testified that an army general now taking part in peace negotiations with FARC rebels also took part in the killing of journalist and comedian Jaime Garzón. According to a report in news magazine Semana, the ex-commander of the AUC's notorious Cacique Nutibara Bloc, Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano AKA "Don Berna," testified before Colombian prosecutors that among those conspiring to kill Garzón on August 13, 1998 were Maj. Mauricio Santoyo of the National Police, army Gen. Harold Bedoya and, most controversially, then-army commander Gen. Jorge Enrique Mora. Santoyo, who was later promoted to general and became the personal security chief of then-President Alvaro Uribe, was sentenced to 13 years by a US court after being convicted of protecting drug traffickers. Bedoya, currently a close ally of Uribe in opposing the peace talks, has long been accused of ties to the AUC, which committed tens of thousands of rights violations between 1997 and 2006 when its last unit was demobilized. Don Berna's testimony from his prison cell in Miami came one day before the 16th anniversary of Garzón's slaying. (Colombia Reports, Aug. 13; El Colombiano, Aug. 12)

Ecuador: general strike, indigenous march on Quito

After walking cross-country for 10 days,  an indigenous "March for Life and Dignity" arrived in Quito Aug. 13, just as a general strike was launched to press Ecuador's President Rafael Correa on a list of demands related to economic, social and environmental issues. The marchers established a camp in Quito's  Arbolito Park, where they pledge to remain until Correa agrees to their demands. As on such occasions in the past, the marchers were confronted by a pro-Correa rally, sparking a fracas. Correa supporters chanted "fuera golpistas, fuera" (out, coup-momgers, out), while the indigenous protesters countered with "fuera Correa, fuera." Under the work stoppage, public transport was halted in Quito and major thoroughfares were blocked in Guayaquil, Cuenca and other provincial capitals.

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