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)
Some dozen National Police troops on July 9 attacked the community of El Lirio in Celendín province of Peru's Cajamarca region—the scene of ongoing protests over the pending Conga gold-mining project. The attack came after El Lirio's comuneros blocked vehicles from the Yanacocha mining company that attempted to enter their lands. Police troops used tear-gas to break up the blockades, and Milton Sánchez, leader of the Celendín Interinstitutional Platform, said the community's children were among those affected. One woman was seriously hurt in the attack, he said. The vehicles were reportedly attempting to bring "gifts" to the local communities, but were backed up by an escort of police troops. (Servindi, July 9)
In the latest in a string of violent incidents related to land disputes in Venezuela's western Sierra de Perijá, on June 30 Yukpa indigenous leader Carmen "Anita" Fernández Romero and her son Luis Adolfo were wounded in an attack near her village of Kuse. According to reports, some 50 men armed with rifles and machetes set upon an encampment Fernández Romero and her family had established on the local hacienda El Carmen, which she asserts is on usurped Yukpa traditional lands. Members of the army and Boliviarian National Guard reportedly werre on hand, but did not intervene as the men began beating Fernández Romero and her son. Just four days earlier, another of Fernández Romero's sons, Cristóbal Fernández Fernández, 19, was killed—reportedly in a beating by National Guard troops. He was the third of Fernández Romero's sons to have met a violent death in the past five years. Fernández Romero is currently hospitalized, recovering from her injuries. She has been under an official order of protection since July 2012 following threats against her, but local environmental group Sociedad Homo Et Natura, which supports the Yukpa land struggle, asserts that it is going unenforced. (Entorno Inteligente, La Guarura, Aporrea, July 1; Aporrea, June 24)
Peru's Unity Pact of National Indigenous Organizations on July 7 called on President Ollanta Humala not to enact Bill 3627/2013-PE, approved the previous day by the Congressional Permanent Commission. The Unity Pact said the approval represents "a huge environmental setback and a blow to the democratic rule of law." The statement charged: "Instead of strengthening environmental institutions, management and monitoring, these measures promote extractive activities, reward those who violate the law, reduce fines and relax the environmental standards." The bill's preamble states that it seeks to "simplify procedures and permits for the promotion and revitalization of investment in the Country." Among other measures, it would limit the period for the evaluation of environmental impact studies to 45 days, which the Unity Pact calls an unconstitutional abrogation of the right to public participation. (InfoRegión, July 8; Servindi, July 7; Los Andes, June 29)
Press reports in Peru that judicial authorities have opened an investigation into Interior Minister Daniel Urresti in connection with the murder of a journalist have sparked calls for his resignation. The former army general is reportedly suspected of being "intellectual author" of the slaying of Hugo Bustíos, a writer for Caretas magazine, who was attacked Nov. 24, 1988 by what is presumed to have been a group of soliders in civilian dress at the hamlet of Quinrapa, Huanta district, Ayacucho, where he was covering the war against the Shining Path guerillas. Peru's Press and Society Institute issued a statement calling it "rudely offensive to the values of a democratic state" that Urresti remain at his post while facing a murder probe. The National Association of Journalists also called for Urresti to step down. The National Coordinator of Human Rights added that Urresti's continuation as interior minister, overseeing the country's National Police, "constitutes a grave risk for the security of family members and witnesses" that will be called in the investigation. Urresti, who took office in late June, denies any involvement in the slaying. President Ollanta Humala has stood by him.
Three leaders of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla movement were indicted July 1 in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Those charged are Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, who was captured by Peruvian security forces in February 2012; and the brothers Victor and Jorge Quispe Palomino, who remain at large. The charges include conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; narco-terrorism conspiracy; and two counts of use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. (Newsweek, July 2)
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)
Workers from the Sepecol private security firm blocked the rail line leading from the mammoth Cerrejón coal mine in northeastern Colombia's La Guajira region for seven days over a contract dispute, before the company agreed to enter a dialogue over their demands June 26. The workers, who are mainly from the indigenous Wayuu group, launched their protest after the termination of the contract between Sepecol and Colombia's largest coal mining company. According to a company statement, the blockade of the rail line linking the mine to Puerto Bolívar was putting export obligations at risk. In announcing the dialogue, the company agreed to maintain 80% of its 770-strong security force from Sepecol and local firm Vigilancia Guajira. (El Heraldo, Barranquilla, June 28; Colombia Reports, EFE, June 26)