Andean Theater

Colombia: peasants detain soldiers after arrests

On Oct. 3, authorities invaded the pueblo of El Reposo, in Campamento municipality of Colombia's Antioquia department, arresting three locals—including a minor and the president of the village Communal Action Junta—in connection with a supposed cocaine laboratory discovered nearby. But El Reposo's residents quickly turned the tables, rising up with their machetes, demanding that the three be liberated—and finally detaining 14 soldiers and six agents from the Fiscalía Technical Corps. The soliders and agents were held for several hours in the village schoolhouse. The government of Antioquia and Colombia's human rights ombudsman, the Defensoría del Pueblo, quickly mobilized a team to El Reposo to negotiate the release of the troops and agents. However, demands for the freedom of the three arrested locals remain outstanding, and the situation is still tense. (Semana, Bogotá, Oct. 3; Colombia Reports, La W Radio, BLU Radio,RCN, El Espectador, Bogotá, Oct. 3)

Venezuela urged to release opposition leader

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein on Oct. 20 urged Venezuela to release politician and opposition leader Leopoldo López (BBC profile). Al Hussein expressed concern over the detention of López and 69 others who were arrested in connection with public protests that took place across Venezuela starting in February. Lopez was arrested on charges of instigating violence, damaging property and arson committed during a political rally on Feb. 12. López is the leader of the Popular Will party, which has garnered widespread supported from the student population in the country and strongly opposes the current government under Nicolas Maduro and the United Socialist Party. Al Hussein stated:

Colombia: Santos under fire over peace process

At a Conservative Party conference on the island of San Andres Oct. 16, Colombia's Prosecutor General Alejandro Ordoñez slammed President Juan Manuel Santos for "protecting a terrorist" by failing to arrest FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño AKA "Timochenko." The comments came after press revelations that Timochenko had secretly attended the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas in Havana, Cuba. (Colombia Reports, Oct. 17; The City Paper, Bogotá, Oct. 12)

Venezuela accuses Colombian paras in death of pol

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro on Oct. 15 called for the elimination of terrorist groups operating in the country, revealing details of the investigation into the murder of legislator Robert Serra. The young lawmaker, a rising star in the ruling PSUV, was found stabbed to death with his partner in their apartment in Caracas Oct. 3. Maduro announced that two arrested in the case were linked to an unnamed paramilitary leader in Colombia who he said was "plotting" to destabilize Venezuela. The local operative for the network in Caracas was named as Padilla Leyva (no first name given), who was said to go by the nom de guerre "El Colombia." Maduro said a manhunt is underway for fugitive members of the network. According to UN figures, Venezuela has the second highest peacetime murder rate in the world after Honduras. (TeleSUR, Oct. 15; BBC News, Oct. 13; BBC News, Oct. 3)

Colombians sue BP over environmental damage

More than 100 Colombian farmers on Oct. 15 filed a lawsuit with the UK high court against British company Equion Energia, previously known as BP Exploration Colombia (BPXC), for alleged negligence when it built the Ocensa oil pipeline. The farmers are seeking around USD $29 million in compensation for environmental damage caused by the pipeline, including severe soil erosion, reduced vegetation coverage and damaged water resources. The farmers' lawyers said that the farmers did not understand the agreements they signed with BPXC and said that they were not provided full and fair compensation for environmental damage caused by the pipeline. The trial is BP's first in Britain for its overseas business.

Bolivia: Evo wins —amid indigenous protests

Exit polls show incumbent populist Evo Morales has emered victorious in Bolivia's presidential election, with 60% of the vote—well ahead of his closest rival's 25%, likely assuring a clear win with no need for a run-off. Morales, of the left-wing Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), had sought in the Oct. 12 vote to improve on his previous best showing—64% in 2009—and maintain a two-thirds control of Bolivia's Senate and assembly. That would let him change the constitution, which restricts presidents to two five-year terms, so he can run yet a fourth time. Amid specualtion in the opposition and foreign press about his intentions, Morales has not said whether he would seek a fourth term, only that he will "respect the constitution."

Peru: populist governor re-elected from prison

Gregorio Santos, the populist president of Peru's Cajamarca region, was comfortably re-elected Oct. 5—despite being imprisoned as corruption charges are pending against him. The biggest issue in the race by far was the unpopular Conga gold mine project, majority-owned by US-based Newmont Mining. Peru's central government said it would recognize the victory, while his supporters marched in Lima to demand his freedom. Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal called for a "political dialogue with all the actors" to resolve the crisis in Cajamarca. But Jorge Vergara Quiroz, president of the Cajamarca Chamber of Commerce, said that Santos' re-election created a climate of "uncertainty" that would discourage investment, and called on him not to take office. Segundo Mendoza, spokesman for Santos' Social Affirmation Movement (MAS), responded that the party respects private investment. He called on authorities to free Santos, saying he posed no flight risk.

Colombia: dialogue table for peasants, minorities

The Colombian government, campesinos, indigenous groups and Afro-Colombians have created a dialogue table that seeks to improve the living conditions of rural and minority communities. With more than 650 participants from the National Agrarian Summit, a leftist coalition of social organizations, political parties, and unions, the table is meant to be a "space of dialogue" between the groups and the government, according to press release on the Agriculture Ministry's website. Among the items up for discussion are access to land, productive projects, and human rights. The heads of the Ministry of Interior, Agriculture, Finance, and Mining are among the government officials who are attend the dialogues.