Andean Theater

Bolivia, Venezuela reject US drug criticism

On Sept. 13, the White House released its annual score card on other countries’ compliance with US drug policy demands, the presidential determination on major drug producing and trafficking countries. It identified 22 countries as "major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries," but listed only three—Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as having "failed demonstrably" to comply with US drug war objectives. Among those countries that are not listed as having "failed demonstrably" are the world's largest opium producer (Afghanistan), the world’s two largest coca and cocaine producers (Colombia and Peru), the leading springboard for drugs coming into the US (Mexico), and the weak Central American states that serve as lesser springboards for drug loads destined for the US. They are all US allies; Bolivia and Venezuela are not.

Colombia: river defender assassinated

Campesino leader Nelson Giraldo Posada, a founder of the Ríos Vivos movement that opposes the HidroItuango hydro-electric project in Colombia's Antioquia department, was slain by unknown gunmen near his lands in the town of Ituango Sept. 17.  Giraldo Posada was among a group of some 350 Ituango residents forcibly relocated from their lands along the Río Cauca to make way for the hydro project. With negotiations over compensation still underway, they have been housed since March in a sports stadium at the University of Antioquia in Medellín. Leaders of group had repeatedly received death threats, and on Sept. 9 a local court, the Medellín Superior Tribunal, ordered that authorities take measures to guarantee their safety. (Radio Santa Fe, Corporación Juridica Libertad, Bogotá, Sept. 19)

Peru: deadly attack on family of miner leader

The wife and infant son of a local mining leader were assassinated last week in the community of Pamputa, Coyllurqui district, Cotabambas province, Apurímac region, Peru. The bodies were found Sept. 18 by ​Carmelo Hanco, president of the local Artisenal Miners Association of Los Apus de Chunta, when he returned home from a trip to Abancay, the regional capital, where he had been petitioning authorities for the "formalization" of mining claims. Authorities said the killings took place during a robbery, but Hanco said he suspected the involvement of the Xstrata mining company—which he charged has been pressing for the arrest of independent artisenal miners in the region with an eye towards establishing its own operations. The company has for 10 years operated a giant gold, silver and copper mine at nearby Las Bambas (Chahuahuacho district), above the opposition of both local artisenal miners and campesinos. (Con Nuestro Peru, Sept. 21)

Peru: Conga protest camp fired on

On Sept. 20, a group of workers and security guards from the Yanacocha mining company attacked the protest encampment established by local  campesinos at the Conga site, where the company seeks to expand operations of Peru's biggest open-pit gold mine. The tents and bivouacs were torn down and burned, and the protesters evicted from the site. Three days later, protesters returned to re-establish the encampment—some 500 strong, and headed by the movement's most visible leaders, Jorge Rimarachín, Gregorio Santos and Marco Arana. But that night, a group of some 10 men, hidden by darkness on the hills overlooking the new camp, fired shots at the protesters. A detachment of DINOES, the special anti-riot force of the National Police, looked on and did not interfere.

Bolivia: Aymara dissidents charge repression

Leaders of the National Council of Marka and Ayllus of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) charged that their office in the Bolivian capital La Paz was attacked by followers of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) on Sept. 16. CONAMAQ's jiliri apu mallku, or top leader, Félix Becerra,  said the MAS followers, some armed with knives and clubs, stormed the office and attempted to occupy it. A group of MAS dissident lawmakers in Bolivia's congress, calling themselves the "free-thinkers" (librepensantes), joined Becerra in denouncing the apparent attack and calling for an investigation. But a rival CONAMAQ leader, Hilarión Mamani, denied Becerra's version of events and called for dialogue with the MAS. Becerra charges that MAS is attempting to divide CONAMAQ by setting up a parallel leadership within the organization. (El Diario, La Paz, Sept. 17; Eju!, Santa Cruz, Sept. 16)

Venezuela withdraws from OAS rights body

Venezuela's withdrawal from the American Convention on Human Rights went into effect this month, drawing the condemnation of rights groups across the hemisphere. The withdrawal was one of the Hugo Chávez’s last decisions as president, and took effect one year after he announced Venezuela's official "denunciation" of the American Convention, also known as the San José Pact. Upon the withdrawal, President Nicolás Maduro reiterated Chavez’s charge that the Inter-American system is a US pawn: "[T]he US is not part of the human rights system, does not acknowledge the court's jurisdiction or the commission, but…the commission headquarters is in Washington. Almost all participants and bureaucracy that are part of the [Inter-American Court of Human Rights] are captured by the interests of the State Department of the United States."

Colombia: injured GM workers continue fight

A small number of former employees of GM Colmotores, the Colombian subsidiary of the Detroit-based General Motors Company (GM), remain encamped in front of the US embassy in Bogotá more than two years after they started a campaign to get the company to reinstate them and compensate them for work-related injuries. Off-and-on talks with GM over the past year have failed to produce an agreement; the most recent was held in August. According to Jorge Parra, the president of the Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of Colmotores (Asotrecol), the injured workers were laid off because of their injuries and should get the same compensation as auto workers in the US, where disabled workers can receive up to two-thirds of their salary for the rest of their lives. He says GM only offered $35,000 for each worker; company officials say they have made better offers.

Peru: police fire on Cajamarca campesinos —again

National Police troops in Peru's northern Cajamarca province on Sept. 17 clashed with residents of Quishuar Corral hamlet who were conducting reconassiance of mountain trails on their communal lands, which they suspected the Yanacocha mining company of illegally closing to facilitate expansion of its operations. Four of the villagers were injured, and two hospitalized. Witnesses said the police troops opened fire without warning with rubber bullets and tear-gas cannisters. (RPP, Sept. 17)

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