Southern Cone

Paraguay violates indigenous rights: UN committee

Paraguay's failure to prevent toxic contamination of an indigenous people's traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and sense of "home," the UN Human Rights Committee found in a landmark ruling Oct. 13. The Committee, made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries' adherence to the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. The decision on Paraguay marks the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous peoples, "home" should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.

Chile: new escalation in Mapuche country

A group of masked armed men calling themselves Mapuche Territory Resistance seized control of Malleco National Reserve in Chile's La Araucanía region Oct. 9, occupying the administrative offices and releasing a video of the action in which they declare their readiness to resist "any violent act on the part of the State." The statement accused the Chilean Forestry Corporation (CONAF), which runs the reserve, of "usurpation" of traditional Mapuche lands and opening them to timber exploitation. President Sebastian Piñera responded by lodging a criminal complaint against the occupiers and demanding their eviction.

Argentina: anti-mining protesters chase off president

Protesters against a mining project pelted stones at the vehicle of Argentina's President Alberto Fernández on a visit to southern Chubut province March 13, forcing him to flee the scene. The incident took place at the pueblo of Lago Puelo, in an area recently affected by devastating forest fires. Fernández was assailed as soon as he tried to step out of the car, with protesters chanting slogans against both him and provincial governor Mariano Arcioni. Fernández cut short his tour, and after escaping the confrontation was whisked from the area by Federal Police helicopter. The Chubut provincial legislature is considering a measure to allow Canadian firm Pan American Silver to move ahead with its $1 billion Navidad mining project, but the vote has been held up by protest mobilizations by communities opposed the project, under the slogan "No is no." (Europa Press, Diario Junio, Entre Rios)

March revolution in Paraguay?

Paraguay is witnessing an explosion of mass protest over government mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. With hospitals overwhelmed and infections soaring, teachers refused orders for a mandatory return to classes on March 2. The following day, nurses, doctors, patients and their families demonstrated outside the main hospital in the capital Asunción to protest the lack of vaccines, protective equipment and basic medications. On March 5, widespread protests escalated to clashes with the riot police, leaving one demonstrator dead and several injured. President Mario Abdo Benítez of the conservative Colorado Party offered dialogue and forced the resignation of several cabinet members, including health minister Julio Mazzoleni. But protesters are continuing to mobilize, demanding the resignation of Abdo himself and his entire government, under the slogan !Que se vayan todos! (Throw them all out!)

Chile: indigenous seats in constitutional convention

The Chilean Senate on Sept. 15 unanimously approved a bill to reserve 17 of its 155 seats for indigenous peoples in the country's upcoming constitutional convention. The bill provides a fixed number of seats for representatives of designated indigenous communities in the country. The Mapuche, the largest indigenous group, are to have seven seats. Indigenous people constitute around 11.3% of Chile's total population of 19 million, and their under-representation in politics has contributed to social and economic inequalities. However, despite demands, the Senate did not reserve seats for Afro-descendants, another under-represented group in Chilean society.

Chileans vote to draft new constitution

Exactly one year after a mass demonstration brought more than a million people to the streets of Santiago to demand fundamental change amid a mass uprising, Chileans voted Oct. 25 to scrap the Pinochet-era constitution and for a constituent assembly to be formed to draft a new one. An overwhelming 80% voted for the drafting of a new constitution in the two-question referendum, with a similar proportion voting in favor of the new charter being drawn up by a body to be 100% elected by a popular vote rather than one made up by 50% of members of Congress. President Sebastian Piñera signed a law last year calling for the referendum in response to the protest movement then sweeping the country.

Military Police evict land occupation in Brazil

Brazilian Military Police completed the eviction of a long-standing land occupation called Quilombo Campo Grande in Minas Gerais state on Aug. 14, after a struggle of almost three days. Police brought in armored vehicles and fired tear-gas to clear the community from the land, before moving in to destroy homes and crops. Also demolished was the Eduardo Galeano Popular School, where children, youth and adults studied together. The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), whose followers established the squatter community 22 years ago, protested that the mass eviction leaves some 450 families homeless in the midst of a pandemic.

Chile: Mapuche mobilize after racist mob attacks

Chile's Mapuche indigenous people are holding emergency community meetings in their territory to discuss how to respond to a wave of racist attacks. The most serious incident occurred Aug. 1 in Curacautín, Araucanía region, where a group of Mapuche protesters were holding an occupation of the municipal building. The protest had been called in solidarity with Celestino Córdova, a Mapuche leader imprisoned in relation to a conflict over land rights, and now on hunger strike to demand his freedom. The protesters were set upon by a mob, who ejected them from the municipal building before beating them in the street and setting several of their vehicles on fire. The attackers used racist slurs and slogans such as "¡Querían terrorismo, acá tienen terrorismo!" (You wanted terrorism, now you have terrorism!). The Carabineros looked on but did not interfere, only acting afterwards to remove remnant protesters from the building. (Resumen, Concepción; BiobioChile.cl, BiobioChile.cl, Cooperativa, Santiago; Amnesty International)

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