Bolivia showdown with Chile over border incident

Some 2,000 Bolivians marched Feb. 20 through central La Paz to the Chilean consulate to demand the liberation of three Bolivian soldiers held since Jan. 25 after crossing the border into the neighboring country. At the consulate, protesters delivered an open letter addressed to Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, demanidng that he comply with his "historic obligation" to answer Bolivian demands for sea access. The march was led by an alliance of popular organizations, including Bolivia's campesino federation, CSUTCB.

Chile: 20 arrested at Mapuche prisoner's hearing

Chilean authorities suspended a hearing for indigenous Mapuche prisoner Fernando Millacheo Marín on Feb. 12 after some 20 of Millacheo's supporters, including women and children, were detained outside the courthouse in Collipulli in the southern Araucanía region's Malleco province. Police agents attacked the crowd of about 50 protesters with a water cannon, according to Mapuche sources, and beat several women and handcuffed an 11-year-old. The detainees were charged with public disorder, and Millacheo's hearing was postponed to Feb. 15. The authorities said the protesters caused the clash by hurling rocks at police agents, but Mapuche activists countered that the detentions were part of a wave of repression that included the arrest of Jaime Huenchullan, werken (spokesperson) for the Temucuicui autonomous community, along with an unnamed French national, while they were on their way to the hearing.

Chile: Mapuche hunger striker reported near death

On Jan. 27 a group of academics, musicians and human rights activists said they were planning an emergency visit the next day to two indigenous Chilean prisoners to try to find a political solution that could end a hunger strike the prisoners started on Nov. 14. The prisoners--Héctor Llaitul Carillanca, the leader of the militant Mapuche organization Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM), and CAM activist Ramón Llanquileo Pilquimán--were convicted in 2011 of arson and of attacking a prosecutor; this is their third hunger strike to demand a reduction of their sentences. They are now being held in a prison in Concepción, in the central Biobío region.

Chile: 'terrorist' attacks in Mapuche region

Chilean landowner Werner Luchsinger and his wife, Vivianne McKay, died in a fire set by some 20 masked attackers on Jan. 4 at their Lumahue estate in Vilcún, in the southern region of Araucanía. Luchsinger, who was 75 years old, reportedly fought back against the intruders with a firearm, wounding at least one. The couple, who owned some 1,000 hectares of farmland in the region, had resisted demands for land from the indigenous Mapuche community. Pamphlets were found at the site commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of Mapuche student Matías Catrileo Quezada, who was shot in the back by a police agent on Jan. 3, 2008 during an occupation of an estate owned by Werner Luchsinger's cousin, Jorge Luchsinger.

Chile: ex-officers to stand trial for Jara murder

Chilean judge Miguel Vázquez Plaza issued an order on Dec. 28 for the detention and trial of eight former military officers for their alleged participation in the murder of renowned singer and songwriter Víctor Jara during the military coup that established the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The leftist musician was one of the first and best known of the estimated 3,000 people murdered or disappeared by the dictatorship.

ICJ opens hearings in Chile-Peru maritime dispute

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) began hearings on Dec. 3 regarding a longtime border dispute between Chile and Peru. Peru first filed its  application  with the ICJ in 2008 alleging that Chile refused to enter into negotiations over the disputed maritime border and requesting that the ICJ resolve the dispute. At issue is a 15,000 square mile triangle of the Pacific Ocean, which Chile currently controls. Bolivia also plans to send a delegation to the ICJ and plans its own lawsuit against Chile. A decision by the 15-judge panel is not expected until mid-2013 at the earliest, and it cannot be appealed once issued.

Chile: Pascua Lama mine suspended over safety

The Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation has had to suspend some of its operations at Pascua Lama—a giant open-pit gold, silver and copper mine being built in the Andes at the border between Argentina and Chile—as a result of an inspection by Chile's National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) on Oct. 24. Sernageomin ordered the suspension on Oct. 31 after its inspectors found unsafe levels of fine particles in the air at the mine; a report blamed "incorrect technical monitoring" of the earth being excavated. Barrick said it suspended the operations voluntarily on Oct. 27. Chilean mining minister Hernán de Solminihac indicated that the suspension may last several weeks. (Radio Universidad de Chile, Nov. 10; Bloomberg News, Nov. 11, via BusinessWeek)

Chile: court approves call for US officer's extradition

A panel of Chile's Supreme Court of Justice voted 4-1 on Oct. 17 to approve a request for the extradition of former US Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis to stand trial for his involvement in the murders of two US citizens, journalist Charles Horman and graduate student Frank Teruggi, in the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende Gossens. Chilean investigative judge Jorge Zepeda asked for the extradition in November 2011 when he indicted Davis for allegedly failing to prevent the murders; the indictment was based in part on declassified US documents. The court's one dissenter held that a 15-year statute of limitations applied in the case, but the majority held that the charges were for a crime against humanity and therefore were not subject to the limitation.

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