Andean Theater

Colombia: 181 social leaders murdered in 2023

The Colombian Ombudsman's Office (Defensoría del Pueblo de Colombia, DPC) reported Jan. 9 that 181 social leaders and human rights defenders were murdered in 2023. The DPC, in its "Annual report on the killings of social leaders and human rights defenders," counted 160 men and 21 women among the victims. The ombudsman, Carlos Camargo Assis, stated: "It is an unacceptable situation that every two days last year, on average, a social leader or human rights defender was murdered in Colombia. Every life lost is a tragedy for their families, for the communities, and for the defense of fundamental rights in the country."

Peru protests: one year later

A year after the height of a protest wave that swept Peru, demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, we finally see an initial step toward justice for the some 50 slain by security forces in the repression unleashed by her regime. On Jan. 6, Judicial Power, Peru's justice department, ordered the "preventative detention" of Joe Erik Torres Lovón, an officer of the National Police, as he is investigated in the slaying of a Cuzco youth, Rosalino Florez Valverde, last January. (El País

'State of armed conflict' declared in Ecuador

Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa on Jan. 8 declared a 60-day state of emergency in the country after the escape of Adolfo Macías Villamar AKA "Fito," leader of Los Choneros narco-gang, from Littoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil. Macías had been serving a 34-year sentence since 2011 for drug trafficking, murder, and organized crime. As news broke of his disappearance, six other correctional facilities across the country exploded into riots. The situation escalated the following day, when hooded gunmen interrupted a live television broadcast in Guayaquil, taking reporters and staff hostage. Noboa responded by declaring a state of "internal armed conflict" in the country, ordering security forces to "neutralize" designated "terrorist organizations" and "non-state actors," including Los Choneros, Los Lobos and Los Tiguerones narco-gangs. (Jurist, CNN, BBC News, NYT, AFP, InfoBae, La República)

Colombia: most dangerous country for ecologists

Colombia recorded the world's highest number of killings of environmental defenders in 2022, with 60 individuals murdered, according to a report released on Sept. 12 by activist group Global Witness. The organization, which has been documenting environmental defender deaths since 2012, found that the number of environmental defenders slain in Colombia nearly doubled in 2022, compared to the previous year. These killings have pushed Colombia's environmental defender death toll to 382 since 2012.

UN: poverty, oppression at root of Ecuador crisis

UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty & Human Rights Olivier De Schutter issued a report Sept. 8, citing impoverishment and exploitation as the "root cause" of the fast-mounting violence and instability in Ecuador. Following a 12-day visit to the country, De Schutter warned against a purely militarized response to the crisis that ignores social and economic factors. The report states:

Peru: opposition protests US troop deployment

Peru's Congress on May 19 voted 70-33 with four abstentions to approve Legislative Resolution 4766, authorizing US troops to be stationed on the national territory from June 1 to Dec. 31. Lima lawmaker Alfredo Azurín, president of the Commission on National Defense, Internal Order & Anti-Drug Struggle, said the soldiers will carry out training missions and joint exercises with Peru's armed forces and National Police. He named several regions where the troops will be mobilize, including Loreto, San Martín, Huánuco, Ucayali, Pasco, Junín, Huancavelica, Cuzco, Ayacucho and Apurímac. Azurín assured that there is no intention to establish a US military base in Peru, and that the congressional decision has no effect on the country's national sovereignty. (Congreso Noticias)

Oil intrigues behind Ecuador auto-golpe

President Guillermo Lasso dissolved Ecuador's opposition-controlled National Assembly on May 17—just one day after his impeachment trial began. The impeachment proceedings are of course suspended, and Lasso is to rule by decree, subject to oversight only by the Constitutional Court, until new presidential and legislative elections are held. His office issued a communique asserting that Lasso acted under Article 148 of the Ecuadoran Constitution, which states: "The President of the Republic will be able to dissolve the National Assembly…if it repeatedly without justification obstructs implementation of the National Development Plan or because of a severe political crisis and domestic unrest." The so-called "muerte cruzada" (mutual death) provision, introduced in 2008, has never been used in Ecuador before.

Peru: 'egregious abuses' by security forces

Peru's military and police likely carried out extrajudicial or arbitrary killings and committed other "egregious abuses" against demonstrators as well as bystanders during protests that swept the country from late last year through February, Human Rights Watch says in a new report. While some protesters were responsible for acts of violence, security forces responded with "grossly disproportionate" force, including with assault weapons. Forty-nine protesters and bystanders, including eight children, were documented as killed in the unrest. The April 26 report, "Deadly Decline: Security Force Abuses and Democratic Crisis in Peru" emphasizes "the entrenched political and social crisis that is eroding the rule of law and human rights" in the Andean country. The administration of President Dina Boluarte "seems to have looked the other way for weeks as security forces killed protesters and bystanders," said César Muñoz, associate Americas director at Human Rights Watch. (HRW)

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