Andean Theater

Ecuador: president extends state of emergency

Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso on Nov. 18 extended the country's state of emergency by a second 30 days. The decree is ostensibly an attempt to combat the insecurity generated by drug-related crime and re-establish public order. It provides for the mobilization of military forces in certain provinces to assist the functions of the National Police in several provinces.

Protests shut down Peru's largest copper mine

Peru's massive Antamina copper mine had to halt operations Oct. 31 due to protest blockades on an access road by local campesinos. The company, owned by the Australian BHP Billiton and the Swiss Glencore, urged the government "to restore order" and open dialogue with the protesters, stating that as long as "these conditions are not met, we cannot continue to operate." Residents of the local Aquia district (Bolognesi province, Áncash region) charge that Antamina "usurped" campesino lands for the project, which brings no benefit to the community. After a week of blocking the access roads, the campesinos on Nov. 2 agreed to lift the protest following intercession by the Ministry of Energy & Mines. However, they pledged to maintain the blockades until Antamina signs a formal agreement recognizing them as dialogue partners. (MercoPress, Mining.com, Caretas, Reuters

Colombia's most wanted para boss arrested

Colombia's most wanted fugitive, the notorious paramilitary commander Dairo Antonio Úsuga AKA "Otoniel," was arrested by security forces following a years-long manhunt, the government announced Oct. 23. The chief of the outlawed Gaitanista Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) was apprehended in a joint operation by the army and National Police in Necocli, a municipality of Urabá region on the Caribbean coast. The raid on Necocli involved hundreds of troops and some 20 helicopters. The US government considers the AGC Colombia's largest drug trafficking organization, and offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Otoniel in 2017, eight years after he was indicted by a federal court in New York. It is unclear if the Colombian government intends to extradite.

Peru: populist president prevails amid polarization

Proclaiming that "change is coming," Pedro Castillo, a left-populist political outsider and former school teacher, was sworn in as Peru's new president on July 28—the bicentennial of the country's independence from Spain. The following day, a second symbolic inauguration ceremony was held at the Battlefield of Ayacucho, site of the 1824 battle that secured Peru's independence and put an end of Spanish colonialism in South America. (TeleSur, Reuters)

Peru: ex-spymaster in plot to swing recount

The Fiscalía of Peru, the country's top prosecutor, has opened an investigation into Vladimiro Montesinos, the imprisoned former intelligence chief under dictator Alberto Fujimori, following release of a recording in which he evidently urges electoral authorities to throw the pending presidential election to Keiko Fujimori—daughter of the ex-dictator. The so-called "Vladiaudios" were released by Pedro Rejas, a retired military officer and Fujimori loyalist who received the phone call from Montesinos on June 23. In the call they appear to discuss bribing members of the National Jury of Elections (JNE). Also under investigation is Luis Arce Córdova, a JNE member who on the same day as the phone call was forced to step down for conflict of interest in response statements in favor of candidate Fujimori. (Aristegui Noticias, IDL-Reporteros, The Guardian, TeleSur)

FARC 'dissidents' bring insurgency to Venezuela

So-called "dissident"  FARC factions that have refused to accept the Colombian peace accords and taken refuge across the border in Venezuela now appear to be waging a local insurgency against the Nicolás Maduro regime. A group calling itself the Martin Villa 10th Front announced in early May that it had captured eight Venezuelan soldiers on April 23 during a battle in Apure state, near the Colombian border. On May 31, Venezuela's National Bolivarian Armed Forces announced that the soldiers had been freed in a rescue operation. But the independent Caracas Chronicles reports that the eight were actually released under terms of a deal negotiated in Cuba. The deal was said to have been brokered with the help of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a second Colombian guerilla group which remains in arms and whose leadership is based in Havana.

Colombia: ex-prez apologizes for 'false positives'

Colombia's ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing an end to the country's long internal war, publicly apologized June 11 for his role in the practice of "false positives"—extrajudicial executions by the armed forces, in which the victims were reported as guerillas slain in combat. The apology came in testimony before Colombia's Truth Commission, created under the peace process that Santos himself initiated. Santos admitted that most of the "false positives" took place when he served as defense minister under the hardline president Álvaro Uribe, and that he initially turned a blind eye to the practice.

Peru: Keiko takes page from Trump playbook

One week after Peru's close and hotly contested presidential run-off election, far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori appears to be taking a tip from the Donald Trump playbook. The official results from the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) give Fujimori 49.8% of the vote, and 50.2% to her left-populist challenger Pedro Castillo. However, the results only become official when they are certified by the National Jury of Elections (JNE)—and Fujimori is calling for some 200,000 votes to be nullified as fraudulent, more than enough to throw the race in her favor. On June 11, the JNE said it would extend the deadline for filing challenges to votes, which had passed two days earlier. However, it reversed this decision hours later, in response to a public outcry and accusations by Castillo and his supporters of an attempted "coup d'etat." (Peru21, June 12; DW, June 11; BBC Mundo, June 10)

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