Last week in South America, demonstrations decreased across all countries in the region. In Argentina, a violent eviction led to protests in favor of housing initiatives from the government. Protests continue to be held to demand access to basic services in Venezuela. In Colombia, demobilized rebel combatants called for government protection. In Bolivia, opposition groups contested the victory of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party in the recent presidential elections. In Chile, citizens took to the streets to celebrate the results of the constitutional referendum. Indigenous militias took civilians hostage in Peru to call for more development projects in their region. In Brazil, political killings took place in the lead up to municipal elections.
In Argentina, anti-government protests significantly decreased compared to weeks prior. However, health workers continued to carry out protests demanding an increase in salaries and rejecting precarious working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, demonstrations in favor of housing programs were reported across Buenos Aires province following a violent eviction in Guernica city. Nearly 80 families were evicted from makeshift shelters. Clashes were reported between residents and police enforcing the measure. Since July, about 2,500 families that have been left homeless due to the pandemic have taken shelter on 100 hectares of private property. Most of these families had already left before the eviction took place (DW, 30 October 2020).
In Venezuela, demonstrations also significantly decreased across the country. Nevertheless, protests continued to be reported as citizens demanded access to basic services, including gas for domestic use, electricity, clean water, and the distribution of government-sponsored food bags. Meanwhile, prominent opposition activist Leopoldo López left Venezuela after spending a year sheltered in the Spanish embassy to avoid arrest. Dozens of anti-government politicians have fled Venezuela in recent years due to continued persecution by the regime of Nicolás Maduro (The Guardian, 25 October 2020).
In Colombia, hundreds of demobilized former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) started a march from several regions towards the capital, Bogotá (Telesur, 29 October 2020). They reiterated their compromise with the peace agreements signed in 2016 and called for government protection. Former FARC combatants have committed to integrating back into civil society by adhering to government programs of training and reincorporation activities. 236 former combatants have been killed by armed groups since the agreements were signed in 2016 (Infobae, 2 November 2020). Analysts have previously raised concerns about the government’s ability to ensure the safety of former combatants living in the reinsertion camps (for example, see this recent ACLED piece). The temporary arrangement of the camps has already expired and the government has not yet announced plans to make them into permanent facilities or villages.
In Bolivia, tensions increased slightly following the results of the general election, which was held on 18 October. Opposition groups took to the streets to decry the victory of Luis Arce, the candidate of MAS — the political party of former President Evo Morales. In Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Sucre cities, citizens called for military intervention in the country. The opposition also protested after MAS senators modified the internal regulations of the Senate, annulling the requirement for two-thirds support for the approval of laws. The measure would benefit MAS, which, despite winning 55% of the presidential vote, did not obtain the required two-thirds to secure a majority in the Senate (Bolivia Verifica, 28 October 2020).
Meanwhile, in Chile, protests and motorcades were organized across the country following the results of the referendum on 25 October. The majority of protests celebrated the decision to replace the Pinochet-era constitution, with thousands of people taking to the streets (DW, 26 October 2020). Chileans also decided that the new document should be drafted by 155 newly-elected representatives to a constitutional drafting committee, of which at least 45% have to be women (La Tercera, 26 October 2020). Indigenous groups continued to argue for increased participation in the process, calling for the reservation of 23 seats for indigenous delegates (Biobio, 30 October 2020). The Constitution Commission of the Senate will decide and vote on a final number of reserved seats next week (Biobio, 4 November 2020).
In Peru, indigenous people continued to block the Marañón river in Uranias district of Loreto province for the second week in a row. They aimed to draw the government’s attention to an oil spill from 2016 that severely affected the region. Oil spills in Peru are often reported by indigenous environmental monitors. The group — armed with firearms and bows — took hostages from passenger boats and fired shots into the air. No injuries were reported (Diario La Region, 27 October 2020).
In Brazil, attacks against electoral candidates increased last week, in the lead up to municipal elections expected to take place on 15 November. At least four deaths were reported in the states of Ceará, Bahia, Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande do Sul. Additionally, in Magé city, Rio de Janeiro state an electoral campaigner was killed after being shot 15 times after she reported a corruption scheme in the health secretariat. In Niterói city, also in Rio de Janeiro state, groups supporting different candidates for the municipal elections clashed. Analysts claim that the growing electoral violence in Rio de Janeiro state is due to politicians’ connections with drug trafficking and militia groups (G1, 26 October 2020).
Lastly, clashes between criminal groups and state forces continued at similar rates in Brazil last week, while organized criminal groups also clashed amongst themselves. At least 66 people were killed in all reported clashes. In Manaus city, Amazonas state, a deadly territorial dispute between the Red Command (CV) and rival gangs — including the First Capital Command (PCC) and the Family of the North (FDN) — led to three killings in three days. Most of the city is under the influence of the CV, with a notable exception being an area known as Compensa, the birthplace of the FDN. The city, located in the center of the world’s largest rainforest, has been the battleground of a prolonged territorial dispute between the two drug trafficking groups (Insight Crime, 25 February 2020).
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