Last week in South America, protests continued to decrease across the region. In Chile, political tensions increased after the nomination of a new Minister of the Interior. In Colombia, former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels held demonstrations asking for better security. Armed clashes also took place in the country between military forces and the Gulf Clan. In Bolivia, opposition groups continued to contest the victory of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party in the recent presidential elections. Protests continue to be held to demand access to basic services in Venezuela. In Brazil, political killings continue to take place in the lead up to municipal elections.
In Chile, political tensions increased in the southern part of the country hours before Rodrigo Delgado took over as the new Minister of the Interior on 5 November. Explosions and arson attacks were conducted by indigenous Mapuche militiamen in the cities of Ercilla and Lautaro, Araucanía region, as well as in Contulmo, Biobío region (El Mercurio, 6 November 2020). Delgado was appointed by President Sebastián Piñera following the resignation of the previous minister, Víctor Peréz. Peréz resigned after Congress formally accepted an inquiry accusing him of failing to report cases of police brutality, among other allegations. Indigenous activists who fight for Mapuche rights claim that their lands are being threatened by agriculture and forestry industries. For this, they hold the state accountable for not ensuring their rights to their ancestral territory (for more, see this ACLED Analysis piece: Understanding Indigenous Conflict in Chile). In previous years, the Mapuche people have expressed their discontent over the decisions of the Ministry of the Interior to not uphold their historical rights and for supporting both militarized policies in Mapuche lands and the repressive actions of police (El Siglo, 4 November 2020). The killing of Mapuche leader Camilo Catrillanca by the national police on 14 November 2018 mobilized the country to carry out protests against police brutality. Chile’s House of Representatives declared the liability of then-Minister of the Interior Andrés Chadwick and his undersecretary, Rodrigo Ubilla, for the killing of Catrillanca (teleSUR, 4 November 2019).
In Colombia, hundreds of demobilized FARC combatants took to the streets in Bogotá to call for government protection against the mass killings of ex-combatants. Since the 2016 Peace Agreement with the government, at least 236 ex-combatants have been killed by armed groups (El Periódico, 3 November 2020). Former FARC combatants have committed to integrating back into civil society by adhering to government programs of training and reincorporation activities (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 turn them into permanent facilities or villages.
Meanwhile, in the Antioquia department, an armed clash took place between military forces and the Gulf Clan, resulting in at least three reported deaths (El Colombiano, 5 November 2020). The Gulf Clan, also known as Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, is a neo-paramilitary group and drug cartel in Colombia. The group is known primarily for drug trafficking, but also engages in acts of extortion, killings, and forced disappearances. Authorities claim that the group has an alliance with the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel (Colombia Reports, 22 October 2019).
Meanwhile, in Bolivia, social unrest stemmed from the results of the presidential election that took place on 18 October. Official results confirmed the victory of Luis Arce, the candidate from Evo Morales’s left-wing party MAS. Morales was ousted by the military on 10 November 2019 and was replaced by right-wing, self-declared interim President Jeanine Añéz. The comeback of the socialist party further polarized the nation, as protests were held by opposition groups in different cities across the country. Opposition groups contested the official results of the election and called for an audit. They 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).
In Venezuela, protests continued to increase across the country, as citizens demand access to basic services, including gas for domestic use, electricity, clean water, and the distribution of government-sponsored food bags. Likewise, on 4 November, teachers and health workers called for the third nationwide protest in less than two months. Teachers seek major economic reforms in the public sector. Health workers and public servants urge authorities to provide them with the necessary equipment to protect themselves from the coronavirus and to draw attention to the collapse of the healthcare system.
Lastly, in Brazil, protests were carried out in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo against a compulsory coronavirus vaccination program, and in support of President Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign against mandatory immunization. Moreover, in São Paulo, the group also protested against state Governor João Doria and his support for mandatory vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac biopharmaceutical company. With Doria’s endorsement, the Sinovac vaccine is being tested in São Paulo as part of phase III of clinical trials. In turn, President Bolsonaro stated that any vaccination ought to be taken on a voluntary basis. The final decision, however, will be taken by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) before the vaccine is ready (Estadão, 23 October 2020).
Additionally, attacks against electoral candidates significantly increased in the country last week, in the lead up to municipal elections expected to take place on 15 November. Attacks against politicians and candidates for City Council were carried out by unknown perpetrators in the states of Pará, Ceará, Mato Grosso, Paraíba, and Rio de Janeiro. Furthermore, an explosive was placed at the house of a City Hall candidate in the city of Governador Lindenberg, Espírito Santo state. The bomb was safely defused by the military police and no one was injured. In the city of Rio de Janeiro, unknown armed individuals invaded the location in which a meeting of a mayoral candidate was being held. Since 17 September, when the municipal candidates were officially confirmed, one electoral candidate has been killed every three days in Brazil (Folha de S. Paulo, 3 November 2020).
Similarly, a City Councilor was attacked with at least 15 shots by members of the Red Command (CV) during a political rally in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The victim, who was running for his second term for City Council, was injured and two others were killed. According to investigations, the attack may be motivated by territorial disputes between drug traffickers and militia groups. The injured councilor is suspected of being involved in militia activities in the West Zone of the city (Revista Piauí, 12 May 2018).
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