Last week in South America, demonstrations significantly increased across the region. Tensions increased in Peru following the impeachment of President Martin Vizcarra. In Argentina, anti-government protests were held across the country. Protests against the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic were reported in Chile. In Colombia, farmers protested to demand government support amid an agricultural crisis. In Brazil, political killings increased the week before the municipal elections.
In Peru, tensions significantly increased after members of Congress approved the removal of President Martin Vizcarra by an impeachment vote. Vizcarra was ousted on allegations of “moral incapacity” (Americas Quarterly, 10 November 2020), due to an ongoing investigation into corruption charges during his time as governor of the Moquegua region from 2011 to 2014 (El Comercio, 10 November 2020). The swearing-in of Manuel Merino of the Popular Action Party as the President of Congress was met with significant public opposition. Citizens took to the streets, claiming the impeachment was a maneuver by the opposition who disliked Vizcarra’s anti-graft reforms (The Guardian, 10 November 2020). Several demonstrations were reported across the country, with thousands of Peruvians marching through the streets (Reuters, 14 November 2020). Citizens rejected the lack of transparency of the impeachment procedure and called for the appointment of a new president (La Republica, 15 November 2020).
After only six days as president, Merino resigned. His decision came after two young men were shot dead by police officers during violent demonstrations in Lima. Following a vote in Congress, Francisco Sagasti of the Purple Party was chosen by congressmen to replace Merino. He was sworn-in as President of Peru on 17 November (La Republica, 16 November 2020).
In Argentina, anti-government protests significantly increased last week compared to the previous week, with a nationwide protest held on 8 November. Thousands of citizens took to the streets in several provinces to show their discontent with President Alberto Fernandez’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic (La Nacion, 8 November 2020). Protesters also reject the purchase of a Russian vaccine, claiming it lacks safety and efficacy. They likewise oppose a mandatory immunization campaign (El Periodico, 7 November 2020). Meanwhile, left-wing groups took to the streets on 10 November under the banner of the Independent Movement for Justice and Dignity (MIJD). The group protested in several provinces to demand access to affordable housing, the right to work, and a decent wage for all citizens. They also called for the reinstitution of Emergency Family Income (IFE), which was cut by the national government. The IFE was a form of social insurance given to informal workers to help them deal with the economic impact of the pandemic.
Citizens also protested in Chile against the government handling of the pandemic. In the Los Lagos region, protesters demanded a return to normal operations for businesses such as restaurants and stores. The protests follow the regional government announcement that measures to enforce social distancing would be extended. At the same time, health workers protested across the country against inadequate funding for healthcare programs. Hospital staff called for more government funding and demonstrated against precarious working conditions amid the pandemic.
In Colombia, potato farmers protested in several cities, including in the capital, Bogotá, to demand government support amid a crisis in the agricultural sector. The group has been affected by trade agreements that have decreased the prices of local produce, amid a crisis worsened by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Farmers also claim that high production costs and a lack of government investment affects their income. Small farmers constitute about 20% of the Colombian population (Semana Rural, 5 July 2019). Additionally, more than 2,700,000 tons of potatoes are produced in the country annually, making it an important production sector in the country (Semana, 9 November 2020).
In Brazil, attacks against politicians and candidates significantly increased one week before the municipal elections on 15 November, taking place across the country in a number of states. At least 18 attacks were reported, resulting in two reported deaths. Violence against political figures has increased in recent months. Some attacks have even been carried out while candidates have been in the middle of live streaming campaigns on their social media accounts this year (BBC News, 14 November 2020).
Meanwhile, several demonstrations took place in Amapá state, following a statewide power blackout. On 3 November, a fire hit the state’s main energy substation. For several days, more than 80% of the population had their power cut (G1, 12 November 2020). Although an energy rotation system was temporarily implemented, residents claim that they continue to have limited access to energy. Residents complain of negligence from government authorities and from the private power distribution company. Amapá has a population of about 861,000 people, which represents well under 1% of the total Brazilian population (G1, 27 August 2020). Located in the northern border of the Amazon forest, far from the economic centers of the country, the state is often affected by a lack of access to basic services (The Intercept, 14 November 2020).
Lastly, hundreds of women protested across Brazil to demand justice for a rape victim. The young woman was verbally abused by the defendant’s lawyer and the prosecutor during her hearing trial. According to the Brazilian Public Security Forum, in 2019 one rape crime was reported in Brazil every eight minutes (UOL, 18 October 2020).
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