Last week in South America, the number of demonstration events remained steady in comparison to the previous week. Protests erupted in Brazil in the aftermath of the municipal elections. Demonstrations against police violence were held in Brazil, Peru, and Chile. In Colombia, the armed forces killed the top leader of a paramilitary group. In Venezuela, members of the Yukpa indigenous group clashed with state forces and pro-government militias during a demonstration concerning the lack of government aid amid flooding in their region.
In Brazil, demonstrations were held against the results of the municipal elections that took place on 15 November (for more on violence against municipal candidates in the run-up to the elections, see this recent ACLED infographic). Protesters claimed the elections were rigged in many municipalities and demanded a recount of the votes. Attempting to reinforce the integrity of this year’s first round of municipal elections, the president of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) Luís Roberto Barroso explained that the delay in ballot counts did not interfere in the election results (BBC, 16 November 2020).
Meanwhile, in the state of Amapá, demonstrations continued to take place following the statewide power blackout. The state has been without stable electricity since 3 November, after a fire started in the state’s main energy substation. The power outage caused shortages in water, food, and other basic products. Although an energy rotation system was temporarily implemented, residents claimed that they continued to have limited access to energy. On 17 November, the power went out once again in the state capital Macapá (UOL, 18 November 2020). Residents complained about the negligence of government authorities and private power distribution companies in handling the matter.
On 19 November, the eve of Brazil’s Black Consciousness Day, a black man, João Alberto Silveira Freitas, was beaten to death by private security forces outside a supermarket in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state. The event happened following an argument between a worker and the victim, who was shopping at the supermarket. This incident galvanized activists to carry out demonstrations against racism and police brutality. In São Paulo, protesters painted “Black Lives Matter” on the pavement of Paulista Avenue. Furthermore, they smashed the windows of the supermarket where Freitas was killed and set fire to the establishment. Brazil has a long legacy of racism and class struggle. As the last country to abolish slavery on the North and South American continents, its enduring repercussions are still acutely felt. Black and mixed-race people represent approximately 57 percent of the Brazilian population, however, they account for 79 percent of the victims of police killings (UOL, 18 October 2020).
In Peru, tensions persisted amid the ongoing political crisis. On 15 November, interim President Manuel Merino announced his resignation following the death of two young men in a demonstration calling for his removal from office. Merino had replaced former president Martín Vizcarra, who was impeached on 9 November and faces ongoing legal battles over corruption charges (Americas Quarterly, 10 November 2020). Vizcarra’s controversial impeachment fueled nationwide social unrest and was perceived as a coup d’état by many Peruvians (La Republica, 10 November 2020). After Merino’s resignation, citizens continued to protest across the country, seeking justice for the victims who died or were injured during the demonstrations. They also called for a new Constituent Assembly, in an attempt to curb corruption in the country (La Republica, 16 November 2020). On 16 November, Congress named centrist legislator Francisco Sagasti as Peru’s interim president. Sagasti received 97 votes in his favor and 26 against. He is set to complete his mandate in July 2021 (La Tercera, 17 November 2020).
Similarly in Chile, demonstrations last week were also spurred by police violence. On 18 November, police officers shot and injured two minors at a foster home in the city of Talcahuano, Biobío region. This incident sparked outrage across the nation and people took to the streets calling for police reform. On 19 November, Police General-Director Mario Rozas resigned, following months of controversies regarding human rights violations by police forces. Rozas’s resignation has been called for by demonstrators since the nation’s political unrest in October 2019, when millions of Chileans demonstrated against social and economic inequality and the high living costs under the center-right government. The House of Representatives decided to delay the approval of the police budget for 2021 in response to recent events (Chanarcillo, 19 November 2020).
Meanwhile, in Colombia, citizens gathered to mark the first anniversary of the 2019 demonstrations in which thousands of Colombians demonstrated against social and economic inequality and called for the government to fully implement the 2016 Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) (Al Jazeera, 26 November 2019). Meanwhile, in the Bajo Cauca region, Antioquia department, military forces killed the head of the Los Caparros group during an ongoing military operation. Emiliano Alcides Osorio Macea, known as “Caín,” was responsible for the killing of 11 human rights defenders in the Bajo Cauca region and S Córdoba department (Fiscalía General de La Nación, 17 November 2020). The Los Caparros is a Colombian paramilitary and drug trafficking group. They were allied to the Gulf Clan until 2017, when the group split over disputes over profits and control of drug trafficking and gold mining areas. After the FARC demobilization in 2016, the group established its presence in the Bajo Cauca region, Antioquia and in the southern area of the Córdoba department (Infobae, 18 November 2020).
Finally, in Caracas, Venezuela, the Yukpa indigenous people clashed with national and pro-government militias during a crackdown on a demonstration that left four demonstrators and one police officer injured (El Universal, 19 November 2020). Approximately 300 Yukpa people from Zulia state went to Caracas to request a meeting with President Nicolas Maduro to draw attention to the flash floods that have devastated their homes in the Sierra Perija region (El Pitazo, 19 November 2020). The overflow of the Kunana, Toronto, and Yaza rivers, which first took place in October 2019, has not yet been addressed by the government. The situation worsened after this year’s recent floods. Police intercepted the group near the Miraflores Palace and prevented them from passing. Tensions spiraled thereafter, leading to the clash (El Pitazo, 19 November 2020).
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