Last week in South America, demonstrations slightly decreased across the region. Demonstrations over women’s rights were held in several countries, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, while anti-abortion protests were held in Argentina. In Chile, Brazil, and Peru, citizens demonstrated over government policies and called for institutional changes. Violence levels remain high in the region, with attacks targeting farmers increasing in Colombia, and criminal violence taking place in Brazil.
On 25 November, thousands of women took to the streets to march against gender-based violence across the region. Protests were reported in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela (France24, 26 November 2020; RFI, 26 November 2020). Recent reports have shown a significant increase in violence against women across Latin America since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, especially in terms of domestic violence and femicide (International Rescue Committee, 9 June 2020).
In Argentina, the number of protests remained steady last week compared to the previous week. On 28 November, a nationwide protest was called in several provinces against a new bill to legalize abortion, which has been backed by President Fernandez. The bill would allow access to the termination of a pregnancy up to the fourteenth week. The legislation is facing backlash from Christian groups in the country. The current law, passed in 1920, only allows abortion in cases of rape or danger to the woman’s life (Infobae, 28 November 2020).
Demonstrations over government policies were reported in a number of countries. In Chile, anti-government demonstrations were reported in the main cities. The marches followed President Sebastián Piñera’s announcement that he would appeal to the Supreme Court to block a Senate bill that would allow pensioners to withdraw 10% of their retirement savings for a second time. The initial measure was intended to help citizens overcome the economic impact of the pandemic, but Piñera claimed it was unconstitutional (Pensions & Investment, 23 November 2020). After demonstrations supporting the measure, the Senate passed the text with modifications, which include the payment of taxes on the withdrawal (DW, 26 November 2020). Nevertheless, demonstrations continued to be reported, with thousands taking to the streets to call for Piñera’s resignation (DW, 27 November 2020).
In Brazil, demonstrations continue to be 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 claim the elections were rigged in many municipalities and demand a recount of the votes. The second round of municipal elections took place on 29 November for cities with more than 200,000 voters.
Additionally, demonstrations against racism and police brutality were held for the second consecutive week in several cities. Most of them were motivated by the case of João Alberto Silveira Freitas, a Black man who was beaten to death by private security forces outside a supermarket in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state. In some demonstrations, the protesters held signs referring to the Black Lives Matter movement. In another incident, a young man was killed by military police officers in São Paulo city. According to the family of the victim, he was at home and unarmed when officers broke into the apartment and shot him dead (Ponte Jornalismo, 28 November 2020). Riots were reported after his killing, with people burning tires on the streets and demanding justice for the victim. Black and mixed-race people represent approximately 57 percent of the Brazilian population, and yet they account for 79 percent of the victims of police killings (UOL, 18 October 2020).
In Peru, demonstrations decreased by almost half following the swearing-in of new President Francisco Sagasti on 17 November. Sagasti was appointed President following the resignation of interim President Manuel Merino. Merino had replaced Martín Vizcarra, who was impeached on 9 November and faces ongoing legal battles over corruption charges (Americas Quarterly, 10 November 2020). However, young people continued to stage demonstrations to demand major institutional changes in the country. They called for a Constituent Assembly and for the resignation of mayors involved in corruption cases. Teachers and workers also protested to call for an increase in the education budget for 2021.
Lastly, violence continues to remain high in the region. In Colombia, killings of members of vulnerable groups, perpetrated by armed groups, increased last week, with at least 12 reported fatalities. In the Betania area, Antioquia department, Gulf Clan members killed ten farmers working in a coffee farm. The attack was related to territorial disputes over the control of drug selling points in the area. According to authorities, consumption of drugs in rural areas has increased in the country, leading to disputes over market control between different drug trafficking groups (El Colombiano, 24 November 2020). Additionally, farmers are often the targets of armed groups, since many have joined a national program which provides funds to shift from planting illicit to legal crops, such as cocoa or coffee.
Meanwhile, clashes intensified between military forces and armed groups in Antioquia, Arauca, and Caquetá departments. At least six members of a dissident faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and one soldier were reportedly killed in these events.
Similarly, clashes between criminal groups for territorial control continued to be reported in Brazil. In Ibaretama city, Ceará state, seven people, including a six-year-old child, were shot dead by armed men during an attack. According to ongoing investigations, most of the victims belong to a drug trafficking group, suggesting a territorial dispute as motivation. Ceará state has had the sharpest increase in intentional violent deaths in 2020, which includes homicides, femicides and deaths following armed robberies and police operations. The number represents almost twice the total number recorded in 2019, according to the NGO Brazilian Association of Public Security (G1, 19 October 2020).
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