Last week in South America, anti-government demonstrations were held in Colombia less than two months after President Gustavo Petro took office. Meanwhile, land occupations by Indigenous groups led to violent clashes with sugarcane farmers in the Cauca department. In Chile, police intervened during labor and healthcare-related demonstrations in the Valparaíso region. Lastly, in Brazil, turf wars between rival organized crime groups prompted killings and armed clashes in Rondônia state and Rio de Janeiro.
Last week in Colombia, citizens took to the streets of the country’s biggest cities to express their discontent over reforms proposed by President Petro’s government. The proposals cover a wide range of topics, including taxes, work conditions, pensions, healthcare, the political and electoral system, and an eventual increase in fuel prices (El Tiempo, 27 September 2022). Although the demonstrations were mostly peaceful, some demonstrators clashed with government supporters in the capital Bogotá, prompting police intervention. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker warned of increased violence in Bogotá, D.C., during the preceding four weeks. Furthermore, in Medellín, a group of demonstrators assaulted a journalist and cameraman covering the event. Likewise, in Cali, demonstrators beat up a congressman from Petro’s Historic Pact party.
Elsewhere, in the Cauca department, members of an Indigenous group clashed with Afro-Colombian sugar cane farmers after a group of Indigenous people attempted to occupy a farm between Guachene and Caloto municipalities. At least seven Indigenous people were injured in the clash. While farm workers claim that the Indigenous group opened fire upon their arrival, the Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca claims an armed group present in the area began the shooting (El Colombiano, 25 September 2022). In the northern Cauca department, Indigenous communities have long histories of occupations, which they call ‘liberations,’ in order to claim their ancestral lands (El Espectador, 23 September 2022). However, land occupations have spiked since President Petro took office in August, and consequently, violent clashes between landowners and Indigenous, Black, and peasant communities have also grown. President Petro had promised to ensure small-scale farmers and Indigenous groups access to land in an attempt to correct historical wrongdoings and inequality (El País, 5 September 2022). While Petro has promised that these reforms will occur according to the law, some recent occupations are also being led by impoverished farmers as an attempt to pressure the government to fulfill its promises (El País, 5 September 2022).
In Chile, citizens held demonstrations in the Valparaíso region over the healthcare system and labor demands last week. In Valparaíso city, family members of people who died due to medical negligence demanded answers over the deaths of their relatives and improvements in the healthcare system. Meanwhile, in Port Valparaíso, union workers built incendiary barricades near Sotomayor Square to demonstrate work-related demands. Police intervened, dispersing the group and controlling the fires.
In Brazil, at least four civilians and one drug trafficker were reportedly killed during violent attacks against civilians and armed clashes connected to organized crime in Rondônia state. Police have linked such killings with territorial disputes between the rival Red Command (CV) and First Capital Command drug trafficking groups (Rondonia ao Vivo, 22 April 2022). Although these groups originated in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo states, their reach has since spread across the country. Both groups have established local headquarters and developed local partnerships in the northern and northeastern states (El País, 9 June 2019), driving drug trafficking territorial disputes and violent attacks against civilians in the region. While violence in Rondônia has been common, it has become increasingly volatile, resulting in a shift from a place of ‘consistent risk’ to being considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
In Rio de Janeiro city, a large-scale military police operation targeting the Pure Third Command (TCP) reportedly left seven people dead and eight others injured last week. At least one of the deceased was identified as a civilian (R7, 26 September 2022). The operation came in response to fears of an imminent turf war between the CV and TCP in the CV-controlled Maré Complex (Brasil de Fato, 27 September 2022). A civilian bystander was also taken hostage by the TCP during clashes with military police but was later released unharmed. Due to the shootings, two main highways, 35 schools, and four health centers were shut down in the area (R7, 26 September 2022). In response, residents burned tires on the Linha Amarela highway and denounced the deadliness of the operation. Meanwhile, in the nearby Morro da Serrinha community, TCP traffickers set fire to barricades to deter the movements of the military police and engaged in several shoot-outs.
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED. Use the date filters to view data for the one-week period covered by this Regional Overview.