Last week in South America, disagreement over the timing of the national census in Bolivia sparked nationwide demonstrations and outbreaks of violence. In Peru, an Indigenous group took three state-owned Petroperú workers and a civilian hostage. In Venezuela, the military launched operations targeting drug trafficking and armed groups in southern Bolívar. In Chile, Indigenous militia groups continued to attack forest companies in Los Ríos, Biobío, and Araucanía. In Brazil, a former politician and supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro attacked federal police officers attempting to take him into custody. Furthermore, unknown perpetrators shot and reportedly killed a Workers’ Party (PT) politician.
In Bolivia, disagreements over the timing of the national census triggered demonstrations and outbreaks of violence across the country last week. In Santa Cruz de la Sierra municipality, residents announced an indefinite strike on 22 October and held demonstrations against the scheduled 2024 national census, demanding that the national census be held in 2023. Demonstrators accuse the government of delaying the census in an attempt to forestall increases in the municipality’s allocation of state resources and parliamentary seats in line with population growth since the last census in 2012. Further demonstrations against the delay were also reported in La Paz, Cochabamba, and Tarija. Meanwhile, supporters of the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) party held violent counter-demonstrations and erected roadblocks throughout the country. In the Santa Cruz department, violence broke out between strike supporters and MAS party supporters, with both sides hurling firecrackers and other objects at the other. Police intervened with tear gas to disperse the crowd. In La Paz, MAS supporters threw stones and firecrackers at anti-delay demonstrators and journalists covering the demonstration. These trends contribute to the 580% increase in violent events in Bolivia over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map.
In Peru, members of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Chapra Nation kidnapped three Petroperú workers and a civilian last week, holding them hostage in the Shoroya Nuevo Indigenous community. The group staged the abduction after the state failed to uphold an agreement to remedy an oil spill from the Petroperú-controlled Norperuano Pipeline in September that affected five communities covered by the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Chapra Nation (Mongabay, 17 October 2022). After a dialogue with Indigenous organizations, Petroperú agreed to the group’s demands to build a containing wall, clean the remaining oil, and supply food and water to the affected communities (Mongabay, 17 October 2022). The group conditioned the release of the hostages on whether Petroperú upholds its agreements with the community. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map previously warned of increased violence in Peru during the past month.
In Venezuela, the military launched an incursion into Tumeremo parish in the Bolívar department on 27 October as part of the nationwide Operation ‘Autana 2022’ to curb drug trafficking and armed group activities in the country. During the operations, the military engaged in extensive property destruction, including the destruction of a church and multiple mining camps, with Tumeremo residents and human rights associations accusing the military of committing other abuses (Twitter @FundaREDES, 28 October 2022). Consequently, several protests were held in the Bolívar department to repudiate the latest military developments, in some cases entailing lengthy roadblocks and disruption. Authorities have been increasing military presence in the area, deploying several armed vehicles, and authorizing combat air patrols to southern Bolívar state (Twitter @FundaREDES, 28 October 2022).
In Colombia, demonstrators took to the streets last week to repudiate President Gustavo Petro’s proposed tax reforms that would see an increase in taxes on the wealthy to fund social programs. Demonstrators also protested the increased price of the dollar and gasoline and demanded the resignation of the Minister of Mines and Energy, Irene Velez, and to stop the establishment of a Ministry of Equality.
Meanwhile, First Line members blocked several roads across Bogotá last week, demanding the release of demonstrators who had been detained for participating in violent nationwide demonstrations in 2021. Demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and other objects at police, who, in turn, used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, injuring one demonstrator. These clashes contribute to the 243% increase in violent events in Bogota, D.C., over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker.
In Chile, Indigenous militia groups continued to attack forest companies in Los Ríos, Biobío, and Araucanía. In the Los Ríos region, suspected armed members of the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM) broke into a forestry company’s campsite in the Tres Ventanas sector last week. The perpetrators set vehicles, buildings, and forest machinery on fire and assaulted one civilian woman during the attack. Similarly, in the Biobío region, armed individuals set fire to vehicles and a crane belonging to a forestry company in Mulchén commune. In the Araucanía region, suspected members of the Weichan Auka Mapu (WAM) set a backhoe on fire at a private property. Both CAM and WAM are Mapuche Indigenous organizations. This violence contributed to the 31% increase in average weekly violent events in Chile in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the country during the preceding four weeks. Forestry companies are the constant target of arson attacks by Mapuche Indigenous militias who have claimed for decades that their territory has been illegally requisitioned by agriculture and forestry companies acting with state complicity (for more, see this ACLED Analysis piece: Understanding Indigenous Conflict in Chile).
In Brazil, election-related violence continued last week ahead of the runoff election on 30 October that resulted in the election of Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva to the presidency.1Events that occurred on the day before, the day of, and following the election will be covered in next week’s Regional Overview. In Rio de Janeiro state, Roberto Jefferson, a former congressman and long-time Bolsonaro ally, threw a grenade and fired shots at federal police serving an arrest warrant at his house in Comendador Levy Gasparian municipality, causing superficial injuries to two officers. Jefferson was jailed in August 2021 as part of an investigation into anti-democratic social media mobs but was granted house arrest in January 2022 (BBC, 24 October 2022). However, last week, a supreme court justice ordered his return to prison after he published vulgar and threatening messages against a female court member (Folha de S. Paulo, 25 October 2022). On the same day, a journalist covering the event was physically assaulted by a Jefferson supporter.
Meanwhile, two days ahead of the presidential elections, unknown gunmen killed PT party politician Reginaldo Camilo de Souza, known as ‘Zezinho,’ in a drive-by shooting in Jandira municipality in São Paulo. Zezinho had unsuccessfully run for congressman in the first round of elections on 2 October (O Globo, 28 October 2022). In addition, Zezinho was known for reporting cases of corruption in the municipality of Jandira (O Globo, 28 October 2022).
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.