Last week in South America, demonstration activity spiked in Brazil following the election victory of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva over incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro on 30 October, with Bolsonaro supporters setting up roadblocks on hundreds of major highways across the country across several days. An ongoing dispute over the timing of the national census triggered outbreaks of violence in Bolivia for the second consecutive week. In Chile, Indigenous militia groups engaged in extensive property damage in the Araucania and Biobio regions. Discontent towards new government legislation triggered demonstrations in Colombia and Paraguay. In Peru, an Indigenous group held a group of 150 tourists hostage.
Last week in Bolivia, Movement for Socialism (MAS) reinforced anti-strike blockades on the major roads entering Santa Cruz de la Sierra municipality to pressure strikers demanding that the national census be held in 2023. The strike, sparked by accusations that the government is delaying the census to forestall increases in the municipality’s allocation of state resources and parliamentary seats, entered its second week and has gained traction, with similar events recorded in other cities in the Santa Cruz department. On 30 October, a Santa Cruz-bound caravan of MAS supporters clashed with supporters of the strike in towns along the way. This violence contributed to the 38% increase in violent events in Bolivia last week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the country during the preceding four weeks.
In Chile, Indigenous militia groups clashed with police and continued to target forestry companies and farms in the Biobío and Araucanía regions last week. In the Araucanía region, suspected members of the Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee opened fire on police units carrying out a protection order at an estate in Trovolhue, with no casualties reported. Destruction of private property and machinery was also reported in Pua, Araucanía region, and Tranquilboro, Biobío region. In all three of these attacks, pamphlets were left behind referencing the 3 November 2021 police killing of a young Mapuche man during a police operation. These trends contributed to the 100% increase in violent events in Araucanía region over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker.
Demonstrations against tax and education reforms occurred in Colombia and Paraguay, respectively, last week. For the second consecutive weekend in Colombia, demonstrators took to the streets across the country to reject tax and pension reforms proposed by President Gustavo Petro’s administration. The recently-passed tax reform increases taxes on the wealthy, the mining sector, and ultra-processed foods with the stated aim of reducing social inequality (El Pais, 3 November 2022). In Paraguay, protests continued last week over the government’s education reform proposal, which opponents say imposes “gender ideology” in classrooms (Agencia Presentes, 25 October 2022). In the Canindeyú department, demonstrators erected several road blockades to protest the new legislation. Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered in Asunción to commemorate the birthday of the former autocratic leader of Paraguay, Alfredo Stroessner, and called for enhanced security in the country (ABC Color, 3 November 2022).
In Peru, members of the Indigenous community of Cuninco kidnapped around 150 Peruvian and foreign tourists who were traveling on a boat in the Marañón River in the Loreto department last week. The kidnapping was an attempt to call government attention to the health and environmental consequences of an oil spill from the Petroperú-controlled Norperuano Pipeline and follows the kidnapping of Petroperú workers by members of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Chapra Nation the week prior. The spill has contaminated a large area of the Marañón river, cutting off the principal water source and impacting the livelihoods of the hundreds of Indigenous families that live in Cuninco (Insider, 4 November 2022). Just over 24 hours later, the hostages were released following successful negotiations between the crew of the boat and the Indigenous group leader (Andina, 4 November 2022).
In Brazil, on 30 October, voters elected former President Lula as their next president, defeating current President Bolsonaro by a narrow margin, with 50.9% of votes going to Lula and 49.1% to Bolsonaro. While voting remained peaceful, multiple police traffic checkpoints were reportedly set up in several states in Brazil, particularly in Lula strongholds in the northeast (Alagoas 24 Horas, 30 October 2022). Federal Highway Police (PRF) reportedly stopped voter transportation vehicles at checkpoints and requested the identification of all passengers. Though the PRF denies the allegations, video footage of several incidents was published online, and the Supreme Electoral Court ordered a halt to any traffic checkpoints that could interfere with voters’ ability to cast their ballots (Alagoas 24 Horas, 30 October 2022).
The evening after the results were released, supporters of Bolsonaro and the Liberal Party set up roadblocks in coordination with truck drivers on hundreds of highways. The roadblocks, many of which blocked traffic in both directions, disrupted emergency and medical assistance services and supply chains (Gaucha ZH, 3 November 2022). Bolsonaro supporters also held demonstrations outside of army units throughout last week, claiming electoral fraud and calling for a military intervention to prevent the president-elect from taking office. While the overwhelming majority of demonstrations remained peaceful, some outbreaks of violence were reported.
Meanwhile, incidents of violence targeting political supporters were reported after the election last week. In Belo Horizonte municipality, Minas Gerais state, hours after the results were released, a supporter of Bolsonaro opened fire at a group of people who were celebrating the election result, reportedly killing two people, including a 12-year-old girl, and injuring three others. In Jacareí, São Paulo, military police entered a private residence and physically fought Workers Party supporters who were celebrating. Three officers and two civilians were injured in the incident. In Anápolis, Goiás, a man was beaten up and injured inside a bar in the Jundiai neighborhood by at least six military officers. In a statement, military police claimed they were called to the area in response to a reported roadblock (G1, 31 October 2022). However, the officers also used pepper spray on other people in the bar who were celebrating Lula’s election. These trends contribute to the 91% increase in violent events in Brazil over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map.
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