Last week in South America, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian government resumed peace talks in Venezuela on 21 November after three years of stagnation, while clashes between armed groups along Colombia’s southwest border with Ecuador reportedly resulted in a high death toll. In Chile and Peru, drivers held nationwide demonstrations against rising costs. In Bolivia, demonstrations over the timing of the national census continued, marking one month of demonstrations. In Brazil, more than a dozen people were reportedly killed during a raid conducted by state forces on low-income communities in Rio de Janeiro, while a masked gunman reportedly shot and killed a local mayor in Rio Grande do Sul. Meanwhile, supporters of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro continued to demonstrate against the results of the 30 October runoff election.
In Brazil, at least 14 people were reportedly killed and six injured in security operations by civil and military police to combat drug trafficking and major theft in the Maré Complex and Morro do Juramento communities in Rio de Janeiro last week. In response to the operations, residents of Maré took to the streets to demonstrate, clashing with police and barricading Brasil Avenue. This is the deadliest police operation in Brazil since 30 October 2021, when 26 people were killed during an operation in southwest Minas Gerais. Rio de Janeiro’s favelas have long been the site of deadly violence involving state forces.
Meanwhile, in Rio Grande do Sul state, a masked gunman shot and reportedly killed Roberto Maciel Santos, the mayor of Lajeado do Bugre municipality, in the city hall last week (UOL, 24 November 2022). Military police apprehended a suspect on 24 November; the motive behind the attack is under investigation (UOL, 25 November 2022). Santos was elected in 2016 as a representative of the socially conservative Progressistas. So far in 2022, there have been 19 fatal attacks in Brazil on local government officials, former officials, and candidates. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker warned of increased violence in Rio Grande do Sul during the preceding four weeks (for more, see ACLED’s analysis piece on Municipal Candidates Under Attack in Brazil and Political Violence During Brazil’s 2022 General Elections).
Additionally, supporters of outgoing President Bolsonaro continued to hold demonstrations last week against the results of the 30 October runoff election, with demonstrations reported in at least 15 Brazilian states.
In Venezuela, peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government resumed in Caracas on 21 November (El País, 21 November 2021). Peace negotiations had been suspended in 2018 when former President Ivan Duque’s right-wing government took office, before being halted entirely in January 2019 after an ELN car bomb reportedly killed 22 people at a police academy in Bogotá (The Guardian, 18 January 2019). Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Venezuela, and Norway have been invited to the talks to act as guarantors and hosts of the negotiations (Reuters, 25 November 2022).
Meanwhile, in Colombia, members of the Carolina Ramirez Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident group clashed with the Frontier Command (CDF) in the Putumayo department last week, along the southwest border with Ecuador. The CDF is a group formed by the amalgamation of a FARC dissident faction and a criminal organization comprised of former paramilitary members (Insight Crime, 11 June 2022). While national authorities officially reported 18 fatalities from the clash, the Carolina Ramirez group issued a statement in which they reported 23 deaths (Insight Crime, 21 November 2022). Meanwhile, in Puerto Asis municipality, unidentified armed assailants shot and reportedly killed four people in an alleged ‘social cleansing’ attack. Armed groups have been carrying out similar attacks targeting members of certain groups, including drug addicts and thieves, in recent months.
Elsewhere, in the Cauca department, armed groups reportedly killed multiple social leaders in separate attacks last week. In Cajibio municipality, armed group members opened fire on a commercial establishment, killing three people, including the president of a local communal action council. Following the attack, members of the community shot at the perpetrators, reportedly killing three. Meanwhile, in the neighboring Caldono municipality, unknown perpetrators reportedly killed an Indigenous leader. Social leaders, Indigenous groups, Afro-Colombians, and farmers have been the targets of increased attacks by armed groups in Colombia since 2020 (for more, see ACLED’s report on Understanding the Killing of Social leaders in Colombia During COVID-19).
In Chile, Indigenous militias perpetrated several arson attacks in the Araucanía region last week. Notably, Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM) members broke into a farm between Lautaro and Galvarino municipalities, set fire to three trucks and seven forestry machines, and left a pamphlet at the scene that alluded to the 25th anniversary of the group. The group also stole a truck and drove it to a nearby forestry camp, where they set fire to machinery. Police arrested five people in response to these attacks, including the CAM leader’s son (Biobio Chile, 22 November 2022). ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker warned of increased violence in Araucanía during the preceding four weeks. Forestry and agriculture companies are often targeted in the region by Indigenous activists that claim ancestral land rights (for more, see ACLED’s report on Understanding Indigenous Conflict in Chile).
Meanwhile, transport workers launched a national strike last week, blocking roads across the country to demand greater security and show their discontent with the increase in fuel prices. State forces intervened and arrested demonstrators. Despite successful talks between some transport unions and the government, blockades were maintained in several sectors (El Pais, 23 November 2022).
In Bolivia, residents of the Santa Cruz region continued to hold protests and lead strikes in several cities last week in favor of carrying out the national census in 2023. The ongoing demonstrations came as President Luis Arce signed a decree last week setting a date of 23 March 2024 for the census; the decree is now pending in Congress (Pagina 12, 23 November 2022). Demonstrators have accused the government of delaying the census with the aim of forestalling the allocation of state resources and parliamentary seats for the 2025 general elections, despite the population growth since the last 2012 census. During a demonstration blockade in Mineros, a truck driver ran over residents blocking a highway, reportedly injuring seven people. The driver was captured by the residents, who beat him up before he was arrested by authorities. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker warned of increased violence in Santa Cruz during the preceding four weeks.
In Peru, truck drivers started a nationwide strike over rising costs last week, with demonstrations reported in Arequipa, Piura, Cusco, Ancash, and Puno regions. Demonstrating truck drivers demanded a reduction in fuel prices, the prioritization of formal transportation, and the refund of toll fares and selective consumption tax payments. While the rallies were mostly peaceful, in Arequipa, demonstrators attacked a journalist recording the event, taking away his mobile phone. Likewise, in Cusco, demonstrators attacked a driver who refused to join the rally, whipping him and painting his car. This violence contributed to the 33% increase in violent events in Peru 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.
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.