Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Chile declares state of emergency in south (Oct. 13, 2021)

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency and deployed troops to two regions of southern Chile, in response to violent clashes between Indigenous Mapuche groups and security forces. There have been increasing arson attacks against forestry and transport infrastructure in four provinces, and a string of shootouts between police and pro-indigenous rights groups. (Bloomberg)

One person was killed and 17 injured in clashes this weekend in Santiago between protesters demanding Mapuche autonomy and police. (See yesterday's briefs.)

The emergency permits the government to deploy the armed forces to support police in the region, amid rising clashes between Mapuche groups and private landowners. But experts said the deployment of military troops who aren't trained for these tasks could likely escalate violence in the area. (El Mostrador, BioBioAFP, Infobae)

Some Mapuche groups are demanding the restoration of their ancestral lands and self-determination. Their demands have been part of the broad wave of social unrest that has led Chile to embark on a constitutional rewrite that is presided over by Elisa Loncón, a member of the Mapuche community. It is the first time an indigenous person has led any such public body wielding political power.

But the vague potential of reform is insufficient for members of Mapuche groups struggling against logging companies that own their ancestral lands, reports AFP. According to official statistics, logging companies own 2.8 million hectares, some 17.2 percent of Chile's forests.

The two-week state-of-emergency applies to the provinces of Biobio and Arauco in the Biobio region, and Malleco and Cautin in La Araucania -- it restricts the right of assembly and of movement in the area. It can be extended by presidential decree for another 15 days, after which Congress must approve further extensions. Piñera made the announcement on the controversial holiday marking the "discovery" of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. (La Tercera)

Critics say the move is more related to electoral calculations ahead of next month's presidential vote than to effective security policies.

More Chile
  • Chilean opposition lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against President Sebastian Piñera yesterday over possible irregularities in the sale of a mining company, after new details emerged about the deal in the Pandora Papers leak. (Reuters)

  • Chile’s Constitutional Convention promises to shift the balance of power in Chile, but Communist party lawmaker Camila Vallejo told Jacobin that the Chilean right will stop at nothing to defend ruling-class interests.
News Briefs

  • Cuba's government denied opponents permission to protest in demand for civil liberties on Nov. 15. In a letter, officials told organizers that the march forms part of efforts to overthrow the government, reports Reuters. Protests in Cuba generally have been forbidden on grounds the United States was behind them, but the country’s three-year-old constitution opened a new space for “legitimate” protest.
Regional Relations
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken appointed Kenneth Merten as chargé d’affaires in Port-au-Prince. The move caught Haitian civil society groups and political parties off guard, some of whom questioned the appointment of the former U.S. ambassador to Haiti during the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake, reports McClatchy.

  • At least five families connected to the U.S. Embassy in Colombia have been afflicted with the mysterious neurological ailment known as Havana Syndrome, ahead of an upcoming visit from Blinken, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Two boys were killed for allegedly shoplifting in Colombia: The pair, who were 12 and 18, were allegedly trying to rob a clothing store in Tibú, when they were apprehended by bystanders who taped their hands together. CCTV footage showed that soon after, two men armed with pistols arrived on motorbikes and seized the boys, both believed to be Venezuelan citizens. Hours later their bodies were found on the roadside at the edge of town, with bullet holes in their heads, reports the Guardian.

  • Colombia will seek up to $2 billion in World Bank financing for 2022 efforts on climate change, biodiversity, improvements to healthcare and help for young people, said President Iván Duque. (Reuters)
  • Guatemalan attorney general Consuelo Porras has transferred the prosecutor leading the office that took former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and other former military officers to trial for crimes against humanity. She moved Hilda Pineda to a new office pursuing crimes against tourists, reports the Associated Press. The U.S. had previously said it considers Porras an obstacle to the fight against corruption in Guatemala and revoked cooperation with her office as well as Porras' visa.
  • Protesters in Guatemala tried to topple a Christopher Columbus statue yesterday amid protests against the treatment of indigenous people by European conquerors. It's the latest in a global movement to re-examine colonial era symbols, reports Reuters.

  • Mexico City authorities decided to replace a statue of Christopher Columbus on the city's most prominent boulevard, and will replace it with a replica of a mysterious pre-Hispanic sculpture of an Indigenous woman, reports the Guardian.
  • The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borell, decided to send an electoral observer mission to Venezuela next month despite warnings from his own staff that the mission will legitimise president Nicolás Maduro’s regime and tarnish the reputation of the bloc’s observation missions, reports the Financial Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)

  • Venezuela is moving to prop up its national currency after the launch of a new version of the bolivar with six fewer zeros caused prices to spike, reports Bloomberg.
  • Peru's new Prime Minister Mirtha Vásquez said, last week, that redrafting the country's pro-market constitution is not currently a priority for the government, despite it having been a key campaign promise, reports Reuters.
  • Ecuador’s lawmakers voted to open an investigation into whether President Guillermo Lasso broke the law by keeping assets in tax havens. (Reuters)
  • The International Monetary Fund’s board of directors turned down a request by Argentina to discuss relief on the commissions the country pays for its record loan, reports Bloomberg.

  • Anarcho-capitalist Javier Milei is the embodiment of anti-establishment rebellion, and young voters in Argentina's capital are attracted to his libertarian spiel -- Deutsche Welle
  • Bolivian opposition protesters clashed with security forces in the country's main cities on Monday. Demonstrators accused President Luis Arce's government of "political persecution." (AFP)

  • The next day, thousands of Bolivians responded by gathering in different parts of the country to defend the Wiphala flag, President Luis Arce, and the democratic and cultural revolution, reports Telesur.

  • The Bartolina Sisa Women’s Movement in Bolivia illustrates the country's long arc of Indigenous resistance to colonialism, with roots in the 1781 rebellion against Spanish rule led by Túpac Katari and his wife, Bartolina Sisa, who established a route for future women organizers to follow, reports Nacla.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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