Latin America & the Caribbean

Why would the victim of a brutal military dictatorship appoint someone accused of covering up the regime’s crimes as ambassador to the country in which she once sought exile? This is the question many Chileans are asking after the new government of President Michelle Bachelet named James Sinclair as Chile’s highest diplomatic representative in Australia. In response, several groups have begun organising a campaign against the appointment.
With right-wing parties gaining footholds throughout the world, Colombia followed suit with the far-right party, Democratic Centre (CD) winning with a narrow lead in the first round of the presidential elections on May 25. CD won just under 30% of the vote. The election presented Colombians with a five-party choice, ranging from the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo) with Clara Lopez to the CD's Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and his major rival, incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos from the Social Party of National Unity.

In Washington, the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate approved, in a 13-to-2 vote, the “Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act” on May 20. The bill includes sanctions on key Venezuelan government representatives and at least US$15 million to “defend human rights… and strengthen the rule of law”. Committee chair, Democrat Robert Menendez, played a lead role in the writing of the proposed legislation. He plans to present the bill before the whole Senate in the coming weeks.

Venezuela and Palestine have signed fresh agreements on oil, taxation and diplomatic cooperation, Venezuela Analysis said on May 19. The agreements were made during a visit by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to Venezuela. In a key agreement, Venezuela created a new corporation, Petro-Palestina, through which Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA will send oil to Palestine at a subsidised price. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro committed to sending an initial shipment of 240,000 barrels of oil.
Sonny Melencio is chairperson of the Filipino Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM) and a former council member of Solidarity of Filipino Workers (BMP). Melencio is also involved in a new coalition against the established “political dynasties” in the Philippines, called Alliance for Truth, Integrity and Nationalism (ATIN).
Bolivian indigenous group the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) made headlines this year with its threats to blockade the Dakar rally when it passed through Bolivia's highlands region. This was not the first time that the group caught the attention of the world’s media. Leaders of CONAMAQ have been regularly quoted in the media due to their outspoken criticism of the government of president Evo Morales ― Bolivia's first indigenous head of state. The articles frequently describe CONAMAQ as “the main indigenous organisation in Bolivia's highlands”.
A recent spate of high-profile campaigns against industrial projects based on extracting raw materials has opened up an important new dynamic within the broad processes of change sweeping South America. Understanding their nature and significance is crucial to grasping the complexities involved in bringing about social change and how best to build solidarity with peoples’ struggles. Many of the campaigns target that specific mining, oil, agribusiness or logging ventures share common elements.
For people just tuning in, the idea that people in Brazil would be protesting the 2014 World Cup makes about as much sense as New Yorkers' rebelling against pizza. And yet here we are, less than one month before the start of the Cup, and demonstrations bear the slogan #NãoVaiTerCopa, or "There will be no Cup".
The private media and important actors both at home and abroad, including Washington, have downplayed, and in some cases completely ignored, the terrorist actions perpetrated against the Venezuelan government over the past three months. Among the latest examples that have gone underreported abroad is the assassination in late April of Eliezer Otaiza, a historic leader of the Chavista movement and president of the Caracas city council.
Tens of thousands of students protested in Chile on May 8. It was the first march demanding education reform since President Michelle Bachelet took power on promises of deep changes. Marchers passed through the streets of central Santiago towards the La Moneda presidential palace. The mostly peaceful protest that turned violent at the end as hooded rioters clashed with police, throwing rocks and petrol bombs. About 1800 police officers flanked the march that student leaders estimated at 100,000-strong, but police said was closer to 40,000.
Ecuador's Amazonian indigenous community of Sarayaku is in a state of rebellion against the central government after refusing entry to a police contingent arriving by helicopter on the morning of May 6. The helicopter landed, but was barely able to stay five minutes after being threatened by 300 people carrying machetes, muskets and a net to throw over the helicopter. “This is extremely serious, an attack on the rule of law in this country,” President Rafael Correa said. “Tomorrow, any other community could claim the right to harbour fugitives.”
Tensions between the Colombian government and agrarian workers are reaching an all-time high. Strikes that began on April 28 have helped bring the country to a stand-still and sparked student protests violently that were suppressed by police. The farmers launched strikes in the face of the government’s failure to follow through on promises made after similar strikes last August. The strikers are seeking measures to alleviate rural poverty, among other deep-rooted problems they face.