Tag Archive | "protests"

Brazil: Nationwide Protests Call for Rousseff Ouster

Protesters gather in the capital Brasilia calling to oust President Dilma Rousseff (Photo: Agencia Brasil)

Protesters gather in the capital Brasilia calling to oust President Dilma Rousseff (Photo: Agencia Brasil)

On Sunday hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Brazilian cities — São Paulo, Rio de Janiero, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, among others — to protest against President Dilma Rousseff.

Estimates of the number of protesters vary wildly, with polling agency Datafolha saying 210,000 people gathered in Sao Paulo while the Military Police counted up to one million. The masses expressed their dissatisfaction with the government, corruption, and the deteriorating economic situation.

Many anti-government protesters carried signs with phrases along the lines of “PT out!”, which stands for Brazil’s ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores, and “Dilma out!”. Some even urged a “military intervention” to bring an premature end to Rousseff’s mandate.

O Globo noted that many protesters collectively sang the national anthem as they paraded the streets holding banners and Brazilian flags. Despite the crowd’s discontent, the protest was peaceful, without major incidents.

Brazil has experienced several waves of unrest in recent years, including an anti-government uprising sparked by a hike in public transport fares in 2013. The run up to the 2014 World Cup was also marked by several violent protests.

This time, a corruption scandal at Petrobras has stirred up fresh controversy. Brazil’s state-owned oil firm is suspected of channelling illicit funds to political parties, with dozens of high-level politicians being investigated for kickbacks.

In response to the protests, Brazil’s Minister of Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo, held a press conference on national TV where he informed viewers that the administration would announce “a set of measures to combat corruption and impunity” in the days to come. They will then be sent to Congress for approval.

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Peru: One Dead in Pluspetrol Protests

Pichina is locaed in Peru's Junín department (map: Wikipedia)

Pichanqui is located in Peru’s Junín department (map: Wikipedia)

One person has died after violent clashes between the police and protestors opposed to natural gas exploration by Argentina’s Pluspetrol in Pichanaqui, Junín, 270km east of Lima in the Peruvian rainforest. At least eight others were reported injured in the confrontation.

Interior Minister Daniel Urresti said that police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protestors on Tuesday, but according to Peru’s ombudsman, 25-year-old Ever Pérez Huamán died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Urresti said that the incident began when protesters blocked a stretch of highway and tried to gain entry into a site where Pluspetrol stores explosives and machinery.

Reinforcements are being sent for the 1,700 police officers in the area and ministers are traveling from Lima to start talks with the local population.

Pluspetrol, the country’s biggest oil and gas producer, received permits to begin exploration of the Camisea fields in Junín last year.

Earlier today, Peru’s mines and energy minister, Eleodoro Mayorga, said that he would request Pluspetrol withdraw from the project in Pichanqui.

Mayorga said: “I know you’re calling for Pluspetrol to leave. I’ll ask it to do so within three days.” He later confirmed in an interview with state television station TVPeru that the Argentine company will withdraw its equipment from the area.

Pluspetrol, for its part, expressed surprise at the protests and said it has merely been conducting exploration work and caused no damage to the environment or the provinces of Oxapampa, Satipo or Chanchamayo, where Pichanqui is located. The company began operating in the area in March 2014 and has already completed 90% of its planned exploration, which was to be concluded within a month.



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US Sanctions Against Venezuela Signed by Obama

Opposition protests ended in violence in Venezuela (photo: AVN/Télam/ddc)

The sanctions are linked to violent protests which took place earlier this year in Venezuela (photo: AVN/Télam/ddc)

US president Barack Obama yesterday signed sanctions against 53 Venezuelan officials considered to be responsible for human rights violations linked to the anti-government protests that took place earlier this year.

Thirty-nine people – including protestors, government supporters, and police – were killed during weeks of unrest.

The sanctions, which freeze assets and limit travel to the US, were approved by the US Congress last week. It is the first time the United States has imposed sanctions against Venezuela.

Introducing the bill, Senator Robert Menendez said: “We in the United States have an obligation to shine a bright spotlight on Venezuela’s abuses and must object to the severe human rights violations committed by the Maduro government and his paramilitary thugs.”

Responding to the news, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro noted that the move came one day after the US initiated a period of detente with Cuba, saying on twitter: “The United States recognises the failure in its policies of aggression and blockades which our sister Cuba resisted and overcame” … and at the same time “it initiates a new stage of escalated aggression against the Bolivarian homeland which is totally rejected by our people.”

He went on to call the sanctions a “false move”, and noted that thousands of Venezuelans had demonstrated in Caracas on Monday in support of their government and against the US policy.

Maduro was in Argentina for a meeting of the regional Mercosur bloc, which issued a statement rejecting the sanctions against one of its members. The summit ended yesterday, with special declarations by the region’s heads of states in support of Venezuela and also backing Argentina’s judicial battles against holdout creditors.

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Haiti: Prime Minister Resigns as Anti-Government Protests Intensify

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti's prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Laurent Lamothe resigned as Haiti’s prime minister on Sunday (Photo via Wikipedia)

Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, resigned on the weekend amid an escalation of anti-government protests in the country.

Lamothe announced his resignation in the early hours of Sunday morning, saying he was leaving the post with a sense of “accomplishment”.

On Friday, a special commission had recommended that Lamothe step down as one of a series of steps to address the country’s political crisis. “If it will permit a resolution to the crisis, I present my resignation and that of my government,” said Lamothe in a televised address.

Long-running protests have intensified recently over a political deadlock that has delayed legislative and municipal elections for several years, as well as allegations of corruption. On Friday, an anti-government protest in the capital Port-au-Prince ended in violent clashes with police, leaving one person dead.

President Michel Martelly created the special advisory commission last month in an attempt to set out a road map to resolve the crisis. Aside from the departure of Lamothe, the commissions other recommendations included disbanding the electoral council, freeing “political prisoners”, and the resignation of the Supreme Court president.

Martelly is due to meet with party leaders today, and should nominate a new prime minister by Wednesday, according to the commission report.

The current legislative mandate expires on 12th January, and if elections have not been called by then, President Martelly could rule by decree, raising concerns among many of a return to autocratic rule. Protesters have been calling for both Lamothe and Martelly to resign.

Martelly, meanwhile, has blamed opposition parties for blocking proposed reforms to the electoral law that he says would pave the way for a vote.

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Mapuche Community Given ‘Benetton Land’ Titles

'The invisible colours of Benetton' (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

‘The invisible colours of Benetton’ (Photo: Fabio D’Errico)

The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INAI) has formally recognised the Santa Rosa Leleque Mapuche community’s ownership of 535 hectares in Chubut, Patagonia.

The terrain is part of 900,000 hectares that were sold to the Benetton corporation in 1991, in a deal that the Mapuche have always called illegal. The community was evicted from the land in 2002, but returned to occupy it in 2007.

The decision to hand the titles back to the community brings to a close one of Argentina’s most infamous territorial disputes of recent times. It is also a watershed for the rights of indigenous communities, setting a precedent that activists hope will be followed in similar disputes around the country.

Veronica Huilipan of the Indigenous People’s Human Rights Watchdog (ODHPI) said: “After a long struggle, led by the community and involving different tactics to highlight the case, such as a trip to Italy and the involvement of Argentina’s Nobel Peace laureate, we have finally seen this decision in favour of the community.”

The decision is the latest a in series of rulings in favour of indigenous communities in Patagonia. At the end of October, the Campo Maripe Mapuche community, which resides in an area of Neuquén known as Vaca Muerta, was also given official legal status. Vaca Muerta is home to one of Argentina’s biggest shale oil and gas reserves, which are accessed through the controversial technique of fracking.

It is hoped that the community’s new status will give them more power to demand their constitutional rights of consultation over the use of natural resources that exist in their terrain be recognised. This right is particularly important in light of Argentina’s new Hydrocarbons Law, which is designed to attract more private investment into the country’s growing energy sector. The law was passed by the Senate on 30th October.

Huilipan said that the Campo Maripe community are going to challenge the law, as if it passes it will have done so without the communities being given their constitutional right to consultation.

She is hopeful that they can succeed: “The Mapuche communities have shown us that when they take a political stance, they are highly skilled at organising and mobilising, and have made huge gains and won important struggles in the past … So when the Mapuche confederation organises in such a way, we have high expectations, yes. The community is extremely open to entering into dialogue when they feel they have not been consulted on issues that affect them directly.”

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Marches, Roadblocks Cause Transport Chaos Ahead of General Strike

Coastguard officers look on as the opposition CTA union stages a roadblock on Puente Pueyrredón (Photo: Paula Riba/Télam/ddc)

Coastguard officers look on as the opposition CTA union stages a roadblock on Puente Pueyrredón (Photo: Paula Ribas/Télam/ddc)

A series of roadblocks and marches have caused transport chaos today in parts of Buenos Aires and its surrounding areas. The disruption comes a day before several major unions hold a 24-hour general strike, which is set to cause further headaches for commuters on Thursday.

The opposition faction of Central for Argentina Workers (CTA) umbrella union, which began an extended 36-hour strike at midday today, organised roadblocks on major highways and key access points to the capital this morning.

Some of these since been lifted, though pickets remain on Av General Paz, and the Ricchieri highway, causing delays in travel to Ezeiza airport.

The opposition CTA leadership, headed by Pablo Micheli will lead a demonstration in front of the National Congress this afternoon. The demands of the union include scrapping income taxes on salaries, an end to the dismissal of workers at industrial factories, and the suspension of external debt payments pending an audit to determine the its legitimacy.

Meanwhile, two separate protests aimed at the Buenos Aires government today have added to the transport disruption in the centre of the city. The Federation of Cartoneros and Recyclers marched to the City Ministry for Environment and Public Spaces to protest against proposed changes to rubbish collection.

At the same time, social organisations and residents of Villa Lugano have gathered on Av 9 de Julio near the Obelisco in protest at the razing of the Barrio Papa Francisco slum on the weekend.

General Strike

Wednesday’s chaos comes just hours before the start of a 24 hour general strike held by opposition factions of the General Workers Confederation (CGT) led by Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo.

The strike will heavily affect transport, with all services on overground trains, the subte B line, and domestic flights suspended. Buses will be running a partial service: the Road Transport Union (UTA) – which governs the majority of urban and intercity bus lines – has decided not the join the strike, but the rival Bus Drivers Union (UCRA) has said it will, and could disrupt other services. Taxi drivers will be working.

Other services to be suspended include non-emergency treatment at hospitals, rubbish collection (this evening), banks, petrol stations, postal services, and affiliated bars and restaurants. Many schools in the city and province of Buenos Aires will also be closed as several teachers’ unions join the strike action.

For more information and updates of the strike and how it will affect you tomorrow, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Brazil: More Violent Protests Rock World Cup Host Cities

Protesters in Sao Paulo yesterday (photo: EFE/Sebastiao Moreira/Télam)

Protesters in Sao Paulo yesterday (photo: EFE/Sebastiao Moreira/Télam)

Protests and strikes in at least a dozen cities across Brazil yesterday caused more disruption and violence less than a month before the World Cup begins. The diverse protests were broadly against the tournament, including the excessive costs of preparations and the deaths of several construction workers at the stadium sites.

The biggest marches were in Sao Paulo, where the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST) gathered an estimated 5,000 people in five different points of the city, including near the city’s Itaquerao stadium, which will host the opening match of the tournament. Up to 8,000 municipal teachers also staged a demonstration during the day to criticise a lack of investment in education. Other protests directly against the government’s management of World Cup preparations were held in the early evening, and ended in violent clashes with police and damage to several buildings.

In Rio de Janeiro, teachers and bus drivers staging a strike joined other social groups protesting on the streets, causing further traffic chaos in the city.

Smaller protests were held in other host cities for the tournament, including Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, and Brasilia, where several hundred people carried the names of nine workers killed so in the construction of the new stadiums. Meanwhile, in the country’s northern city of Recife, looting broke out as police continued a strike that began earlier in the week.

The protests come just days after an audit of spending on the World Cup showed surging costs, including the stadium in the capital Brasilia, which has tripled original estimated to reach US$900m. Data also showed that up to a third of this cost may be attributable to price-gouging, a term used for the overpricing goods and services, adding to public concern over corruption. Amid growing social unrest, figures released today by the central bank showed that economic growth slowed to an estimated 0.3% in the first quarter of 2014.

Protest groups warned that further demonstrations will be held before and during the World Cup. However, officials say the turnout for the “protest of all protests”, as the groups organising yesterday’s action called it, was not as high as expected, and far lower than the major protests staged in June 2013.



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Latin America News Roundup: 29th April 2014

Cuba and the EU Begin Negotiations: Representatives from the Cuban government and the European Union will begin today the first of a round of negotiations in order to normalise relations between the island and the European bloc. The first meeting, which will extend until tomorrow, will seek to “establish a method and a roadmap for the negotiations.” The following meetings will be held alternatively in the Belgian capital of Brussels and the Cuban capital of Havana, according to European sources. Cuba is one of the few American countries that does not have a cooperation and political agreement with the EU, due to a ‘Common Position’ policy implemented by the bloc against it in 1996. In 2008, both parties made the decision to reactivate negotiations, and experts from both sides have already met to exchange information on economic and trade issues, ahead of today’s meeting. Miguel Ángel Martínez, vice-president of the European Parliament, has stated that European governments are now better predisposed to normalising relations with the island, something that, he said, will benefit both Europe and Cuba. The EU ambassador in Havana, Herman Portocarrero, said that these talks will help “update the Cuban socio-economic model.”

Alemão Complex in Rio de Janeiro (photo: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil)

Alemão Complex in Rio de Janeiro (photo: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil)

Brazil – New Protests in Rio de Janeiro: Roads were blocked and a Pacifying Police (UPP) station was attacked as residents of a favela protested the death of woman yesterday. The 71-year old woman was killed at the Alemão favela on Sunday as she was walking home with her ten-year old grandson, after getting caught in a shootout between police and drug traffickers, according to the Rio Military Police. Residents of the favela reacted by blocking off roads and setting objects on fire, whilst two young men were arrested for attempting to set a bus alight.

Also in Rio de Janeiro, residents of the Morro de Chapadao protested the death of a 17-year old boy by setting five buses on fire, after making the passengers descend. The boy was also killed in a shootout between police and drug killers, though in this case the police have informed that the victim allegedly had links with drug dealing gangs. These are the latest in a series of protests sparked by incidents with the police, just weeks before the beginning of the football World Cup.


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Latin America News Roundup: 11th March 2014

Allende greets Bachelet as ex-president Sebastián Piñera looks on (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/ef)

Allende greets Bachelet as outgoing president Sebastián Piñera looks on (photo: AFP/Martin Bernetti/Télam/ef)

Chile – Michelle Bachelet Takes Office: Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first female president (2006-2010) was sworn in today for her second term. The ceremony took place in the Senate building in the city of Valparaiso, and was presided over by fellow Socialist Isabel Allende, daughter of ex-president Salvador Allende and the first woman to hold the presidency of the Chilean Senate. “The historic image of two women simultaneously holding the country’s two highest positions will be seen around the world,” said Allende. Several presidents and representatives from foreign countries attended the event, including Argentine president Cristina Fernández, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Peru’s Ollanta Humala, amongst others. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro was scheduled to travel to Chile but had to cancel the trip at the last minute and was replaced by his Foreign Affairs Minister Elías Jaua, who said that the government was facing “a violent coup attempt” which had already been neutralised. Bachelet was elected president for the second time on 15th December for the 2014-2018 term. She has promised to undertake major reforms to the education system and the Pinochet-era constitution during her second presidency. The new president is expected to give her first official speech later this afternoon.

Venezuela – Two Dead in Protests: Two university students were shot dead in Venezuela last night. One of them was killed during a shootout in the city of San Cristóbal, in the west of the country, which has seen a large number of anti-government demonstrations. The other student died in Ciudad Guayana, in the country’s east. Whilst the government blamed opposition groups for the deaths, saying that they “want dead people so they can force an intervention in Venezuela,” the opposition called for a national protest tomorrow in Caracas. Speaking about the situation in the Caribbean country, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced that the Unasur foreign affairs ministers will hold a meeting tomorrow in order to create a committee to deal with the Venezuelan crisis. The committee “will act as an interlocutor to build a climate of consensus, agreement, and stability in Venezuela,” said Rousseff from Santiago de Chile, where she is attending Michelle Bachelet’s inauguration. Protests in Venezuela are thought to have left around 22 people dead in the last month.

Uruguay Lowers Public Rates to Combat Inflation: Economy Minister Mario Bergara announced the government will lower the rates of public services in order to combat inflation, which reached 9.82% in the last year. The announcement came after a meeting between the minister and union representatives. Bergara also mentioned the possibility of decreasing VAT rates in fruit and vegetables’ imports and exports. These measures are expected to cost the Uruguayan state some $US100m and aim to reduce inflation to 7%, the level agreed with the country’s Central Bank. Last year’s inflation is the highest since 2004.

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Latin America News Roundup: 26th February 2014

President Rafael Correa talks to the press (photo: Government of Ecuador)

President Rafael Correa talks to the press (photo: Government of Ecuador)

Ecuador – President Announces Cabinet Reshuffle: After Sunday’s electoral defeat in key districts, president Rafael Correa announced upcoming changes to his cabinet and his party, Alianza País (AP). “I will ask all cabinet ministers to hand in their resignation [today],” said Correa in a press conference yesterday, as he stated that his cabinet needs “some oxygen.” The changes, he said, had been decided previous to the election. The president said that it “hurt” to have lost in important districts such as the capital Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, but added that “the shake-up was welcome, because I think we were stagnating -not the government, but the political organisation at the local level.” Changes in local leadership positions within AP are expected to follow.

Guatemala – Minister Warns About Climate Change Effects: Agriculture Minister Elmer López warned that over a million Guatemalans could suffer from the effects of climate change on crops in the second half of the year. Talking to local newspaper La Hora, López said: “Right now we have a million people living in the Dry Corridor, who may reach a crisis point if the situation turns extreme due to climate change. This means we could have over three weeks without rain in the hottest period of summer. And if this period extends to more than three weeks, the crops could die.” The minister also informed that the country will soon start receiving grains from the World Food Programme to face the impending shortage, and that the government has earmarked Q62m (US$8m) from its budget to purchase food from the current harvest and for projects aimed at assisting small producers. According to official estimates, 933,000 families were affected by seasonal food shortages last year. Malnutrition is a perennial problem in Guatemala.

Venezuela – Opposition Rejects Calls for Dialogue: The Venezuelan opposition rejected president Nicolás Maduro’s call for a “national dialogue” today. Maduro made the call on Monday, and so far the Catholic Church and business representatives have agreed to participating. In a letter sent to vice-president Jorge Arreaza, however, the opposition coalition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) said they would not attend what they consider “a simulation” and “mocking our fellow countrymen.” They also blamed the government for the situation the country is in, after two weeks of protests which have left 14 people dead.

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24th March marks the anniversary of the 1976 coup that brought Argentina's last dictatorship to power, a bloody seven year period in which thousands of citizens were disappeared and killed. Many of the victims passed through ESMA, a clandestine detention centre turned human rights museum

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