Category Archives: Latin America

What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition‘One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”’

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Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola, New Zealand and Spain win U.N. Security Council seats, Turkey bid fails

Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau report for Reuters:

‘Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola, New Zealand and Spain won seats on the United Nations Security Council on Thursday for two years from Jan. 1, 2015. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly elected Venezuela with 181 votes, Malaysia with 187 votes, Angola with 190 votes.

All three countries campaigned unopposed for their seats after being chosen as the candidates for their respective regional groups, but still needed to win the votes of two-thirds of the General Assembly to secure their spots.

The only contest was between New Zealand, Spain and Turkey for two seats given to the Western European and others group. New Zealand won a seat during the first round of voting with 145 votes. Spain beat Turkey in a third round of run-off voting.’

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Peace will cost Colombia $44 billion over 10 years, senator says

Reuters reports:

‘Colombia must invest at least 90 trillion pesos ($44.4 billion) to implement a peace deal with Marxist rebels to end a 50-year conflict, says a senator who backs the current peace talks, adding the amount is much less than the cost of waging war.

The figure is the first estimate of the cost of a peace accord to end the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC… He said the money would be used to finance reintegration programs for former rebels, victim compensation, the return of displaced populations and land reform.’

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Bolivia elects Evo Morales as president for third term

The Associated Press reports:

Bolivian president Evo Morales‘Morales, a native Aymara Indian, received 60% of the vote against 25% for cement magnate Samuel Doria Medina, the highest polling of four challengers in Sunday’s election, according to a quick count of voting stations by the polling firm Ipsos for ATB television. Official partial results were expected early on Monday. Doria Medina conceded defeat late on Sunday, promising to “keep working to make a better country”.

Morales’s supporters poured into the streets to celebrate the triumph, but the festive mood was partly dented by an apparent failure by the ruling Movement Toward Socialism party to retain the two-thirds control of congress needed to push through a constitutional reform lifting a two-term limit on presidential mandates.’

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Could an Allende lead Chile again? Ex-president’s daughter in prime position

Rosalba O’Brein reports for Reuters:

‘Isabel Allende, the daughter of deposed Chilean president Salvador Allende, is “heading towards” running for leadership of the country’s socialist party, she said, a role that would put her in prime position for an eventual shot at the presidency.

Isabel Allende (not the well-known author, who is a more distant relative) is currently the head of the senate. That role ends next year, and she is holding talks as to whether she should put her name forward for the socialist party leadership contest in April, she told journalists on Friday.

[...] Allende’s name has appeared in local media in recent weeks as a possible candidate for the 2017 presidential elections, in which incumbent socialist President Michelle Bachelet is barred from running under Chile’s constitution.’

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Venezuelans looking to bypass dysfunctional economic controls are turning to bitcoin

Girish Gupta reports for Reuters:

‘Tech-savvy Venezuelans looking to bypass dysfunctional economic controls are turning to the bitcoin virtual currency to obtain dollars, make Internet purchases — and launch a little subversion.

Two New York-based Venezuelan brothers hope this week to start trading on the first bitcoin exchange in the socialist-run country, which already has at least several hundred bitcoin enthusiasts.

Due to currency controls introduced by late president Hugo Chavez a decade ago, acquiring hard currency now means either requesting it from the state, which struggles to satisfy demand, or tapping a shadowy black market. Even small dollar transactions are out of the question for most Venezuelans.’

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Global Parties, Galactic Hangovers: Brazil’s Mega Event Dystopia

Christopher Gaffney writes for the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Global Parties, Galactic Hangovers: Brazil’s Mega Event Dystopia‘[...] Incredibly, everything went according to plan. The stadiums were ready on time. The airports functioned well. Though expensive, there were enough hotels. Only one major piece of infrastructure collapsed, killing two people and injuring dozens — but no one blinked. The football was entertaining, theparties pulsating. The systematic violence used against protesters was brushed off as a necessary measure against radical student groups and anarchists. The police didnt commit mass murders, few tourists disappeared, and Brazil came out on the other side of the World Cup with its reputation intact. The pessimists were either shunted aside, swept up in the euphoria, or never interviewed again. The smug satisfaction of FIFA and their Brazilian partners in government and industry bubbled over in theirchampagne glasses. After years of haranguing Brazil for their apparent disorganization, FIFA president Joseph Blatter gave Brazil a 9.25 out of 10, calling the tournament “very, very special.”

Though hyperbolic and facile, this is the narrative that seems to have won the day. Now that the dust has settled and Brazilians try to digest seven German goals, it is important to understand how Brazil managed this outcome and what has changed, because the Olympics are next.’

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World Cup Lessons: What Brazil 2014 could mean for Russia 2018

Manuel Veth writes for Futbolgrad:

‘The World Cup 2014 in Brazil was hailed by some media outlets as the greatest tournament of all time. But while the action on the pitch may serve as the benchmark for future tournaments, the headlines circling the organisation of the tournament will serve as a serious warning for the next edition of football’s most prestigious tournament, to be held in Russia in 2018.

Both Russia and Brazil share a place among the BRIC grouping acronym, which refers to four emerging market powerhouse economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – all deemed to be at a similar stage of economic development and expected to be among the world’s most dominant economies by the year 2050 . Such similarities are leading analysts to use Brazil’s experience as a guide, or more importantly as a source of foreboding concern for Russia over the next four years.’

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Argentina president claims US plotting to oust her

Uki Goñi reports for The Guardian:

Cristina‘Argentinian opposition politicians have accused the country’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, of being “completely out of touch with reality” after she gave a rambling televised address in which she claimed the US may be behind a plot to overthrow her government and possibly even assassinate her.

“If something should happen to me, don’t look to the Middle East, look to the North,” Fernández said during the address on Tuesday night, in which she alluded to an alleged plot against her by local bankers and businessmen “with foreign help”.’

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Chile Braced for Unrest on Anniversary of Pinochet Coup

Hannah Strange reports for VICE News:

‘Chile was braced for unrest on Thursday as the country observed the anniversary of the 1973 coup by General Augusto Pinochet, days after a bomb exploded in a busy shopping mall, injuring at least 14 people.

A bus was set on fire in a Santiago suburb and a police vehicle was attacked in another part of the capital, as the protests that regularly mark the divisive date began to gather momentum.

The anniversary of the military coup on September 11, 1973 against leftist president Salvador Allende exposes the deep wounds from the dictatorship years that still linger in Chilean society. A festering antagonism between those who supported and those who opposed the brutal right-wing junta spills on to the streets and demonstrations often turn violent.’

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Advancing Backwards: Bolivia’s Child Labor Law

Malavika Krishnan writes for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs:

2014 830 bol st‘In the midst of a global fight against child labor and poverty, Bolivia stands alone on an empty street. As the world actively seeks to reduce the exploitation of young children in the workforce, La Paz recently amended its child labor law, making it more flexible and allowing children as young as 10 years old to work legally. Indeed, Bolivia’s recent actions reflect its unfortunate reality: approximately 45 percent of its 10 million population lives under the national poverty line. With the recent transformation of the country’s labor laws, the government claims to‘solve’ poverty by 2025; but instead, the move will likely exacerbate the situation and perpetuate the poverty cycle. Although President Evo Morales and his administration may mean well, to succeed in reality, Bolivia must search for other alternatives in order to effectively combat its poverty.’

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Chileans baffled by persistent bomb attacks

Gideon Long reports for BBC News:

Police cordon off a bank in Santiago where a home-made explosive device went off‘Santiago is generally regarded as one of the safest capital cities in Latin America, so it comes as something of a shock to visitors to find out that it has been hit by around 200 bomb attacks over the past decade.

[...] The bomb attacks started in 2005. Since then, around 200 devices have been planted across the capital.

Two-thirds have gone off while bomb disposal experts have defused the rest. A handful of bombs have also exploded in provincial Chilean cities.

About a third of the bombs have been placed outside banks but other targets have included police stations, army barracks, churches, embassies, the headquarters of political parties, company offices, courthouses and government buildings.

Most have been timed to go off at night when the streets are largely empty, and only a handful of passers-by have been injured, none seriously.’

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Ecuadorean police jailed for assassination attempt on President Correa

BBC News reports:

The president is rescued from the National Police Hospital by an elite police special operations unit on 30 September 2010‘Six Ecuadorean police officers have been given 12 years in jail for trying to assassinate President Rafael Correa. The six took part in a mutiny in 2010 during which officers besieged the president at a Quito hospital.

One of Mr Correa’s bodyguards was killed when the mutineers opened fire on the president’s car as he finally left the hospital after 12 hours. The police were protesting over cuts to their benefits, but the demonstrations snowballed into a full-scale mutiny.

A lawyer for the officers said they were considering an appeal. A total of 40 people have been convicted for their role in the mutiny.’

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Brazil presidential candidate Campos killed in plane crash

UPDATE: It has been reported in the Brazilian media that it may have been a drone that caused Campos’ aircraft to crash.

Reuters reports:

‘Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos was killed in a plane crash on Wednesday, throwing the October election and local financial markets into disarray. A private jet carrying Campos and his entourage crashed in a residential area in bad weather as it prepared to land in the coastal city of Santos. The accident killed all seven people on board, the Sao Paulo state fire department said. Campos, 49, was running on a business-friendly platform and was in third place in polls with the support of about 10 percent of voters. While he was not expected to win the Oct. 5 vote, he was widely seen as one of Brazil’s brightest young political stars and his death instantly changes the dynamics of the race.

Some analysts said that Campos’ death could make it harder for President Dilma Rousseff to win a second term, especially if his running mate Marina Silva runs in his place, as allowed by electoral law. A renowned environmentalist and former presidential candidate, Silva is better known nationally than Campos and could eat into Rousseff’s support among leftist and younger voters. Silva’s religious beliefs also make her hugely popular among evangelical Christian voters, an increasingly important demographic in Brazil. Silva’s popularity could get an additional boost from an outpouring of sympathy in the wake of Campos’ death.’

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Argentina Sues U.S. In World Court To Stop Vulture Fund Billionaire: Interview with Greg Palast

‘Greg Palast: President Obama has failed to exercise his authority to stop a New York judge from ordering Argentina to pay vulture fund billionaire Paul Singer debt worth pennies on the dollar’ (The Real News)

Amazon tribe makes first contact with outside world

From AFP:

Amazon tribespeople photographed by Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Funai) after they apparently made contact for the first time with the outside world.‘Isolated native people likely to be fleeing attacks in Peru have turned up in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest where they made contact with the outside world, according to a video released by the country’s indigenous authority.

Brazilian experts have said the tribespeople probably crossed the border as they had come under pressure from illegal logging and drug trafficking at home. The tribe, part of the Pano linguistic group, made contact with the Ashaninka native people of northern Brazil in late June.’

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Stiglitz on Argentina’s default: “This is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system”

Peter Eavis and Alexandra Stevenson write for The New York Times:

‘[...] The campaign against Argentina shows how driven and deep-pocketed hedge funds can sometimes wield influence outside of the markets they bet in. George Soros’s successful wager against the pound in 1992 affected Britain’s relationship with Europe for years.

While Mr. Singer’s firm has yet to collect any money from Argentina, some debt market experts say that the battle may already have shifted the balance of power toward creditors in the enormous debt markets that countries regularly tap to fund their deficits. Countries in crisis may now find it harder to gain relief from creditors after defaulting on their debt, they assert.

“We’ve had a lot of bombs being thrown around the world, and this is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, the economist and professor at Columbia University. “We don’t know how big the explosion will be — and it’s not just about Argentina.”’

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Latin America’s military is making a comeback

Simeon Tegel reports for The Global Post:

‘It was a momentous day for Latin America: On March 11, 1990, Augusto Pinochet, the region’s last military dictator, finally handed power to an elected civilian president. Since then, democracy has put down roots in the Americas to such an extent that few expect a repeat of the bloody coups that frequently punctuated the region’s history.

But now, across Latin America, the military is flexing its muscles once again and taking on more central roles in society, including in ways that experts warn are posing subtler risks to constitutional rule.

The most obvious way is the armed forces’ increasingly upfront participation in crime fighting, with the public, media and politicians demanding a “mano dura,” or firm hand, against rampant street violence and ruthless drug cartels.’

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Seumas Milne: We must end this collusion with terror in Colombia

Seumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

kenyon‘[...] This is the reality of Colombia today. But it’s not, of course, the story sold by the Colombian government and its US and British backers. As far as they’re concerned, the peace talks with the Farc are heading for success after Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected president last month on a peace ticket.

Colombian officials talk peace and human rights with an evangelical zeal and a dizzying array of flipcharts. But, as one independent report after another confirms, there is a chasm between the spin and life on the ground. Laws are not implemented or abusers prosecuted. Thousands of political prisoners languish in Colombia’s jails. Political, trade union and social movement activists are still routinely jailed or assassinated.

A quarter of a million have died in Colombia’s war, the large majority of them at the hands of the army, police and government-linked paramilitaries. Five million have been forced from their homes. Although the violence is down from its peak, the killing of human rights and union activists has actually increased in the past year.’

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U.S. court throws out Chiquita terror payment claims

The Associated Press reports:

A divided U.S. appeals court on Thursday threw out claims against produce giant Chiquita Brands International made by relatives of thousands of Colombians killed during years of bloody civil war.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over the Colombian claims. The lawsuits accused Chiquita of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to a violent right-wing paramilitary group known as the AUC, the Spanish acronym for United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

Chiquita, based in the U.S., formerly operated large banana plantations in Colombia through its Banadex subsidiary. Chiquita insists it was the victim of extortion and was forced to pay the AUC or face violence directed at its employees and assets in Colombia.’

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Bolivia becomes first nation to legalise child labour

Jack Simpson reports for The Independent:

‘Bolivia has become the first country to legalise child labour after a law was signed by Vice- President  Alvaro Garcia Linera on Thursday. The new legislation was first approved by Congress earlier this month, and now the signature from Linera means the age that children can legally work is to be lowered from 14 to 10.

Under the new legislation, children above the age of 10 will be allowed to become self-employed workers as long as they have enrolled in school and have the permission of their parents. Children over the age of 12 will be permitted to take on contract work, again with parental consent and compulsory school attendance.

The law to lower the age in which children can legally work, is all part of the Bolivian government’s plan to help Bolivians living in poverty. It is hoped that adding another wage to a family’s income could alleviate the financial burdens that a large proportion of Bolivians face.’

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Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz Hails New BRICS Bank Challenging U.S.-Dominated World Bank & IMF

‘A group of five countries have launched their own development bank to challenge the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Leaders from the so-called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — unveiled the New Development Bank at a summit in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza. The bank will be headquartered in Shanghai. Together, BRICS countries account for 25 percent of global GDP and 40 percent of the world’s population. To discuss this development, we are joined by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University and the World Bank’s former chief economist. “It’s very important in many ways,” Stiglitz says of the New Development Bank’s founding. “This is adding to the flow of money that will go to finance infrastructure, adaptation to climate change — all the needs that are so evident in the poorest countries. It [also] reflects a fundamental change in global economic and political power. The BRICS countries today are richer than the advanced countries were when the World Bank and the IMF were founded. We’re in a different world — but the old institutions haven’t kept up.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

China’s President offers to build a railway across South America

From the Business Standard:

‘Firming up ‘s engagement with resource-rich Latin America, President Xi Jinping has offered to build a railway network across the continent, considered the backyard of the US.
During his meet with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on the sidelines of BRICS summit in Brasilia yesterday, Xi proposed that China, Peru and  form a working group to promote cooperation on the project.

He suggested that a trilateral working group be established to guide their cooperation in all related aspects including planning, design, construction and operation of the transcontinental railway, state run China Daily said today. Experts say collaboration on the railway project, which would run from the Peruvian Pacific coast to the Brazilian Atlantic coast, will be a good example of China’s positive impact on the Latin American continent, the Daily said.’

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Chile invokes anti-terrorism laws after device explodes in subway

Rosalba O’Brien reports for Reuters:

The government plans to use anti-terrorism legislation to prosecute those responsible for an explosive device which detonated in an empty metro carriage. Photo via @Dip_Calderon‘The Chilean government said on Tuesday it will invoke anti-terrorist laws in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the explosion of a homemade device on a Santiago subway train late Sunday night. The incendiary device, which had been placed inside a backpack, caused minor damage and no injuries. No one has claimed responsibility.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said on Tuesday that the government has decided the attack was serious and subject to the anti-terrorism laws. “We think the intention was to hurt innocent people,” he said. The laws, which date from the 1973-90 rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet, give prosecutors more powers and allow for harsher sentencing. The government has been criticized for using them in a long-running and often violent struggle with indigenous Mapuche activists over land rights in southern Chile.’

Jim Rickards: BRICS Development Bank A Significant Step Away From The Dollar

Nafeez Ahmed: World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit’ in genocidal land grabs, say NGOs

Nafeez Ahmed writes for the Guardian:

A Kenyan farmer tends newly planted trees‘Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 500 million acres of land in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean was acquired or negotiated under deals brokered on behalf of foreign governments or transnational corporations. Many such deals are geared toward growing crops or biofuels for export to richer, developed countries – with the consequence that small-holder farmers are displaced from their land and lose their livelihood while local communities go hungry.

The concentration of ownership of the world’s farmland in the hands of powerful investors and corporations is rapidly accelerating, driven by resource scarcity and, thus, rising prices. According to a new report by the US land rights organisation Grain: “The powerful demands of food and energy industries are shifting farmland and water away from direct local food production to the production of commodities for industrial processing.” Less known factors, however, include ‘conservation‘ and ‘carbon offsetting.”

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‘Lost’ Amazonian tribe under threat from illegal loggers operating in their traditional territories

Jonathan Brown reports for The Independent:

‘At first they were little more than fleeting sightings of naked figures on the edge of the forest. But as the days went by, the men and boys grew bolder, venturing into the village to pilfer pots and vegetables before disappearing back into the safety of trees. After they were first glimpsed by other people on the outskirts of an Asháninka indigenous community on the upper reaches of Brazil’s Envira River, “a few dozen” members of an unnamed Amazonian tribe finally made contact with a settled population 20 days ago. That came four years after a tribal group, reportedly from the same Amazonian tribe, were filmed from the air in 2010. When the images were released in January 2011, they created a worldwide sensation.

It is believed the tribe had been driven across the border from their centuries’ old nomadic existence by the activities of illegal loggers and possibly drug-traffickers operating in their traditional territories in Peru. Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department, Funai, confirmed that the group had taken the momentous decision to make contact at the village of Sympatico in the state of Acre, more than a week’s travel by foot and canoe from the nearest road. Sympatico, just 25 miles from the border, is very close to the area where a tribe group was filmed four years ago. It is estimated that there are at least four such communities living in Acre, constituting a population of around 600. A further two tribes are believed to occupy territory in Peru. But no one knows exactly how many individuals there are now living in the pristine forest of the western Amazon.’

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Venezuela accused of forging Maduro assassination plot evidence

Reuters reports:

‘Venezuelan officials used forged emails to accuse government adversaries of plotting to kill President Nicolas Maduro, according to a private investigation firm hired by one of the accused.

Ruling Socialist Party leaders in May said a group of ardent government critics were preparing to “annihilate” Maduro as part of a planned coup, showing images of emails they said were evidence of the plot.

The images of the emails showed “many indications of user manipulation,” according to the report released on Tuesday by Kivu Consulting. Records subpoenaed from Google also showed that messages attributed to consultant Pedro Burelli had never actually been sent, the report added.’

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Chilean Court Rules U.S. Had Role in Murders

Pascale Bonnefoy reports for The New York Times:

The United States military intelligence services played a pivotal role in setting up the murders of two American citizens in 1973, providing the Chilean military with the information that led to their deaths, a court here has ruled.

The recent court decision found that an American naval officer, Ray E. Davis, alerted Chilean officials to the activities of two Americans, Charles Horman, 31, a filmmaker, and Frank Teruggi, 24, a student and an antiwar activist, which led to their arrests and executions.

The murders were part of an American-supported coup that ousted the leftist government of President Salvador Allende. The killing of the two men was portrayed in the 1982 film “Missing.”’

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Peru now has a “licence to kill” environmental protesters

David Hill writes for the Guardian:

Peruvian security forces arrest a protester in June 2009 during conflict that led to more than 30 people dying and over 200 injured. ‘Some of the recent media coverage about the fact that more than 50 people in Peru – the vast majority of them indigenous – are on trial following protests and fatal conflict in the Amazon over five years ago missed a crucial point. Yes, the hearings are finally going ahead and the charges are widely held to be trumped-up, but what about the government functionaries who apparently gave the riot police the order to attack the protestors, the police themselves, and – following Wikileaks’ revelations of cables in which the US ambassador in Lima criticized the Peruvian government’s “reluctance to use force” and wrote there could be “implications for the recently implemented Peru-US FTA” if the protests continued – the role of the US government?’

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