Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro led a mass rally in Caracas Feb. 28 marking the anniversary of the "Caracazo," the 1989 popular rebellion against an IMF structural adjustment package imposed by then-president Carlos Andrés Pérez. Over the course of 72 hours, perhaps 3,000 were killed or "disappeared" in a wave of repression, although the actual figure remains unknown. Maduro announced that 75 more victims and survivors of the repression would receive indemnification from the state. Since 2002, some 600 victims and survivors have received restitution. Maduro of course also linked the commemoration to the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, pledging to defend "the anti-imperialist charatcer of the Bolivarian Revolution" despite designs by "the oligarchy" for a "coup d'etat." (Diario BAE, Argentina, Noticías24, Venezuela, Feb. 28; VenezuelAnalysis, Feb. 27)
Colombia's supreme court on Feb. 27 convicted two close aides of former president Alvaro Uribe for illegal eavesdropping on the communications of the conservative leader's top opponents. Maria del Pilar Hurtado, former head of the now-disbanded DAS intelligence agency, and Bernardo Moreno, Uribe's chief of staff, were both found guilty on several charges, including conspiracy, and each face more than 10 years in prison. The convictions were widely anticipated since a number of former DAS agents accused them of ordering wiretaps of journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and even members of the supreme court who had been critical of Uribe. President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the DAS shut down shortly after taking office.
Victim representatives at peace talks with the FARC rebels held a press conference in Bogotá Feb. 20 to demand action from the Colombian government over mounting death threats against them. At least 14 of the 60 representatives have received death threats because of their participation—and the son of one representative was killed. Nilson Liz, a regional leader of the National Association of Campesino Land Users (ANUC) from Cauca department, said that following his trip to Cuba for the talks, unknown assailants murdered his son Dayan on Jan. 1. ANUC, which is seeking return of lands stolen by armed groups, has had 90 leaders assassinated since its founding in 1970. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 21; Semana, Feb. 20)
Small-scale gold and emerald miners in Colombia launched a strike Feb. 18, blocking roads at several points across the central department of Antioquia. The strike was called off Feb. 21 when the government agreed to open dialogue on implementation of the new Decree 0276, which mandates that all informal mining operations apply for license with the National Mining Agency's Unified Marketers Registry (RUCOM). Luz Stella Ramírez, leader of the National Miners Confederation of Colombia (Conalminercol), called for the "formalization" of small-scale operations with "repect for the people" engaged in the activity. She also called for the overturn of the "terrorist decree" 2235, promulgated in 2012, which empowered the National Police to destroy mining camps and equipment without an individual judicial order. (El Universal, Cartagena, Vanguardia, Bucaramanga, Feb. 21; La Patria, Manizales, Feb. 19; Cronica del Quindio, Feb. 18; Desde Abajo, Feb. 18; Colombiano, Medellín, Feb. 17)
Authorities in Peru Feb. 4 announced the declaration of a no-fly zone over the conflicted coca-producing region known as the VRAEM, for the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers, in the country's southeast jungles. The head of Peru's anti-drug agency DEVIDA, Alberto Otarola (a former defense minister), spoke in blunt terms at a Lima press conference: "Any flight that is not reported to the aviation authority will be considered hostile and illegal. Peru must exercise the full sovereignty and jurisdiction of its airspace."
Colombia's humanitarian situation remains severe in spite of ongoing peace talks with the FARC, the United Nations said in a report released Feb. 12. Raising concern over illegal armed groups not incuded in the dialogue, it found that the grim situation is likely to persist even if a peace deal is struck in the talks. The report, entitled "The Humanitarian Dimension in the Aftermath of a Peace Agreement: proposals for the international community in Colombia," was commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and supported by the Norwegian Centre for Peace-building (NOREF). At least 347,286 people were displaced in Colombia between November 2012, when the talks began, and September 2014, the report found. Nearly half of these displacements (48%) resulted from FARC or ELN actions, with 19% blamed on neo-paramilitary groups. The report also found that 62 social leaders and human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2014.
Hundreds of indigenous and Afro-Colombian protesters from La Toma, Suárez municipality, in Colombia's southwest Cauca region, marched over the weekend against illegal gold mining taking place in their territories. The communities, angry about environmental damage caused by the activity, said they had received threats from the Rastrojos paramilitary group for their opposition to the mining. The three-day cross-country march along the Pan-American Highway culminated Feb. 16 at Buenos Aires, in northern Cauca.
Two have been killed by National Police and army troops in militant protests against the operations of PlusPetrol at Pichanaki, on the edge of the Amazon rainforest in Chanchamayo province of Peru's Junín region. In an action organized by the Environmental Defense Front of Pichanaki, some 500 campesinos and indigenous Asháninka and Nomatsiguenga warriors blocked access roads on Feb. 9 and two days later invaded a military base established to protect the PlusPetrol operations at Lot 108. The protesters are demanding the ouster of PlusPetrol and SIMSA mining company from the territory, saying their demands for dialogue over ecological damage have for years been rebuffed. On Feb. 12, the government finally did agree to send a delegation to meet with the protesters, headed by Justice Minister Daniel Figallo and Energy and Mines Minister Eleodoro Mayorga. The protesters have relaxed their blockades while the talks are underway. (Andina, Feb. 13; TeleSUR, Radio Azul, Puno, Feb. 12; La Republica, El Comercio, Feb. 11; La Republica, Feb. 9)