Southern Cone

Italy hands down sentences in ‘Operation Condor’

An appeals court in Rome sentenced 24 to life in prison, including former senior officials of the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The officials were found to have been involved in Operation Condor, under which opponents of military rule were hunted down across South America’s borders in the 1970s and early ’80s. The exact number killed is not known. The case focused on the disappearance of 43 people, including 23 Italian citizens. Prosecutors applied the “universal jurisdiction” precedent from the 1998 arrest in London of Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. They also referenced the 2016 conviction of leaders of Argentina’s military dictatorship, which confirmed the existence of Operation Condor for the first time. (Image via Deep Dives)

The Andes

Bolivia: did opposition call for US ‘intervention’?

Bolivian President Evo Morales launched his campaign for a fourth term with a massive rally in the Chapare region where he began his career as a peasant leader a generation ago. But the country’s political opposition charges that Morales is defying a 2016 referendum, in which voters rejected a fourth consecutive term. The referendum results were later overturned by the Plurinational Constitutional Court—sparking a wave of protest. The campaign begins amid controversy surrounding accusations that opposition lawmakers have sent a letter to Donald Trump jointly calling for his “intervention” against Morales’ re-election. (Photo: Apporea)

The Andes

Bolivia: indigenous opposition leader arrested

Aymara indigenous leader and opposition lawmaker Rafael Quispe says he will file "abduction" charges against the Bolivian government after he was arrested in La Paz, and shortly released when a judge found there was no grounds for his detention. Quispe, of the left-opposition Unidad Demócrata party, was brought before the Second Anti-corruption Tribunal for having supposedly missed court appearances in a legal case against him for alleged "harassment" of Felipa Huanca, a militant of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) and former candidate for governor of La Paz department. The case stems from Quispe's accusations that Huanca was involved in embezzlement of funds slated for development of indigenous communities when she was La Paz head of the Bartolina Sisa Federation of Campesina Women in 2014. (Photo: Erbol via Los Tiempos de Cochabamba)

The Andes

Bolivia next for Latin ‘regime change’ offensive?

US senators Ted Cruz, Bob Menéndez and Dick Durbin introduced a resolution calling on Bolivia's President Evo Morales not to stand for re-election this October. Cruz said Bolivia is going in a "very dangerous direction, aligning itself with illegal and illegitimate regimes, including that of [Nicolás] Maduro in Venezuela. It is important that all parties respect the constitution of Bolivia, which includes term limits." Bolivia saw a wave of strikes and protests after a December ruling by the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal allowing Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term in the 2019 election. The resolution comes just as Bolivia has announced a new partnership with Chinese company Xinjiang TBEA Group to exploit the country's valuable and largely untapped lithium deposits. China has for years been seeking deals to exploit Bolivia's strategic lithium reserves, in what some see as a global design to establish a "stranglehold" on the planet's rare earth minerals. (Photo via NACLA)

Southern Cone

Chinese ‘spaceport’ military outpost in Argentina?

Announcement of a joint Chinese-Argentine satellite production company comes amid growing concern within Argentina about activities at the Chinese-operated "spaceport" at Bajada del Agrio in Patagonia—and the apparent role of the People's Liberation Army in the facility. The Bajada del Agrio facility played a part in tracking China's recent lunar probe, but is overseen by companies that answer directly to the PLA's General Armaments Department. Only personnel authorized by Beijing have access to the facility, arousing much suspicion about the site in Argentina's news media. (Photo via InfoBae)

The Andes

Protests over re-election broil Bolivia

Bolivia has seen strikes and protests since the ruling by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal allowing President Evo Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term in the 2019 election. The ruling was met with marches, road blockades and work stoppages that caused varying degrees of disruption in eight of Bolivia's nine departments. A student mobilization in the hydrocarbon-rich eastern department of Santa Cruz, heart of anti-Morales sentiment, ended in violence, with the regional offices of the electoral tribunal burned to the ground. Hunger strikes were launched in six cities, with at least 20 still ongoing. (Photo via NACLA)

The Amazon

Ecuador: indigenous dissident blasts bogus populism

Speaking at the fifth International Andino-Amazonian Forum for Rural Development in Cobija, Bolivia, a member of the delegation from Ecuador accused the Quito government of masking the despoliation of indigenous territories in populist phrases. Mónica Chuji, a community leader from the Ecuadoran rainforest, accused former president Rafael Correa of invoking the indigenous concept of Sumaj Causay or Vivir Bien (Good Living) in his new constitution only to "folklore-ize it [folklorizaron] so it ends up being a cliché without content." She said there is a "divorce between the discourse and the reality" as the Ecuadoran Amazon is opened to "mega-corporations that destroy our territories with the protection of successive governments." She also charged the government with persecution of indigenous leaders who protest or resist. (Photo: Agencia de Noticias Fides)

The Andes

ICJ rejects Bolivia ocean access claim against Chile

The International Court of Justice ruled that landlocked Bolivia cannot force neighboring Chile to grant it access to a portion of its Pacific coast. Bolivia controlled a portion of coast until 1904, when Chile successfully annexed the territory. The day of the 1904 treaty has since been commemorated each year by lamenting Bolivians, and the nation has attempted to renegotiate coastal access for over 100 years. A dispute over water rights in the contested border region remains pending. (Image via Stratfor)

The Amazon

Bolivia: indigenous dissident cleared of charges

After three years of investigation, Bolivia's Public Ministry reached a decision not to bring criminal charges against Adolfo Chávez, former leader of the Confederation of the Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian Oriente (CIDOB), and 21 others linked to a corruption scandal in a case many saw as politically motivated. Chávez and the others were accused of illegally misappropriating monies made available through the government's Development Fund for Indigenous Peoples. But he claimed he was targeted for his opposition to the government's development plans for the Isiboro Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), in the eastern rainforest. In October, Chávez testified before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission that coca-growers in the TIPNIS loyal to the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) were attacking the reserve's indigenous inhabitants. (Photo: ANF)

The Andes

Bolivia’s African king speaks for coca growers

The "King of the Afro-Bolivians," Julio I, is said to be South America's last reigning monarch, although he lives as a peasant cocalero in the Yungas region on the Andean slopes north of La Paz. The descendants of slaves brought in by the Spanish to work haciendas and silver mines, the Afro-Bolivians today have constitutionally protected autonomy. They have joined with their indigenous Aymara neighbors to demand greater rights for the coca-producing high jungle zone. Julio, of Kikongo royal blood, was crowned in a ceremony recognized by the Bolivian state in 2007. Last month marked 10 years of his official reign. (Photo: Casa Real Afroboliviana)

The Andes

Bolivia hosts ‘Gas OPEC’ summit —amid dissension

The summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) opened in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz—central hub of the country's hydrocarbon-rich eastern lowlands. President Evo Morales took the opportunity to boast of his "nationalization" of Bolivia's hydrocarbon resources. But in addition to pressure from his populist base for greater state control over the hydrocarbons, Morales faces ecologist and indigenist dissidents who reject continued reliance on an extractivist model altogether.

Greater Middle East

Russia vetoes Syria chemwar investigation —again

The Russian Federation vetoed a measure before the UN Security Council that would have extended the mandate of a panel investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria for 30 days. The UNSC had established the Joint Investigative Mechanism with a two-year mandate following the use of chemical weapons in Syria in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.