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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
6/5/2017
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Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Panamá, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela

As “criminal, barbaric and inhuman” was described the lynching of a person that took place on May 15 in the town of San Julián, in Santa Cruz, in eastern Bolivia. Johnny Pizarro, 38, was being detained and accused of having participated in a robbery attempt that had caused the death of a  motorcycle-taxi driver a month earlier, when a  mob broke into the police station, took Pizarro out of his cell, dragged him to the main square, where he was hanged. The Police reported that the main suspects who participated in encouraging the lynching are the relatives of the young man supposedly killed by Pizarro. According to the Public Prosecutor, between 25 and 30 lynchings take place in the country each year. In 2015 there were 32 cases of lynchings, and as this crime is not classified under the criminal code, many of these cases go unpunished.

Amnesty International (AI) condemned on May 18 the dropping of the lawsuit brought by Víctor Queipul Hueiquil, a lonko (leader) of the autonomous Mapuche community of Temucuicui, in the south of Chile, against the Carabineros police force for kidnapping and torture. On June 14, 2016, a group of  carabineros participated in a raid inside the territory of the community, where they used antiriot weapons and tear gas. In this context, the lonko was detained against his will by three people who did not provide identification and held him for eight hours, during which he was beaten. According to the Prosecutor’s office, Queipul Hueiquil could not identify those responsible for holding him. For AI, “this decision sets a dangerous precedent and gives free reign to those who pretend to silence the voice of indigenous communities in Chile.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein drew attention to the risk faced by human rights defenders in Colombia. “We have received information of at least 41 cases of human rights defenders murdered in Colombia just in the first four months of 2017. This represents an increase compared to the same period in previous years, and this is very alarming,” said Zeid in a press conference held on May 1. He also mentioned the violence against activists in Honduras and the rise in this type of attacks in Brazil that remain unpunished. He also mentioned that 124 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, seven since March 2, the most recent one being that of Javier Valdez on May 15.

Former Panama dictator, Manuel Antonio Noriega, died on May 29 at 83 years old of complications after surgery to remove a brain tumor. Noriega governed between 1983 and 1989 when he was removed from office by a US invasion. He was detained and transferred to the United States where, in 1992, was sentenced to 40 years for drug trafficking, organized crime and money laundering, a sentence that was later reduced to 20 years for “good behavior.” In 2009, when he was about to complete his sentence, the United States decided to send him to France where he was judged and sentenced for money laundering. At the end of 2011 he was extradited to Panama to face charges for the murder of doctor Hugo Spadafora, of the opposition, and Panamanian Armed Force Mayor Moisés Giroldi and other crimes against humanity.

Environmental organizations in Venezuela demanded compensation from the government of Trinidad and Tobago for the spill of 300 barrels of oil from the Pointe-à-Pierre refinery of the Trinidadian state-owned oil company Petrotrin, which took place on Apr. 23. Residue of the oil reached the coast of Venezuela, affecting the marine flora and fauna. “Aside from asserting our condemnation and alarm about the gravity of the environmental damage, we demand the assumption of liability and compensation from the government of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as from Petrotrin for any environmental impact,” reads a statement published on May 15. Petrotrin and the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA put in motion contingency plans to counter the damage from the spill and to clean the affected areas.


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