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LATIN AMERICA
In brief
Latinamerica Press
7/19/2017
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Latin America, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela

“It has never been deadlier to take a stand against companies that steal land and destroy the environment. Nearly four people were murdered every week in 2016 protecting their land and the natural world from industries like mining, logging and agribusiness,” states the report titled “Defenders of the Earth”, published on July 13 by Global Witness, organization dedicated to the protection of defenders of the environment and the land. At least 200 people have been murdered around the world for protecting their lands, forests and rivers; 122 of them in Latin America. Brazil heads the list with 49 victims, followed by Colombia (37), Honduras (14), Nicaragua (11), Guatemala (6), Mexico (3) and Peru (2). Murder is the sharp end of a range of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, sexual assault, abductions and aggressive legal attacks, Global Witness points out.

Judge Sergio Moro sentenced Brazil’s ex-President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) to nine years and six months in prison for crimes of passive corruption and money-laundering. According o the judicial investigation that is part of the Lava Jato case, Lula received 3.7 million reais (US$1.1 million) in bribes from the construction company OAS in exchange for contracts with the state-controlled Petrobras, money that was supposedly invested in the remodeling of a luxurious apartment located in Guarujá, state of São Paulo. The former president will not go to prison while the process is ongoing. Moro based his sentence in the plea bargain of Léo Pinheiro, president of OAS, but did not consider the proof of innocence presented by Lula’s defense lawyers. Lula, 71, who has always denied the charges and considers himself a victim of a “witch hunt”, has announced that he will appeal the sentence. One day after the sentence, Lula, who is one of the most popular political figures in Brazil, confirmed his intention of running for the presidency in 2018.

Two municipalities in Colombia decided on July 9 to reject the mining and oil exploitation in their territories. Pijao, in Quindío, and Arbeláez, in Cundinamarca, in the center of the country, conducted citizen consultations in which 99 percent of the vote went against these activities. In Pijao, 2,613 citizens voted No to the question if they agreed that “metal mining activities and processes take place” in their municipality, while in Arbeláez, 4,312 answered No to the idea that “seismic, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons, hydrocarbons wash and large scale mining processes take place” in their area. These localities are added to Cabrera (Cundinamarca), Cajamarca (Tolima), and Cumaral (Meta) which this year also said No to mining and oil. Despite this, the director of the Legal Agency for the Defense of the State, Luis Guillermo Vélez, stated that, as they lack a legal basis, the consultations are not binding.

The ex-President of Peru, Ollanta Humala (2011-2016), and his wife Nadine Heredia, were detained on July 13, accused of the crimes of money-laundering and criminal association. Judge Richard Concepción Carhuancho issued an 18-month pretrial detention order for the couple to prevent the possibility they flee the country. The justice system is investigating Humala and Heredia for having received US$3 million from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht for their presidential campaign of 2011 and from Venezuela in 2006, simulating ghost contributions. The accusations are based on the declarations of Marcelo Odebrecht, manager of the company, made to the Brazilian justice system as part of the investigation of the Lava Jato case. Another ex-President, Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), has a detention order for having received money from Odebrecht, while the former presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori and ex-President Alan García (2006-2011) are being investigated for the contributions made by the construction company to their campaigns.

The Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela granted house arrest to opposition leader Leopoldo López on July 8, due to health problems. López, 46, was sentenced in 2014 for inciting violence during the protests that demanded President Nicolas Maduro to step down; protests that left 43 people dead. A popular consultation took place on July 14 promoted by the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) in response to the election of a new Constituent Assembly called by Maduro for July 30. Some 7.2 million people voted in favor of ignoring the Constituent Assembly, demand the armed forces to obey and defend the Constitution of 1999 and support the decisions taken by the National Assembly, and the renewal of public authorities, holding of free elections and the makeup of a national unity government. Since April, Venezuela has been the scenario of protests that have left a of at least 91 people dead.


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