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Brazil’s recovering democracy, Peru’s fight for justice, and Colombia’s journey to peace – LAB Newsletter 30 Jan 2023

Brazil's recovering democracy, Peru's fight for justice, and Colombia's journey to peace

News from the region

Although the year has just begun, there have already been important and worrying shifts in the region. In this first 2023 newsletter, we bring you updates on surprising developments in the Brazilian political panorama, the growing tensions in the struggle for justice in Peru, and a local analysis on how the peace talks in Colombia may affect the rural population. Don’t forget to check out our Latin American film recommendations at the end…

Brazil – A Fine Line between Democracy and Violence

On January 3rd, Jan Rocha wrote an article for LAB about the joyful celebrations in Brazil following the country’s shift towards democratic leadership and progressive policies. Rocha also acknowledged the violent climate promoted by supporters of former President Bolsonaro. Lula did not restrict his public appearances and Rocha highlighted his initial policy moves: stricter gun control measures and a focus on marginalized communities that had been neglected during the previous administration. As Rocha wrote, “Brazil is happy again.”

A week later, the same author published an update on the January 8 failed coup attempt by Bolsonaristas, a destructive and rage-filled scene that undermined the newly elected government’s power. Rocha analysed that the government had seriously underestimated the threat, that Lula will be rethinking his security network, and that serious questions will be raised about Bolsonaro’s involvement in the terrorist act.

Video: Al Jazeera, 9 January 2023

These violent events in Brazil received strong backlash, which resonated across the Atlantic and reached the streets of London. Fernanda Alvarez Piñeiro reported from demonstrations in London and spoke with LAB correspondent Ali Rocha at a demonstration in São Paulo. Her piece illustrates how Brazilians worldwide prioritize and value democracy and strongly condemn the coup attempt.

Sue Branford wrote for red pepper on how the coup was not stopped by Brazilian security forces. Inquiring into the loopholes within Lula’s government, she points out the lack of support within the armed forces, portraying once more the dangerous legacy Bolsonaro has left. 

The human devastation Bolsonaro left is also being uncovered. Over 500 Yanomami children have died of avoidable causes during Bolsonaro’s four-year presidency – the result of his deliberate encouragement of illegal gold mining in their territories, deliberate neglect of health services in the area, and the dismantling of the national agency for indigenous affairs. ‘This is genocide,’ writes Ali Rocha.

Peru – An Urgent Fight for Justice

Reporting from widespread protests in Peru, Red Muqui opened their article for LAB by focusing on the government’s bloodstained response to a nation calling for justice. The government’s strong detachment from the people’s demands is a recurring theme throughout the narrative of Latin American conflicts. Through examining the demands of Indigenous communities and the role of the mining sector, Red Muqui clarifies several factors contributing to the unrest.

Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras Cusco Protestas
On 10 January, hundreds of people from Cusco mobillized, travelling to the Choccollo mining corridor to peacefully protest against President Boluarte, her ministers, and Congress. Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras Cusco

Colombia – Petro’s Journey towards Peace 

Lewis Harrison visited the ELN-affected area of Caldono and spoke to locals about the prospects for peace under President Petro, who recently launched talks with the country’s largest remaining guerrilla group. Residents attested to the direct connection between extreme poverty and rising violence, a vicious cycle that Petro addressed during his campaign saying, ‘Peace isn’t just about silencing the guns, it’s about resolving extreme poverty.’

Bolivia – Modern Gold Mining Exploitation

LAB Volunteer Rachel Stevenson translated a piece from Sergio Mendoza in Bolivian newspaper Los Tiempos, which investigated the exploitative strategies of Chinese businesses illegally extracting gold from Bolivia. Their mining activities in La Paz harshly affect Madidi National Park. Adding to the devastating environmental harm, the population falls victim to abusive work conditions. Given the enormous debt the Bolivian government owes to China, it turns a blind eye to such practices. 

Film

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Ecuador – This Stolen Country of Mine

In a similar (open) vein, this thought-provoking documentary which emerged from an investigative journalism project explores corrupt practices used by Rafael Correa’s Government to allow China to exploit Ecuador as a mining resource extraction site. Rachel Stevenson praises its skilful cinematography and states it is ‘an important reminder of the devastation that can be caused by globalization and the exploitation of natural resources’.

‘This Stolen Country of Mine’ screened at Bertha DocHouse in London from 15-26 January 2023 

Brazil – Marighella

Charlotte Peet of LAB partner Sounds and Colours reviewed Wagner Moura’s film about the controversial figure Carlos Marighella, a leader in the fight against military dictatorship in Brazil during the 1960s. The film prompts reflection on the current Bolsonaro regime and its admiration for the military dictatorship.

Colombia – La Nave

Also from our partner Sounds and Colours, Jessica Pandian reviews a documentary by Colombian filmmaker Carlos Maria Romero. ‘La Nave’ shines a light on marginalized groups reclaiming their space within the arts at Barranquilla Carnival. Performers from Indigenous, LGBTQ+, and Afro-Colombian communities take the spotlight.

In (more positive) LAB news:

  • Mike Gatehouse spoke last weekend at an Alborada event titled Chile: 50 years of solidarity and struggle
  • Rosie Thornton‘s piece on the launching of a sewage treatment bio-system in the small community of Vale Encantado in Alto da Boa Vista in Rio de Janeiro was highlighted in RioOnWatch‘s Best and Worst International Reporting on Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas 2022 as one of the occasions in which international media gave ample coverage to an event in a favela in a constructive way, focusing on the solutions generated in these territories
  • We’ll be publishing three new books this year…

New LAB books

  • The Heart of Our Earth – Community Resistance to Mining in Latin America, by Tom Gatehouse (Jan 2023).
  • Moving Forward – Health, care, and violence seen through the eyes of displaced women in Brazil, by Pia Riggirozzi, Bruna Curcio, Tallulah Lines, and Natalia Cintra (April 2023)
  • Clamor – The search for the disappeared of the South American dictatorships, by Jan Rocha (April 2023)

Book launch

We are pleased to announce that The Heart of Our Earth: Community resistance to mining in Latin America by Tom Gatehouse will be published on 24 March, with a launch event at Lumen Rooms in London on 30 March. There will be food, drinks, presentations, and an exhibition on Dom & Bruno’s work in the Amazon. Heartfelt thanks go out to everyone in LAB’s network who’s supported this important book. We are excited for you all to have a copy in your hands soon.

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For exclusive access to the new Voices chapter ‘The Covid-19 Pandemic: Survival’, Women Resisting Violence chapter ‘They cannot erase our memory: Commemoration, violence, and the arts’, and every issue of Voz, LAB’s Quarterly Dispatch, plus video content a first look at each Environmental Defenders article – sign up to become a LAB Patron.

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