Unfolding Events in Latin America and the Caribbean

Resistance Grows to Neo-Liberal Wrecking, State Terror and Imperialist-Inspired Coups

March held in Anzoátegui, Venezuela, November 15, 2019, in support of Evo Morales and against the coup in Bolivia.

The past two weeks have seen the people of Bolivia and Chile continue their courageous fights to affirm their rights in the face of the brutal repression unleashed against them by state forces. On November 21 they were joined by Colombians who staged a massive national strike in cities and towns across the country against the anti-social offensive of the neo-liberal, warmongering government of Iván Duque. They were also met with a violent response at the hands of the army and the militarized police, especially the hated riot squad. Large demonstrations have continued every day since then.

As the clash between the Old and New intensifies in the region, the youth and working people in particular are rising to the challenge and, in the process, winning over middle sections to join the cause of those who are fighting for their rights and the rights of all. This can be seen having an effect as all attempts by the foreign-backed oligarchs to wield exceptional measures and their monopoly on state power to terrorize the people's forces in hopes of making them submit are not working. The killings, injuries inflicted, arbitrary detentions, disappearances and persecution of all types have only served to increase the people's indignation and determination to keep resisting and pressing their demands until they secure justice.


Banner at November 16, 2019 demonstration in Santiago, Chile, reads "Chile Will Be the
Tomb of Neo-liberalism."

A general strike took place on November 26 and 27, the third since mass protests began six weeks ago. Workers from different sectors of the economy joined social movements and political forces organized as the Social Unity Roundtable in marching through Santiago and other cities and setting up roadblocks in some areas. It is reported that hundreds of thousands of workers participated, including those working in mining, on the docks and in the education and transportation sectors.

The Secretary General of the Unitary Workers' Central of Chile, Nolberto Díaz said the strike was called because the government, contrary to what it announced, had not engaged in dialogue with the social movements or met any of their demands. He added that if President Sebastián Piñera and the parliamentarians were incapable of providing a solution for what Chileans were demanding, they should step aside and call early elections.

Gabriela Flores, President of the National Federation of Municipal Health Officials said, "We workers are not going to sit with our arms folded, nor is the population. How is it possible that [Piñera's] advisors can be so blind and so deaf that they don't hear what the people are asking for and just push legislation to increase the repression?"

On November 26, a day in which the Interior Ministry reported that police arrested 915 people, Piñera introduced legislation to permit use of the military to "protect critical public infrastructure," widely interpreted to mean returning them to the streets without the need to declare a state of exception as he was required to do when he militarized the streets in anticipation of the first protest action on October 18. Thereafter, for nine straight days the armed forces operated alongside the police (carabineros), using deadly force, torture, rape and other extreme measures against the youth in particular, who the president portrays as an enemy that has to be defeated.

Over the past 10 days both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have released damning reports documenting the brutality with which Chile's police and military have attacked protestors and others who simply happened to be in the vicinity of street actions, both during and after the lifting of the state of exception. In a statement released on November 21 Amnesty International wrote:

"'The intention of the Chilean security forces is clear: to injure demonstrators in order to discourage protest, even to the extent of using torture and sexual violence against protesters. Instead of taking measures to curb the very grave human rights crisis, the authorities, under the command of President Sebastián Piñera, have pursued a policy of punishment for over a month, adding yet more people to the staggering number of victims, which is continuing to rise to this day,' said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International."[1]

Then on November 26, Human Rights Watch issued its report documenting similar police abuses and violations of human rights as well as statistics provided by different Chilean authorities. It indicated that the Attorney General's office was investigating 26 deaths that occurred during the protests and cited a report of the Ministry of Health indicating that emergency medical services were provided to 11,564 persons injured between October 18 and November 22. Of these, 1,200 sustained grave injuries. It said the use of pellet guns aimed at people's faces was the main cause of the more than 220 eye injuries documented up to November 17, with 16 people having lost sight in one eye and 34 having severe eye injuries that could result in partial or total blindness. Since then there are reports of people having been blinded in both eyes and at least one case of a young person whose eyes were physically destroyed.

Human Rights Watch reported that police detained more than 15,000 people from October 18 to November 19, and "held" an additional 2,000 for violating the curfew imposed during the state of emergency. It said as of November 21 the National Human Rights Institute had filed 442 criminal complaints with prosecutors on behalf of victims for injuries, cruel treatment, torture, rape, killings, and attempted killings allegedly committed by security forces. It said there were hundreds more who reported being subjected to mistreatment and humiliation inside police stations. Separately, Reuters reported on November 26 that prosecutors said they were studying 2,670 complaints of abuse by security forces.

The conclusion reached by Human Rights Watch, widely considered to operate in tandem with the U.S. State Department, was only that Chile was in urgent need of "police reform," which no doubt allowed Piñera to breathe a sigh of relief as he already had his sacrificial lamb. The day before he met with Human Rights Watch regarding its recommendations, he fired his discredited Interior Minister and cousin Andrés Chadwick, who already bore political responsibility for the extrajudicial assassination by police over a year ago of Mapuche community leader Camillo Catrillanca, and more recently referred to protesters as "criminals." On November 27, Chile's House of Representatives voted to impeach Chadwick as well.

In spite of everything to which they are being subjected, Chileans have not been cowed and continue to come out into the streets in large numbers to fight for their just demands, including punishment of those responsible for the harm inflicted on so many citizens, reparations for those killed and injured, and for the convoking of a constituent assembly that empowers the people to write and approve a new constitution for the country to replace the one currently in force. The current constitution was imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship, enshrining the neo-liberal economic and social model they reject.


Mass demonstration in El Alto, Bolivia, November 16, 2019.

The week that ended November 23 was marked by a massacre in which at least 10, mainly young men, were shot and killed by state security forces who attacked a peaceful blockade at the Sekata gas plant in El Alto. Witnesses have said they believe many more were killed and their bodies simply disposed of by state forces to reduce the number of deaths reported. The gas plant blockade was set up as one of many on roads around the country that formed part of the nationwide resistance to the coup. It prevented fuel from leaving the plant to supply the nearby capital city, La Paz.

That week was also marked by large daily mobilizations around the country of outraged Bolivian working people and families demanding justice for those murdered in El Alto and a similar massacre perpetrated the week before against workers supporting Evo Morales in Cochabamba. That massacre took place just one day after the self-proclaimed "interim president" Jeanine Áñez issued a decree exempting members of the armed forces from criminal responsibility for actions carried out in the course of "re-establishing public order." Adding insult to injury, a large funeral procession in which grieving people were carrying the coffins of those killed in El Alto, was attacked and forcibly dispersed with tear gas.

Those bearing the brunt of the repression -- which has to date included over 30 documented killings, hundreds of injuries and over a thousand detentions and disappearances -- are Indigenous youth, campesinos and other working people whose organizations are the main base of support of the country's rightful president, Evo Morales. The dictatorship, calling itself an interim government, meanwhile has issued warrants for the arrest of Evo and other leading members of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) on invented charges of sedition, terrorism and the instigation of criminal acts. That is on top of the mayors and other local elected officials affiliated with MAS already forced out of office and/or detained during the coup. It is being described by people on the ground in Bolivia as a generalized witch hunt.

Media censorship is part of the mix. Two days after the El Alto massacre, on which it reported extensively, TeleSUR received notice from the state-owned telecommunications company Entel that its signal was being taken off the air effective immediately. RT en español has since been told by its private provider to expect the same as of December 2. Similar attacks on national and international media organizations and journalists are reported as being widespread, with Bolivians being accused of sedition if they dare to present the coup forces in a negative light.

For more than a week now negotiations have been taking place in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia on legislation proposed by the MAS majority to constitute new national and regional electoral tribunals and to call a general election. Agreement was reached and the Exceptional Temporary Electoral Law for the Realization of General Elections was promulgated on November 23. Currently the imposter president Áñez and the legislature are engaged in the process of naming (in her case) and electing (in theirs) new electoral authorities. They will have 120 days to call an election once the new national and regional tribunals are established and have drawn up a calendar for their work. Neither Evo Morales nor Álvaro García Linera are permitted to stand for re-election.

Complicating the ability of other MAS members to exercise their right to participate in the election, or politics generally, is the fact that passage of a companion law to guarantee the constitutional rights of all Bolivian citizens is being blocked by Áñez, who contemptuously refers to it as an "impunity law." The legislation would outlaw arbitrary detentions and political persecution, including those her coup government has been carrying out from day one, and which those behind her have no intention of stopping. One need only recall how effective "lawfare" was at keeping Lula out of the last presidential election in Brazil, and the fact the same is being attempted against former President Correa of Ecuador.

On November 26 the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces presented Áñez with its Great Military Merit award and conferred on her the rank of captain general for services rendered. For her part of the show, Áñez said she was grateful to the armed forces for not hesitating to join the coup and that their presence contributed to "pacifying" the country. She assured the commander that in spite of the temporary nature of her "mandate" it was her intention to restore to the military the role and prestige that has always characterized them and would work with friendly countries to bring back the highest level of training programs for them.  A day later it was announced that Bolivia had restored diplomatic relations with Israel.

Also on November 26, a national assembly of social movements in resistance to the coup d'état was held in Cochabamba at the headquarters of the coca growers' federation, of which Evo is the president. There, a resolution was adopted which, among other things, reaffirmed participants' moral and material support to their brother Evo Morales Ayma, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia; reaffirmed the ongoing state of emergency and announced a temporary halt to their protest actions to see if the coup government honours its signed commitments and other agreements entered into with mobilized social sectors of the country; called on the legislative assembly and executive of the de facto government to immediately approve the law guaranteeing the exercise of basic civil, political and constitutional rights for elected political authorities and union leaders; demanded the immediate freeing of detainees and an end to all illegal persecution and detentions; and committed themselves to unity in the political and social struggle for social justice.

The vice-president of the host organization, the Six Federations of the Trópico de Cochabamba, said there was a whole strategy in place to make the MAS lose the next election. Given the difficult situation, he called on all sections of the party to prepare to fight the elections without wearing the movement down in protests and blockades. An emergency meeting of the MAS has been called for this weekend to discuss who will be its candidates.


Bogotá, Colombia, November 21, 2019.

The huge demonstrations that have taken place daily in the capital city of Bogotá and other parts of Colombia since November 21 are said to have reached dimensions not seen in decades. What started out as an initiative mainly of the country's trade union centrals, students and pensioners to hold a one day national strike to demand an end to the neo-liberal paquetazo (package) of austerity and privatization measures, rampant corruption and unfulfilled commitments of the Duque government, soon took on wider dimensions, with tens of thousands continuing to take to the streets and banging on pots day and night. People are demanding an end to the criminalization of protest, that the military be removed from policing and that the hated riot squad be disbanded; that the government take action to end the impunity for the rampant killings of social leaders and former FARC guerrillas; and that it implement the peace agreement with the FARC and re-open negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Teachers call for the riot squad to be disbanded, Bogotá, November 27, 2019. Banner reads: "We did not choose to be teachers to see our students die"

The straw that broke the camel's back regarding the riot squad was its killing of an 18-year-old student who was shot in the head with a projectile -- all of it captured on video. The killing has sparked outrage in the country. Dilan Cruz was due to graduate from high school on November 25 and had joined the protest to oppose the underfunding of public education after being denied a loan he applied for to be able to attend university. One of his friends told Colombian daily El Espectador that "'we were marching and the ESMAD threw stun grenades and tear gas canisters at us. Dilan went to the front to kick back a tear-gas canister, because it had landed next to old people, that's when he was shot at, they say it was a rubber bullet,' his friend added." Forensic reports later said it was a beanbag filled with lead pellets shot at close range. He was the fourth person to be killed by security forces during the protests. But the repression carries on. Duque, like his equally unpopular Chilean counterpart Piñera, hopes he can weather the storm by using force, buoyed by the pat on the back he got from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week who congratulated him over Twitter for his handling of the protests.

On November 28, those demonstrating in Bogotá were joined by members of the Indigenous Regional Council of the department of Cauca (CRIC). Members of their Indigenous Guard plan to converge on the capital city from different parts of Cauca in the coming days to add their voices to the demands being raised by others.

Ninth consecutive day of protests, Bogotá, November 29, 2019.

Hands Off Dominica!

The latest target of Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro appears to be the Caribbean island state of Dominica, where a general election is scheduled to take place December 6. Dominica's Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Francine Baron, informed a special meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS on November 19 that the opposition United Workers' Party, which obstructed attempts to discuss proposals for electoral reform earlier as requested, was at the last minute spreading lies about general unrest and lack of safety on the island. At the same time it is trying to incite violence itself to create the impression the country is in chaos and ungovernable and that conditions do not exist to hold the election. In an interview with teleSUR on November 27 Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit left little doubt that the foreign agents egging on the opposition were the U.S. and OAS. He said:

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

"They [the OAS] are targeting certain member states. Dominica is one such country that they're targeting and my government is one such government that they are targeting. So it is not about free and fair elections -- it is not about the electoral process. [The OAS] have waited for this opportunity to implement this strategy, so, it is something that has been in the making for three or four years," he stated.

Skerrit went on to say that he believes the main motivating factor behind the OAS crusade to delegitimize his government is to punish it for consistently voting against non-interference in the region, and more specifically, against OAS resolutions on Venezuela.

Minister Baron informed the OAS in her presentation that Dominica plans to invite CARICOM, the [British] Commonwealth, the UN and the Carter Center to observe its election and was open to including the OAS. But she asked it first to issue declarations condemning all use of violence in this and any election and calling for all parties to refrain from statements that could be construed as interfering in the sovereign affairs of countries. And in the case of member states that do not implement OAS recommendations, against deeming their elections not to be free and fair.

Baron said she was containing her outrage at the attempts to destabilize Dominica and the election just as it has been making a huge effort to overcome the terrible effects of Hurricane Maria and get the country back on its feet, acknowledging the assistance received from many of those in the room.

Addressing a rally of his supporters on November 23, Prime Minister Skerrit emphasized that Dominica was not for sale and nobody can tell it what to do, repeating several times, "Hands off Dominica!" He reminded Dominicans that there was a dangerous situation in the region with the imposition of an unelected "government" and coup attempt in Venezuela and a coup in Bolivia, both of which Almagro supported. He said the fight this time is not about himself winning re-election but standing up for the country against foreign interests that care nothing about the people but seek to take control of the country.

The just stand of patriotic Dominicans, as expressed by Prime Minister Skerrit and Minister Baron, has received the support of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP), which in its statement of November 21 expressed its members' "uneasiness in face of the statements by the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, who pretends to impose an Electoral Mission of the aforementioned Organization in Dominica, which constitutes not only an intolerable act of interference in Dominica's internal affairs, but also an unacceptable overreach in the exercise of his functions." The statement went on to refer to:

"The controversial performance of the most recent OAS Electoral Observation Mission in Bolivia, plagued by actions of doubtful political impartiality, which severely question its technical authority and openly discourages its intervention.

"[...] In that sense, the ALBA-TCP member countries warn and denounce before the international community, and in particular the Caribbean community, the application of the same format of violence and death used in Bolivia, against the Commonwealth of Dominica whose purposes and objectives seem to be aimed at forcing an unconstitutional change of the government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit."

In its statement of support, CARICOM reminded that no member state has the obligation to invite the OAS to observe its elections. Other Caribbean leaders, including Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines also spoke out in support of the Dominican government's stand. Prime Minister Gonsalves added that the OAS and its Secretary General, Luis Almagro were enemies of the democratic and progressive forces of the continent.

Paraguayan Youth Prevent OAS Secretary General from Speaking

Earlier this month social, political and student organizations took the wind out of Luis Almagro's sails by preventing him from speaking at Pacific University in Asunción where he was supposed to deliver an address on "Democracy and Development." As the vehicle carrying him approached the meeting venue people carrying signs and flags surrounded it and shouted that he was not welcome, that he was responsible for the coup in Bolivia and had blood on his hands. Almagro thought better of trying to proceed under the circumstances and left without getting out of the vehicle.


1. The full report can be seen here.

(With files from BBC, El Universal, Nodal, teleSUR, WSWS, Prensa Latina, ABI. Photos: M. Teruggi, redfish stream, Fecode, teleSUR, PPC-PY, Frente Guasú. Cartoons: C. Latuff.)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 29 - November 30, 2019

Article Link:
Unfolding Events in Latin America And the Caribbean: Resistance Grows to Neo-Liberal Wrecking, State Terror and Imperialist-Inspired Coups - Margaret Villamizar


Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  editor@cpcml.ca