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LATIN AMERICA
In brief
9/26/2017
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Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay

Eight young women, some adolescents, were arrested in August after being denounced by health staff in Bolivia for having had abortions, said the Minister of Health Ariana Campero on Sep. 5. Abortion is illegal in Bolivia except in cases where a woman’s life is in danger, or the pregnancy is the product of rape. A woman who undergoes an abortion can be sentenced from one to three years in prison. Campero demanded from doctors to also comply with Law 348 which guarantees women a life free of violence. “Women with signs of physical, sexual and psychological violence come to health centers every day,” said the minister. “How many of those doctors who reported these girls who are jailed today also reported the men who created this gender-based violence? Are we going to follow only certain rules and not others?” In Bolivia abortion represents 13 percent of maternal deaths, and is the third leading cause of death in the country, according to official figures.

Ex-minister Geddel Vieira Lima, a close collaborator of  the president of Brazil Michel Temer, was imprisoned on Sep. 8 in Brasilia after the Federal Police found more than US$16 million in cash hidden in suitcases and boxes in his apartment. Vieira Lima has been serving home detention since July in Salvador, state of Bahia, accused of obstructing the judicial investigations on a corruption scheme inside the Caixa Econômica Federal where he participated between 2011 and 2013. Until November 2016 Vieira Lima served as minister of the Government Secretariat of the Temer cabinet, but was forced to resign under accusations of influence peddling. In addition, he is suspected of having received approximately $6.4 million in bribes. The Lost Treasure operation, which led to the seizure of the money, is part of the Cui Bono case, which investigates fraud on credits granted by the Caixa to senior officials and business persons.

In a historic vote on Sep. 3, 411 indigenous Rapanui approved the creation of a 720,000 m² marine protected area around Easter Island, Chilean territory located in the Polynesia, 3,700 km from the coast of Chile. President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of the reserve in October 2015, but left the decision to a vote of the inhabitants of the island where some 3,000 people live. This is the first time an indigenous consultation is carried out in Chile regarding the protection of a marine area. According to the environmental organization The Pew Charitable Trusts, the main problem of the Rapanui is illegal fishing. Pirate ships from China, Japan and Europe enter the waters of the island to capture tuna, swordfish and shark. Rapanui leader Poky Lane Hanoa welcomed the creation of the reserve by saying that “as a people we are still crying out: no to illegal fishing, no to industrial fishing, no to mining.”

On Sep. 4 the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, announced a ceasefire and cessation of hostilities between the government and the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN). The agreement was reached at the round table that has been taking place since last February in Quito, Ecuador. The truce will begin on Oct. 1 and will have duration of 102 days, until 12 January 2018. The pact occurred exactly five years after the signing of the framework agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that led to peace with the guerrilla organization. At the end of August, the FARC held its founding congress to begin to act as a legal political force after concluding its disarmament on Aug.15. Some 1,200 delegates defined the statutes, platform and program of the new party that will carry the same acronym under the name of Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (Alternative Revolutionary Force of the Common), with a rose as a symbol.

Vice-President of Uruguay, Raúl Sendic, presented his irrevocable resignation on Sep. 9 after a scandal stemming from the use of official corporate credit cards for personal expenses. The Tribunal of Political Conduct of his party, the leftist Broad Front, had asked him for explanations about the use of the cards when he was board member of the state run ANCAP oil company between 2005 and 2016. The tribunal considered that “it leaves no doubt of an unacceptable use of public funds” and that “it compromises his ethics and political responsibility, by the repeated failure to comply with control policies.” Sendic considered the ruling “disproportionate” and “unfounded” and that there is no evidence that he had committed irregularities. Sendic, 55, was replaced in the vice-presidency by Lucia Topolanski, former legislator and leading member of the Broad Front, who became the first woman to reach that position.


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