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Latam Brief:Peruvian police raid university (January, 23, 2023)

Peruvian police raided Lima’s San Marcos University and detained 193 students and people who had travelled to the capital to take part in anti-government protests last week. Images showed dozens of people lying face down on the ground, and students said they were pushed, kicked and hit with truncheons as they were forced out of their dormitories, reports the Guardian.

Critics said the operative was carried out without garantees of due process, and police released all but one of the detainees after 30 hours, reports La República.

Hundreds of protesters congregated outside the law enforcement offices where the detainees were being held Saturday evening chanting “Freedom” and “We’re students, not terrorists.” (Associated Press)

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed “concern over the police incursion, eviction and massive detentions” at the university and urged the state to “guarantee the integrity and due process of all people.”

In a statement on Twitter, the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights called on the Peruvian authorities to “ensure the legality and proportionality of the [police] intervention and guarantees of due process”.

Critics said many of the students rounded up from the dorms had nothing to do with the demonstrations, and likened the security forces’ abusive actions to regular police and armed forces raids on the public university in the 1980s and 90s.

More than 55 people have died in a month and a half of unrest, since President Pedro Castillo was ousted after attempting to shut down Congress. Tensions flared again on Friday evening. Police officers used tear gas to repel demonstrators throwing glass bottles and stones, as fires burned in the streets, in Lima. In the country’s southern Puno region, some 1,500 protesters attacked a police station in the town of Ilave, reports Reuters. One protester was killed and at least nine others injured in clashes with police in Puno. A total of 21 protesters and one police officer have died in the southern region, reports the Associated Press.

In the midst of the ongoing upheaval that blocked roads around the country, Peruvian authorities closed Machu Picchu “until further notice” on Saturday, after rescue teams had evacuated more than 400 tourists stranded at the iconic site.

Brazil declares public health emergency for Yanomami

Brazil’s government declared a public health emergency for the Indigenous Yanomami people in the Amazonian rainforest, aimed restoring health services dismantled by the previous administration.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited Roraima state, where Yanomami protected lands have been plunged into crisis by government neglect and the explosion of illegal mining. Lula accused the government of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, of committing genocide against the Yanomami people, by abandoning Indigenous communities and encouraging thousands of wildcat miners.

Activists accuse illegal miners of death threats, sexual violence and alcohol and drug abuse, especially against Indigenous children.

Under Bolsonaro’s government the number of health personnel decreased and four health units were shut down, leaving hundreds of Yanomami with no medical consultation. Deaths among Yanomami children shot up significantly during Bolsonaro’s presidency.

Justice Minister Flávio Dino, said he would order a federal police investigation into “strong indications” the Yanomami had suffered crimes including genocide.

The minister of Indigenous peoples, Sônia Guajajara, said that protecting Yanomami children from outrageous levels of malaria, verminosis, malnutrition and diarrhoea was her absolute priority. “Every 72 hours a child is dying from one of these illnesses, according to the information we’ve received,” Guajajara said, calling for the expulsion of the miners in the next three months.

(GuardianAssociated PressReuters)


  • The Amazon is world’s most dangerous place for environmental and land activists — “but we know little — too little — about the daily struggles of defenders, either Indigenous communities fighting to preserve their traditional lands or grass-roots activists … who have been crucial in exposing the lawlessness expanding throughout the frontier,” writes Heriberto Araujo in a New York Times op-ed.

  • Lula ousted Army head Gen Júlio Cesar de Arruda on Saturday, following reports that he stopped police from detaining suspected rioters who took refuge at an encampment outside Brasília’s army headquarters after the Jan. 8 attacks on Brasília. “You are not going to arrest people here,” Arruda allegedly told Justice Minister Flávio Dino. (Guardian)

  • The order to fire Arruda was delivered by Defense Minister José Múcio, reports the Washington Post. “After these last episodes, the issue with the camps, the issue of January 8th, relations with the command of the Army suffered a fracture in the level of trust. And we needed to stop that right at the beginning,” Múcio told reporters. (Washington Post)

  • Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes played a crucial role in defending Brazilian institutions from authoritarian slide under former President Jair Bolsonaro. But his aggressive tactics in defense of democracy, including shutting down social media accounts people he deems a menace to Brazil’s institutions, have critics questioning “how far is too far to fight the far right,” reports the New York Times.

  • The Lula administration is also experimenting with responses to misinformation, which it takes as a grave threat to democracy: A new watchdog within the executive branch will be charged with working more systematically to flag offending content to online platforms, reports the Washington Post. Teams in the justice ministry and the office of the president are drafting legislation aimed at curbing online conspiracy theories of the kind that drove the Jan. 8 insurrection in Brasília.

  • Brazil’s female diplomats have launched a new push for equal rights and opportunity. Women make up less than 25% of Brazil’s diplomatic corps and just 12% of ambassadors, reports the Guardian.

Regional Relations

  • Lula is in Buenos Aires for the CELAC leaders summit, part of the new Brazilian government’s efforts to “rebuild bridges” with the international community. It is Lula’s first international visit since taking office earlier this month. (Buenos Aires Times)

  • Lula’s return will have significant impact on regional dialogue, writes Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. While the summit will provide valuable opportunities for meetings between leaders, it is also likely to showcase sharply divergent visions on the political challenges facing the countries in the region.

  • Lula will meet with Argentine President Alberto Fernández today. In a joint article this weekend they announced plans for greater economic integration, including the development of a common currency. (Perfíl)

  • Lula’s trip to Argentina also marks the return of Brazil to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which Brazil left in 2019 under order from Bolsonaro, who refused to participate in the regional group due to the presence of Cuba and Venezuela, reports Reuters. (See Friday’s post.)

  • The trip marks “the reemergence of the Argentina-Brazil axis in regional politics,” and


  • Colombia’s Petro government announced that it will not approve any new oil and gas exploration projects, part of an attempt to shift away from fossil fuels and toward a new sustainable economy, reports the Guardian.


  • Many Indigenous communities in the Amazon say that international companies seeking to secure carbon offsetting deals are threatening their way of life, reports the Guardian. Leaders warn that communities are being taken advantage of in the unregulated sector, with opaque deals for carbon rights, lengthy contracts written in English, and communities being pushed out of their lands for projects.}

  • Protesters on the streets in Peru and Venezuela aren’t concerned over “academic debates over democratic succession and legal recognition,” rather, they “are angry at political systems that are failing them,” writes James Bosworth in World Politics Review. “There is a potential new or renewed wave of protests building right now in Latin America,” he warns.


  • New York Times dispatch from Haiti, detailing one desperate Haitian mother’s futile fight to save her family from gang violence, illustrates the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.


  • The U.S. Coast Guard stopped a migrant boat carrying nearly 400 people from Haiti near an isolated island in the Bahamas, reports the Miami Herald.


  • Argentine author Belén López Peiró’s struggle to obtain justice against her uncle, who sexually abused her for years, encouraged other victims to speak out, and has illustrated the shortcomings of Argentina’s judicial system, reports the Washington Post.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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