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Latan Brief: Colombian hostages released (March 6, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing
Latin America Daily Briefing

Colombia’s government negotiated the release of 88 people taken hostage by rural communities protesting against oil company Emerald Energy. A police officer and civilian were killed during violent protests in the Caquetá province last Thursday.

Protesters demanded the company provide infrastructure investments and compensation for environmental damage to the surrounding community. The local community has been in tension with the subsidiary of China’s state oil company for a month, mainly regarding a commitment to pave 42 km of roads.

In a video released to the media, President Gustavo Petro appealed to the protesters, many of whom hail from Indigenous and rural communities, promising a “dialogue” with them “about their needs, their complaints, their claims.”

(La Silla VacíaAl JazeeraReutersEl País)

More Colombia

  • Petro has asked prosecutors to investigate accusations against his brother and one of his sons, a potential political blow. (Associated Press)

  • “Buscarlas hasta Encontrarlas” is a Colombian collective of feminist activists searching for missing women — they are fighting against government negligence in addition to criminals, reports Pirate Wire Services. “Faced with what they describe as “structural violence against women”, and citing inaction by security forces, Buscarlas Hasta Encontrarlas and many other women’s organizations in the country have demanded that the government declare gender-based violence a national emergency.”


  • A Guatemalan judge has ordered investigations into three columnists and six journalists who have written about publisher José Rubén Zamora’s prosecution or worked for his newspaper elPeriódico. The accused include op-ed writers Édgar Gutiérrez, a former foreign minister; Manfredo Marroquín, head of the local chapter of Transparency International; and Gonzalo Marroquín, an ex-president of the Inter-American Press Association. A prosecutor’s assertion that the court should also probe independent media financing mirrors Nicaraguan and Salvadoran attacks on the press, reports El Faro English. (See last Thursday’s briefs.)

  • Journalists protested in Guatemala City on Saturday, saying free speech is under threat in the country. (AFP)

  • Guatemala holds presidential elections this year. Last week, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court upheld a decision by the country’s electoral tribunal to bar Indigenous human rights defender Thelma Cabrera from running. The decision is part of the government’s persecution of human rights and Indigenous activists, Cabrera told Democracy Now. “The best way to punish us is to forbid our participation. But we’re not after candidacies. We are promoting a whole project for the nation. Our struggle will continue even after the elections.”


  • Increasingly sophisticated weapons are being trafficked into Haiti mainly from the United States, according to a UNODC report that said a network of criminal actors “often source firearms from across the U.S.” and smuggle them into Haiti illegally by land from the neighboring Dominican Republic, by air including to clandestine airstrips, but most frequently by sea. (Associated Press)


  • El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s personal brand of “cool authoritarianism,” combining a public security clampdown with savvy marketing skills, is not an easy export, but “many politicians around the region wish they could similarly combine Bukele’s “cool” image with an authoritarian security apparatus—in other words, to be popular while they silence domestic critics,” writes James Bosworth in World Politics Review.


  • Supporters of the late leftist president Hugo Chávez of Venezuela paid tribute to him and his legacy Sunday on the 10th anniversary of his death. (AFP)

  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with former Cuban President Raúl Castro and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who traveled to Caracas to attend tributes. He also spoke with Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, Dominican Republic’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, Bolivian President Luis Arce, former Deputy Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis Earl Asim Martim, and former Honduran President Mel Zelaya, also attended. (TelesurSt. Vincent Times)

Regional Relations

  • Cuban President met with the head of Russian oil firm Rosneft this weekend, amid an acute fuel shortage that has service stations on the island shuttered hours-long gasoline queues, reports Reuters.


  • Ecuador’s National Assembly voted in favor of a report which recommends opening an impeachment process against President Guillermo Lasso. The report, which is not binding, concluded Lasso could have been involved in possible crimes against state security and public administration, assertions rejected by the government. (Reuters)

  • An Ecuadorian judge prosecutors’ request to charge former President Lenin Moreno with bribery over a contract for a Chinese-built hydroelectric plant. (Reuters)


  • Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro denied committing “illegal acts” after a report that a $3.2 million jewelry set allegedly gifted by Saudi Arabia to him and his wife was not duly declared to authorities. (Reuters)

  • Bolsonaro told NBC News he intends to return to Brazil, where he is being investigated in relation to violent riots in Brasília by his supporters. He denied any responsibility for the attacks on gov’t buildings.

  • Concerns about Brazilian military connivance in the Jan. 8 insurrection against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva persist even after the leftist president reasserted his authority over the armed forces, Justice Minister Flavio Dino told Bloomberg. He said authoritarian groups that envision a political role for the armed forces remain active within the institution.

  • Brazil’s military has a long history of involvement in government, from the country’s founding, through the military dictatorship, and now, writes Vanesa Barbaro in a New York Times column, contrasting Argentina’s “Trial of the Juntas” to impunity for human rights violations committed by Brazil’s military rulers.

  • Brazilian authorities approved the cultivation and sale of drought-tolerant genetically modified wheat developed in Argentina, the second country to approve Bioceres’ HB4 wheat strain, reports Reuters.


  • Argentina and the International Monetary Fund are negotiating an agreement for more flexible currency reserves targets this year dependant on exports, reports Reuters.


  • Tesla’s new factory in the Mexican state of Nuevo León will cost $5 billion, will employ up to 7,000 people and could start churning out cars as early as next year, reports New York Times.


  • Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly died last week at age 78 — “his work reshaped cityscapes seen by tens of millions of people each day,” writes the Washington Post.

Critter Corner

  • There are dozens of articles about the “cocaine hippos.” Yes, again. (No links.)

Jordana Timerman/Latin America Daily Briefing

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