South America

Ley Pulpin Continues to Spark Protests in Peru

By Mridula Tirumalasetti

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru—At least 5000 people protested in the capital on Monday against a new Peruvian labor law, which discriminates against young people. Protests were held outside of the home of President Ollanta Humala, in downtown Plaza San Martin, and in front of Confiep, which is Peru’s biggest business organization. The peaceful protest has been the third protest against the legislation. The first protest earlier this month became violent as police armed with riot gear and water tanks used tear gas and beat protesters to disperse crowds. Some protesters fought back by throwing sticks and stones, and small Molotov cocktails.

Protesters march in opposition to the new Youth Labor Law (photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

The Youth Employment Law, which has been dubbed “Ley Pulpin” is supported by President Humala and passed by Congress. The law allows for employers to cut employment benefits, such as social security, life insurance, bonuses, and holiday benefits for young employees between the ages of 18 and 24.

The Peruvian government maintains that the new law will not only help reduce youth unemployment, which is four times higher for those aged between 18 and 24 than those between the ages of 30 and 65, but it will also help the poor. Lawmakers believe that because it will be cheaper to employ young people, employers will be more drawn to the idea of hiring new graduates and younger workers. Further, the benefits initially reduced will be incorporated if the employee continues to work for the employer after he or she turns 25.

However, the law has been met with opposition from student groups and labor unions. “We cannot allow the government, through their inaction and the few measures they have taken to reactivate our economy, to claim it has an effect on us young people with this package [law], with these abusive measures that violate the labor rights of the young,” declared Leonardo Rojas, one of the many protesters. Another protester, Marco Agurre said, “Unfortunately the fundamental rights of young people are being assaulted, many young people, this law is affecting all the young people in the country.” Picket signs were used, such as the one protester Cesar Ames used which read, “We are not just university students but also the people, citizens, and hundreds of members of the unions to annul this law and to open it up for debate and a general plan about what the labor law is.”

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has also criticized the new law. The ILO argues that the informal labor sector will not disappear, which is what the Peruvian government has claimed to justify the law.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera—Thousands protests against Peru labour laws—31 December 2014

teleSur—Peruvian Youth to Protest Against New Labor Law—22 December 2014

teleSur—Peruvian Police Attack Youth Labor Rights Protesters—19 December 2014

SkyNews—5,000 protest employment laws in Peru—30 December 2014

Peruvian Times—New Round of Protests Take Off Against Youth Labor Law—30 December 2014

Southern-bloc FARC Leader Joins Peace Negotiations in Havana

By Mridula Tirumalasetti
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia — Head of the Southern Bloc of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and member of the rebel group’s Secretariat, Joaquin Gomez, arrived in Havana this past Sunday to participate in the peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. The presence of Gomez during peace negotiations represents “a new gesture of peace from the FARC, expressing our determination to advance toward the signature of the final agreement that will establish a foundation for the Colombia of the future,” according to organization’s peace delegation. The Colombian government issued a statement that confirmed Gomez’s trip to Cuba, which asserted that Gomez’s departure “was carried out according to established protocol and with the express authorization of the President of the Republic.” Gomez joins two other FARC leaders participating in peace negotiations, Pastor Alape and Carlos Lozada, and is the fifth FARC Secretariat member in Havana.


FARC leader, Pablo Catatumbo, speaks to media in Havana (photo courtesy of teleSur)

Peace talks have been ongoing between the government of Columbia and the FARC since 2012. Although the FARC has declared ceasefires previously, these have been temporary. The FARC declared an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire earlier this month, which would only end if they were to be attacked.The move, which was welcomed by the UN and the European Union, was met with skepticism from the Colombian government. President Juan Manuel Santos called the ceasefire a “gift…full of thorns,” cautioning that the truce was a chance for the FARC to re-arm. The government declared it would not join in the truce. Santos also condemned the attack by the FARC that killed five soldiers in a rural area of western Colombia. He said the soldiers died “defending the security of their fellow Colombians.” In November, the FARC captured Colombian general Ruben Dario Alzate, which halted negotiations and almost derailed the peace talks. However, the General was released unharmed in order to revive negotiations. FARC also captured and recently released a soldier, Carlos Becerra Ojeda.

The Colombian state has been at war with the Marxist group for over 50 years. The FARC, which was formed in 1964, was one of a few guerilla groups that emerged in response to governmental repression of popular progressive movements during the 1950s and 1960s. The Colombian government and the FARC have reached partial deals on the issues of land reform, ending drug trade, and the FARC’s future participation in Colombian politics. However, the issues of victim compensation and ending the armed conflict have not yet been agreed upon.

For more information, please see:

Prensa Latina—In Havana Commander of the South Block of the FARC—29 December 2014

teleSUR—Armed Conflict in Colombia Has Affected 6.8 Mn People—28 December 2014

BBC News—Colombia Farc ceasefire starts after deadly attack—20 December 2014

Reuters—Colombia’s FARC rebels free soldier captured during attack—26 December 2014

The Tico Times—Colombia suspends peace talks with FARC after general kidnapped—16 November 2014

The Tico Times—Southern-bloc FARC chief arrives in Cuba to support peace process—29 December 2014

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Nominates a Controversial Candidate

By Delisa Morris,

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil–Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has stirred up the wrath of environmentalists by appointing a controversial advocate of agribusiness and weaker forest conservation as her new agriculture minister.

Katia Abreu / photo courtesy of

Kátia Abreu, nicknamed the “Chainsaw Queen”, by her enemies, is included in a new cabinet that rewards political allies who supported Rousseff in her recent narrow re-election victory.

Abreu, is a leading figure in the “ruralista” party.  The ruralista party prompted the Brazilian government to weaken Brazil’s forrest code.  In both congressional debates and her newspaper column Abreu has called for more roads through the Amazon.  Abreu has also advocated for congressional control over demarcation of indigenous reserves, more efficient monocultures, and the approval of genetically modified ‘terminator seeds’.

The cabinet post is the first step towards further political gains for Abreu.  Abreu is known as a formidable political operator. In a previous interview the cabinet member expressed a desire to run for president and emulate former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Abreu has also said that she wanted to make Brazil the leading agricultural producer in the world.

Abreu says she is an advocate of sustainable development and insists that Brazilian agriculture can overtake the US without any further deforestation.

But her promotion has horrified and outraged many environmental campaigners. In a statement titled “Miss Deforestation is the new agricultural minister,” Greenpeace warned that the Rousseff administration was now set on an alarming course.

“By choosing Katiá Abreu, the president has confirmed that the path the government will take in the coming years will put agribusiness above the environment”, it said, claiming the senator was a leading figure in forest destruction and suppression of the rights of rural workers and indigenous people.

Reinforcing such concerns, the new science and technology minister will be Aldo Rebelo – a man with a reputation as a climate change sceptic. In a tweet posted several years ago, Rebelo used a cold spell in São Paulo to mock claims of global warming and support the Belo Monte hydro electric dam.

“Hello, Sao Paulo, cold in here, huh? Where are the advocates of global warming now? In the shops, buying the last heater … Electric! Long live Belo Monte!”, he said.

For more information, please see:

malaymail – From housewife to senator: Katia Abreu is Brazil’s ‘ranching queen’ – 25 Dec. 2014

the guardian – Brazil’s ‘chainsaw queen’ appointed new agriculture minister – 24 Dec. 2014

Yahoo News – Rise of Brazil’s ranching queen sparks green protests – 24 Dec. 2014

Merco Press – Katia Abreu to become Brazil’s new Minister of Agriculture – 24 Dec. 2014

Argentina Town Cancels ‘Sexist’ Beauty Pageants

By Delisa Morris

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina– A small town in Argentina has banned beauty pageants, because they are considered to be sexist.  The Chivilcoy council, in the Buenos Aires region, said that the pageants encourage violence against women.  The Chivilcoy council further criticized the pageants for emphasizing and focusing on physical beauty.  The council also claimed that the beauty pageants concentration on physical image, encourages illnesses like bulimia and anorexia among the pageant contestants.

Miss Argentina/image courtesy of the Independent

The Chivilcoy council said the pageants are “a discriminatory and sexist practice”, that “reinforce the idea that women must be valued and rewarded exclusively by their physical appearance, based on stereotypes”.

Beauty pageants were also condemned for being “acts of symbolic and institutional violence against women and children.”

The competitions will instead be replaced with an event recognising “people of between 15 and 30 years who, in an individual or collective way, have stood out in volunteering activities aimed at improving the quality of life in neighbourhoods within the city or the district,” the council said.

Latin American beauty pageant winners often use their pageant experience to build careers in entertainment or television.

Beauty pageant competitions are getting a closer look after Julia Morley, the chairwoman of the Miss World pageant announced that the competition would no longer include a swimsuit round.  The swimsuit round was introduced to the competition 63 years ago.

“Miss World should be a spokesperson who can help a community,” said Ms. Wilmer, “She’s more of an ambassador, not a beauty queen.  It’s more about the outreach and what a woman could do with a title like Miss World.”

However, everyone does not agree with banning the pageants.

“If the only value is beauty, that’s bad, I don’t identify with that,” said Nadia Cerri, 41, director of Miss World Argentina and a former pageant contestant.  But she added that an all-out ban goes too far.  “We don’t oblige anybody to take part in the contests,” she said.

Ms. Cerri said that in recent years the Miss World Argentina competition had tried to place greater emphasis on factors besides physical appearance.  A winner must perform well in categories such as social responsibility, for which she may be required to show awareness of social issues like sex trafficking in her home province. Contestants must also demonstrate knowledge of general culture, including current events, and exhibit a talent, which can be a skill like acting, singing or painting.

For more information, please see:

The Independent – Town in Argentina bans ‘sexist’ beauty pageants for reinforcing idea ‘women must be valued on physical opinion’ – 25 Dec. 2014

The New York Times – Argentine City Takes Beauty Off Its Pedestal – 22 Dec. 2014

BBC News – Argentina town bans ‘sexist’ beauty competitions – 21 Dec. 2014

Jezebel – Town in Argentina Bans Beauty Pageants; Miss World Bans Bikinis – 21 Dec. 2014

Illegal Gold Mining Destroying Peruvian Rainforests

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

LIMA, Peru – Large shafts of Peru’s Amazonian rainforests are disappearing every day, turned from once pristine virgin rainforest ecosystems, home to countless animal and plant species, have been turned into fragmented forests and mercury poisoned wastelands. This devastating deforestation trend is driven by illegal gold mining operations in Peru, a practice dependent on the use of toxins like mercury, a neurotoxin used to bind gold found in natural deposits. The ruined wastelands scar the southeastern region of Madre de Dios, a region high in biodiversity whose unique natural environment attacks scientists interested in studying the area for its future pharmaceutical and scientific potential as well as eco-tourists whose visits help support the region’s economy. The practice of illegal mining is devastating to the local indigenous community, who live in voluntary isolation deep within the Amazonian forests.

This Nov. 11, 2014 aerial photo, shows a deforested area dotted with tarps, marking the area where illegal miners reside, and water-filled craters polluted with toxic levels of mercury dumped as a result of illegal gold mining, in La Pampa, in Peru’s Madre de Dios region. (Photo courtesey of U.S. News and World Report)

Over the past decade, mining has denuded 230 square miles (595 square kilometers) of forest in the Madre de Dios region, poisoning the critical watershed. A study released last year, led by the Carnegie Institution for Science, found that 76.5 percent of people in the region had mercury levels above acceptable limits. Illegal mining is the second largest cause of deforestation in Peru, behind clear-cutting for agricultural development, Environmental Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said. “It is terrible for the nearly irremediable wounds it causes to the forest,” he said.

Rainforests serve as large scale natural carbon seeks, absorbing and holding atmospheric carbon dioxide, which make these ecosystem’s important natural mitigation tool for global climate change. Peru is home to the second-largest area of the Amazonian rainforest, after Brazil. According to the findings of new research conducted by the Carnegie Institute for Science (CIS) the Peruvian rainforests stores nearly seven billion metric tons of carbon stocks, mostly in its Amazon rainforest which is higher than The United States’ annual carbon emissions for 2013 which were calculated at 5.38 billion tons. However, according to Greg Asner, the project “found that nearly a billion metric tons of above-ground carbon stocks in Peru are at imminent risk of emission into the atmosphere due to land uses such as fossil fuel oil exploration, cattle ranching, oil palm plantations and gold mining.”

Deforestation and land conversion account for about 40 percent of Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Peruvian government has vowed to halt deforestation by 2021, and Norwegian in September pledged $300 million toward that goal. However, Peru’s stewardship and conservation efforts have come under scrutiny by environmentalists as deforestation appears to be on the rise in the country. Despite the government’s crackdown on illegal minge smuggling has continued to proliferate in the country as smugglers move to bring illegal gold across the border into Bolivia for export to the United States.

The United Nations will host the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties e to the Kyoto Protocol to United Nations Convention on Climate Change will be held from December 1 to 12 December and is being hosted by the Government of Peru, in Lima.

For more information please see:

U.S. News and World Report – Scarred, poisoned wasteland highlights Peru’s challenges in halting deforestation – 2 December 2014

Reuters – FEATURE-Peru crackdown on illegal gold leads to new smuggling routes – 25 November 2014

The Guardian – Peru’s forests store more CO2 than US emits in a year, research shows – 7 November 2014

The United Nations Convention on Climate Change – Lima Climate Change Conference – December 2014 – December 2014