Bolivia: Security Forces Beat Human Rights Worker and Fire at Permanent Human Rights Assembly Building in Coca-Growing Region 11/16/01

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(bulletin from the Andean Information Network)

At approximately 8:45pm on Tuesday, 11/13, union leaders denounced security forces fired at the Permanent Human Rights Assembly office in Eterazama. It is not clear at this time whether the forces fired live ammunition or tear gas canisters. Leaders of the Six Federations of Coca Growers, Evo Morales and Leonilda Zurita, were inside. They were not injured.

Members of the Catholic Church and the Human Rights Ombudsman's office will travel to Eterazama early tomorrow to investigate. Members of the Cochabamba Permanent Human Rights Assembly should arrive later in the day.

Eterazama remains completely surrounded by the security forces, which still do not permit vehicles to enter or leave the town. This order from high-ranking officials clearly violates Article 7 of the Bolivian constitution that guarantees freedom of movement for all citizens. Forces continue to fire tear gas each day. On Saturday, 18 small children suffered from respiratory insufficiency as a result of indiscriminate tear gas use.

The security forces have injured president of the Eterazama Permanent Human Rights Assembly, Rolando Gutierrez Aguilar, three times in the past six days:

  • On November 8, members of the combined forces beat Gutierrez with nightsticks.
  • On November 10 at approximately 1:00pm, a tear gas canister cut Gutierrez's scalp. The 4 centimeter-long wound required four stitches.
  • On November 12 at 2:15pm, three members of the Expeditionary Task Force kicked Gutierrez, beat him with nightsticks and hit him with rifle butts. They threatened him, temporarily detained him and confiscated his camera and human rights credential. The camera was returned upon his release.
A medical certificate issued by the Villa Tunari Hospital documents the injuries.

It is important to note that treatment received by Bolivian human rights monitors has deteriorated notably during 2001. For example, on January 25 of this year, UMOPAR agents fired at Godofredo Reinicke, Human Rights Ombudsman and his legal assistant, Silvano Arancibia. Although the Attorney General's office opened an investigation into the incident, no apparent progress has been made since February.

On February 22 and 28, family members of Waldo Albarracin, Permanent Human Rights Assembly President received calls that said he had been "sentenced to death." There have been no investigations of these incidents, either.

There have been numerous reports of widespread abuses by the combined forces in the regions of Valle Sajta and Bulo Bulo in the Mamore Federation. Repeated reports of broken wrists and multiple contusions on backs and buttocks exist. AIN is working to obtain more detailed information.

The Chapare Human Rights Ombudsman's office has documented over 70 people injured or detained since November 6. The office also denounced the irregular status of the salaried, non-military Expeditionary Task Force, responsible for the majority of human rights violations since the beginning of November.

AIN asks that the international community contact Bolivian officials to:

  1. Insist that Bolivian security forces strictly adhere to the Basic Principles on the Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officials and the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
  2. Pressure the Bolivian Government to guarantee the freedom of the press and the safety of human rights monitors and allow them to work without impediments or harassment.
  3. Insist that Bolivian security officers and legal representatives carry out all investigations of abuses within the established legal framework, respecting due process and international human rights treaties.
  4. Insist that security officers who violate these norms face appropriate legal consequences in the civilian court system, instead of internal disciplinary action or trial in military tribunals.
  5. Insist that the US government withhold funding for any US-funded unit of the security forces (such as the Joint Task Force) that commit gross human rights violations when there is no evidence that sufficient steps are being taken to bring the individuals responsible to justice (as stipulated by the Leahy Amendment).
  6. Urge all parties in the conflict to seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue.
Please fax letters to the following Bolivian government officials:
Excmo. Sr.
Sr. Jorge Quiroga Ramírez
Palacio de Gobierno
La Paz, Bolivia
fax: +59 1 22 391 216, +59 1 22 204 231

Sr. Ministro de Gobierno
Sr. Leopoldo Fernández
Av. Arce No. 2409, esq. Belisario Salinas
La Paz, Bolivia
fax: +59 122 442 589

Sr. Ministro de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Dr. Mario Serrate Ruíz,
Ministerio de Justicia
Avenida 16 de Julio, No. 1769
La Paz, Bolivia
fax: +59 122 392 982

(If a voice answers, say: "Fax, por favor" and wait for the tone.)

For further information, contact the Andean Information Network at [email protected], visit or write to Casilla 4817, Cochabamba, Bolivia.

For further information, contact the Andean Information Network at [email protected], visit or write to Casilla 4817, Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Other recent bulletins on the Bolivia situation:

Bolivia Forced Eradication Provoking Civil Instability, Indiscriminate Violence by Government Security Forces (9/21)

Violence in the Chapare, Bolivia -- Two Sustain Bullet Wounds (9/28)

Bolivia Negotiations Stall as Coca Growers Reject Government Proposal (10/5)

Bolivia: Violence Continues, Mediation Commission Formed (10/12)

Chapare, Bolivia: Increased Militarization Heightens Tensions in Coca-Growing Region (10/26)

Massive Military Presence and Abuses Continue in Bolivia's Chapare Region (11/2)

-- END --
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Issue #211, 11/16/01 Editorial: Federal Fanatics | Medical Marijuana Proponents Prepare to Fight Back After Ashcroft Raids | Talkin' About the New Generation: SSDP Goes to Washington | Britain's Drug War Continues to Crumble | Oregon Update: Federal Judge Blocks Ashcroft/DEA Effort to Overturn Assisted Suicide Law, At Least for Now | Treatment Complex Aims to Use "Social Marketing" to Create Demand | Bolivia: Security Forces Beat Human Rights Worker and Fire at Permanent Human Rights Assembly Building in Coca-Growing Region | Abstracts Available from International Medical Marijuana Conference | NYC Election Correction | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Drug Czar Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar
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