Bolivia Crisis Sharpens as Parliament Expels Cocalero Leader Evo Morales and US Funded Anti-Drug Forces Kill Again 2/1/02

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In a pre-dawn maneuver on January 24, the lower house of the Bolivian parliament voted to expel Congressman Evo Morales, the most popular vote-getter in Bolivian parliamentary history and leader of the Six Federations coca growers union. The move strips Morales of his congressional immunity, opening the way for the government to attempt to send him to prison on charges of fomenting unrest, where he would join most of the rest of the coca growers union leadership.

Street battles between coca growers and police broke out during the week in Cochabamba, and a sporadic campaign of road blockades in the Chapare is set to intensify beginning today. Morales, the subject of numerous anonymous death threats, is now on the seventh day of a hunger strike to protest his expulsion.

Earlier this week, the various sectors of civil society calling for the protest blockades laid out their demands for the Bolivian government:

  • Reinstate Evo Morales in Congress.
  • Repeal Supreme Decree 26415, enacted without parliamentary approval, which closed the last remaining legal coca markets in the Chapare and sparked the latest round of violence between the peasants and the Bolivian government.
  • Bring truly corrupt members of parliament to justice or shut down parliament itself as a corrupt institution.
  • Grant Argentina's request to extradite former dictator and former president Hugo Banzer for war crimes during his dictatorship.
The deadline for the government to meet these demands was Thursday. The government had expressed a willingness to negotiate this week, according to long-time Bolivia watcher Georgean Potter. But, as Potter noted, with most of the coca grower union leadership in prison, with whom will it negotiate?

Potter visited Morales last Saturday at union headquarters in Cochabamba, where he is under the protection of Water War warriors, veterans of the struggle in Cochabamba over privatization of the water supply. "He is very weak physically," wrote Potter. "The number one request he has for the international community is to insist on the release of other peasant leaders currently imprisoned."

Both Potter and the Andean Information Network have reported recent incidents where US-funded anti-drug forces have exceeded their mandates. As reported by Potter, agents of UMOPAR, the US-funded special anti-drug squads, attempted to unlawfully seize Six Federations leader Luis Cutipa on January 24 in his home town of Ivirgarzama. The agents, dressed in plain clothes, were fended off by Cutipa's supporters despite shooting tear gas and threatening to use live ammunition. "Since UMOPAR is funded directly by the US government and their function is not to arrest people nor disguise themselves, this incident merits special attention in Washington, DC," wrote Potter.

Another US-funded unit, the Bolivian military's Expeditionary Task Force, shot at and beat peasants attempting to blockade the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway on Wednesday, according to the Andean Information Network (AIN). A member of the same task force shot and killed union leader Casimiro Huanca on December 6. "This irregular mercenary force receives salaries from the Narcotic Affairs Section of the US Embassy and has been credibly implicated in a significant portion of the human rights violations committed during the last five months in the Chapare region," AIN noted.

(Visit for interviews with Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe (El Mallku), and ongoing reporting by the new Narco News Andean correspondent, Luis Gomez. Visit the Andean Information Network at for ongoing reports and analysis on the drug war in Bolivia.)

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Issue #222, 2/1/02 Editorial: On Freedom, Rights and Duties | At the Statehouse I: Former Delaware Governor Heads Effort to End Mandatory Minimums, Stop Prison Expansion | At the Statehouse II: Kentucky Legislator Offers Bill Allowing Police Access to Oxycontin Prescription Records | At the Statehouse III: Marijuana Decrim Bill Dead in New Mexico, Other Drug Reform Measures Still Breathing | At the Statehouse IV: Washington State Legislation Would Reduce Drug Penalties, Recognize Social Dealing | Radical Party Putting Manchester Police in a Pickle over Pot Cafe, Cops Unappreciative | Violent Dope Fiends a Myth: Another Study Finds Alcohol Most Linked to Violence | Bolivia Crisis Sharpens as Parliament Expels Cocalero Leader Evo Morales and US Funded Anti-Drug Forces Kill Again | Norwegian Commission Set to Call for Decriminalization of Drug Use, Possession | Swiss Hemp Activist Freed After International Outcry | White House Drug Office Pays $3.20 Million for Super Bowl Anti-Drug Ads Linking Drugs and Terrorism | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | Baltimore Job Opportunity with Injection Drug Use Study | The Reformer's Calendar
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