•Press Release Bolivia Latin America and the Caribbean
Washington, DC ― The international community should condemn recent government repression and racist violence by far-right militias in Bolivia, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. The de facto government’s violent response to protests and road blockades opposing the postponement of elections has left dozens wounded since August 3. Media reports and videos shared on social media show police forces attacking protesters, racist militias who support the de facto government beating Indigenous Bolivians, government planes flying over protesters are low altitudes, and other violence aimed at crushing the current wave of strikes and road blockades.
“The international community should condemn the state and paramilitary violence against pro-democracy protesters in Bolivia and support their call for democratic elections that include Bolivia’s most popular political party, the MAS, and their presidential candidate, Luis Arce,” Weisbrot said. “The de facto government of Jeanine Áñez is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to hold onto power, and is trying to benefit from its own mismanagement of the pandemic in doing so.”
Labor unions, campesino organizations, and other groups launched a general strike on August 3 and set up road blockades throughout the country. Some are demanding the ouster of the government, which took power after a military coup on November 10.
Defense Interior Minister Arturo Murillo has repeatedly threatened harsh violence against protesters, and said in a recent TV broadcast that it would be “politically correct” to shoot them. Meanwhile, right-wing militias aligned with the de facto government have been attacking protesters and attempting to dismantle road blocks in various parts of Bolivia. The extremist Santa Cruz Youth League reportedly has clashed with labor unionists, and militia groups such as the Resistencia Juvenil Cochala and Unión Juvenil Cruceñista groups, have been documented attacking and terrorizing demonstrators and Indigenous Bolivians and intimidating journalists. These groups are being used by the de facto government in an effort to break road blocks, according to Bolivian Human Rights Ombudsman Nadia Cruz.
On Saturday, August 8, over 60 workers were reportedly ambushed by paramilitary groups and police, and arrested, in Samaipata, in Santa Cruz department. Some later said they were assaulted and tortured.
“What we are seeing in Bolivia is a deeply disturbing human rights emergency,” Weisbrot said.
“People in great numbers around the country are pouring out into the streets to defend democracy against an unelected government that took power following a coup d’etat, and has repeatedly postponed the elections that it promised. The international community should support the Bolivian people and their right to democratic elections, and bring pressure against the repression.”