Archive for the ‘violence’ Category

I haven’t posted about the whole Santa Cruz hotel room/dodgy international mercenary gang/police shootout debacle until now, but I’m pleased to see that the big boy bloggers have been taking on the essential job of disseminating information about the attackers and the circumstances. More of that in a minute. Today, my boss Alex at the Bolivia Information Forum has put together a cut-out-and-keep, bullshit-proof summary of what went down, available here. You will probably be familiar by now with the gory details – a shoot-out on April 15th in which a gang of international thugs who were (almost certainly) plotting to assassinate the President were cornered in a hotel room by police, with three of them being killed in the ensuing gun battle, and several arrests following. You might also know that there have been links drawn between this band of roving guns-for-hire and the opposition leaders of Santa Cruz, in the form of transfers of lawyers guns and money via the Bolivian co-ordinator of the thoroughly dodgy right-wing lobbying NGO Human Rights Foundation. The BIF report gives a brief bio of each of the dead terrorists and summarises the aftermath of the case, but it’s probably the last two paragraphs which are most worth reading and taking note of:

Regardless of who exactly were the sponsors of the group, its existence is indicative of anti-democratic elements operating in the media luna region. In the face of continued defeats in national electoral contests (such as the constitutional referendum in January), and the likelihood of another victory for Morales in the December presidential elections, extreme tactics are now being employed to defend elite interests in Santa Cruz and elsewhere. There have been some 30 attacks in Santa Cruz on houses and offices of people linked to the government (including members of congress, ministers, and social movement leaders) as well as some members of the opposition and attacks on the offices and personnel of human rights organisations. These actions reached their zenith in the wave of violence last September in Santa Cruz and the main towns of the media luna which ended in a massacre of indigenous peasants by an armed group in the department of Pando.

A United Nations report into the Pando massacre, released in March, attributed the killings to members of the local prefecture and civic committee in Pando. Published at the same time was the UN OHCHR annual human rights report which pointed to the activities of the Union Juvenil Cruceñista and groups like them that operate with the support of the civic committees in the media luna. Even if the allegations of involvement of the prefect and business leaders in Santa Cruz prove inconclusive, these actions are an indication that a campaign to promote terror was on the cards. Rather than condemning the presence the armed group in their midst, the incident has served as a rallying point for the cruceño opposition. ”

The would-be assassins in the hotel room may or may not be linked to the ‘democratic ‘ opposition in Santa Cruz – it’ll be a knotty problem for investigators to work out, and then a knottier one for observers to work out whether they trust the investigators, which is why it’s a Good Thing that the government has allowed an international investigation, for greater impartiality. But even if Marinkovich and his baseball-bat wielding pals turn out to be entirely unconnected with this, what does it say to you that instead of repudiating the plotters and condemning any suggestion of attempts on the life of the President, they are closing ranks and raising their voices in defense of those arrested for complicity in the plot? Not reassuring, is it?

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whoah no way

They did what to former Bolivian VP Victor Hugo Cárdenas? Apparently a group of campesinos stormed his house, burnt his things and beat up members of his family. The Los Tiempos article suggests that it’s to do with him raising his voice against the new Constitution and hinting about running for President this December. Perhaps it’s also intended as punishment for his ‘neoliberal years’ (1993 – 1997) alliance with former Prez Gonzalez Sánchez de Lozada, who went on to be elected for a second term selling off Bolivia’s natural resources, became enmeshed in popular protests against the sale of gas reserves at bargain-basement prices, ordered the army to fire on unarmed protesters and thus presided over the deaths of over 80 people. He then resigned ignomiously and skipped the country – he’s still at liberty in the USA at the time of writing, practicing his golf swing safe in the knowledge that his pals in Washington probably won’t extradite him.

There’s something weird but symmetrical about the first Aymara vice-president being on the receiving end of this twisted version of justicia comunitaria. Of course, ‘authentic’ community justice or customary law as recognised in the new constitution doesn’t involve breaking into people’s houses and beating them up, it generally means much longer consensus-led deliberation on offenses committed, followed by a restorative rather than punitive approach to reparations, and has little to do with the periodic lynchings which stain the Bolivian headlines. It’s rather bitter that the family of Cárdenas, the groundbreaking Aymara politician and former Katarista radical, should suffer from this kind of violence while Goni takes tea in DC, knowing that the civil case against him will drag out for a nice long time, and that there’s little danger of the US government sending him back to face the (rough) music.

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