Category Archives: Human Rights, Impunity

Working Paper by Thomas Grisaffi and Kathryn Ledebur: Supply Control or Social Control

Abstract: For over two decades the US has funded repressive forced coca eradication in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia to reduce the illegal cocaine trade. These policies have never met their stated goals and have generated violence and poverty. In 2006 Bolivia definitively broke with the US anti-narcotics model, replacing the militarized eradication of coca crops with a community-based coca control strategy. The program substantially reduced the coca crop while providing subsistence and citizenship for farmers and respecting human rights. This article outlines the elements of the Bolivian initiative that ensure its functioning and considers to what extent they can be translated to other contexts. More broadly this paper draws attention to the fundamental inability of supply side control initiatives to slow the illegal drug trade, which is driven by continuing demand and exorbitant profits.

To read this working paper please click here: Supply Control or Social Control Working Paper

Huffington Post: ‘Operation Naked King: U.S. Secretly Targeted Bolivia’s Evo Morales In Drug Sting

Authors: Ryan Grim, Washington Bureau Chief, The Huffington Post, and Nick Wing
Senior Viral Editor, The Huffington Post

Original article from the Huffington Post. Reproduced with permission.

The United States has secretly indicted top officials connected to the government of Bolivian President Evo Morales for their alleged involvement in a cocaine trafficking scheme. The indictments, secured in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting called “Operation Naked King,” have not been previously reported.

Morales, a former leader of Bolivia’s coca growers union, has long been at loggerheads with the DEA. In 2008, Morales expelled the agency from the country and embarked on his own strategy of combatting drug trafficking, acknowledging the traditional uses of coca in Bolivian culture and working cooperatively with coca growers to regulate some legal activity and to promote alternative development elsewhere. Morales’ plan has been effective at reducing cultivation, according to the United Nations.

But that doesn’t mean the DEA accepted its eviction quietly. In fact, the agency went after members of Morales’ administration in an apparent effort to undermine his leadership.
Continue reading Huffington Post: ‘Operation Naked King: U.S. Secretly Targeted Bolivia’s Evo Morales In Drug Sting

Cultivos de coca en Bolivia siguen bajando según ONUDD: comunicado de prensa

INNOVADORAS POLÍTICAS BOLIVIANAS DE CONTROL DE COCA LOGRAN IMPORTANTE REDUCCIÓN EN EL CULTIVO

Experiencia boliviana contiene lecciones para países andinos, ofrece alternativa a la erradicación forzosa

Washington, D.C. y Cochabamba, Bolivia — Por cuarto año consecutivo, Bolivia ha experimentado una reducción en el cultivo de hoja de coca, según estadísticas dadas a conocer hoy por la Oficina de las Naciones Unidas sobre Drogas y el Delito (ONUDD). Un análisis de estos datos, realizado por la Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA) y la Red Andina de Información (AIN), revela que las políticas sobre coca de este país —basadas en la “reducción del cultivo de coca mediante la cooperación” antes que la erradicación forzosa— son responsables por esta reducción. Se estima que en 2014 el cultivo de coca ocupó 20.400 hectáreas, el nivel más bajo alcanzado en más de una década.El informe de WOLA y AIN, “Consolidando Avances” (solo disponible en inglés) muestra que el cultivo de la hoja de coca en Bolivia ha disminuido un 34 por ciento entre 2010 y 2014. El informe identifica asimismo que el desarrollo económico, la cooperación con comunidades cocaleras y el respeto por los derechos humanos han sido los principales factores que impulsaron estas consistentes reducciones. Esta experiencia contiene lecciones clave para el Perú y Colombia, los dos principales productores de coca en el mundo, los cuales siguen aplicando campañas de erradicación forzosa a pesar de los daños que éstas causan y de su ineficacia para lograr reducciones duraderas del cultivo de coca.“Los éxitos de Bolivia envían un mensaje claro: la erradicación forzosa del cultivo de coca no es efectiva ni justa, y únicamente conduce a ciclos de pobreza y violaciones a los derechos humanos—no a reducciones sostenidas en el cultivo de coca”, dijo Coletta A. Youngers, Asociada Principal de WOLA y co-autora del informe. “Mediante acciones para brindar a los agricultores cocaleros alternativas económicas y para permitirles el cultivo de pequeñas cantidades para consumo tradicional, Bolivia ha reducido la oferta de coca que se desvía hacia el mercado ilícito”.

El programa de Bolivia se basa en un estrecho monitoreo para asegurar que los agricultores individuales no sobrepasan su cato o parcela de tierra designada para el cultivo permitido de la hoja de coca. Los agricultores participan de un registro biométrico para facilitar la identificación y monitoreo de la producción, transporte y venta de la hoja, garantizando en términos efectivos que los cultivos se destinan únicamente a productos lícitos—no para producir cocaína o sus derivados.

A un nivel de 20.400 hectáreas de cultivo de coca, Bolivia prácticamente ha llegado a su meta de 20.000 hectáreas, cantidad considerada suficiente para cubrir el mercado tradicional y legal, dejando un margen para aumentar la industrialización.

Sin embargo, pese a que las políticas sobre coca en Bolivia son dignas de reconocimiento, el informe concluye que la anticuada legislación sobre drogas del país sigue siendo injusta y continúa basándose en sanciones desproporcionadas para infracciones menores y no violentas.

“Las sentencias para delitos no violentos de drogas siguen siendo desproporcionadamente elevadas—con penas de cárcel a menudo comparables a las que se aplican para casos de homicidio”, dijo Kathryn Ledebur, Directora Ejecutiva de AIN y co-autora del informe. “Las reformas legales que actualmente se están reconsiderando serán esenciales para lograr que la legislación sobre drogas en Bolivia sean tan justas como sus políticas sobre coca. El éxito dependerá de laimplementación de alternativas al encarcelamiento para infractores de poca monta, y de la concentración de los recursos limitados de las fuerzas del orden para desmantelar las redes criminales de drogas”.

Contacto:
Kathryn Ledebur
Directora Ejecutiva, AIN
+591 779-69621
kledebur@ain-bolivia.orgColetta A. Youngers
Asesora Principal, WOLA
+1 (301) 404-1905
coletta.youngers@gmail.com  

Coca Cultivation in Bolivia Continues To Drop: WOLA/AIN Joint Press release

 

BOLIVIA’S INNOVATIVE COCA POLICY SECURES MAJOR DROP IN CULTIVATION

Bolivian Experience Holds Lessons for Andean Countries, Offers Alternative to Forced Eradication

Washington, D.C. and Cochabamba, Bolivia—Bolivia has seen a decline in coca cultivation for the fourth consecutive year, according to data released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). An analysis of this data by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Andean Information Network (AIN) reveals that the country’s coca policy—which relies on “cooperative coca reduction” rather than forced eradication—is responsible for the drop.Coca cultivation in 2014 is estimated to be 20,400 hectares, the lowest level in over a decade.

The WOLA-AIN report, “Building on Progress,” shows that coca cultivation in Bolivia has dropped 34 percent from 2010 to 2014.  It also finds that economic development, cooperation with coca-growing communities, and respect for human rights have been the main drivers of these consistent reductions. This experience holds key lessons for Peru and Colombia, the two leading global coca producers, which continue to use forced eradication campaigns despite the harms they cause and their ineffectiveness at ensuring lasting coca reductions.

“Bolivia’s successes send a clear message: forced eradication of coca is neither effective nor just, and leads only to cycles of poverty and human rights violations—not sustained reductions in coca cultivation,” said Coletta A. Youngers, a Senior Fellow at WOLA and co-author of the report. “By working to provide economic alternatives for coca growers and permitting small amounts of cultivation for traditional use, Bolivia has reduced the supply of coca deviated to the illicit market.”

Chart bolivia coca 2

Bolivia’s program relies on close monitoring to ensure individual cultivators do not exceed theircato, or measured plot of land for permitted coca cultivation. Farmers participate in a biometric registry to facilitate identification and monitoring of production, transport, and sales, effectively ensuring crops are only used for licit products—not cocaine or its derivatives.

At 20,400 hectares of coca under cultivation, Bolivia has nearly reached its goal of 20,000 hectares, the amount considered to be sufficient to supply the traditional and expanding legal markets.

Yet while Bolivia’s coca policy is worthy of recognition, the report concludes that the country’s outdated drug law remains unjust and continues to rely on disproportionate punishment for low-level, non-violent drug offenses.

“Sentences for non-violent drug offenses remain disproportionately high—with prison terms rivaling those for homicide,” said Kathryn Ledebur, Executive Director of AIN and the report’s co-author. “Legal reforms currently under review will be essential to ensure that Bolivia’s drug laws are as just as its coca policy. Success will hinge on the implementation of alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders and the redirection of scarce law enforcement resources to dismantling criminal drug networks.”

Contact:
Kathryn Ledebur
Executive Director, AIN
+591 779-69621
kledebur@ain-bolivia.org

Coletta A. Youngers
Senior Fellow, WOLA
+1 (301) 404-1905
coletta.youngers@gmail.com  

Pope’s Visit to Bolivia Underscores Need for Drug Reform

Reproduced from Washington Office on Latin America, originally published July 8 2015.

 

By Kathryn Ledebur and Coletta A. Youngers

In a long-anticipated trip, Pope Francis arrives in Bolivia today, almost 30 years after the last papal visit. Bolivia’s president Evo Morales and the Argentine pontiff developed a good rapport during the president’s meeting at the Vatican in October 2014. The Pope’s commitment to the poor resonates well in a country that has prioritized the empowerment of previously excluded peoples under the leadership of Morales, the first indigenous president in the country.

Indeed, the Pope plans to embrace one of Bolivia’s strongest indigenous traditions by chewing coca leaves, a mild stimulant that has similar effects to coffee and that helps to mitigate the impact of the high altitude, in La Paz, his first stop. In doing so, the pontiff could give a boost to the Bolivian government’s efforts to gain international legal status for its sacred leaf, which is erroneously banned as a narcotic drug in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

In addition to its legal uses in Bolivia, coca is also a raw material used to manufacture cocaine. Upon taking office, the Morales administration furthered a 2004 policy by replacing violent forced coca eradication programs (which pushed people deeper into poverty) with efforts promoting gradual coca reduction through community control and economic development. In so doing, the government developed an approach that has proven to be more effective—coca cultivation has declined four years in a row by a cumulative 26 percent—while at the same time honoring the country’s own cultural traditions and recognizing that poor people who rely on coca for many other legitimate products should not be blamed for a global problem well beyond their control.

Pope Francis will also visit the Palmasola prison in Santa Cruz, the biggest in the country. Twenty percent of Palmasola inmates are behind bars for drug offenses, which include small-scale cocaine paste producers, dealers and “mules” that transport drugs. Bolivia’s prison population increased by 158 percent from 2001 to 2013—in part because of the country’s harsh drug law that puts people in jail for up to 25 years.

To its credit, the Morales administration is working to address the prison crisis through criminal justice and penitentiary reforms. It has also implemented three consecutive pardons, releasing over 2,000 Bolivians from prison. Unfortunately, disproportionately high sentences have limited their impact for drug offenders. The Bolivian congress approved a broader pardon initiative yesterday in anticipation offor the Pope’s visit to the Palmasola prison on Thursday.

These pardons are an important step forward, but without drug law reform, Bolivia’s prisons simply fill back up. The last Papal visit to Bolivia occurred a month before adoption of the draconian drug Law 1008, which established the excessively harsh sentencing policies—still in effect today—that do not distinguish between the level or gravity of the crime committed. Pope Francis’s visit also coincides with the government’s decision to follow through on its decade-long promise to rewrite Law 1008.  A draft law will be presented soon to the Bolivian Congress and could be ratified in the coming months. The Morales government’s focus on alleviating poverty, as they have with coca production, to address low-income, non-violent low-level drug offenders would strengthen its humanitarian approach and focus law enforcement efforts on those running the drug trade.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis announced an “Extraordinary Jubilee,” that will be a “Holy Year of Mercy,” beginning in December 2015. The Catholic Church declares jubilee years every 25 to 50 years; the most recent jubilee, in the year 2000, focused on debt forgiveness. The Vatican explained that this mercy jubilee reflects Pope Francis’s “vision and witness of reaching out to those on the existential ‘peripheries’ of society, in order to give a direct testimony to the Church’s affinity and care for the poor, the suffering, the marginalized, and all those who need a sign of tenderness.”

The Bolivian government’s announced reforms should follow the spirit the Pope’s jubilee year of mercy, by ensuring that those in the lowest rungs of the drug trade receive penalties that are commensurate with the gravity of the crimes committed and offering alternatives to incarceration. The government should also continue its social integration and employment programs that keep poor people from resorting to producing, selling, or transporting small amounts of drugs in the first place. It is time to follow the Pope’s lead and declare a “drug law reform jubilee.”

Kathryn Ledebur is Executive Director of the Andean Information Network based in Cochabamba, Bolivia.Coletta A. Youngers is a WOLA Senior Fellow, Associate with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) and member of the research team, Colectivo de Estudios Drogas y Derecho (CEDD). 

Bolivian Political and Social Landscape: Primer for Pending Presidential Elections

As the presidential campaigns gain momentum, AIN outlines the political and social landscape in Bolivia to provide background to understand upcoming electoral debates.

President Evo Morales is running for a third term in the October 12, 2014 elections.  Critics argue he is not eligible to run for another consecutive term, but the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal ruled in his favor, and the opposition across the political spectrum lacks a strong, unifying candidate.  Four candidates have formally registered to run against Morales.

Bolivian Government Achievements

  • Macroeconomic success:
    • From 2009 to 2013, Bolivia’s economy experienced steady growth.

1 GDP growth

The population living in extreme poverty fell from 38% in 2005 to 24% in 2011.

2 poverty

  • Bolivia has accrued a significant “rainy day fund.”  According to the New York Times,  “Bolivia has the highest ratio in the world of international reserves to the size of its economy, having recently surpassed China.”
  • Employment rates and wages have both steadily increased under Morales. The minimum wage increased in 2013 from about $145 USD (1,000Bs) to about $174 USD (1,200Bs) a month.
  • Double holiday bonus: In November 2013, President Evo Morales decreed that all employers must pay a double holiday bonus to all employees.  Previously, the bonus was one month’s salary paid in December.  The double holiday bonushad a mixed reception, celebrated by workers, but criticized by many employers and small business owners.
  • Social programs: The Morales administration started several popular cash transfer programs, including benefits to school children and pregnant mothers, which have promoted significant decreases in maternal and infant mortality as well as increases in school attendance and high school graduation.
  • Gas income: The Bolivian government has strengthened the economy by increasing state hydrocarbons revenues as a result of the 2004 hydocarbons law, the 2006 Nationalization Decree, and high gas prices.  This income has permitted significant investment in infrastructure and social programs.

Coca Leaf and Drug Control

  • In 2013, Bolivia successfully petitioned the United Nations to recognize legal coca cultivation and uses within its borders.
  • The Morales administration has achieved sustained reductions in the cultivation of illicit coca leaf using a system of community coca control. (26% reduction from 2010-2013).
  • Unlike previous military forced eradication, this innovative model relies on coca grower participation.  This model guarantees subsistence and enables coca growers to diversify their income, leading to greatly reduced human rights violations.  For more information see this WOLA-AIN memo.

3 eradication
Source: Bolivian Vice-Ministry of Social Defense

  • Bolivia currently has less than half as much coca as Colombia and Peru.  Yet inexpensive and abundant Peruvian cocaine paste base floods through Bolivia to Brazil and other consumer countries, offsetting national control efforts.
  • The Morales’ administration has diligently pursued drug interdiction after the 2009 expulsion of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, reporting significantly increased seizures. However, the great bulk of cocaine sales and profits trafficking occur outside Bolivia’s border, limiting the impact of these initiatives.
  • In spite of tensions, US-Bolivian on-the-ground collaboration on coca reduction continued productively until September 2013, including a trilateral agreement, including Brazil, to improve monitoring technology.

Challenges facing the Morales Administration 

  • TIPNIS issue: In spite of much rhetoric about protecting the rights of Mother Earth, the Morales administration has gone ahead with plans to build a highway through the Amazon, including the TIPNIS, a national park and indigenous territory.
    • This is an enduring point of contention in the country, most notably among lowland indigenous peoples who led two marches to La Paz to protest the lack of prior consultation of TIPNIS resident about the project, which is guaranteed by the 2009 Bolivian constitution.  Both marches, in 2011 and 2012, were met with police repression from the government. The segment of the construction project within the territory is on hold, but may be resumed.  Critics highlighted contradictions with the administration’s pro-indigenous and environmental discourse and its handling of the incident.
  • The lowland indigenous umbrella organization, CIDOB, and its highland counterpart CONAMAQ are both split between factions that support the MAS ruling party and its vocal opponents.
  • Policies of extraction vs. environment: One of the most significant challenges for the MAS administration has been balancing multi-sector demands for basic services financed primarily by extractive industries with its rhetoric of protecting and living in harmony with nature.
    • Bolivia’s economy has always been heavily reliant on extractive industries such as mining and hydrocarbons that have a substantial environmental impact.  Conflicts often arise in mining communities over the benefits of mining income versus the damage to the environment.  In addition, continuing contamination, such as the recent bursting of a damn holding toxic mining tailings in the Chuquisaca department, exacerbates the Morales administration’s inherited legacy of environmental degradations from centuries of mineral exploitation.
  • Violence Against Women: Violence against women and children has always been startlingly prevalent in Bolivia.  In March 2013, the Bolivian Congress passed a comprehensive a law to address these issues, which contained progressive ideas and preventative measures.  However, the government lacks the resources and political will to fully implement the law.  See this AIN update for more information.

4 violence stat

  • Unsafe abortions: This is another concern for women in Bolivia.  Abortions are illegal except in the case of incest, rape, or if the mother’s life is in danger. Pro-choice advocates had a partial victory in a February 2014 constitutional tribunal ruling that upheld the illegality of abortion, but threw out the rule that requires women to get a judge’s consent in the three permitted exceptions.  (See Emily Achtenberg’s article in NACLA for more information on this ruling.)  Lack of access to and information about sexual and reproductive health combined with cultural taboos and widespread sexual violence put women’s health at risk and severely limit their choices.  Although they are illegal, an estimated 60,000 abortions are performed in Bolivia each year, and only 46% of them are performed without complication.  See this AIN update for more information.

5 abortions
Source: La Razón

  • Judicial delay and prison overcrowding: The Bolivian justice system suffers from tremendous judicial delay, resulting in lengthy pretrial detention, as well as severe prison overcrowding.  Only 17% of prisoners in Bolivia are actually serving their sentence, while the other 83% are merely awaiting trial, which could take years.  After prison riot and fire that killed 35 people, Morales a pardon and amnesty decree in September 2013.  However, to date the pardon has benefitted only about 800 people. More comprehensive reforms, including the reduction of disproportionately high drug sentences (drug war prisoners make up almost half of all inmates) need to be enacted.

6 prisoners
Source: La Opinión

  • Legacy of dictatorships: Unlike neighboring Chile and Argentina, which initiated some legal action against those involved, impunity for authors of human rights violations continues in Bolivia.   A group of survivors of the dictatorship have maintained a vigil for more than two years outside the Ministry of Justice, demanding acknowledgment for the crimes of the dictatorship and the declassification of military files from the dictatorship era.  In 2004, the Bolivian government passed a law guaranteeing compensation to victims, but modifications have reduced the initial promised aid to 20%, and only 1,714 of the 8,000 who applied were approved to receive benefits.  See this AIN update for more information, as well as this Amnesty International report and BBC article.

 

7 dictatorship march
Photo: Gonzalo Ordoñez for AIN

Bolivian-US Bilateral Relations

  • A mutual lack of trust is the single largest impediment to improved bilateral relations.  This lack of confidence should be addressed as a prerequisite for reinstatement of ambassadors. In spite of a lack of ambassadors, bilateral relations have varied, depending on the skill of the Chargés and other officials from both nations.
  • A lack of transparency on the part of USAID and credible allegations that the agency was inappropriately aiding lowland opposition led Morales to expel Ambassador Goldberg in 2008.  USAID in Bolivia did not follow international agreements on development. See AIN background.
  • The Morales administration responds positively to genuine diplomatic gestures.  For example, November 2008 meetings with US congressional leaders permitted the sort of frank exchanges that can create rapport and lay the basis for more regular dialogue and better mutual understanding. See WOLA and AIN analysis on bilateral relations.
  • US decisions to “decertify” Bolivian drug control efforts since 2008 are increasingly disconnected from reality. Governments in the region continue to see the US determinations as offensive and politically motivated. More information here.
  • US funding steadily decreased since 2008.  Although the Narcotics Affairs Section, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and USAID are now gone, Bolivia has compensated with funds from its own treasury and increased support from the European Union.
  • Request for extradition of ex-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada: Widespread resentment continues for the US refusal to extradite the ex-president for the death of 69 protestors in October 2003. Although US officials claim the charges are politically motivated, two-thirds of the Bolivian congress, where Sánchez de Lozada’s own coalition had a majority, voted to indict him. The Bolivian government submitted a new extradition request on July 10th, 2014 and the US has promised to respond within sixty days. The US is expected to reject this initiative.
  • US citizen Jacob Ostreicher accused of money laundering:  Although US representatives and Sean Penn have argued for Ostreicher’s innocence, charges against Ostreicher appear credible. He was subject to protracted pre-trial detention in violation of his due process rights, as is every Bolivian arrested on drug charges under drug legislation imposed by the US in 1988.  There was also a great deal of corruption around his case on the part of some Bolivian government officials.  He escaped from Bolivia at the end of 2013 and is considered a fugitive by Interpol.

Conclusion

Recurring protests and strikes from diverse sectors, including transportation workers, university students, and milk and meat producers have characterized the political and social landscape in the past few months.  However, this does not necessarily equate to discontent with the Morales administration.  Rather, many sectors are strategically taking advantage of election momentum to leverage to get demands met.  As one indigenous protester explained, “We’re not the opposition.  We just want the respect of our people and our rights and a solution.”

Although the administration’s performance has been mixed, Morales still enjoys widespread support and his party will most likely retain a majority in both houses of congress.  Furthermore, the opposition on both the left and the right lack a strong, representative, unifying candidate.  It is likely that Bolivian voters will opt for continuing the status quo.

International Declaration on Tenth Anniversary of Black October

Versión en español abajo

Ten Years of Protecting International Fugitives: It Is Time for President Obama to Extradite Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín to Bolivia

The massacres that devastated the families of Bolivia’s highlands ten years ago this month must not be forgotten.

In October 2003 the families living in El Alto and other villages above the Bolivian capital suffered weeks of extreme violence by the armed forces of the government of then-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and his Defense Minister José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín. Fifty eight Bolivians were killed and another 400 injured when the government sent in troops to repress protests against its despised gas export plans. Those killed included an eight-year old girl, Marlene Rojas, shot by a soldier’s bullet while in her home.  In Bolivia in the decade since, the month has been renamed Black October, to commemorate those killed and to demand justice.

Today, a decade later, both men accused of ultimate responsibility for the deaths live in the U.S.: Sanchez de Lozada in suburban Maryland and Sánchez Berzaín in Miami. Both are protected from facing trial in Bolivia, protected by the U.S. government.  While the families continue to grieve; those accused walk free and unpunished.

Lozada and Berzain took office in 2002 with only 22% of the vote, but were determined to enact unpopular economic reforms including plans to export gas via Chile. Knowing they would prompt protests, they issued a decree calling on the Army to use ‘all means necessary’ to repress protests. The government treated their own population as foreign invaders, deploying military sharpshooters armed with high-powered rifles who shot into houses and chased and shot unarmed villagers as they fled through fields and into the mountains. Many of the individuals killed and injured as a result of the plan were not involved in protests, or even near protests when they were shot. The violence only stopped when Lozada and Berzain fled the country as protests spread across the country and politicians including Lozada’s Vice President Carlos Mesa denounced the violence.

The struggle for justice by the families has been a long and arduous one, including in Bolivia. In October 2004, the Bolivian Congress authorised a trial for government and army officials involved in the massacre. The trial began in 2009 and seven defendants were sentenced to between three and fifteen years in prison. Yet Lozada and Berzain have refused to appear in court. An official request for extradition by the Bolivian government in 2007 has been refused by the US State Department despite the fact that the two countries have a functioning extradition treaty.

The refusal by the US government to respect the Bolivian legal process and the rights of the families to justice means that the US government is complicit with impunity and injustice. Their arguments that this case is too political to guarantee a fair trial are baseless, given the extreme rigour in which the case has been processed in Bolivia and the support for the case by politicians of all parties including those of Lozada and Berzain. It also looks deeply hypocritical, when the US insists that other governments extradite individuals that have allegedly threatened US security interests such as Edward Snowden.

Lozada and Berzain have strong connections with US political, business and academic circles that have no doubt played a role in preventing their extradition. Lozada is a University of Chicago alumni, who has various investments in the U.S., and even hired US consultants to help him win the election in 2002. However these strong political connections should not be a cause for ongoing impunity. This October, all US officials of influence should instead listen to those whose voices are too often ignored, such as the parents of Marlene Rojas or of Teófilo Cerro who now has to support 7 children after his pregnant wife was gunned down.

This impunity and injustice can not be allowed to continue. We call on all those with influence – the media, members of Congress, human rights organizations, universities and students – to stand with the families this October in solidarity and demand the extradition of Lozada and Berzain.

Organizations can sign onto this statement by sending a message to   nomoreimpunity@gmail.com; if you are an individual you can sign our petition on  change.org. Signatories as of 15 October 2013 are listed at the bottom.

 

EN ESPAÑOL

Diez años protegiendo a fugitivos internacionales: es hora de que el presidente Obama extradite a Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín a Bolivia

Las matanzas que devastaron hace diez años a las familias del altiplano boliviano no deben caer en el olvido.

En octubre de 2003, las familias que viven en El Alto y otros municipios cercanos a La Paz, la capital boliviana, sufrieron semanas de violencia extrema a manos de las fuerzas armadas del Gobierno del entonces presidente, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, y su ministro de Defensa, José Carlos Sánchez Berzain. Aquel octubre, 58 bolivianos y bolivianas fueron asesinados y otros 400, heridos, cuando el Gobierno envió tropas para reprimir las protestas contra sus vilipendiados planes de exportación de gas. Entre las personas asesinadas se encontraba una niña de ocho años, Marlene Rojas, a la que alcanzó en su casa una bala disparada por un francotirador. Diez años después, en Bolivia se conoce ese mes como ‘Octubre Negro’, para conmemorar a las personas asesinadas y exigir justicia.

Hoy, diez años después, los dos hombres que son acusados de aquellas muertes viven en los Estados Unidos: Sánchez de Lozada en un suburbio de Maryland y Sánchez Berzain en Miami. Ambos están a salvo de enfrentarse a los tribunales en Bolivia, protegidos por el Gobierno estadounidense. Mientras las familias siguen llorando la muerte de sus seres queridos, los responsables de la matanza siguen paseándose con total libertad e impunidad.

Lozada y Berzain llegaron al Gobierno en 2002, con solo el 22 por ciento de los votos, pero estaban decididos a poner en marcha unas reformas económicas muy impopulares, que incluían planes de exportar gas a través de Chile. Sabiendo que el plan provocaría protestas, emitieron un decreto en que llamaban al ejército a utilizar “todos los medios necesarios” para reprimir las protestas. El Gobierno trató a su propia población como si fueran invasores extranjeros, desplegando a francotiradores militares armados con rifles de gran calibre, que se dedicaron a disparar dentro de viviendas y a perseguir y disparar a vecinos desarmados que trataban de huir a través de los campos para refugiarse en las montañas. Muchas de las personas asesinadas y heridas a consecuencia del plan no estaban participando en las protestas, o ni siquiera se encontraban cerca de ellas, en el momento en que se les disparó. La violencia solo se detuvo cuando Lozada y Berzain abandonaron el país, mientras las revueltas se extendían por todo el país y otros políticos, como el vicepresidente del propio Lozada, Carlos Mesa, denunciaban la violencia.

La lucha por la justicia que han librado las familias ha sido larga y ardua, incluso en Bolivia. En octubre de 2004, el Congreso boliviano autorizó que se juzgaran las responsabilidades entre los cargos del Gobierno y los oficiales del ejército implicados en la matanza. El juicio empezó en 2009 y siete de los acusados fueron condenados a entre 3 y 15 años de cárcel. Sin embargo, Lozada y Berzain se han negado a comparecer ante la justicia. El Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos ha denegado una solicitud oficial de extradición presentada por el Gobierno boliviano en 2007, a pesar de que ambos países cuentan con un tratado de extradición en vigor.

La negativa del Gobierno estadounidense a respetar el proceso jurídico boliviano y los derechos de las familias a la justicia significa que el Gobierno estadounidense es cómplice de la impunidad y la injusticia. Los argumentos que esgrimen de que este caso está demasiado politizado como para garantizar un juicio justo son infundados, teniendo en cuenta el extremo rigor con que se ha tramitado el caso en Bolivia y el apoyo otorgado a la causa por políticos de todos los partidos, incluidos los de Lozada y Berzain. La negativa del Gobierno estadounidense también resulta profundamente hipócrita, especialmente cuando los Estados Unidos insisten en que otros Gobiernos extraditen a personas que han amenazado a los intereses de seguridad de su país, como Edward Snowden, ahora asilado en Rusia.

Lozada y Berzain tienen fuertes vínculos con círculos políticos, empresariales y académicos en los Estados Unidos que, sin duda, han desempeñado un papel a la hora de impedir su extradición. Lozada es un antiguo alumno de la Universidad de Chicago, cuenta con varias inversiones en los Estados Unidos e incluso contrató a asesores estadounidenses para que le ayudaran a ganar las elecciones en Bolivia en 2002. Sin embargo, estos importantes lazos políticos no deberían seguir garantizándoles la impunidad. Este octubre, todos los cargos de influencia en la administración estadounidense deberían escuchar más bien aquellas voces que suelen ignorarse, como las de los padres de Marlene Rojas o la de Teófilo Cerro, que tiene a su cargo a siete hijos, después de que su mujer, embarazada, fuera abatida a tiros.

No se puede permitir que la impunidad y la injusticia se sigan imponiendo. Por ese motivo, instamos a todas aquellas personas que tienen influencia –los medios, las asambleas y grupos de los Partidos en el Congreso, las organizaciones de derechos humanos, las universidades y los y las estudiantes– a solidarizarse este mes de octubre con las familias de la matanza en Bolivia y exigir la extradición de Lozada y Berzain.

Las organizaciones pueden firmar esta declaración enviando un mensaje a nomoreimpunity@gmail.com; las personas a título individual pueden firmar nuestra petición en change.org. Las firmas se irán añadiendo al final de la lista a medida que vayan llegando.

Signatures/Firmas

Organisations

Action from Ireland (Afri)
Action Populaire Contre la Mondialisation, Switzerland
Andean Information Network/Red Andina de Información, Bolivia
Asociación Presencia Latinoamericana de Suiza
Bay Area Latin America Solidarity Coalition (BALASC) CACIM, India
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) Comité du Forum Social Lémanique, Switzerland
Comité pour le respect des droits humains “Daniel Gillard”, Belgium
Centro de Documentación e Información Bolivia CEDIB, Bolivia
CIP Americas Program
Democracy Center, Bolivia
Denver Justice & Peace Committee, USA
Environmental Network for Central America (La Red Ambiental para América Central) Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Focus on the Global South (Thailand, Philippines, India) Global Exchange, United States
Joining Hands – San Francisco Presbytery
La Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos de Bolivia
La Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD)
Marin Interfaith Task force on the Americas, United States Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, United States Movimento Red Tinku ( Bolivia)
National Lawyers Guild International Committee, United States
Nicaragua Center for Community Action (NICCA)
Observatorio de la Deuda en la Globalización (ODG), Cataluña, Estado español
On-Q Initiative – Youth4Truth, United States
PAPDA, Haiti
Pax Christi USA
Peace and Justice Service on Latin America
Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio RETS: Respuestas a las Transnacionales de Barcelona School of the Americas Watch
School of the Americas Watch – San Francisco, CA, United States School of the Americas Watch – Oakland, CA, United States Transnational Institute, Netherlands
UpsideDownWorld
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

 

Individuals

Roy Bourgeois and  Lisa Sullivan, School of Americas Watch
Noam Chomsky, Academic and writer
Q’orianka Kilcher, Actress Activist
Pablo Solón, Former Bolivan Ambassador to the UN, Director of Focus on Global South
Eric Toussaint, senior lecturer University of Liege and president of CADTM Belgium

Bolivian Prison Deaths Highlight Flaws in Judicial and Penitentiary Systems [with VIDEO]

Please take a look into the life of nonviolent drug inmates in Bolivian jails in this video clip [El Mario – Las Cárceles de Bolivia], developed in collaboration with Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw of Cocaine Prison.

On September 11, 2013, President Morales signed a pardon decree designed to benefit between 1,000-2,000 inmates.  The Bolivian congress must still approve the measure. (AIN will post a summary and analysis of the decree soon.)  The pardon decree was a response to an August 23rd riot-turned-fire that killed 35 people in Palmasola prison, including a small child.  A small group of prisoners from the maximum-security block of this Santa Cruz prison attacked other inmates, using kitchen propane tanks as flamethrowers.  Fire spread in the prison, leaving many dead and 58 people with 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns over most of their bodies.

The tragic fire is the result of overcrowding, extremely poor prison conditions and infrastructure, and collapsed judicial and penitentiary systems.  Most Bolivian prisons are filled many times beyond their capacity.  Palmasola, the largest penal facility in Bolivia, was built for 600 people, but currently houses 4,725 prisoners.  While Bolivian prisons have a relatively low level of violence, the extreme overcrowding, understaffing, and poor infrastructure make it difficult for prison staff to monitor and control the tiny, violent minority.

Source: Red Participacion y Justicia


Source: Opinión

The overcrowding is largely due to judicial delay.  Delays are attributed to many factors:

  • Case overload
  • Lack of public defenders
  • Lack of state prosecutors
  • Lack of judges
  • Vacancies in leadership positions
  • Lack of economic resources
  • Suspension of trail without notifying the accused
  • Delays in formal accusations

 

Source: Puente Investigación y Enlace

 

Source: Puente Investigación y Enlace

 

Source: Puente Investigación y Enlace

 

Overcrowding began with Law 1008, US-imposed drug legislation dating to 1988.  Law 1008 greatly intensified punishment for drug-related offenses and caused a massive influx of prisoners into a system that lacked, and still lacks, the ability to handle such a high volume of cases.  Most of these prisoners committed nonviolent crimes, mostly low-level drug production or transport done out of economic necessity.  Currently, 33% of the entire prison population has been incarcerated on drug charges.

 

Source: Puente Investigación y Enlace

Please see AIN’s update, “Prison Detainees in Bolivia: Bad Fruit of a Slow Judiciary System,” for more analysis about the prison and judicial systems in Bolivia and the role of US-imposed anti-drug legislation.