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.
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.
Constitutional Tribunal to Rule on Bolivia’s Abortion Prohibition: Religious and Political Debate Eclipses Public Health Crisis
The Bolivian Constitutional Tribunal is considering the constitutionality of the country’s abortion legislation. The emotionally charged and morally focused debate in Bolivia has eclipsed public health crisis of abortion and the risks that Bolivian women face trying to exert control over their bodies. 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. Examining data about abortion and sexual and reproductive health provides a fact-based perspective about the health issues and complicated social dynamics surrounding abortion.
On March 9th, 2013, the Bolivian government passed a new comprehensive and progressive law to combat violence against women. The law includes preventative measures, wide-ranging services to survivors of abuse, and severe penalties for violence against women. The law represents a great advance from previous legislation, which did not consider spousal rape a crime and dictated sentences of only 4-10 years. The impetus for the new law was in large part from several high-profile, brutal attacks over the past few months. While the law is a victory for women’s rights advocates, it real impact remains to be seen. Sources of funding for the ambitious new programs and services have yet to be defined, and compliance and enforcement of the new law will be an uphill battle.
The Wall Street Journal’s recent article from August 1st, “Jailed American’s Drug Case Stokes Tension With Bolivia,” fails to acknowledge the many discrepancies in the Ostreicher case, dramatically exaggerates the effect the case has had on Bolivian-US relations, and contrives false connections between Ostreicher’s case and other drug-related cases. Prolonged pretrial detention and harsh conditions take a dramatic toll on prisoners and their families. However, the fact that Ostreicher is imprisoned under a law that the US pressured Bolivia to pass is noticeably absent in the article’s extensive discussion of US-Bolivian relations and the drug war. (Please see the AIN report, “Ostreicher Case: US-Imposed Legislation Still Dictates Drug Prosecutions.”)
Prison Detainees in Bolivia: Bad Fruit of a Slow Judiciary System
On June 3, 2011, the Bolivian antidrug police arrested Jacob Ostreicher, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, New York, for money laundering and involvement with drug trafficking. Ostreicher, a flooring contractor who had invested in a rice-growing agricultural venture, had come to Santa Cruz to oversee his business venture when he was arrested. Ostreicher has been in the Palmasola prison in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for over a year awaiting trial. After several hearings, the judge ordered on September 23, 2011 that Ostreicher be released. A week later, the judge reversed his decision. A new judge was assigned to the case, but this judge recused himself, and no other judge has been appointed.