Chapare, Bolivia: Increased Militarization Heightens Tensions in Coca-Growing Region 11/2/01

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(bulletin from the Andean Information Network)

On October 26, Bolivia's president ordered approximately 4,000 additional troops into the Chapare region to insure continued coca eradication and to attempt to impede road blockades by coca growers announced to begin on November 6. There were already over 2,000 police and military stationed in the region.

The new troops have installed a serious of additional camps throughout the region such as Colorado, Paractito and others. Forces dispersed some of the groups of coca growers around camps, although vigils have been reinstated in several areas.

At this time tensions are high in the region, but there have not been large-scale confrontations. Coca growers denounce that members of the Ecological Police have been stealing the Bolivian flags and Wiphalas hung near the main highway and near eradication camps in protest of government policy.

Coca growers' leaders announced that they still plan to block the main highway between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz beginning on November 6, in spite of the heavy militarization in the region. High-ranking government officials stated that eradication will continue and that they refuse to discuss continued coca production in the region. An additional 1,000 members of combined forces will be sent to the Chapare in the next few days.

Evo Morales, leader of the six coca-growing federations, announced to the press that "the Quechuas and Aymaras in the Cochabamba tropics suffer from four wars: economic against the small [coca] producers; a cultural war against the coca leaf symbol; legal and political [tactics] used by MIR and ADN that make statements again union leaders in the region; and eradication." Other union leaders also stated that members of the six federations might respond to gunfire from security forces with violence.

On October 29, Rene Laime, the director of Radio Soberania, the Tropico Federation's radio station in Chipiri, received a citation from the prosecutor's office requiring that he identify individuals calling for road blockades and other measures on the air, as a result of a denunciation filed by Col. Hernan Caprirolo, Joint Task Force Commander.

The citation violates article 7 of the Bolivian constitution, which stipulates freedom of expression, and the Press Law (Ley de Imprenta). The Bolivian Journalist's union has filed a formal complaint. During the last 72 hours, there was a heavy presence of police and military personnel near the station. Employees have decided to temporarily reduce broadcasting time, as they fear intervention or forced closing of the installation.

Members of the security forces forcibly entered Carrasco Federation leader Luis Cutipa's home at approximately 2:30 am on October 27, according to a denunciation made to the Cochabamba Interinstitutional Commission. Cutipa was not home at the time. Security forces beat and interrogated Mamberto Espinoza about the leader's whereabouts.

Tropico Federation leader Delfín Olivera also denounced that security forces forcibly entered his mother's home in Eterazama. Both leaders also denounced death threats to their cellular phones.

Amnesty International urged Bolivian authorities to take measures to impede further bloodshed and human rights violations during law enforcement activities in the region. "The protests announced by coca producers for the coming weeks should not be characterized by the excessive use of force by security forces, as they have been until now," stated Amnesty, noting that over 30 campesinos have been killed and hundreds wounded during confrontations with security forces in the region since 1994.

"It is time to break the pattern of human rights violations that has characterized the application of coca eradication agreements with the United States," Amnesty continued, highlighting that "by ensuring compliance with these accords, Bolivian authorities cannot ignore the stipulations of their own constitution and international agreements that consecrate fundamental human rights to which the Bolivian government is party."

Statements made on October 30 by Bolivian Justice and Human Rights minister Mario Serrate shocked the nation, press, and human rights organizations. Serrate said, "Human rights are not the key issue, the main topic is coca eradication in the Chapare, which is a law of the Republic."

For further information, contact the Andean Information Network at [email protected], visit http://www.scbbs-bo.com/ain/ or write to Casilla 4817, Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Other recent bulletins on the Bolivia situation:

Bolivia Forced Eradication Provoking Civil Instability, Indiscriminate Violence by Government Security Forces (9/21)
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/204.html#chapare

Violence in the Chapare, Bolivia -- Two Sustain Bullet Wounds (9/28)
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/205.html#chapareviolence

Bolivia Negotiations Stall as Coca Growers Reject Government Proposal (10/5)
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/206.html#cocaleros

Bolivia: Violence Continues, Mediation Commission Formed (10/12)
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/207.html#mediationcommission

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Issue #209, 11/2/01 Editorial: Lessons Not Learned | Medical Marijuana Armageddon: Feds Declare War on California Buyers Clubs | Drug War Prisoner Given Solitary Confinement for Terror War Thought Crime | British Police Ask for Ecstasy Penalties to be Reduced as Drug War Collapse Continues | Colombia: Ambassador Patterson and Senator Graham Play the Terrorism Card | Border Smuggling Resumes After Temporary Post-September 11th Lull | New Jersey Amnesty International Chapter Puts US Drug Policy on International Human Rights Group's Agenda | Arkansas Drug Reformers on the Move -- Poll Shows Support for Medical Marijuana | Chapare, Bolivia: Increased Militarization Heightens Tensions in Coca-Growing Region | Stop the Presses: Casual Drug Users Have, Keep Jobs, Study Finds | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Drug Czar Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar

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