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Bolivian activists call on coup regime to grant safe passage to socialist ministers trapped in Mexican embassy

BOLIVIAN activists are calling for friends abroad to raise the plight of victims of the far-right coup in the country who remain holed up in the Mexican embassy seven months later.

The Campaign for the Seven says that the Jeanine Anez regime, established following the military overthrow of the just re-elected Evo Morales government last November, is still refusing safe passage to Mexico for seven former ministers in Morales’s cabinet who sought refuge there.

Former ministers of the presidency Juan Ramon Quintana, culture and tourism Vilma Alanoca, justice Hector Arce Zaconeta, defence Javier Zabaleta Lopez, minister of government Hugo Moldiz Mercado, information technology agency head Nicolas Laguna and former Oruro department governor Victor Hugo Vasquez remain trapped in the embassy.

After the army forced Morales, who had been re-elected president in the first round with the required 10-point lead over Carlos Mesa, to resign, La Paz was swept by violence including the lynching of indigenous residents and supporters of Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).

Claims by the US-dominated Organisation of American States that there were irregularities in the count were not backed by any evidence and later debunked by the the Centre for Economic and Policy Research.

Even opposition leaders initially claimed not that Morales had not won, but that he had not won by the necessary 10 percentage points to avoid a second round. Although a second round was offered in response to right-wing protests the military stepped in and removed him.

Morales’s own house was ransacked and the president credits Mexico’s swift offer of asylum and arrangement of a plane to take him out of the country with saving his life. In subsequent days and weeks marches and protests by supporters of the elected government were crushed with lethal force. A report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found at least 36 people were killed after the coup.

Bartolina Sisa Resistance, an organisation named after the 18th-century Aymara woman who with husband Tupac Katari led revolts against Spanish colonial rule before being betrayed and executed by Spanish authorities, says that the seven ministers sought safety in the Mexican embassy after  “paramilitary groups led by Luis Fernando Camacho circulated lists that included the names of many of the former MAS officials to be killed.”

“Their families were also severely harassed and threatened and most of them had their homes raided, looted, destroyed and even burned.”

It notes that the new Minister of Government, Arturo Murillo, publicly vowed to “hunt down” Quintana. At the time none of the seven faced any legal proceedings, though subsequently the coup regime has concocted some.

“Their daily lives have been marred with threats and attempts to invade the Mexican embassy by the de-facto regime, which created major diplomatic incidents with the governments of Mexico and Spain,” Bartolina Sisa Resistance says.

The most recent such incident happened just last weekend, when “220 police in riot gear, heavily armed with weapons and trained dogs, surrounded the Mexican embassy.”

Paramilitary groups have camped outside the Mexican embassy in La Paz for months.

The former ministers’ predicament underlines Friends of Bolivia’s observation when it marked six months since the coup last month: “Bolivians continue to suffer violent repression and savage austerity measures under an illegitimate regime, which is now putting lives in danger during the coronavirus crisis.”

The group told the Morning Star that Anez was still manoeuvring to extend her brutal rule.

“All parties and the National Electoral Tribunal had previously approved the law setting September 6 for the elections but Anez has changed her mind – possibly as a result of seeing opinion polls making MAS candidate Luis Arce favourite to win the election,” it said.

“Without any irony, Anez has asked the Senate for an epidemiological report showing it is safe to hold the elections on September 6.

“This is from a de facto head of government who has failed to ensure there’s sufficient equipment and resources to tackle the pandemic.

“Combined with the ongoing political persecution of those opposed to the coup, this smacks of yet another manoeuvre to retain power by avoiding an electoral decision by the Bolivian people on her rule.”

Aymara activist and Bartolina Sisa Resistance spokeswoman Miriam Amancay Colque told the Morning Star it was important that people in Britain’s labour movement were made aware of the situation. She is calling on people to add their names to a petition demanding Bolivia’s regime allows the seven former ministers safe passage abroad by emailing her at bartolinasisaresist@gmail.com

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