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Opinion The Bolivian government urgently needs international support

MIRIAM AMANCAY COLQUE reports on the continuing destabilisation of the country by rightwing politicians

BOLIVIA is living through continuous threats of violence and destabilisation by the far-right minority based in the eastern province of Santa Cruz, which intends to break the constitutional order, and argues that they are fighting a communist dictatorship.

On November 30 2020, the former MP Lidia Patty filed a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office against the coup plotter Luis Fernando Camacho, his father Jose Luis Camacho, former comanding officer of the armed forces General Williams Kaliman, former commanding officer of the police and others, for crimes of terrorism, conspiracy and sedition committed in the coup 2019, which resulted in the resignation of the then president of the Plurinational State of Bolivia Evo Morales.

This case is known as “Coup d’etat 1” and lists all the illegal measures taken by Luis Fernando Camacho and his accomplices.

Camacho has been summoned four times to make his statement, but he has refused to take part, undermining due process with a clear intention of obstructing legal process.

He has also challenged the authorities to arrest him, hiding behind his position of governor of Santa Cruz province determined to evade justice.

According to judicial procedure, the arrest warrant for Camacho was issued in October 2022 and on December 28 2022, Luis Fernando Camacho was arrested in Santa Cruz and taken to La Paz to give his statement.

The judge decided to send him into preventive custody for four months in the Chonchocoro prison, and continue the investigation.

His followers reacted violently. Using the false narrative of Camacho being “kidnapped” they took over the Viru Viru and El Trompillo airports, along with deputies and senators from the  Creemos (We Believe) party. Now they will be prosecuted.

Led by Romulo Calvo, a handful of rightwingers from the Pro-Santa Cruz Civic Committee, supported by the media and the paramilitary Crucenista Youth Union (UJC), believe they own Santa Cruz.

Their so called “peaceful” mobilisations end in looting and burning of homes, government buildings, vehicles. The house of the minister of public works Edgar Montano, was ransacked and set on fire.

To date there are more than 27 public buildings destroyed and burned, including the prosecution’s offices where important evidence from corruption cases was lost.

Camacho’s followers are seen on social networks using firecrackers and explosive devices, sledgehammers, clubs and sticks with nails. The paramilitaries of UJC have been accused of going out at night to terrorise people, destroying property and set fire to targeted areas.

On December 31 2022, lawyer Jorge Telleria, from the National Revenue, was kidnapped and brutally tortured for five hours before being dumped on a road. His torturers, he said, were members of the UJC.

One has to ask: is this the way “to defend democracy and human rights?”

In a video of November 2019, Camacho states: “It was my father who made arrangements with the police and army, etc.” In another, he said: “We need to set up a civilian-military government, etc.” What constitutional authority did Camacho have then? The answer is: None.

On January 3, the minister of government Eduardo Del Castillo made public details of the financing for the 2019 coup by Camacho, and among the payments were those to the former commander of the Bolivian air force general Jorge Terceros and many more.

The evidence against Camacho and his coup accomplices is irrefutable. It was no coincidence that Camacho travelled to Jujuy, Argentina to co-ordinate the coup financing with with Gerardo Morales and later also with Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.

Camacho was given millions for the coup and to spread violence and persecution against the MAS-IPSP, its authorities and militants. In this he was supported by the police, army and paramilitary groups such as UJC, the Cochala Youth Resistance.

There is reliable information that these paramilitary groups recruit hundreds of former members of the armed forces with strong right-wing views.

Camacho co-operated in the dictatorial regime of Jeanine Anez, Arturo Murillo and controlled the nomination for the ministries of the presidency, defence.

Murillo was recently sentenced to 70 months in prison in the US for  money laundering. He must also answer to the Bolivian justice system for all the crimes committed during the dictatorship.

Camacho owes the state of more than £5 million in taxes.

Calvo of the Pro-SC Civic Committee argues that Camacho’s life is in danger and should be freed, but nothing could be further from the truth. What they want is to set Camacho free.

However, Camacho is enjoying privileges at Chonchocoro, including medical treatment — doctors, nurses, a rheumatologist, an immunologist, a medical intern, two anaesthetists, one therapist and an ambulance.

His room has a cardiac monitor, and a whole panoply of medical equipment. The doctors confirm that his health is stable.

Former political prisoners have slammed the treatment given to Camacho, remembering having their own rights violated during the Anez dictatorship. They say they were physically and psychologically tortured and were forced to stay out in the courtyard naked at midnight, with 15 chained up prisoners slept on the floor without mattresses in a space 1.5 by 3 meters.

They were denied medical attention and refused family visits. Their daily food consisted of only one small plate and a cup of tea. Neither were they allowed to use prison toilets or toilet paper and had to be taken chained outside.

The Catholic church and other evangelical groups do not acknowledge the massacres, and have denied there was a coup.

The Bolivian Workers Union — COB (Bolivian TUC) and the Unity Pact meeting with President Luis Arce decided to reaffirm their unity in defence of democracy and the process of change, and call for a big mobilisation to celebrate the Day of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (January 12 2023).

Vast geopolitical interests are competing for the control of Bolivian lithium, land and other natural resources. The oligarchs, subservients to imperialism, would wish to topple Arce’s popular government but they are wrong. We will defend our government.
We also call to all internationalists, to support the Bolivian people in their quest for justice and defence democracy.

The Bolivian people deserve true answers. Camacho and his acolytes seek to continue their reign, not justice. We will not allow that. We want to know who the material and intellectual coup plotters were, who financed the coup and above all why massacres took place in Huayllani-Sacaba, Senkata, El Pedregal, Ovejuyo, Betanzos, Montero, Yapacani. Fernando Camacho has to answer all these questions.

* Longstanding Bolivian indigenous activist and spokesperson for the Bartolina Sisa Resistance


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