More Bolivia: a coup in the offing?

Folks might recall that in October of last year there were massive mobilizations in Bolivia (you can look back through ZNet Bolivia Watch for lots of material) that led to the ouster of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, a fellow nicknamed the ‘gringo’ for his American accent and his propensity for selling the country off to US Multinationals (to be fair, he wasn’t alone in it, nor did he invent the practice, even in Bolivia). Unlike in Haiti, Sanchez de Lozada really did resign, after trying and failing a vicious repression that killed dozens of unarmed protesters (and unlike Haiti, they really were unarmed protesters and not paramilitary killers). The Vice President, Carlos Mesa, took over.

Well one of the demands of the movement was that the military officers involved in the killings last year be judged. The Military Court absolved them, but the Constitutional Tribunal overturned that verdict. Now the Army has now taken protest action against the Tribunal’s decision. This is essentially a repudiation of the judiciary’s authority over the army. Admiral Oscar Ascarraga, president of the Military Court, says this is because “you can’t judge someone twice for the same crime”.

There is video footage that has been shown on television of these soldiers (Grover Monroy, Rafael Mendieta, Yamil Rocabado and Enrique Costas) shooting and killing people.

This could well be the first step in a coup against the civilian regime. President Mesa says he is “truly worried.”

[Source: DPA and AFP via La Jornada]


For North American watchers of Latin America the work of Forrest Hylton is as indispensable on Bolivia as the work of Gregory Wilpert is on Venezuela (you can find Forrest’s work on Bolivia at ZNet’s Bolivia Watch and Wilpert’s at Venezuela Watch or, of course, Both of these provide sympathetic, knowledgeable material and are very scrupulous about letting the people of these countries speak with their own voices, which is what is most needed.

Forrest Hylton recently published two stories on a political prisoner in Bolivia, accused of ‘terrorism’ because he’s Colombian: Pacho Cortes. Take a look at the story Hylton wrote and the one he translated. Now, how do you reward a good writer for doing a thorough job, presenting the facts, and actually interviewing people involved in the flesh?

You accuse them of terrorism, of course.

I got this in the mail from Forrest… he wants to send it out just so people are aware of what might come down next.

Comrades, Friends,

Greetings to all. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but following the counsel of a trusted advisor, I wanted to let everyone know that my compañera Lina and I have been accused of being members of the Colombian ELN as a result of our efforts to free Francisco “Pacho” Cortes, who, being Colombian, is currently Bolivia’s “trophy” terrorist. On Wednesday night (if I remember correctly), DA Rene Arzabe, who’s trying to put Pacho away for 30 years, said on TV that he has proof that the foreigners who’ve been visiting Pacho all along (and we’re the only ones he could be talking about) are ELN, and that they would be arrested and detained next time they tried to visit Pacho.

Obviously this is nothig more than a crude, albeit effective, way of silencing dissent and squelching human rights activism. We do not anticipate that anything will come of these threats, but they arise at a time when Pacho’s “comrades” are cutting a deal with the DA to turn state’s evidence on Pacho. To ram the deal through, the DA has demanded that we shut up. Which is what we plan to do until the heavy weather clears.

This e-mail is obviously intended to serve as a preventive security measure in case anything happens to us. In the meantime, and although we are expecting the best rather than the worst, please alert whomever you think should know about this.