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January 25, 2002

Narco News '02

Bolivia Bans


Evo Morales Illegally

Removed from Congress

U.S. Embassy Accused of Being Behind

Cancellation of Electoral System

By Luis A. Gómez

Narco News Andean Bureau Chief

The bloody week in Sacaba (in the tropical region in the middle of Bolivia) was barely the beginning. The government of Jorge Quiroga seems decided to comply with the orders of the United States government. What's more, he tries to eradicate much more than the ancestral coca leaf in nearly the entire country. If he gets his way, now that he has the endorsement of Washington, the Bolivian government will also eradicate the farmers, first among them the most important leader: Evo Morales.

It wasn't enough, for Quiroga, to order his Supreme Decree # 26415, prohibiting the sale of coca leaf grown in the Chapare (defining it as an illegal crop). Nor was it sufficient for the armed forces and police to assassinate four coca growers last week during the confrontations in Sacaba. He had to stage a more profound coup.

Yesterday afternoon, the government ordered the closure and dismantling of Radio Sovereignty, a media belonging to the coca growers' federations in the Chapare, located in the town of Chipiriri, claiming that it lacked a license to operate. The repression continues against popular demonstrations and the arrests of the leaders, now 100 of them in jail. And yesterday at dawn, after a deal was cut between the larger political parties in Congress, the State offensive reached its climax: Evo Morales, the congressman elected with more votes than any other in the general election of 1997, was removed from his post.


In nearly all the national media are stories that report the "booting" of Evo Morales from Congress. And the process was simple. The Ethics Commission of the House of Representatives ordered Morales to appear and explain his behavior during the conflicts in Sacaba (in fact, without any proof, the government accuses him and other coca grower leaders of being the intellectual authors of the deaths of three soldiers and a police officer last week). Some hours later, that commission issued its ruling to the entire House, recommending Evo's expulsion. Before voting, some orators of distinct factions, like the known fascist and paramilitary leader Fernando Kieffer, went as far as pleading for respect for human rights and accusing Evo Morales of being an assassin and narco-trafficker.

In the first hours of Thursday, the dream pursued by former dictator Banzer and now Quiroga became reality: Evo is now stripped of his Congressional immunity. Various bureaucrats in the judicial branch are in the shadows, hoping to launch various charges against the coca growers' leader. Recently, a hotel owner won a judgment that orders Morales to pay him $250,000 dollars for damages to a hotel he owns in the Chapare… pay up, or go to jail, are the options they left him. But the embattled ex-Congressman did not go down quietly. The result of the voting in the House of Representatives was barely reported when Evo Morales began a hunger strike together with other members of Congress (some from his party, Movement Toward Socialism, and others of minority Left wing parties). In these moments, Morales and his allies wait patiently for this extreme measure to obligate the Congress to reformulate its position (which is not very likely). For their part, the leaders of certain factions of Congress have called for ejecting Evo from the podium because "he is already not part of the legislative branch."


In his last speech before Congress, Evo Morales declared himself innocent of all charges regarding the deaths of soldiers and police in Sacaba. But he also assured that his explusion was not decided by the Bolivian Congress or President Quiroga, but by the United States government. He also affirmed: "I have said that Supreme Decree #26415 will heat up not only the Chapare but also the entire nation. I have not said that Evo Morales will inflame the country. It's the Decree that is doing it… I have never incited violence and certainly not killing." That was his response to Interior Minister Leopoldo Fernández, who accused him of instigating a Civil War.

And although he could not avoid his impeachment, Evo Morales already receives demonstrations of solidarity from other sectors. Felipe Quispe, El Mallku, has denounced that none of the soldiers who assassinated coca growers has been nor will be arrested and said, after an assembly of his organizations, the peasant farmers of the high plains will begin blockades of roads and highways. The coca growers of Las Yungas, in the State of La Paz, have planned a march already and will blockade to demand the restitution of a man who, they say, "has committed no crime other than to protect his constituents and defend his people." And the list grows. The Water Board of Cochabamba, the organization that includes the Central Labor Union of the State, have declared, in a special assembly, that they repudiate the expulsion and that they will escalate the protests.

Kind readers, in Bolivia there are seven million inhabitants. Approximately 5.1 million of them don't make enough income to live a dignified life. Among them, Evo Morales, an honest and valiant social fighter, has obtained their electoral support. Now, between a Decree that violates the Constitution and accusations filled with lies, the government tries to convert an elected Congressman into a vulgar criminal. However, as the marches and demonstrations begin in support of Morales, there is strength and hope.

Narco News will, in the coming days, publish an interview with Evo Morales. We gladly provide our voice so that Evo Morales, and through him, the Bolivian coca growers, can speak with you and offer their reasons, presenting their history without censorship.

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