November 16, 2001
Narco News 2001
A Nation on the
A Narco News Global Alert
By Al Giordano
Bolivia is one of only
three countries (with
Colombia and Perú) in the world where the coca plant -
source for cocaine and crack - grows. **
Bolivia is the only one
of these three countries with no groups on the U.S. State Department's
list of "terrorist organizations."
But today, U.S.-imposed
drug policy is sowing the seeds of a violent storm in Bolivia
that, although entirely preventable, is leading toward a rebellion
that the hypocrites in Washington will later label as "terrorist"
even as U.S. policy creates the phenomenon.
The fall of Bolivian General
Hugo Banzer last summer - who came to power decades ago through
a military coup - has provided Civil Society in Bolivia with
a renewed hope to restore democracy, justice and human rights
to this impoverished South American nation.
Indeed, just one year
ago, Narco News broke the information blockade in the English-language
press when social movements throughout Bolivia shut down the
country's highways through citizen blockades and forced the Bolivian
government to sign agreements with the populace that it has now
broken. One of the results of our coverage was that the only
English-language news correspondent in Bolivia, AP's
Peter McFarren, had to resign in disgrace because we reported his own conflicts-of-interest
with the Bolivian regime.
the end of the Banzer dictatorship nor the fall of a corrupted
journalist have brought change to Bolivia or to the media blockade
of hard news from the country.
Every sector of Civil
Society in Bolivia seeks to bring democracy to the nation. The
indigenous want equal rights and autonomy. The coca growers want
a drug policy for Bolivia that is decided by Bolivians and not
imposed by the United States. A quarter-million retirees in this
country of 8 million citizens - one out of every 30 Bolivians
- have recently been denied their pensions because the government
has squandered the nation's budget on the unwinnable drug war.
The urban unions have repeatedly joined the rural farmers in
social protest of the situation. Residents have repeatedly risen
up against government plans to export Bolivia's water to copper
mines in Chile as it attempts to privatize this natural resource
and force Bolivians to buy their own water from private companies.
Teachers and students alike have united in opposition to Bolivia's
illigitimate government and the impositions from the North.
In other words, the Bolivian
regime of President Jorge Quiroga faces opposition from every
sector except two: the brutal military forces and the United
States government, which, in the latest atrocity, is directly
funding a "paramilitary" model of the kind it created,
years ago, in Colombia, in order to attempt to stamp out the
surge of democracy with repression.
Yesterday, three unarmed
peasant farmers were assassinated by Bolivian soldiers on the
nation's major highway. The farmers have begun blockades of the
country's roads to demand that the government comply with land
use agreements (known as the INRA law) it signed last year but
has now broken.
This, as 4,000 Bolivian
army troops were forced to retreat from unarmed peasant farmers
who have just installed a blockade on the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz
highway, the nation's main thoroughfare.
As the United States media
pats itself on the back, claiming to have "rediscovered
foreign news" in the wake of the September 11th tragedy,
it continues to ignore the immediate history taking place in
Bolivia, which will have profound consequences for all América.
Narco News thus begins
anew our regular Press Briefings from Bolivia, translating the
work of Latin American and other journalists so that the US-sponsored
atrocity-in-progress will not occur hidden from the eyes of the
rest of the world.
In the coming days, Narco
News will make an important announcement regarding our coverage
of the Bolivian Crisis. Stay tuned as the hand of history, once
again, thunders from the mountains of Bolívar and U.S.-imposed
drug policy meets its Waterloo on the high plains of Bolivia.
We begin today's press
briefing with reports from the BBC (the only English-language
news agency to report on yesterday's murder of three civilians
by military troops) and reports translated from the Bolivian
press on the growing blockade, the grievances of the nation's
250,000 retirees from whom the drug war has robbed their pensions,
the unrest among other sectors of Civil Society, the direct U.S.
sponsorship of and payment for a new paramilitary strategy to
commit atrocities against unarmed civilians, and the talk among
the population of the need to turn their peaceful protest into
an armed struggle if the imposition does not stop.
The people of Bolivia
want democracy. They want to make their own decisions on drug
policy, economic policy and every other kind of policy. It now
falls upon Civil Society in the United States and the rest of
the world to stop Washington from its dirty work of preventing
democracy in Bolivia.
From somewhere in a country
Al Giordano, Publisher
The Narco News Bulletin
Reporting on the "war
on drugs" from Latin America
News from Bolivia
From the British Broadcasting
Friday, 16 November,
2001, 10:44 GMT
in Bolivian coca clashes
between coca farmers and government
troops in Bolivia's central Chapare region have left three people
dead and eight injured.
The coca farmers say the soldiers used
live ammunition against protesters blocking the main highway
to demand an end to the US-backed eradication programme.
The government says it wants to solve
the crisis through dialogue, with the Roman Catholic Church as
On Wednesday, the Armed Forces denied
they were using paramilitary personnel to maintain order and
protect people engaged in eradicating coca plantations in Chapare.
From the newsroom of the BBC World Service
From the daily Opinión
Cochabamba, Bolivia, Nov. 14 2001
of Violence Grows
and install the first
threaten to block petroleum
and electricity plants
from the Cochabamba tropic retook the
town of Bulo Bulo and succeeded in installing the first blockade
of the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway, after three hours of confrontation
with military and police officers. It was the most violent action
of the past week. The coca growers threatened to take up arms
to respond to the insults and annoyances committed by police
and military soldiers and to radicalize their tactics with the
taking of the petroleum fields and the electric power sources
until their demands are addressed.
Luis Cutipa, vice president of the six
federations of the tropic, said that the patience of the coca
growers has run out because of the abuses that the soldiers commit
as they have imprisoned, tortured and invaded homes in the towns
of the tropic. According to the coca growers, yesterday was the
most violent of the confrontations in the towns of Valle Sajta,
Senda 6, Cristal, Cruce Nazareno, Bulo Bulo y Eterazama.
"We have already lost the fear of
death. The federations are in a state of alert and we are going
to radicalize our tactics in the coming hours," he warned.
The coca growers count more than 80 peasants who were tortured
by the "forces of order" and nearly 160 arrests that
could increase dramatically if the soldiers decide to take reprisals.
Feliciano Mamani, another coca growers union leader, confirmed
the accusations, saying that there are "paramilitaries"
in the region calling themselves the Expeditionary Forces and
who are the ones that commit the tortures against the coca producers
who are detained as they try to block the highway. He said that
there are concrete cases in which various leaders have been beaten
with hoses and billy-clubs and later set free: others are stripped
of their clothes and left naked in the mountains. The leader
Cutipa informed that the situation has become unsustainable.
A wide coalition of leaders in Carrasco Tropic have decided to
radicalize their tactics not only by blocking highways, but with
means that could affect the petroleum fields and the electric
power plants that exist in the region.
From the daily Los
Tiempos, Cochabamba, Nov. 15
"Violence and confrontation
and threats (blockades) cannot be accepted"
violence must not be countered by repression."
the name of the suffering people, we ask, once more, for dialogue
was the clamorous call of the bishops
concerning the conflicts in Chapare.
They also deplored the events that ended
the lives of seven people in the Paranti encampment, in Yacuiba,
due to land conflicts. "Behind this violence is a structural
the so-called INRA law (recognizing indigenous
land rights) tries to redistribute, clean-up and establish land
titles in favor of the peasant farmers, the indigenous, the migrant
workers and the businesspeople willing to work their own land.
It has only been complied with in the most minimum manner and
the most dramatic consequences are in sight."
"All the relies on violence, creates
Clearly, human rights have been harmed in the
Chapare. If people cannot circulate, meet with each other, have
the necessary food and, still more, assemble physically,"
they demonstrate said Cardinal Julio Terrazas.
"The government should not make promises
it can not keep. We note that many of the treaties signed with
the Church have not been cumplied with," the Bishops' document
states. In fact, on the previous night, the president of the
republic, Jorge Quiroga, visited with the bishops to report on
his brief tenure, a meeting in which the bishops urged him to
solve the problem of social conflicts and to urgently apply measures
to stem the economic crisis.
But the bishops in their "double
plea" also called upon social sectors "to plant their
demands in agreement with the possibilities of the country,"
and that all sides play their part in a climate of compromise
and dialogue instead of violence and extreme positions.
the Coca Growers
peasant farmers led by Felipe Quispe,
"El Mallku," announced that he will give moral and
material support to the coca growers and the peasants without
land, and that the banner of the Movement to Socialism of coca
growers union chief Evo Morales will be joined by his coalition.
The decision was made in the peasant farmers
meeting that occurred in Peñas, in the high plains region
and resolved to demand that the government solve the conflicts
(with the landless peasants and the coca growers), according
to a letter sent by the coalition to President Jorge Quiroga.
The Labor Syndicate of Peasant Workers
of Bolivia (CSUTCB in its Spanish initials) will also send its
message of support to the landless peasants in the Yacuiba region,
where on November 9th blood spilled leaving seven deaths, those
of one landowner and six peasant farmers.
Quispe said that "the police must
identify the hitmen that shot upon the farmers in the Yacuiba
zone and should punish them for what they've done
government must explain why paramilitaries are now operating
The peasant farmers will organize mobilizations
in various states next week in support to the landless peasants
and the coca growers. They do not rule out a blockade of the
nation's central highways.
Meanwhile, in the Capital, La Paz, hundreds
of retired workers who have not received pensions held a protest
march in the central streets of the city and entered Murillo
plaza. This time they were not tear-gassed.
The retirees ask that they be pensioned
immediately in the old system because the Pension Reform law
that the government enacted left them without pensions.
The delegation of Ex-Miners of the 20th
Century joined the march by the "sandwich generation"
(those left without pensions by the new law), and warned that
it will not leave the government seat until their pensions are
granted according to the old retirement system.
It is estimated at the national level
that 250,000 retirees were denied their pensions by the Pension
Added to this panorama of conflict was
the decision by the Potosí Civic Council to launch a hunger
strike demanding the construction of the Tarapaya-Ventanilla
highway, approved by decree in the emergency zone due to the
regional mining and development crisis in the state of Potosí.
are "hit-men" in Chapare:
Force Calls them "Reservists"
Tiempos and agencies: Military authorities admitted yesterday that in the Chapare, the Expeditionary
Task-Force (FTE, in its Spanish initials) are composed of 500
reservists that receive 600 bolivianos a month and that they
can not be considered to be paramilitaries.
However, the Public Defender, Ana Maria
Romero, reiterated her characterization that this type of organization
is illegal under the Armed Forces Law and for that reason they
are considered "hit-men."
Army Commander Juan Hurtado, and Armed
Forces Commander Alvin Anaya, said that the reservists were incorporated
for the task of controlling Chapare "due to the lack of
military authorities also said that
the payment of the reservists in exchange for controlling the
Chapare is covered by an anti-drug agency called the NAS, that
is funded by the United
States, and that each reservist receives
600 bolivianos ($88.75 US).
Hurtado said that the conscripts have
the mission of keeping the roads of the Chapare open and that
they are necessary because of their experience in this kind of
job. But he admitted, also, that "it is true that violence
is used, but it is a well-administered violence and actions to
cause fear, nothing more."
The Army has entered the region with an
adequate team, trained not to to kill and to act as an anti-riot
squad with the goal of controlling the coca-growers and avoiding
the blockade of highways.
Meanwhile, the minister of Defense, Oscar
Builarte, referring to the FTE, said that they are reservists
in uniform and report to the officers in the region. He asked that they not be called
they are not.
According to Guilarte the military was
given the power to conscript them in times of grave conflicts
and this is that kind of situation. The use of reservists during
peacetime is an ability of the Armed Forces.
According to military authorities, there
are 30 categories in which the reservists can be called and one
of them is social unrest.
It's the first time since 1929 that the
Armed Forces has called up reservists
In all countries,
the reserve is called only in cases of wartime.
How were they selected? This is another
of the mysteries. General Hurtado said that they are reservists
who concluded their military service in February
task of the new force is to eradicate coca plants and bring security
to the persons dedicated to this task.
From the daily Los
Tiempos, Nov. 16
Evo Morales announces
will not be forgiven."
call for peace by President Jorge Quiroga
and the Church did not last long. The response: Three deaths
by bullet, blockade attempts, confrontations, tear-gassing, detentions
and 18 people wounded by bullets in the towns of Shinahota and
Senda 6, on the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway.
"Now this is going to end up with
an armed struggle, because we're not going to forgive this easily.
We are going to continue with the blockades as a response to
the blood that this Government spills in Chapare," was the
immediate response of congressman and coca growers leader Evo
Morales Ayma, from the town of Eterazama, which has been virtually
surrounded for 12 days.
However, the government's version is that
the deaths occurred when more than 400 coca growers surrounded
a truck of 15 troops of the Armed Forces and tried to take their
The dead were waked in open highway provoking
an interruption of traffic on the principal highway of the country.
Only a few hours before that, President
Jorge Quiroga had asked the Church to mediate a peace summit
Aid for Bolivia
the midst of social crisis, aggravated
by the death of three coca growers in the Tropic of Cochabamba,
the government of Jorge Quiroga Ramírez yesterday received
the backing of the U.S. Congress to eliminate drugs and narco-trafficking
with $86 million dollars.
The sum represents an increase of 60 percent
over funding for fiscal year 2001 which ended in October, in
a total global budget of $128.5 million dollars approved by the
North American Congress, according to a report by the US Secretary
President George Bush asked for a total
of $731 million to fight against drugs in the Andean region
"The culmination of this negotiation resulted in a reduced
amount of $625 million with a explicit language to support Bolivia,"
the Department of State emphasized.
**Correction and Update
our first paragraph in which we stated that Bolivia, Colombia
and Peru are the "only" three countries where coca
grows, an eagle-eyed reader, Andrew Grice, corrects us: "I
wish you'd phrased this another way," writes Grice. "As
written, it's not exactly true. Coca-Cola gets their legal supply
of coca leaf from a guarded plantation in Hawaii."
We regret the error, particularly
because we were already aware of this fact but sometimes find
the drug war propaganda so omnipresent that we forgot momentarily
that this government-licensed coca plantation in Hawaii makes
the United States the fourth country that produces the coca plant.
Obviously, this further demonstrates the hypocrisy of US policy
in the Andes.
Archives of Last
Year's Press Briefings on Bolivia:
Fall of AP's Bolivia Correspondent:
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