Sign Up for Free Mailing List

November 21, 2001

Narco News 2001

Congress Members Write...

"We are Disturbed"

by Bolivia Policy

U.S. Reps Tell Ambassador Rocha that

Military Violence is Unsatisfactory:

But Rocha Reiterates "Sacrificial" Policy

Against Farmers & Social Movements

Blockades to Escalate Thanksgiving Day

Bolivian Soldiers Go Into Battle vs. a Farmer's Tractor
Press Briefing from Bolivian News Sources...

Congress to


Narco News Publishes The Letter...

Ambassador Manuel Rocha
United States Embassy
La Paz, Bolivia
By fax: 011-591-22-433900

November 16, 2001

Dear Ambassador Rocha:

We are writing to you to express our continued concern regarding the social conflict sparked by U.S. sponsored eradication efforts in the Chapare region of Bolivia. Reports indicate that the Bolivian government has sent in over two thousand additional police and military, and that several coca growers' union leaders have indicated that they may respond with violence if fired upon by security forces. We encourage you to urge all parties to the conflict to seek a peaceful resolution to the situation through dialogue to avoid further violence.

In Bolivia where anti-drug efforts are being heralded as a success, we recognize that the human costs are significant. We are alarmed by ongoing reports of excessive use of force by the national police and the military, arbitrary detentions, and ill treatment of detainees. It is particularly disturbing that in the past week as members of the Joint Task Force have entered communities, they have arbitrarily firing tear gas, and have beaten individuals who are briefly detained and then released. Bolivian government and non-governmental human rights monitors have gathered significant evidence in the killings of Ramon Perez and Nilda Escobar and the shootings of Rosalia Merida de Mejia, Claudio Llave Piña, and have identified the security force units involved.

We understand that you have publicly announced that U.S. funding is contingent on continued implementation of the Bolivian government's "Dignity Plan". We also urge you to make it clear publicly that by law U.S. funding for Bolivian security forces is also conditioned on their human rights record. Given that investigations into previous cases have been extremely slow, we ask that you inform us whether the Bolivian government carries out prompt, thorough, impartial investigations into these cases and all other credible allegations of human rights violations in the Chapare region, and to make the results of the investigations public. We are disturbed by reports that high-level Bolivian officials have pressured staff from the Attorney General's office responsible for carrying out legal investigations of the Merida and Llave shootings that occurred on October 4th, 2001.

We would also like to be informed when and how the Embassy makes its determination in these cases regarding whether the United States should withhold funding for the unit of the security forces responsible for gross human rights violations when there is no evidence that sufficient steps are being taken to bring the individuals responsible to justice. As you are aware, neither internal disciplinary measures by the security forces, nor economic compensation for the victims' families will satisfy U.S. law. It is also our assessment that military jurisdiction in such cases is not satisfactory, as the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and the OAS InterAmerican Commision on Human Rights have both concluded repeatedly that military justice in human rights cases is not compatible with a country's obligations under international human rights law.

As the United States has increased funding for alternative development programs in Bolivia, we believe the United States should evaluate the efficacy of these programs. Bolivian government and U.S. officials admit that alternative development has not kept pace with eradication in Bolivia, and the economic hardships in the region have fueled existing social conflict. The U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention reports that only one-quarter to one-half of families in the Chapare region have received alternative crop assistance, leaving thousands of families with no livelihood once their coca has been eradicated. Those who have received assistance often claim that they are unable to sell the crops that they have been told to grow because in some cases the prices for crops involved in the programs have fallen because of overproduction, and fluctuating market conditions. We understand that implementing such programs is not simple, but believe that it is critical that the U.S. improve efforts to assist national governments in addressing the widespread rural poverty that is at the root of illicit cultivation.

We thank you for taking the time to consider our concerns, and await your response.


Maurice D. Hinchey (D-New York)
Howard L. Berman (D-California)
Joseph Crowley (D-New York)
James McGovern (D-Massachusetts)
Lanes Evans (D-Illinois)
Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Illinois)
John Conyers (D-Michigan)

Members of the United States Congress

From the daily Opinión, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Translated by The Narco News Bulletin

November 19, 2001


Ambassador Manuel Rocha



"Bolivia is conducting a heroic and tremendously sacrificial battle against narco-trafficking, changing its image in the entire world, beginning with the United States,"said the US Ambassador in Bolivia, Manuel Rocha. The North American diplomat, interviewed yesterday by OPINION while he participated in the demonstrations of the Aeromodelisma airfield of Laguna Alalay.

Ambassador Rocha, who informally has stayed in our city since last Friday, responded to questions in a serious manner, in the informal context of the lagoon, where he was accompanied by his family, although he did not rise to make commentaries about the national political situation saying it was outside of his area of competence. He referred to the situation of the country after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the problem that Bolivia confronts currently with the mobilization of coca producers and the help that the US loans to the Bolivian government in to combat drugs.

Opinión: The country is in the middle of a convulsion that has various fronts. What is your opinion of this and how can it be solved?

Rocha: I believe that the world is living through a very difficult moment. Bolivia is not the only country in these circumstances. In the United States we live, perhaps, in the most difficult moment of our history because of the terrorist attacks suffered in New York and Washington. Thus, Bolivia is not alone. To the South of Bolivia is the brother country of Argentina that suffers a very deep crisis. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez must lead while oil prices fall. The important thing for the Bolivianos is to understand that the crisis doesn't only affect them. It is also shared by others, including the crisis that challenges the United States and the beginning of an economic recession that will affect the world economy. I am and tend to be an optimistic person. However, the moment lived by Bolivia - which, it must be said, that the nation has advanced much, consolidated its democracy, made economic reforms that are an example for the rest of Latin America and conducts a heroic and tremendously sacrificial battle against narco-trafficking - has changed its image throughout the world, beginning with the United States. In the middle of the recession and crisis that affects Bolivia I see, in the mid and long term, a sufficiently positive panorama. In the short term, obviously, the situation is difficult. But, for example, we have seen the change of President Banzer to his Vice President Jorge Quiroga without any political crisis, giving an example of democracy, institutionalism and strengthening of the same. In the second place, it must be understood that Bolivia currently has a potential to export gas and that President Quiroga, with admirable ability, is make gestures so that future generations have all the benefits of its exportation.

Opinión: Will violence solve the problem in the Chapare?

Rocha: I don't want to involve myself too much in internal affairs but I know that in a democracy and a state of law the government has to respect the law and defend those who engage in legal activity such as alternative development and all those who choose to stop growing coca and working in those types of crops. The government must protect the 18,000 families that participate in alternative development. It must be understood that the violence has its origin in persons who violate the law and want to create social conflicts. A little while ago, the situation of confrontations created by the hostility of groups that put the forces of eradication who continue their work of getting Bolivia out of the coca-cocaine circuit, under siege was the first stone cast in this sense.

Opinión: What support is given to those who work in alternative development?

Rocha: The Bolivian government has asked for collaboration in the "Dignity Plan." We have decided to support three parts of the plan: eradication, interdiction and alternative development. For me, the last point is a human and respectful manner, in terms of human rights, to get people who grow coca illegally out of that line of work as an alternative to jail and repression. This behavior, that permits one to gain a living in a licit job that also makes possible the taking of loans, technical assistance, community roads and the betterment of schools and towns, as has happened with the 18,000 families that participate in the plan. The commitment of the US and Bolivian governments on the issue of Alternative Development is going to be maintained because it is the best option that can be offered to all the people who grow coca.

"Hero" Who "Sacrifices" Bolivian Lives,

And Blames Bin Laden for His Failures, Too

U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Manuel Rocha

Opinión: Beyond Alternative Development, in what other ways can the aid be amplified?

Rocha: Beyond alternative development, the Bolivian people should know that we work with the government exploring the possibilities of exportation of gas, which would bring many benefits to the economy and to the Bolivians in the future. In the mid-term, we will work very closely with the Minister of Foreign Investment, Claudio Mansilla, with President Jorge Quiroga and the members of the Bolivian textile industry for the opening of markets in this sense. It has been very advanced and the last word still has not been spoken on this issue. In a parallel manner, the Embassy has joined in this call because it causes no damage to the US textile industry. The approval of this opening depends on the agenda of Congress, distracted now by Osama Bin Laden and the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Now, the Congressmen and Senators are obliged to attend to the laws that have to do with the security of the United States. If this Mr. (Bin Laden) had not been involved on the North American scene, the opening for Bolivian textiles would already be guaranteed.


From, November 19, 2001

Translated by The Narco News Bulletin

Growers Say the

Government Lied

Three of the nine coca growers wounded during the confrontations on Thursday have denied the government stories that state that the coca producers had surrounded a military truck to steal weapons.

The three coca growers, Benito Maida, Carlos Merino and Filiberto Castro, told the same story from separate locations in the Viedma hospital in the state capital. They said that the incidents occurred in the middle of a confrontation when the coca growers began to blockade the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway…

"First, a thousand compañeros joined together and we went to block the highway. Then the army arrived and began to disperse us with teargas and rubber bullets, but while we fled, they some compañeros began to fall dead," said Benito Maida, one of the most affected after receiving a high-caliber bullet in his left shoulder.

"Thank God I am alive… but this will not soften the struggle or the movement until we obtain our goals," said Carlos Merino.

Among them, Filiberto Castro Fernández, who lost the fingers on his left hand, explained that after the gases and rubber bullets, the coca growers threw stones and that's when the shooting of bullets by the government began "recklessly and without measure."

"I was running and felt a pain. I fell, while other compañeros tried to help me, but when I turned around I saw the others fallen on the ground. It was a massacre. I was twenty meters from where it happened," he said.

Public Defender: The Military Solution Doesn't Work

The increased violence in the Chapare is an example of how the "military solution" used by the government to control the region doesn't work and this is the moment to choose other paths.

This reflection came from the Public Defender, Ana María Romero de Campero, worried about the escalation of violence in the Chapare region that took the lives of three coca farmers during the confrontations in Senda Seis, 200 kilometers from Cochabamba.

As she interviewed the Defense Minister and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Oscar Guilarte and Alvin Anaya, they explained that the Armed Forces follow orders: "The Army doesn't deliberate."

She explained that the solution belongs to the high politicians of the country, that is to say, the current government. "It is hoped that this solution will come," she said…

"So many troops in such a small place, with the people in a state of despair, is very grave problem," she said, anguished.

"The shadows of the night belong to everyone, including those who shoot, and it will be very difficult to determine guilt," she said upon nightfall, hoping for good news from the Chapare.

From the daily Opinión, Cochabamba, Bolivia

November 19, 2001

Translated by The Narco News Bulletin

Morales Speaks

of a Revolution

The coca growers leader and congressman, Evo Morales Ayma, said that the conditions for a revolution or a social change exist in the country. "If they want to accuse me of sedition, let them," said the top representative of the board of the six federations of coca producers in the Cochabamba Tropic. Led by coca growers wearing green shirts and chewing coca, Morales Ayma assured that last weekend the Army of the People entered an epoch last weekend of defending the poor of the Chapare and the rest of the country. "At these heights, when abuse becomes the institutionalized norm, and the country is subjected to a grave economic crisis that is hardening the poverty, we must seek methods to end the neoliberal system and the empire," he said in Lauca Eñe.

After the three deaths last Thursday, he coca growers decided to declare "war" on the government, demanding a concession of one cato of coca (40 square meters) per family. Last week, the coca grower's coordinating body headed by Evo Morales decided to radicalize its pressure tactics, reforming self-defense committees and an "ant-style" blockade of the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway, that is today strongly guarded by police and the military. The unionized coca growers accused the government of drowning the dialogue and forcing a confrontation by sending military police and even foreign forces into the Chapare to stop social protest by using violence.

"The error has been made by the government and the armed forces to continue massacring and humiliating the Bolivian people, directly serving interests outside of the State," he said. In his judgment, it was the military that began to shoot against the farmer's movement. "Now I can see why many people organize themselves, prepare themselves and are planning armed movements against injustice and abuse," said the Congressman Morales.

From the daily La Razon, La Paz, Bolivia

November 19, 2001

Translated by The Narco News Bulletin

2 More Sectors

Join the Protest

The Water Board of Cochabamba and the Union of Peasant Workers of Bolivia (SCUTCB) decided yesterday to begin mobilizations in support of the coca growers of the Chapare.

The peasant farmers have called for a blockade of highways and protest marches in the entire country beginning on Thursday.

The regions of Chuquisaca and Beni will begin the mobilizations with a blockade and other federations will decide whether to join the blockade or a hunger strike after the Thursday marches. On this day, the peasant farmers of La Paz will enter the capital city.

The Water Board has called for a blockade of undefined length beginning tomorrow. The local Water Committees and Neighborhood Councils of Cochabamba will participate.

They demand an end to the "massacre of farmers and indigenous in the tropic."

From the ANF news service, November 19, 2001

Translated by The Narco News Bulletin

Farmers will March On La Paz

and Block Highways on Thursday

"It will be a strike of undefined length, and a radical march, until the government responds to the demands of the farmers and demilitarizes the Chapare," warns El Mallku

This Thursday, thousands of peasant farmers will begin a grand protest march to the government capital in support of the coca growers of the Chapare and the Movement of Farmers Without Land, and will also demand the presidency comply with the treaty signed with the people of Pucarani. The Executive Secretary of CSUTCB, Felipe Quispe Huanca ("El Mallku," or, "The Great Condor") reported that this position was adopted by his national board in an emergency meeting that the union held. Quispe Huanca indicated that the State Federation of Farmers known as Tupac Katari will lead this mobilization which will encompass the entire country in a step-by-step escalated campaign, resulting in a blockade of highways and of economic products.

Indefinite Strike

"It will be an indefinite strike and a radical march until the government responds to the demands of the farmers and demilitarizes the Chapare," warned El Mallku, saying that the CSUTCB will not leave its sectors unprotected in the conflict. El Mallku also lamented that the government of Jorge Quiroga is not keeping its work nor the treaty signed last August 23rd, and reminded of the speech by the commander in chief in which he promised to work extra hours to surpass the economic and social crisis the country lives.

Government has not Complied

"The government has not complied. It has promised not to make war and to be in peace. However, it continues generating confrontations, violence and blood and the farmers movement will not permit more of these acts," said the farmer leader. In the same form, he reported that in the treaty of Pucarani the President promised to deliver 1,000 tractors to technologize the agriculture industry, but, in the receipt of their purchase only 500 are mentioned. "This is a mamada," said the leader. (Loosely translated: "This sucks.")

Background Info

Nov. 16, 2001: Bolivia Burning

Archives of Last Year's Press Briefings on Bolivia:

10/5-10/2000: Five Days That Shook Bolivia

10/3-4/2000: Generals Don't Want to Fight Bolivian People

10/1-2/2000: Zero Hour in Bolivia

9/29-30/2000: Bolivia, US, "Narco-tize" the Conflict

9/28/2000: Spotlight on Bolivia, in Context of Perú and Colombia

The Fall of AP's Bolivia Correspondent:

McFarren Part I

McFarren Part II

Washington Post Report on McFarren's Fall

For More Narco News, Click Here

Authentic Journalism, the antidote to official Mamadas