Morales Could Be Removed from Office This Week
the Single Largest Vote Getter in Bolivian History
Al Giordano, D.R. 2001
Narco News '02
The War Over Sacaba
By Luis A. Gómez
News Andean Bureau Chief
It was the eldest market
for coca leaf. For
more than 100 years, peasant farmers had sold their products
in it. That's why, when the Bolivian government's Supreme Decree
# 25415 prohibited the sale of coca from the Chapare region in
the Sacaba market (defining it as a product of illegal crops),
the coca growers didn't think twice about marching through this
town (14 kilometers from Cochabamba) to defend it.
Last Tuesday, January
15th, supported by other social sectors, members of the Six Federations
of Peasant Farmers of the State of Cochabamba began a bloody
week of field battles against the combined forces of the military
and the police.
Last Saturday, after four
days living in a state of war, Sacaba awoke to gun shots and
with a result of four coca growers assassinated by the repressive
forces of the Bolivian State. Three soldiers and one police officer
also died in the conflict. On that day, convened by mediators
(including the Catholic Church and independent Human Rights organizations),
they decided to retreat from the town, not respond to the aggression,
and begin a dialogue with the authorities. However, President
Jorge Quiroga refused to dialogue with them, accusing the principal
leaders of being murderers and ordering the round-up of 100 of
Evo Morales, federal congressman
and leader of the coca growers of the Chapare threated to begin
a national blockade of highways this week, as well as to surround
the city of Cochabamba if his compañeros are not freed.
Yesterday, in the early afternoon hours, the government responded
with more accusations, and the arrest of Margarita Terán,
one of the youngest and sharpest leaders among the coca growers.
At the same time, congressmen from the governing coalition, following
the dictates of the president, have gained the support of the
opposition parties to remove Evo Morales from his Congressional
seat and the immunity it grants him.
In spite of the fact that
Civil Society has launched protests against the attacks, and
that some jurists have declared the aforementioned decree to
be unconstitutional, the government has not ceded in its pretensions
to dismantle the coca growers' organization in the Chapare. In
fact, with the four deaths last week, there are now 61 coca growers
who have died in the last eight months of conflict - during the
Quiroga presidency - and it has not ended yet.
In a gesture of solidarity
with the coca growers, the Secretary General of the Farm Workers
Federation (CSUTCB, in its Spanish initials), Felipe Quispe,
aka El Mallku, has sent an ultimatum to the government: It has
four days to free to coca growers' leaders. If not, the farmers
will begin blockades of the highways in the entire nation. Although
a resolution approving this action is still required from the
national leadership of the peasant farmers, El Mallku has left
it very clear in his declaration that he is not going to abandon
the coca growers in their moment of need. This could mean a conflict
of the dimensions of that which shook Bolivia in April of 2000.
Kind readers, this report
has barely begun. Tomorrow, different questions will have to
be resolved: the definitive posture of the Bolivian government
(criticized by its own leading Human Rights officials), the probable
removal from Congress of Evo Morales, and the active participation
of the farmers' movement in the high plains region of the Andes.
In this war against drugs that leaves us at the mercy of the
United States government, the least powerful among us continue
being the most rebellious. They, who could stay under the boot,
instead refuse to lose their history and ancestral leaf
and Narco News will follow their steps in the coming days to
keep you well informed of what comes next.
more Narco News, click
Doesn't Wait for Orders from Headquarters