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"The Name of Our Country is América"

-- Simón Bolívar

Today's Press Briefing

September 30, 2000

Bolivia Government "Narco-tizes" The Conflict

from the daily Los Tiempos

Saturday, September 30, 2000

La Paz | Los Tiempos.- The central elements of the message of president Hugo Banzer thursday night were that the eradication of coca will not be stopped and he will not permit resistance to the construction of military bases in Chapare. In this, the government narco-tizes the conflict. He received the support of the United States for this, that newly backed the fight against drug trafficking. In previous days, the president made a pilgrimage to the armed forces to secure explicit support for the anti-blockade actions....

The US Embassy already knew what he would say; it had nothing left to do but listen to the reiteration of it in the voice of the same President. The eradication of coca will not stop, not now that only remain 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of the 38,000 that there had been three years ago, an action for which he received much praise and millions of dollars.

29 September 2000

US State Department Press Release:

Text: United States Supports Bolivia's "Plan Dignidad"

(U.S. assistance will contribute to Bolivian anti-drug efforts)

Office of the Spokesman

September 29, 2000



The United States and the international community fully support
Bolivian President Banzer's Plan Dignidad to rid the country of
illegal coca. As President Clinton told President Banzer in New York,
the United States has matched word with deed in this support.

We have a considerable assistance package for Bolivia in the next
year, much of which will go to alternative development and to benefit
the rural poor. In addition, over the course of the last decade
(1991-1999), the United States has forgiven nearly $450 million of
Bolivian official debt under various reduction programs. The United
States also provides in excess of $40 million annually in
counter-narcotics assistance for Bolivia, and an additional $110
million is earmarked for this purpose out of the recent supplemental
appropriation for Colombia and the region. We will continue to work in
international fora to garner even more support and assistance for

In that regard, the debt reduction process is well underway in Bolivia
and the Government of Bolivia has launched discussions at the grass
roots level on what can be done to alleviate poverty. We believe that
these are responsible actions on the part of the Banzer Government,
which is intent upon ridding Bolivia of illegal coca and attracting
foreign investment in order to generate jobs.

For these reasons, we believe both the demands and violent tactics of
the coca growers are destructive to Bolivia's national interests. We
share and fully support President Banzer's call for communication and
reconciliation and urge all Bolivians to take heed of the plea by
10,000 women in Cochabamba for peace, dialogue and cooperation in
achieving a brighter future for all Bolivians.

(end text)

From the daily Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Bolivia

September 30, 2000

The Blockade Will be Radicalized in All Areas

Five thousand workers of different sectors of the state solicited the resignation of prefect José Orías Arredondo for the deaths in Parotani on September 24, and decided to radicalize the blockades in the neighborhoods and the historic zone of the city. The human mass concentrated at 10:30 a.m. in San Sebastián Plaza and marched through the principal streets and avenues of the city shouting slogans against the government "for its incapacity to resolve the demands of the different social sectors in conflict in this country."

The union movement once again ratified its solidarity and support to the coca-growers, peasants, teachers and the demands to defend water and life.

From Los Tiempos

September 30, 2000

Why hasn't the ruler Banzer yet crushed the movement?

This story indicates: not even the soldiers will follow all orders....

"Filming is Prohibited!" "Soldiers, Shoot Them!"

Villa Tunari Los Tiempos.- The journalists had been covering the trip of coca-growers leader Evo Morales, who, at 2 p.m., boarded a helicopter in the airfield of Villa Tunari to go to Santa Cruz and participate in the dialogue with government representatives and the Church. Upon returning and passing by the corner of the office of the National Highway Service, where they found military units, the photographer of ATB began to film the building that was guarded by two soldiers. One individual, for his short hair and camoflage shirt, presumed to be a mid-ranking military official, came to the door and shouted: "Filming is prohibited!"

"Why? What crime am I commiting? I am in the street," responded the journalist. But the arguments didn't seem to convince the soldier that continued insisting in the restriction. "You continue with your work and I with mine," the cameraman said as he continued filming the soldiers and the threatening individual.

This infuriated the military official, who, looking at the soldiers gave the order that nobody wanted: "Shoot!" The journalists, of Los Tiempos, Opinión and ATB looked perplexed during the order. The soldiers couldn't believe it either. "Go ahead an shoot, I am filming," was the cameraman's response. "Soldier! Shoot!" repeated the order of the military official. The soldiers loaded their arms, but could not bring themselves to aim and fire. Another military official exited from the building and begged calm of the first. Both returned inside and it was not possible to see what they were doing.

from the daily La prensa, La Paz, Bolivia

September 30, 2000

Dialogue Continues Today

Government and Coca-Growers Find a Few Points of Agreement

By Daniela Otero

Santa Cruz / There was little advance in the dialogue iniciated yesterday in Santa Cruz between the coca growers of Chapare and government representatives with the mediation of the Church, the Public Defender and the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights of Bolivia. "There is zero progress, we have not advanced at all, except in the theme of four wounded who were brought to Santa Cruz and whose medical costs will be paid by the government for humanitarian questions," said Evo Morales seconds after he left the room...

The coca producers insisted in demanding that the government suspend the forced eradication of their crops and permit each family to maintain one garden -- of 40 by 40 meters -- of the crop. But the government insisted that "Plan Dignity," that has as its goal "Zero Coca by 2000" is not negotiable. "We want the government to tell us how the peasant families are going to live when they take away the coca crops," said the coca growers leader, and he announced that there is neither any possibility that the coca growers will back down from their demands... Their alternative proposal is that no family can plant more than one garden of coca and if they exceed this limit they will be punished by being banned from growing coca in that terrain "for life."

Communiqué from Bolivian Libertarian Youth

From: "Juventudes Libertarias"

Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Overwhelmed by the current conflicts, and with no idea of what to do next,
the government shows signs of losing control. The President and officials in
the areas of conflict are relying on the military and police to unblock the
roads. This has resulted in more than seven deaths.

Meanwhile, in the political arena, there have been increasing numbers of
calls for the President's resignation. A former government official,
Remedios Loza, who belongs to a condepista faction, has suggested that
General Banzer leave office. And the MNR--an opposition party with
increasing representation in the parliament--has questioned whether the
President and his allies are capable of governing.

After eight days of intense conflict, the main highways of the country
remain paralyzed. Long-distance transport has been suspended since Monday
(September 25) because of the highway blockades, according to provincial,
military and police officials, and reports by correspondents of the news
agency Agencia de Noticias Fides.

The highways connecting the seat of government, La Paz with Oruro,
Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Tarija, Sucre (legal capital and seat of judiciary),
and Potosi are completely blocked by millions of stones and tree trunks,
with profound social, political and economic consequences. The presence of
the military troops on all the roads has not resolved the grave conflict.

In the city of Valle, the coalition against the water privatization plan has
held a public meeting and called on the population to increase the
blockades of bridges and streets. In the city of Cochabamba, from noon
onward barricades were erected in the main streets. Meanwhile, the rural
people from various districts increased the pressure with more barricades
and blockades on several parts of the Cochabamba-Oruro highway.

Nine days ago, the rural and urban teachers went on strike, demanding a 50
percent increase in their salaries, cancellation of the plan to tighten the
central regulation of the education system, and some other things. The rural
people oppose the Water Resource Law (for the privatization of the water
supply) and are calling for it to be reconsidered, along with other demands.
The coca growers are mainly requesting a stop to the building of military
barracks in Chapare and an end to the coca eradication program. The water
coalition supports these demands, and is also calling on the government to
break the contract with Aguas del Tunari, the local affiliate of the
multinational Bechtel Corporation.

On September 25, the government of the bestial Banzer again bared its claws.
When the blockaders permitted a stranded transport of chickens and other
goods to pass Parotani, one hundred heavily armed military troops were
placed in the trucks and snuck through the barricades.

According to the Human Rights Assembly, once the military troops were
discovered violence erupted, and some people were killed.

There have been six people murdered by the army, dozens injured by gunshots,
and more than four people are unaccounted for. Today, a unionist, Wilma
Plata was brutally beaten and detained. Other leaders have gone underground.
Meanwhile, the government has begun to dismiss striking teachers, intending
to replace them with scabs. The education minister has been told to get new
graduates and retired teachers to fill the vacancies.

In addition to the struggles of the teachers, rural people and coca growers,
there are twelve other groups of people who are supporting them, as well as
having their own demands. Among these are the settlers of Hernando Siles,
Chuquisaca, who have surrounded an oil field owned by Pairimiri, and are
making various demands.

The health care workers announced a twenty-four hour strike for Tuesday, to
protest the privatization of the National Health Fund and to support the
demands of the other groups. The Civic Committee of La Paz called a work
stoppage for Wednesday to support the demands of all groups.

The rural people are demanding the end of the Water Law project, including
rural electrification. They are also supporting the rural teachers.

In several struggles, ordinary people have gone beyond their reformist
leaders. For example, the rural people of the high plateau (altiplano) burnt
the car of their leader, Felix Santos, and threatened to beat him, because
he was attempting to break their strike.

The workers of the cement plant in Sucre declared a strike on September 24,
and occupied the airport of the city. They stopped the landing of the
industrialist Doria Medina, who is attempting to totally privatize the

The situation is very serious, not only because of the direct
confrontations, but also because of the scarcity of agricultural produce in
the cities, which are virtually blockaded.

Because of the situation, the Minister of the Economy, Ronald MacLean had to
cancel his trip to Prague, where he was to attend the summit of the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

On September 26, Bolivian anarchist groups mobilized to protest both the
Prague summit and the fascistic government.

from the Libertarian Youth (Anarcho-communist)

Updated at 5:34 p.m. EST September 30, 2000

From The Scotsman newspaper

Scot Tourist in Bolivia Finds Slave Working Conditions

...Juan Mamani considers himself one of the luckier men in Cerro Rico. A few years back, he was carrying 50kg sacks of rocks up and down these passages, all day, every day. Then one day he slipped on one of the wooden ladders between levels, and fell beneath a full bag, badly injuring his back. He had been on the verge of qualifying as a full member of the co-operative. "Thank God for that accident," says the 28-year-old, who now works here only part-time as a guide for tourists. "If I'd been here three months longer I would have been here for life."

Life here is usually rather short, due to the cocktail of lethal chemicals and gases which circulate in the unfiltered air. Juan's father has done well to make it to 53, having already lost 80 per cent of his lung capacity to silicosis. Most die within ten years of starting work, helped along by the constant breathing of acetylene vapour, asbestos particles and silica dust. "What is that smell?" asks a Canadian woman, as an unfamiliar, sickly-sweet odour envelops us. Juan rubs the low rock above us with his fingers, and shows us a white residue left on them. "Arsenic," he replies, chuckling nervously. "Useful for your mother-in-law!" This proves too much for the woman. At an altitude of 4330 metres - roughly equivalent to the summit of Mont Blanc - it is already hard enough to breathe. Now, gasping through her handkerchief, she begins to hyperventilate. A Dutch woman also begins to panic, and Juan quickly escorts them both back through the dark tunnels towards the exit....

Click Here for Full Story

September 29, 2000


Banzer vs. The People

Bolivian Insurgent: Ready for the "Clenched Fist" of President Banzer

Banzer Vows "Clenched Fist" Against Popular Movement

Everything is Negotiable Except the War on Drugs says Bolivian Ruler

A Narco News Global Alert

from The Economist of London
Sep 30th - Oct 6th 2000

Bolivia: Like Peru?


A rocky road for Banzer

AS BOLIVIA's president, Hugo Banzer, watched a civic parade in
his home city of Santa Cruz on September 24th, he was surprised
by a curious demonstration. Striking teachers held aloft the city's
green and white flag, dirt-smeared and crumpled, and then
ceremoniously scrubbed it in a bucket of water. Their message
was that Mr Banzer's administration had sullied the country with
corruption and misgovernment.

Novel in Bolivia, such flag-washing protests have been regularly
held in Peru by opponents of President Alberto Fujimori. Now Mr
Banzer, too, is facing demands that he should follow his Peruvian
colleague and step down. Since mid-September, for the second
time in six months, Bolivia has been almost paralysed by protests.
Barricades have closed the trunk roads. In clashes between
protesters and police, at least five people were killed, and more
than 50 injured.

Several different groups have been involved. They include coca
farmers, angry at an American-backed anti-drug programme under
which more than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of coca have
been forcibly erradicated since Mr Banzer was elected in 1997.
But the coca farmers, who enjoy less public sympathy than in the
past, are not alone. Many Bolivians have been angered by the
government's apparent complacency in the face of a stagnant
economy and widespread poverty. Peasant farmers, transport
workers and civic groups have staged their own protests.
Teachers, who typically earn $100 a month, are striking for a 50%

Similar blockades in April forced the government to concede a
wage increase of that order to the police, who had mutinied, and to
scrap the privatisation of the water company in Cochabamba,
Bolivia's third city. The government had hoped to avoid further
trouble with a consultation exercise, begun in June. Its aim is to
draw up a national anti-poverty plan using some $1.3 billion in debt-
relief under an international scheme to alleviate the debts of poor
countries. But the protesters are unimpressed. "Nothing has
changed," says Oscar Olivera, a Cochabamba civic leader.

The coca farmers want at least 6,000 hectares of coca in the
Chapare, an area north-east of Cochabamba, to be preserved for
traditional use (many Bolivians chew the leaves, or drink infusions
of them). And they want the government to drop its plans both to
build three army barracks in the Chapare and to start erradicating
coca in the Yungas region north of La Paz. Backing down on these
issues would get Mr Banzer into trouble with the United States.

The president has cancelled a trip to Japan. The government has
accused the opposition National Revolutionary Movement (MNR) of
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, Mr Banzer's predecessor, of plotting
to overthrow him. The MNR denies the charge, though smaller
opposition parties have called for the president, whose term lasts
to 2002, to step down. Unlike Mr Fujimori, Mr Banzer, who ruled as
a dicatator in the 1970s but is now a democrat, enjoys legitimacy.
But his competence is another matter.

A Pro-Government Communiqué from the Associated Press, which has mainly been AWOL in the day-to-day coverage of this mounting conflict. Note that this story has no voice from the opposition quoted. The last story filed by AP, on September 26, was about Bolivian military actions against the uprising. But when the people act, AP is mute. Banzer speaks, and AP files a story...

Bolivian President Addresses Nation

By PETER McFARREN, Associated Press Writer

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) - Bolivia's president blamed a rash of violent protests on cocaine traffickers, saying Thursday that they're trying to destabilize Bolivia in order to protect their drug crops.

President Hugo Banzer said in an address Thursday evening that the government will stand firm in its effort to eliminate cocaine trafficking in the country. But violent protests of the government effort has left 10 people dead and more than 100 injured in the last week.

"For us to stop the eradication of coca leaves is to turn over the nation to cocaine traffickers," Banzer said. "We will not surrender in our fight against cocaine trafficking, and those who believe we will are wrong. We will not tolerate any more violence and disorder."

His remarks were the first since coca leaf growers and farmers began setting up roadblocks throughout the country to protest the eradication effort. On a separate front, public school teachers went on a general strike this week to protest government layoffs.

"We are facing acts of sedition that are being led by sectors backed by cocaine traffickers," the president said.

A clash with soldiers Thursday killed two farmers and a school teacher in the Lake Titicaca border town of Huarina. Two coca farmers were killed Wednesday in the Chapare region. Confrontations between soldiers trying to lift roadblocks and protesting coca producers, farmers and teachers left five others dead this week.

About 5,000 acres of coca leaf remain in the Chapare, a lush tropical region 380 miles east of La Paz. It's about 5 percent of what existed four years ago. Farmers are feeling the loss their main cash crop - the base ingredient used to make cocaine.

Banzer has said Bolivia will no longer be producing cocaine by the end of the year.
The roadblocks went up two weeks ago in the Chapare, after coca farmers demanded the government stop its eradication of coca plants and abandon plans to build three military barracks in the region.

The roadblocks spread to the Bolivian Andean highlands, where farmers demanded revision of land reform legislation and an end to coca leaf eradication efforts.

They have interrupted traffic to Argentina, Chile, Peru and across the country, and left hundreds of trucks and buses stranded. Thousands of tons of food have been dumped and left rotting because of the roadblocks.

Vegetables and fruit have nearly disappeared from city markets. Meat, dairy and other food products have been flown in from producing areas.

Government estimates of losses due to protests have surpassed $100 million.

The government mobilized thousands of soldiers and police to end the blockades, but new roadblocks go up as soon as old ones are cleared.

from the daily Los Tiempos, Cochambamba, Bolivia
September 29, 2000:

Banzer: "Enough"; Announces Clenched Fist

President Banzer is sees himself persecuted by the subversion of "adventurers" and drug traffickers. Yesterday he said so in a message to the nation. He also commented that the movement that convulses the country has other grave motives such as racial differences. "This is inconceivable and we are going to stop it," he said.

Unconfessable intentions are growing dangerously but "make no mistake, the authority exists because there is leadership and direction," said the President.

While the conflicts don't cease, 2,300 kilometers of inter-state highways in the state of Cochambamba stay without maintenance for more than a week. The military and trucking businesses lost almost $1.5 million dollars.

The threat: We are before a sedition. We will not tolerate more violence. Enough with the disorder, the adventures, and "uprisers," said Banzer in a message to the nation.

The justification: There are reasons to act, the citizens demand this action. We will defend democracy with our firmest decision," said the president.

Order will be imposed: Our conciliatory attitude has been confused with a lack of authority. Until now we have acted prudently.

Zero coca: We will not negotiate the (coca-eradication) goals of Plan Dignity. The fight against drug trafficking is not negotiable. Those who are against eradication are the drug traffickers.

More dialogue: Banzer left the door open for dialogue. Social leaders "El Mallku" and Evo Morales asked for guarantees to be included in the talks.

Three More Die

Three people died yesterday in Huarina, during a blockade. Soldiers shot without measuring the consequences. Banzer is convinced that his troops act with proper "responsibility and caution." They have his backing.

Human Rights organizations, the Church and the Public Defender announced the beginning today in Pucarani a dialogue will start to address the peasant issues. In La Paz the pay raise conflict will be analyzed and the coca growers problem, in Santa Cruz.

The blockade has caused losses of $13.5 million dollars in exports. Sales of quinine, soy, hardwood, cotton, palm and banana dropped considerably.

Evo: Take the Bases

"Take the bases", "bullet for bullet," "equal for equal", "we don't fear the tactic of bullets" by the government nor the "fascist positions" of the businessmen, were some of the phrases that the congressman and coca-growers' leader Evo Morales, during an intense calm that was seen yesterday in the tropic of Cochabamba.

In a press conference after the conclusion of an assembly of the six coca-growers federations, Morales reiterated their ultimatum to the national government and added that one of the first means the coca producers will take next week will be to take the sub-military bases and governmental institutions of the state of Cochabamba

Morales also exploded against private businessmen in Santa Cruz who he called "fascist hypocrites" because they receive contracts and loans from the government but do nothing to create jobs nor solve the country's problem.


More updates later in the day...

Thursday's Bolivia Press Briefing (Important Background Info)

September 22-27 Press Briefing: Perú Analysis

September 21 Press Briefing on the Closing of the Geopolitical Drug Observatory

Archive of Press Briefings September 19-20

Archive of Press Briefings September 8-18

Archive of Press Briefings September 1-7

Archive of Press Briefings from August 24-30

This is your war. This is your war on drugs. Any questions?

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