Massacres in Bolivia: Not in Our Name.

Oct 20, 2003

U.S. citizens living in Bolivia,have prepared a letter to U.S. Ambassador in Bolivia, David Greenlee, and U.S. Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Noriega, calling on the U.S. government to recognize and respect Bolivian’s right to determine its own destiny without outside interference.

Social protest in Bolivia has been met with fierce and deadly government repression that has paralyzed the country.  Faced with increasingly limited room for participation in narrow political processes, many sectors of` Bolivian society have resorted to marches and road blockades to make their voices heard.

The exportation of the country’s natural gas reserves to the United States through Chile was the last straw for frustrated sectors, triggering protests that have been met with deadly use of force from the Bolivian police and armed forces.  During the past month, at least 64 people have been killed and over 400 have been injured, the great majority from bullet wounds.  During the fourteen months of the Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada administration, more people have been killed by the security forces than any year of military dictatorship in Bolivia.

As a result of the spiraling violence and loss of life, protesting sectors have demanded the resignation of President Sánchez de Lozada.  Bolivian vice president Carlos Mesa has distanced himself from the Sánchez de Lozada administration, stating that he cannot be party to further loss of life. The mayors of La Paz and El Alto, the town just outside of the capital where the protests began, as well as the ex- ombudsperson for human rights, Ana María Romero de Campero, have called for Sánchez de Lozada to step down.

The U.S. government has closed ranks with Sánchez de Lozada, blocking a peaceful solution and making continued violence almost inevitable.  On October 13, a U.S. State Department spokesman affirmed, “The American people and their government support Bolivia’s democratically elected president, Gonzalo Sánchez De Lozada… The international community and the United States will not tolerate any interruption of constitutional order and will not support any regime that results from undemocratic means.”

Unconditional support for the incumbent president blocks the possibility of the president’s resignation, advocated by a significant portion of the population, and permitted by the Bolivian constitution.  Once again, the U.S. Government is impeding peaceful conflict resolution through dialogue in Bolivia, as it has done in the past in regard to U.S.-funded forced coca eradication policy.

As American citizens and, we call on the U.S. government to cease intervention in the present conflict.  Bolivians must be allowed to determine their own political future, free from U.S. pressure or sanctions, within the framework of their own laws and constitution.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Ledebur – Andean Information Network, Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Jim Shultz – The Democracy Center Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Tom Kruse – Researcher, La Paz, Bolivia.
Sinclair Lewis – New York University, New York and La Paz.
Forrest Hylton – Researcher and Historian, La Paz, Bolivia.
Ben Dangl - Freelance Writer, Cochabamba, Bolivia.

 

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