Last Sunday night in Bolivia around 10pm, 220 police, armed and accompanied by trained dogs, surrounded Mexico’s Embassy in La Paz.
According to a statement released by the Bartolina Sisa Resistance organisation, it was an attempt to seize the seven former government ministers who worked with exiled former President Evo Morales.
It said: ‘The Former Ministers of the Presidency were Juan Ramon Quintana, the Former Minister of Cultures and Tourism Vilma Alanoca Mamani, the Former Minister of Justice Hector Arce Zaconeta, the Former Minister of Government Hugo Moldiz Mercado, the Former Minister of Defence Javier Zabaleta Lopez, the Former Governor of the Oruro Department Victor Hugo Vasquez and the Former Director of the Information Technology Agency Nicolas Laguna – who all sought asylum at the Mexican Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia in November 2019.
‘More than six months have passed in which the former officials of President Evo Morales’ government were isolated in the Embassy of the United Mexican States in La Paz – because the de-facto regime led by Jeanine Áñez refused them safe passage to move to Mexico.
‘For months paramilitary groups were camped outside the Mexican Embassy. The Bolivian police is under the command of Government Minister Arturo Murillo, and is the most repressive authority of the de-facto regime.
‘In November 2019, when the US-backed coup was imminent, paramilitary groups led by Luis Fernando Camacho circulated lists that included the names of many of the former (Movement for Socialism) MAS officials to be killed.
‘Fearing for their lives, the seven former authorities sought asylum in the Mexican Embassy.
‘Their families were also severely harassed and threatened, and most of them had their homes raided, looted, destroyed and even burned.
‘It is necessary to emphasise that as soon as Arturo Murillo the de-facto Government Minister took office, he publicly declared that he would “hunt down” Former Head of Cabinet Juan Ramon Quintana.
‘Initially, when they fled into the Mexican Embassy, none of the former ministers had any legal proceedings or warrants for their arrest against them.
‘As the days passed, politically motivated accusations were laid against them using false evidence as part of the “Lawfare” in Bolivia.
‘Their daily lives have been marred with threats and attempts to invade the Mexican Embassy by the de facto regime which created major diplomatic incidents with the governments of Mexico and Spain. These have been extensively reported by international media.
‘In addition, the seven former ministers live with constant intimidation, harassment and threats not only from the police but also by drones, interference of communications and by extremely violent vigilante groups camped outside the Embassy, laying siege, even during the quarantine period due to Covid-19.
‘The Bolivian dictatorship holds the former officials hostage and openly violates International Law. Bolivia and Mexico are part of the American Convention of Human Rights (CADH) which in its Article 22.7 “Right of Movement and Residence” establishes that everyone has the right to seek and receive asylum in foreign territory.
‘The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visited Bolivia on recently and in its ‘Preliminary Observations’ put on record the following: “Deliver safe passage to people who are asylum seekers in the Embassies of Mexico and Argentina or in other diplomatic headquarters, so that they can exercise their Human Right to obtain asylum and refuge, in such a way that they do not break up family units.’’ Jeanine Áñez has ignored this recommendation.
‘We are extremely concerned that the de-facto regime disguised behind religion and false democracy, acts with extreme violence and racism against the Bolivian people like it happened in the Massacres of Sacaba and Senkata in November 2019, where mainly indigenous people were killed.
‘The coup plotters have transformed Bolivia into a “lawless” state where corruption, abuse of power, political persecution, torture, imprisonments, attacks on freedom of expression, nepotism and many more are at the forefront of their agenda and hate speech from the regime increased.
‘The UN has also expressed concern about the political persecution against former MAS officials and supporters.
‘We denounce to the world the flagrant violation of the seven former government officials’ human rights, and demand that the Jeanine Áñez de-facto regime respect the Geneva Convention and immediately grant to them safe passage to Mexico.’
Áñez, a former senator, has been interim president since assuming power in a coup last November
‘The installation of the Áñez government has been marked by the blood of Bolivians,’ said Valeria Silva Guzmán, a former MAS congresswoman now claiming asylum in Mexico. ‘Deaths, prison, repression, political persecution … it’s basically a regime of terror.’
One of Áñez’s first acts was to authorise the use of lethal force by police and soldiers. The decree was later rescinded, but security forces meanwhile killed up to 28 demonstrators, including in two shootings widely described as massacres. The killings are yet to be investigated.
In January, Áñez declared her own candidacy for president in the forthcoming elections – a U-turn on her previous promises. She has since postponed the polls originally scheduled for 3 May, arguing they should wait until the worst of the pandemic has passed, which has so far seen more than 8,000 cases in Bolivia and 293 confirmed deaths.
Health authorities estimate that the country’s coronavirus epidemic will reach its peak in late July or early August, with some 100,000 infections and between 4-7,000 fatalities.
By Tuesday, the authorities had registered more than 19,000 infections with 632 deaths.
The country’s legislature last week approved September 6 as the date for the elections, already delayed by the pandemic, although the decision still has to be ratified by Áñez.
‘Postponing probably for a month or two months is not going to hurt anyone,’ Áñez said in a speech in the southern city of Tarija.
A delayed election ‘means all Bolivians would win’, the right-wing leader said. She added however that she would ‘abide by everything established by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, because we all want elections.’
The September 6 date was approved after an agreement between the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the political parties.
However, Áñez’s right-wing party abstained from the vote in Congress that approved the deal.