Translated by Forrest Hylton
Two complaints have made it clear how the military, as well as the judicial and the executive, violate the human rights not only of people participating in the blockade but of their own troops. On January 20, the President of the Human Rights Assembly in Santa Cruz used the recourse of Habeas Corpus against a prosecutor and a judge for violating due process in the case of 19 detained in the department of Cochabamba; phony evidence and torture were used to establish the guilt of the accused. And in el Alto, a group of mothers and fathers protested because their sons, who had completed their military service in 2002, have not returned home and, in many cases, nothing is known regarding their whereabouts.
Although President Gonzalo SÃ¡nchez de Lozada claims that the formation of a Joint Chiefs of Staff of the People does not concern him, the blockades continue and "Goni" refuses to address the issues that concern the majority of Bolivians: a pause in the eradication of coca, the export of natural gas to the U.S. via Chile, and the FTAA. On Monday, January 20, north of La Paz, the road from Alto Beni to North and South Yungas was blocked, and there were confrontations between those maintaining the blockade and those trying to pass through it. In PotosÃ, there were blockades in Rodero, Challamayo, Cucho Ingenio, and Totora Palca; in Oruro, in Machamarquita, miners and peasants continue to gather to blockade in spite of the militarization; there was a blockade and a march in Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and three people were disappeared.
On Tuesday 21, the Yungas remained closed by peasant colonizers and coca growers, while in northern PotosÃ there were sporadic blockades in which an elderly Indian peasant by the name of EcheverrÃa died in a confrontation; in San JuliÃ¡n and YapacanÃ, Santa Cruz, nocturnal blockades closed traffic to and from Cochabamba; in Machamarqita and Vila Vila, Oruro, the roads were closed. In Seven Curves, Cochabamba, a soldier died and three others were injured in an ambush staged by coca growersâ€™ militias. In Sucre the blockades were strongest, with between 400 and 500 people closing the roads in Tarabuco, Padilla, ZudaÃ±ez, Cayambuco and YamparÃ¡ez, as well as the roads to Cochabamba and PotosÃ.
In the midst of this agitation, senior citizens signed an agreement on January 21 indexing their retirement benefits to the dollar this year, which would give them an extra $10 each. The time limit of 48 hours that the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the People gave the government expired and the opposition and the government are further from reaching an agreement than ever. A State of Siege has been discounted for the moment, but Cochabamaba was completely militarized on January 21, and in La Paz, the repression meted out to the protesting teachers was savage and indiscriminate, with one teacher wounded and a journalist gassed in the face. The detention of Florentina Choque Mamani of the womenâ€™s Indian peasant federation Bartolina Sisa in the prison of Obrajes, for supposedly transporting a truck full of dynamite, show that the government does not respect the civil and human rights of its citizens; Florentina is guilty until proven innocent. And the preposterous accusation leveled by President SÃ¡nchez de Lozada that Evo Morales and the opposition receive funds from "outside agitators" demonstrates the political desperation of the government.
Though the government, the media, and some of the movements that have elected not to participate in the blockades exhaust themselves trying to show the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the People as the initiative of one man and one political party, Evo Morales and MAS (Movement Toward Socialism), in reality it represents a first attempt at integration within the movement; a possibility and a beginning that we should work to strengthen.