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Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 14:26:33 +0100


Bolivian campesinos, teachers, students, coca growers (cocaleros)
and other sectors stepped up coordinated actions during the week
of Sept. 25, staging demonstrations in the cities and shutting
down roads throughout rural areas in seven of Bolivia's ten
departments [see Update #556]. [CNN en Espanol 9/28/00, with info
from AP; Clarin (Buenos Aires) 9/29/00; Los Tiempos
9/26/00, 9/27/00; El Diario (La Paz) 9/26/00]

Campesinos Jhonny Jacinto Fuentes (or Saico, according to some
sources) and Pedro Vasquez were killed and 10 others were
on Sept. 24 in Parotani, when some 1,700 heavily armed troops
from combined police and military forces cracked down on
campesino protesters--reportedly armed with dynamite and rocks--
who were blocking the road between Cochabamba and Oruro in the
Chapare region.

"In a treacherous move, [Cochabamba] governor Jose Orias sent
soldiers to the area of Parotani, when we had arranged for a
truck carrying chickens and some stranded people to pass [the
barricades] in a peaceful way, with the mediation of the Church
and the Assembly," explained Sacha Llorenti of the Permanent
Assembly for Human Rights of Bolivia (APDHB). [Note: Update
incorrectly identified Orias as the "mayor" of Cochabamba; in
fact he is the governor of Cochabamba department.]

Interior Minister Guillermo Fortun promised an investigation, but
denied that troops had fired the shots; "presumably a driver
fired at the campesinos when he found himself attacked with rocks
and explosives," said Fortun.

Later on Sept. 24, campesino Modesto Mamani was shot to death
the area of Guaqui, La Paz department, on the highway that leads
to Peru. A witness said Mamami was shot by a hooded soldier. [La
Republica (Lima) 9/26/00 from AFP; LT 9/25/00; ED 9/28/00]

On Sept. 25, 17-year old high school student Rene Conde Colque
was shot to death by a military unit that was trying to clear a
highway in Puente Roto, Cesarzama, in the Chapare region. A
number of other protesters were wounded. Two more people died in
La Paz department on Sept. 25: agronomist Victor Camponovo
Bolanos was hit in the head by a rock thrown by protesters as he
tried to pass a roadblock in Kalajahuira; and 17-year old army
recruit Sergio Vinaya died while trying to break up a highway
roadblock in the Desaguadero area near Lake Titicaca. [LT
9/26/00; ED 9/26/00; Clarin 9/28/00]

On Sept. 27, two more deaths were reported in Vinchuta, in the
Chapare. Benigno Perez (or Siles) was asphyxiated the night
before by police tear gas; and the body of an unnamed canoe
operator was found beaten to death after he took part in the
protests. Witnesses say the canoe operator was beaten by troops
from the Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR). [LT 9/28/00; CNN en
Espanol 9/28/00 with info from AP]

On Sept. 28, campesinos Cirilo Choque Huanca and Toribio Chui
rural teacher Joaquin Morales were shot to death during protests
in Huarina, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Witnesses say a
Bolivian Air Force plane opened fire on the protesters.
Government officials say the plane only fired into the air, but
they said the autopsies would show if the deaths were caused by
the aircraft's 50-caliber bullets. Other versions indicate that
the plane dropped tear gas on the protesters, and the bullets
were fired from Navy trucks. [LT 9/29/00; CNN en Espanol 9/29/00
with info from Reuters]

"They killed three of us on Thursday," said Felipe ("El Mallku")
Quispe, executive secretary of the Only Union Confederation of
Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB). "We are only animals to
them. We want the international community to know about this
because we are being oppressed by a racist government," said
Quispe. [CNN en Espanol 9/29/00 with info from Reuters]

On Sept. 29, a new round of negotiations was announced between
government representatives and the three main protest sectors.
(The previous round had broken down with news of the first
killings on Sept. 24.) But the repression continued: early on
Sept. 30, some 1,500 military and police troops used bullets and
tear gas to clear the highway that links Cochabamba and La Paz,
in the area of Vinto, Cochabamba department, in order to let some
300 waiting trucks to pass through. The campesinos reestablished
the roadblocks after the troops passed through, then overwhelmed
soldiers guarding a nearby dam and destroyed machinery there.
military retaliated by sending in an infantry battalion, which
fired bullets at protesters and used heavy equipment to rip
through their roadblocks. Protester Vicente Espinoza Rodriguez
was killed and some 24 others were wounded by bullets. [LR
10/1/00 from EFE; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 10/1/00 from Reuters;
Clarin 10/1/00]


President Hugo Banzer Suarez cancelled a trip to Japan to stay
home and face the protests. [LT 9/28/00] Banzer cannot impose a
state of siege, since he imposed one April of this year [see
Updates #532-534] and the Constitution doesn't allow the
president to impose a state of siege twice in one year without
approval from Congress. [Clarin 9/26/00] But the government
targeted strike and protest leaders with arrest orders on Sept.
26. National teachers union leader Vilma Plata was among at least
12 leaders arrested that day; she was released on Sept. 27. [LT
9/27/00, 9/28/00; Agencia Informativa Pulsar 9/27/00] Opposition
politicians called the government's crackdowns on protesters a
"de facto state of siege." [ED 9/27/00]

On Sept. 25, the government ordered classes to resume and began
recruiting retired teachers and university students to replace
public school teachers, who have been on strike since Sept. 13.
[LT 9/26/00] Meanwhile, some 500 parents joined students from the
mining towns of Siglo XX and Llallagua on Sept. 26 for a
demonstration in La Paz to demand a greater budget for the state
mining university at Siglo XX. The students rejected the latest
offer made by the autonomous university committee that controls
the budget issues; they have been in La Paz for more than two
weeks, holding daily protests to press their demands. [LR 9/27/00
from AFP]


On Sept. 30 the government met with teachers in La Paz and with
cocaleros in Santa Cruz, Bolivia's economic capital. A meeting
with the campesinos of La Paz department was being held up over
disagreements on where the dialogue should be held; Quispe
the meeting in the town of Achacachi, near Lake Titicaca, rather
than in La Paz. The talks are being brokered by the Catholic
church, the office of the Defender of the People, and the APDHB.
The church had pressed for all of the demands to be negotiated
together, but the government refused. [LR 10/1/00 from EFE; ENH
10/1/00 from Reuters; CNN en Espanol 9/29/00 with info from
Reuters, 9/30/00 with info from Reuters, AP]

"I think we will arrive at an agreement," said El Alto bishop
Jesus Juarez when the talks were announced on Sept. 29. "But I
think this conflict could have been avoided if the government had
listened to the campesinos' demands." [CNN en Espanol 9/29/00
with info from Reuters] On Sept. 30, Defender of the People Ana
Maria Romero de Campero asked the government to halt its military
and police operations while the talks continue. [LR 10/1/00 from

The leadership of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of
Bolivia issued a statement on Sept 27 urging both sides in the
protests to observe a "social truce." The statement proposes that
a "National Constitutional Assembly" be called to develop "a new
social pact that would design a state with the ability to provide
solutions, which would be more democratic and benefit everyone."
[Confederacion de Pueblos Indigenas de Bolivia statement 9/27/00]


On Sept. 30, Fortun announced that his government had agreed to
scrap plans to build three US-sponsored military bases in the
Chapare, although he insisted that the coca eradication programs
would continue. [ENH 10/1/00 from Reuters; Clarin 10/1/00] The
announcement came two days after Banzer had warned that the
eradication program and the construction of the bases were non-
negotiable, and one day after the US State Department issued a
written statement supporting the Bolivian goverment's war on
drugs. [CNN en Espanol 9/30/00 with info from Reuters, AP]

Some legal coca cultivation is allowed in Bolivia, but only in
the los Yungas de La Paz region. All efforts by coca-growing
campesinos to switch to alternative crops have failed, due to the
humid climate and insufficient infrastructure; many kinds of
fruit grow well in the region, but they rot before they can reach
markets, while dried coca leaves remain marketable for weeks or
months. [Clarin 9/28/00] Cocalero leader and legislative deputy
Evo Morales wants the government to allow each family in the
Chapare to cultivate two hectares of coca. "We hope the
government will consult quickly with the US embassy to get us an
answer, since [the embassy] gives the orders here," said Morales.
[Clarin 9/26/00]

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