The campaign of violence against indigenous and left-wing protesters in Bolivia has now claimed 23 lives with 715 injured and over 1000 arrested it has been confirmed. The police and military killings follow the successful US-backed military coup against the democratically elected government of Evo Morales.
Senator Jeanine Anez has illegally declared herself President in the wake of the coup, the senator having the backing of Morales’ defeated opponent in this year’s elections Carlos Mesa and the far-right Fernando Camacho. The seizure of power has prompted a string of protests both across Bolivia and Latin America
The highest loss of life during protests against the coup regime came at the Cochabamba massacre on Thursday with nine protestors now confirmed to have been killed by security forces during the atrocity. The massacre began when coca growers tried to enter Cochabamba and the army and police forces opened fire on the crowds.
The funerals of victims took place this weekend with the coffins covered with Wiphala flags.
Images widely shared on social media showed civilians suffering severe gunshot wounds after police and military forces opened fire on the farmers, video and photos showing bodies in the street before an entire military occupation of the central city.
The coup regime has preemptively exempted the armed forced from criminal charges relating to their suppression of protesters, essentially giving them carte blanche to carry out atrocities as they try and quell popular opposition to the seizure of power from the democratically elected government.
Evo Morales’ Movement to Socialism party has denounced the decree.
There are also incredibly alarming reports that the regime is planning on creating new laws to allow the detention of left-wing politicians and lawmakers.
Despite the killings, Bolivians remain defiant and supporters of Evo Morales have blockaded the Bolivian Fiscal Oil Fields (YPFB) Senkata oil refinery in El Alto, a city adjacent to La Paz.
Footage shows protesters with Wiphala flags gathered on the site and blocking the road with a fire.
Alejandro Gutierrez, one of the demonstrators, said: “we have gathered in this town hall, [and made a decision] that indefinite blockade will be carried out, we will definitely block until this coup is over.”
Another protester, Josefa Terri, deplored the current political situation in Bolivia by saying “I cry for my people, I’m already old for this, I’ve been fighting to have my home, this town has fought, and now they want to take everything.”
“It’s been four days since she’s in parliament and we already have 27 dead, that’s why we don’t want to leave this, she quits and we will end it immediately but we ask her to quit.”Elva Ariano, Protester
The killings have come amidst serious levels of oppression and racist violence in the country, the junta engaging in a campaign of violent suppression of dissent, sending hit-squads from the house to house, attacking peaceful protests and shutting media outlets across the country.
Amongst the many detentions of indigenous and left-wing activists, four Cuban health workers were also detained by the coup regime.
Amparo García, Idalberto Delgado, Ramón Álvarez and Alexander Torres were illegally detained without charge by the authorities, prompting the return of over two hundred medical personnel back to Cuba for their own safety. Over 700 Cuban medical professionals had been working in Bolivia as part of a bilateral medical collaboration program.
Reports from Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez indicate that American embassy personnel were involved in the detention of the Cuban nationals.
Prominent leaders of the Bolivia coup d’etat have been revealed as having extensive far-right, Christian fundamentalist and white supremacist links and backing with Luis Fernando Camacho, the leader of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee and leader of the insurgency against Morales, known to have extensive links to far-right paramilitaries.
“[Comacho] legitimizes his authoritarian stance with Bolsonaro-style religious discourse… [It is] an expression of the Bolivian protofascist right”Julio Cordova, Bolivian sociologist
The far-right leader has been compared by many to a combination of Venezuela’s Juan Guaido and Brazil’s Jair Bolsanaro, being called a racist and misogynist by both social and feminist activists.
“In line with other representatives of the new regional right, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Camacho handles a speech with a very strong religious anchor. [He has a method of] speech that, although it tries to associate it with ‘the peace and unity of the Bolivian people’, ends up fraught with racism, class hatred and provocation.”
Mariela Franzosi, journalistMariela Franzosi, journalist
Many in the indigenous community feel that police actions are inspired by racism.
“They persecute us, as Bolivians, those from El Alto. They discriminate against us because we come from El Alto and La Paz. They call us ‘collas’ [term for highland indigenous groups]. They discriminate against those who wear skirts [referring to indigenous women] and we won’t allow it to happen”Yolanda Albarrazin, demonstrator