Annual Report: Bolivia 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Bolivia 2010

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In May, the trial began of 17 senior officials, including former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, in connection with the "Black October" events of October 2003 in which at least 67 people were killed and more than 400 injured in clashes between the security forces and demonstrators protesting against government proposals to sell off national gas resources. At the end of the year, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada remained in the USA awaiting the outcome of an extradition request. Several former ministers charged in the case left Bolivia during 2009, thus evading prosecution.

In November, a US court ruled that sufficient grounds existed to try Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and former Defence Minister Carlos Sánchez Berzaín in the USA in a civil suit for damages in relation to charges of crimes against humanity and carrying out extrajudicial executions.

Former Interior Minister Luis Arce Gómez was extradited from the USA to Bolivia. On arrival he was given a 30-year prison sentence. He had been convicted in 1993 of enforced disappearance, torture, genocide and murder committed in 1980 and 1981.

Forensic work to locate the remains of members of an armed opposition movement who were forcibly disappeared in 1970 began in July in Teoponte, a rural area 300km from La Paz. By the end of the year, nine bodies had been found. The search for the remains of around 50 others believed to have died in the area was continuing at the end of the year.

The Ministry of Defence approved a procedure allowing documentation relating to past human rights violations to be requested from the armed forces. President Morales initially insisted that no files existed relating to people who were forcibly disappeared under previous governments.

Indigenous Peoples' rights

In May, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues published a report which acknowledged the steps taken by the Bolivian authorities to identify servitude, forced labour, bonded labour and enslavement of captive families. The report criticized entrenched interests prevalent in lowland prefectures and civic committees that allowed such abuses to continue.

  • In July, the Vice-Minister for Land announced a new programme to settle approximately 2,000 families from Cochabamba and La Paz departments to 200,000 hectares of lands identified as federal land in Pando department. In August, the first families were moved to these lands. However, there were concerns about the lack of infrastructure and services available to them and the programme was cancelled.

Women's rights

A government initiative to reduce maternal mortality began in May, granting mothers a cash incentive to attend free pre- and post-natal check-ups. Take-up was high, but there were reports that women who did not have birth certificates encountered obstacles in accessing this health care. Health professionals reported an increase in the number of clandestine abortions and teenage pregnancies during the year, but there were no comprehensive reliable figures to confirm this.

Amnesty International visit

Amnesty International delegates visited Bolivia in August.