On October 26, the family members of the victims of the Sacaba and Senkata massacres and the survivors of the brutal police and military repression incidents met a delegation of senior government officials in Bolivia’s capital La Paz. They had arrived in La Paz on October 25, after undertaking a 192-km-long journey on foot, to demand justice for the state crimes committed two year ago during the coup-installed government of Jeanine Áñez. They began the march on October 19 from the town of Caracollo in the Oruro department towards the capital to draw attention to their struggle for justice.
After arriving in the capital, the peaceful protesters went to the Prosecutor’s Office and demanded that the process of delivering justice be accelerated and the material and intellectual authors of the crimes be brought to justice. They also asked to meet president Luis Arce and announced that they would hold a vigil at the Murillo square in La Paz, until a response was received from the government. On October 23, the representatives of the group in La Paz submitted a document with 22 demands to the government authorities. The protesters said that they want personally to hand it over to the president.
Government officials organized a meeting with representatives of the group on October 26 at the headquarters of the Trade Union Federation of Mining Workers. At the beginning of the meeting, the government delegation shared a report on the progress in the matter. The head of the delegation and the minister of the presidency, María Nela Prada, assured that the government would address all the demands for comprehensive reparation and justice raised by victims’ families and survivors. She said that the government had already been working on several of their demands under its own policies. Prada was accompanied in the dialogue by the vice ministers of interior and police, Nelson Cox; citizen security, Roberto Ríos; and justice and fundamental rights, César Siles.
In the 22-point petition, the relatives call on the government to initiate criminal trials against the head of the coup-regime, Jeanine Áñez. They have pointed out that she approved Decree 4078 that exempted police and military officials participating in repression operations, from criminal responsibility, and thereby paved the way to state terrorism. They are demanding the same procedure against the commanders of the Armed Forces and the Police, who led these operations against those who took to the streets in rejection of the coup. They are also asking to prosecute the doctors, who discriminated against the protesters and didn’t provide proper treatment to the injured protesters. The group is also demanding health insurance, scholarships, and jobs for the victims’ relatives.
What happened two years ago?
Following the civic-military coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of president Morales and the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party in November 2019, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people, members of social movements and trade unions began mobilizing across the country in defense of democracy. In response to the popular uprising, Añez’s regime unleashed unprecedented levels of repression against those who hit the streets in rejection of the coup.
On November 15, 2019, in Sacaba city in the Cochabamba department, Bolivian security forces brutally repressed a peaceful anti-coup march with tear gas and live bullets, killing at least 11 and gravely injuring more than a hundred protesters.
Four days later, on November 19, the de-facto government sent in helicopters, tanks and heavily armed police officers and soldiers to the Senkata gas plant, which the Indigenous residents of El Alto had blockaded as a measure of protest. The forces tear-gassed the protesters and shot firearms into the crowd, killing another dozen protesters and injuring another hundred.
In August, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented its report on the acts of violence and human rights violations committed during the 2019 coup d’etat. The report confirmed that Áñez’s regime was responsible for massacres, torture, persecution, illegal detention, and summary executions of those who resisted the coup and supported the MAS government. The report noted that “at least 37 people lost their lives in various parts of the country and hundreds received serious injuries, both physical and psychological.”
What progress has been made in the process of justice?
So far, the Bolivian Justice has detained 13 former military commanders, two former police officials and three civilians, including Áñez, in relation to the Sacaba and Senkata massacres. The Prosecutor’s office has already charged her with the crime of “genocide” for the deaths occurred in repression incidents during her rule that could punish her with 20 years in prison.
In the beginning of the year, the government, by means of two decrees, granted pardon, amnesty and integral reparation of damages to around 1,500 people who were politically persecuted by Áñez’s regime. It offered economic assistance, health insurance and psychological attention, estimating a compensation of 100,000 Bolivianos (about 14,445 USD) to the victims’ families.
On October 25, vice minister of justice, Siles, in an interview with Bolivia TV, reported that President Arce’s administration is working on new law which will enable broader reparation for the victims.
The government has also vowed to implement all the 30 recommendations made by the GIEI, including the dismantling of para-police organizations and irregular groups created as forces of repression parallel to the State.