Urgent Interventions

Bolivia: continued violence surrounding social protests

Case BOL170103.1 ESCR
Follow-up of Case BOL 170103. ESCR
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Killing/Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Geneva, January 29th, 2003

The International Secretariat of OMCT has received new information regarding the following situation in Bolivia.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos (APDH), a member of the OMCT network, of the killing of two persons as part of the confrontation that took place between the population and the police and military armed forces, in Bolivia.

According to the information received, on Thursday January 23rd 2003, in the Lonk'on region located on the road between Sucre and Tarabuco, 19-year old farmer Armando Medrano Flores was killed by the army while he was blocking the road with other farmers.

Moreover, on Sunday January 26th 2003, in the town of Matamojo, located in the Chapare region on the road between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, 44-year old Roberto Leon Quinsamollo was reportedly killed by 4 bullets fired by the army.

It is reported that while the intensity of the blockades diminished from Monday January 20th to Sunday January 26th 2003, confrontations between the demonstrators and the army and police forces continued to take place. In this respect, the APDH reports that on Tuesday January 21st, a group of unknown persons fired at a patrol, killing a 18-year old soldier and wounding 4 members of the army and police forces, while on Saturday January 25th 2003 a 19-year old soldier died in Rio Chico, 32 kilometres from Sucre.

Brief reminder of the situation

These events follow the dramatic incidents that took place in Bolivia, and in particular in the Chapare region, where since January 13th 2003 the police forces and the army have been reportedly using disproportionate and excessive force to curb demonstrations and road blocks led by persons from different sectors of society - including retired people, coca growers, farmers and students. As a result, four persons have reportedly died and arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment have been reported.

The department of Cochabamba, and its different areas, including Aguirre, Parotani, Chimore and Colomi, have reportedly been particularly affected by the repression. It is reported three persons died on January 14th and one died on January 15th as a result of the excessive and disproportionate use of force by the police and military forces, who used live ammunition against the demonstrators. Dozens of persons have also allegedly been wounded by live ammunition, including injuries to the head, as in the case of Esteban Garcia, who was wounded by a bullet that destroyed his lower jawbone. Due to the serious state of his health, Esteban Garcia has reportedly been transferred to Santa Cruz.

In addition to the excessive and disproportionate use of force, a wave or arbitrary arrests and detentions, affecting 165 persons (20 women and 145 men), also took place from January 14th to January 15th in the Cochabamba Department. Although all of these persons have reportedly been released, their transfer, following their arrest, to military facilities has been carried out in violation of the Bolivian Constitution and national laws. Moreover, according to detainees’ testimonies, many of them are suffering from different type of injuries, highlighting the violence used by police agents and the military forces during their detention. It is also reported that the detainees’ conditions of detention did not meet international standards, as they were reportedly held in hangars with corrugated iron roofs, without ventilation and without access to food, medical assistance and toilets for several hours. Today, charges are reportedly being held against 20 of the 165 released persons, including instigation to public delinquency, attacks against public transport and sedition.

The town of Calamarca has also reportedly been the theatre of repression carried out against a peaceful demonstration led by retired persons. It is reported that the authorities intervened against a demonstration launched by retired persons and forcibly transferred thousands of them, without their consent and using force, from the town of Calamarca to their place of origin. During the transfer, 11 persons, the majority of whom were retired people, died in a car accident on the way La Paz-Oruro.

These events occurred against the background of social protests launched on January 13th 2003 by organisations from civil society, including farmers, coca growers, students, retired peoples and trade unions.

This social mobilisation results from a long process of economic, social and cultural rights violations and responds to the deterioration of the socio-economic situation throughout the country, where an important part of the population lacks access to basic necessities.

Amongst others requests, the social movements are demanding fair distribution of land; the suspension of the forced eradication of coca plantations and the modification of law 1008; the end to impunity regarding the murderers of the landless peasants in Pananti; a new proposal for educational reform that corresponds to the requests formulated by Bolivian society; the rejection of the ALCA; the legal recognition of the autonomy for El Alto public university; the promulgation of a special law to support indebted persons; and the necessity of a national gas policy to benefit the population.

Bolivia is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) since 1982. In its 2001 concluding observations on Bolivia (U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1/Add.60), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, expressed its concern about, among other the highly uneven distribution of wealth throughout the country; the marginalisation and discrimination against indigenous communities who constitute the majority of the rural population and who suffer from inadequate access to basic education, adequate housing and health services; and the fact that land reform is not a top priority on the Government’s agenda. In this respect, the Committee urged that the Bolivian Government ensure that the ICESCR is taken into account in the formulation and implementation of all policies concerning economic, social and cultural rights; to take remedial action against the marginalisation of and discrimination against indigenous populations; and to pursue land reform as a priority.
Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Bolivia urging them to:

i. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the death of Armando Medrano Flores and Roberto Leon Quinsamollo, identify those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;
ii. guarantee adequate reparation to the families of the 2 persons who were killed;
iii. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.


Vicepresidencia de la República (Dr. Carlos D. Mesa G.) ,

Ministerio de gobierno (dr. Alberto Gasser) , Tel/fax: ++591 2442665 (La Paz)

Ministerio de la Presidencia (presidente: lic. Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada) , Tel/fax: ++591 2202321 (La Paz)

Fiscal General de la República, Tel : ++591 46451788, Fax: ++591 24651047

Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Parlamento (Dr. Jaime Ríos Chacón), Tel: 2202314, Fax: ++591 2201921

Misión Permanente de la República de Bolivia ante las Naciones Unidas, Ginebra, Suiza, Fax. : (+ 41 22) 908 07 22 ; e-mail :

Please also write to the embassies of Bolivia in your respective country.

Geneva, January 29th 2003

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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