Urgent Interventions

Bolivia: violent Attack Against Rural Workers

Case BOL 201101.ESCRC

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Bolivia.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by reliable sources of a violent attack carried out by armed groups against rural workers. More than five persons were killed and around 15 persons were seriously wounded in this attack against the Núcleo Pananti, a community of the Movement of Landless Peasants (Movimiento de Trabajadores Sin Tierra, MST-Bolivia), situated 40 km from Yacuiba, the capital city of the province of Gran Chaco.

According to information received, the armed group allegedly violently attacked the Centre for Landless Peasants PANANTI (Núcleo de Campesinos Sin Tierra Pananti) on Friday 9 November 2001 at 5 am.

It has been reported that the following rural workers have been killed in the attack: Gerardo Alemán, Javier Pablo Velázquez, Benigno Arancibia, Pablo López, Silverio Escobar, Vidal Vargas, Teófilo Urzagasti as well as a stillborn baby. The baby’s mother had a miscarriage as a result of blows received during the attack.

Among the seriously injured victims are: Rufino Condori, Sabino Martínez, Benito Martínez, Himar Romero, Leocadio Méndez, Gregorio Enríquez, Leonardo Mendoza, Vicente Chavarría, Silvio Correa, Severino Martínez Aráoz, Mario Arias, Silverio Yelma, Juan Segada and Pedro Alejo Condori.

Moreover, the following persons have reportedly been arrested: Lidio Julián, Pablo Amadoro, Santos Cata, Demetrio Céspedes, Reino Herrera, Adolfo Guerrero, as well as a number of others persons whose names are not as yet known by OMCT. According to official declarations made by the Director of the Public Hospital of Yacuiba, 20 persons were injured in the attack. The Prosecutor of the province of Gran Chaco, who was on the site to carry out the first investigations, clearly stated that the deceased and injured rural workers had been attacked with firearms while the group of paramilitaries (the attackers) had suffered from blows inflicted by machetes, sticks and stones.

It is reported that a situation of extreme tension prevails in this region of Bolivia. On Monday 12 November, Mr. Angel Durán, President of the MST-Bolivia was assaulted on a public highway by a number of persons. According to the information received, this act was motivated by Mr. Orías Sánchez, President of the Civic Committee of Yacuiba (Comité Civico) as well as by Mr. Bernardino León, President of the Association of Stockbreeders of the Gran Chaco (Asociación de Ganaderos). On the same day, Dr. César Blanco Alvarez, a lawyer at the Centre for Legal Studies and Social Research (Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación Social CEJIS) commissioned to Yacuiba to give legal aid to the assaulted rural workers, was denied permission to interview the detainees. According to the information received, the police officers refused to give him any information and threw him out of the prison compound in an inappropriate manner.

Moreover, on the same day, an Emergency Commission (Comisión de Emergencia) of Santa Cruz decided to move to Yacuiba with the intention of accompanying the detainees and giving them moral support. This commission is now in Yacuiba but until now it has not reported any positive developments.

Human rights organisations and organisations for the defence of rural workers highlight that this attack has taken place in a context where the government had initiated a dialogue with the occupying peasants.

Background information

The events of November 9th and November 12th took place against the background of ongoing land conflicts, due to a high concentration of land being controlled by a few person. (see OMCT Urgent Appeal Economic, Social and Cultural Rights BOL 240901.ESCR; The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders BOL 002/0109/OBS078).

In both El Chore and the Gran Chaco of Bolivia, there are farms of between 10,000 and 30,000 hectares which belong to a single owner, while a rural worker’s family has to contend with 25 or 50 hectares. These small land plots account for a significant part of the daily food consumption of the Bolivian people.

According to reports received by OMCT, the Núcleo Pananti is one of 18 such communities which have been founded in the last two years in non-exploited latifundios. The community of Núcleo Pananti, which exists since May 2000 and has a surface of 4 hectares, hosts approximately 140 families, representing a total of around 700 persons. During the year 2001, 40 hectares of land were sown with maize and peanuts while 140 hectares have been prepared for sowing. The work is coordinated by the community called Torna Vuelta by the villagers. The main communities of the MST are: Timboy, Tiguazu, Los Sotos and Villa Primavera. They are all within 40 km of the border town of Yacuiba, the capital city of the province of Gran Chaco Department of Tarija.

It is reported that these communities have been permanently assaulted and harassed by groups of hired killers belonging to armed groups. The police and the army allegedly support these hired killers. The same reports show that the previous attacks have been denounced to the State authorities and to the press and that the armed groups and their leaders have been fully identified as being responsible for these attacks. However, according to information received by OMCT, the persons responsible have neither been brought to justice nor have they been sanctioned, despite repeated denunciations by the victims.

In the preceding days, Mr. Angel Durán, President of the MST, was in La Paz, the seat of the government, to co-ordinate with the State authorities the opening of a National Dialogue on the Land Situation (Diálogo Nacional Sobre la Tierra). He had succeeded in establishing a Memorandum of Understanding for Social Peace (Acta de Entendimiento Sobre la Paz Social). Mr. Durán took this opportunity to inform the State authorities of the threats received by the members of the MST in the area of Gran Chaco. Mr. Durán met with the following authorities of the State: Leopoldo Fernández, Minister of State - Ramiro Cavero, Minister for Sustainable Development and Planning - Walter Núñez, Minister for Agriculture - Wigberto Rivero, Minister for Rural Matters, Indigenous and Original Peoples - and René Salomón, Director of the National Institute for Land Reform.

Action Requested

Please write to the Bolivian authorities urging them to:

i. adopt appropriate measures to guarantee the safety as well as the physical and psychological integrity of the inhabitants of the Núcleo Pananti;

ii. order an immediate, comprehensive and impartial investigation on the attack that was carried out on the inhabitants of the Núcleo Pananti with the purpose of identifying those responsible, bringing them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;

iii. guarantee to the family of the victims the access to adequate compensation;

iv. guarantee respect for the economic, social and cultural rights in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards and in particular the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the ILO Convention No. 169;

v. effectively implement the recommendations made by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its 1996 concluding observations;


· H.E. President Hugo Banzer Suárez, Presidente de la República, Palacio de Gobierno, La Paz, Bolivia. Fax : (+ 59 1 2) 392 606
· Dr. Jorge Quiroga Ramirez, Vicepresidente de la República, Palacio de Gobierno, La Paz;
fax: (591 2) 371 388; tel: (591 2) 371 082; Email:; // E-mail :
· Mario Serrate Ruiz Argandoña, Ministro de la Justicia y de los Derechos Humanos;
· Dr. Javier Murillo de la Rocha, Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, Plaza Murillo - c. Ingavi, esq. c. Junín, La Paz Bolivia Fax.: (591 2) 333 521 - (591 2) 336 905 - (591 2) 112 163 E-mail :
· Dr. Guillermo Fortún, Ministro de Gobierno, Av. Arce esq. Belisario Salinas, La Paz, Bolivia. Fax : (+ 591 2) 371334
· Corte Suprema de Justicia, La Paz, Bolivia. E-mail :
· Lic. René Salomón Vargas, Director Nacional del Instituto de la Reforma Agraria, INRA, calle Junin No. 745 esq. Inaburo, La Paz; fax: (591 2) 407 292, (59 1 2) 409 072;
· Dr. Hugo Teodovich, Presidente del Tribunal Agrario Nacional, calle Calvo no. 197, Sucre;
fax: (591 2) 423 061; Email:
· Dr. Ana Maria Campero, Defensoría del Pueblo, calle Heriberto Gutiérrez no. 2374, La Paz; fax: (59 1 2) 443 838; Email:

Bolivian embassies in your respective countries

Geneva, 20 November 2001

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