LA PAZ – The international community needs to investigate massacres of civilians by Bolivian security forces following the Nov. 10 resignation of president Evo Morales under pressure from the army, representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS) said Wednesday.
Officials of the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited Bolivia during the period Nov. 22-25 at the invitation of the defacto regime that took power after Morales stepped down and fled to Mexico.
In a report released Wednesday, the panel said that at least 36 people have died in politically motivated violence in Bolivia since the Oct. 20 elections, whose results were subsequently annulled.
Eighteen of those deaths, according to the report, took place in a pair of incidents: the first on Nov. 15 in Sacaba, a suburb of the central city of Cochabamba; the second on Nov. 19 in El Alto, a gritty industrial city in the greater La Paz metropolitan area.
In both cases, soldiers and police “opened fire on civilians” taking part in protests against the self-proclaimed interim government, the OAS officials found.
“These deeds can be characterized as massacres, given the number of people who lost their lives in the same manner, time and place, and in that they were committed against a specific group of people,” the report said, adding that “the patterns of the injuries offer serious indications of practices of extrajudicial execution.”
The panel said that in light of doubts about the capacity of the interim government to fulfill its obligation to bring the perpetrators of the killings to justice, La Paz should accept “an independent and impartial international investigation.”
Besides the fatalities, the report pointed to instances of racially motivated violence against Bolivia’s indigenous majority, such as attacks on women wearing traditional clothing.
The OAS officials likewise criticized the defacto regime for seeking to criminalize political opposition by charging supporters of Morales’ leftist MAS party with sedition and terrorism.
The rights commission called for Bolivia’s soldiers to return to their barracks and urged the dismantling of paramilitary groups of all political stripe.
Violence erupted a day after the Oct. 20 elections, driven by claims of fraud from the opposition. Morales, who had been in office since 2006, claimed victory, but then invited the OAS to audit the count and agreed to abide by their judgment.
On Nov. 10, hours before announcing his resignation, Morales accepted the OAS proposal for a new election. Even so, the army brass went on television to “suggest” that he step down amid mob violence targeting the homes and persons of prominent MAS figures, including the president’s sister.
Two days later, Sen. Jeanine Añez, member of a right-wing party that garnered 4 percent of the vote, proclaimed herself interim president.
New elections are supposed to take place early in 2020. Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, has agreed not to run, but he wants to be able to return to Bolivia to participate in the campaign.