Bolivia’s largest opposition group, the ‘Civic Committee Pro Santa Cruz’ has penned a formal letter asking for assistance from far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. The civic group claim that there is ‘political persecution’ in Bolivia and has requested Bolsonaro’s help in establishing international commissions against ‘abuses.’
“We wish to inform you of the grave violations of human rights that we are suffering in Bolivia,” states the first section of the letter, citing the recent arrest of former dictator Jeanine Añez as the most important example of persecution.
They say that charges of carrying out a coup, and of corruption, are being utilized to “persecute, arrest and charge (with the aim of vengeance) former authorities and current oppositionists for considering them to be ‘complicit’ in a non-existent coup.”
Añez and a small handful of former officials have been detained for their participation in the November 2019 coup, during which elected President Evo Morales was forced out of office after the military and police refused to obey orders and ordered Morales to resign. Senator Jeanine Añez then declared herself President before an empty legislature without quorum. She was sworn in by the military high command that had orchestrated the removal of Evo Morales.
Añez is also facing other charges relating to human rights violations and the serious cases of corruption, the most prominent being the fraudulent purchase of faulty COVID-19 ventilators at inflated prices.
Investigations into the serious allegations of sedition, corruption, and human rights abuses are ongoing against some members of the former regime. The regime has been criticized internationally for carrying out extra-judicial killings against Indigenous protesters who mobilized in the streets against the unelected Añez government.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has labeled the killings, by the state in November 2019, in Sacaba and Senkata as ‘massacres,’ the executions were made possible by Supreme Decree 4078 introduced by Añez shortly after seizing power, it gave members of the security forces total immunity for any acts committed during the repression of pro-democracy protests against her government.
The Civic Committee fears that their senior figures may also face arrest for their role in the coup of 2019. The largest violent mobilizations by right-wing groups, in the run-up to the coup, were organized by the Civic Committee, and their former President, Fernando Camacho, is facing accusations of having financed the police mutiny against Morales, following leaked videos in which he boasts about it.
The Committee is a coalition of business leaders and landowners in the department of Santa Cruz. The ideological affinity between Bolivia’s opposition and far-right President Jair Bolsonaro may indicate why they have appealed for the embattled leader to take a lead on this issue.
Like Bolsonaro, the Civic Committee is also known for outbursts of racist sentiment. When its former President Fernando Camacho burst into the seat of government in La Paz, hours after the coup against Evo Morales, he exclaimed, “The Bible has returned to the palace, never again will Pachamama (Indigenous god, referring to Mother Earth) return”.
During a general strike against Añez in August 2020, the current Civic Committee President, Romulo Calvo, referred to Indigenous protesters involved as ‘human beasts,’ in a speech calling for harsher repression.
The letter has a stamp of receipt from the Brazilian embassy in Bolivia, though no public reply from Bolsonaro thus far.