Human rights activists demand free and fair elections in Bolivia

Human rights activists protest to demand free and fair elections in Bolivia in Sydney on September 27. Photo: Federico Fuentes

Protesters gathered in front of the Opera House on September 27 to denounce human rights violations in Bolivia and demand the nation’s October 18 elections be held under free and fair conditions.

Bolivia has been ruled by an “interim government” since November, after a coup deposed Movement Towards Socialism president Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous head of state.

Since then numerous human rights violations have occurred, including racist attacks against indigenous peoples by armed paramilitaries and massacres of anti-coup protesters in Sacaba, Cochambamba and Senkata, El Alto last November, which left 30 dead and more than 100 injured.

Indigenous and social movement leaders have been targeted for persecution by the government, and 1269 people were detained in November-December alone. This included several MAS politicians who either remain in jail or inside embassies where they sought asylum. Some are in exile, such as Morales.

The interim government has twice postponed elections, first scheduled for May, and has barred certain MAS candidates from running. Paramilitary groups have turned to terrorising MAS election campaigners and supporters on the streets.

The protest was organised by the Association for Human Rights in Bolivia (AHRB), which was set up in May by members of the Bolivian community in Sydney.

AHRB president Juanita Pinto told the crowd: “We are here to say to our compatriots in Bolivia, you are not alone. Bolivians around the world are working to defend your rights and to denounce the violations of those rights.

“We know that you are suffering racist attacks and that you are also suffering the catastrophic consequences of the interim government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic and economy.

“We are very concerned by the attacks on your right to protest and to campaign in these elections, as well as the attacks on your right to elect your next government this October 18.

“We demand that the interim government guarantee these elections are free, clean and transparent. We demand impartial international observers… [And] we demand that the Australian government speak out and denounce the human right violations that are being committed in Bolivia.”

The protest was also addressed by speakers from the Committee for Human Rights in Guatemala, United for Colombia, the Latin America Social Forum, representatives of the Chilean and indigenous Mapuche community, and the Socialist Alliance.

[AHRB will be holding an online discussion panel, "The campaign to restore democracy in Bolivia", on October 4. For details visit the Facebook event page.]

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