On October 12th and 13th, 2003, an eruption of violence in Bolivia between security forces and rioters made prime-time news on the major television networks. After the first commercial break, TV screens flashed a scene of soldiers clashing with rioters. The voiceover report was correspondingly short. The violence occurred in El Alto, a city in Bolivia’s Andes at 4000 meters altitude, on the edge of the great Andean plateau, the Altiplano, and perched above the country’s capital, La Paz.
October 12th was the fourth day of the siege of La Paz, with the only heavy vehicle, and all the other roads, paved and unpaved, from El Alto down into the capital blockaded and the streets in several districts of El Alto blocked. The two days of rioting claimed 39 lives, including the lives of two soldiers. The death toll would surely have been lower had the wounded been able to receive the necessary medical attention. Doctors and nurses resident in El Alto were stopped, sometimes searched, and were able to reach the wounded only at great risk to themselves. Ambulances bringing medical supplies and personnel from La Paz were not allowed to pass. It is a wonder that on-the-scene video reporting had been possible. The major international news agencies all filed reports based on sources in La Paz. They all reported the demand for the President’s resignation and the demands of the “Gas War”. What none reported is that the only fuel supply depot serving the city was in El Alto, and that barricades had left the capital cut off from the YPFB complex where liquid fuel pipelines delivered the liquid fuels and natural gas from the interior for redistribution by cisterns to La Paz; they reported it was “violence”, not blockades, that prevented medical aid from reaching El Alto and supplies, including fuel, from reaching La Paz. The route of the cisterns passed through densely populated El Alto neighborhoods. On the third day of the siege, the attempt had been made for a police escort to accompany a convoy of gasoline and diesel cisterns down to the city. The attempt had to be abandoned when the first cistern was confronted at the depot gates by an aggressive crowd of demonstrators, among them miners swinging dynamite sticks. The explosion of one cistern in a convoy would lead to a chain explosion along the entire convoy with a horrific death toll among the non-involved residents of El Alto. After four days without fuel supplies, the city was facing total paralysis. The government’s hand was forced. A Presidential Decree was issued on October 11th declaring a national emergency and the Minister of Defense was ordered to undertake the safe passage of liquid fuel cisterns from Senkata, the YPFB complex, down to La Paz. Two convoys were dispatched on October 12th to fuel-starved La Paz. The security forces fended off rioters at several points along the route of the convoys, most particularly when a convoy stopped while barricades were dismantled. Among the rioters were armed men and miners carrying dynamite. Both convoys reached La Paz safely. The rioting and extreme vandalism continued the next day in a district known for its anti-government local leaders. El Alto was calm on the 14th, but soon militant Alteños were descending to La Paz, and the demand for the President’s resignation was being made not just in La Paz. On October 17th, the President, faced with the choice of resigning or accepting more bloodshed, offered his resignation to an emergency session of Congress. He wrote: “I submit my resignation to the consideration of the honorable Congress with the deep conviction that it should not be accepted -- because a democratically elected president cannot be removed by pressures and violence, means outside the law.” He then left the city with his wife by helicopter, the same military helicopter that had airlifted his closest family members, including a 6-week-old grandchild, out of La Paz earlier in the evening to an air force base in El Alto. From there they were flown to Santa Cruz, in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands and the country’s largest city. His resignation was accepted that same night, and he immediately left the country, together with his family, on a commercial air flight from Santa Cruz. None of this made the news abroad nor did much else about the coup.
The President was Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, known since earliest childhood, even by casual acquaintances, as Goni. The October violence occurred 14 months into Goni’s second term as president. His first term was from 1993-1997. The Constitution did not permit two consecutive presidential terms. A coalition of all the political parties that had fielded candidates, except Goni’s, the MNR (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario), and the leftist MBL (Movimiento Bolivia Libre), governed until the next, 2002 election, when Goni was elected. One of the Constitutional reforms during Goni’s first presidency had extended the presidential term from four years to five. In the second year of the coalition’s term, GDP growth plunged to 0.6% and had recovered to only 2% at the end of its term, as compared to 5.5% at the end of Goni’s first term; Goni took office in 2002 with Bolivia in deep recession and the social scene countrywide one of daily protest marches, demonstrations, and blockaded roads.
Goni had been overthrown in mid-October, and in the November issue of the monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, with editions in 25 languages worldwide, the lead front-page article was headlined “BOLIVIA: When is a Democracy not a Democracy?” The paper even appeared on a newsstand at the Belgrade (Serbia) airport, and the article was signed by the paper’s editor-in-chief, Ignacio Ramonet. The Ramonet article was a recitation of misinformation about the coup, Bolivia, Goni, and Evo Morales. The continuum of misinformation and half-truths of the Ramonet article included the statement, “Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada [sic] ordered the army to use heavy machine-gun fire against demonstrators.”
Journalists are not expected to be all knowing. Journalists, furthermore, work under the pressure of time, which severely restricts their possibilities for independent research. As a result, “sources” are of fundamental importance to their work. Le Monde Diplomatique and its Editor-in-Chief Ramonet enjoy the highest credibility with the paper’s worldwide, center-left readership. That credibility can only have been built by the reliability of the sources they have trusted. Considering the exceptional degree of misinformation in the Ramonet article and its extreme allegations against Goni, it is safe to conclude Ramonet knew nothing about the coup, Bolivia, Goni or Morales, and some person or persons in whom he had the greatest confidence brought him the story. What the basis of that confidence was, whether a personal relationship, shared political affinities and/or whatever else, we cannot know, but what is beyond doubt is the impact of the article as a credible source in the international information flow and its role on Goni’s subsequent international political demonization. An Associated Press dispatch on November 12, 2008 reported the extradition request delivered by Bolivia to the United States. It was headlined, “Bolivia Ex-leader Sought in ’03 Crackdown.” It appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Denver Post and probably many other dailies across the United States. No court verdict is reported nor does “alleged” or any other qualified appear anywhere in the dispatch. In declarative sentences it states: “former president Sánchez de Lozada… ordered a military crackdown... in which at least 60 people died;” “he fled to the US during the anti-government riots after troops under his command opened fire on largely Aymara Indian protestors.” The Associated Press and the papers that printed its dispatch evidently overlooked the fundamental principal in US law that a person is innocent until proven guilty; a principal strictly adhered to by the US media by always preceding allegations against persons facing felony charges with modifiers such as “alleged,” ”charged with,” “accused of” and the like. Further, the AP correspondent reports it could not reach U.S. government officials for comment because it was Memorial Day. So sure of his statements as fact, it seems not to have occurred to him to contact Goni for comment.
Two sets of sources serve to unmask, in all its versions, the falsehood of Goni having ordered “troops to fire on unarmed civilians” during a peaceful demonstration. The first is a chronology based primarily on the national press and, the second, the report on the investigation of the October violence ordered by the District Attorney of La Paz in the immediate aftermath of the violence but immediately shelved by government authorities as “unsatisfactory” or “technically impossible to finish.” No other report has ever been made public.
This chronology was made possible thanks to a detailed and excellent chronology generously made available by its author Luis Eduardo Siles. Siles lives in La Paz and writes on current events in Bolivia.
The Warisata Ambush
The build-up to the tragic events of October 2003 and Goni’s forced departure from Bolivia starts with the arrest in late August of Edwin Huampo, from an Aymara village on the outskirts of El Alto. Huampo was charged with the lynching of two men accused of stealing 14 head of cattle; the mutilated bodies of the men had been found on August 8th. Huampo had no position of authority in the village or municipality, but he was the highest local official of the CSUTCB, the union of indigenous/small farmers headed by the radical/nationalist Aymara leader Felipe Quispe, and Huampo was the top official of the union’s “police force.” Quispe demanded Huampo’s immediate release, saying the lynching was an act of “local community justice (justicia comunitaria)” and claiming for Huampo the same right of immunity as for a congressman.
Huampo was playing the card of the Constitutional reforms of Goni’s first presidency. In addition to redefining Bolivia as multiethnic and multicultural, the reforms had written into the Constitution the first Article in Bolivia’s constitutional history specifically on indigenous rights. Article 171, Paragraph I “recognizes, respects and protects within the framework of the law [indigenous] identities, values, language, customs and institutions.” Paragraph III states that “[t]he traditional authorities of indigenous and small-farmer communities may fulfill administrative functions and apply their own rules as an alternative solution for conflicts in conformity with their customs and procedures, provided they are not in conflict with this Constitution or the Law. Legislation to be passed will bring these functions into accord with State powers.” The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted 13 years later. Article 5 of the Declaration reads, in part, “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions…” and Article 34, “Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain…, and in the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards.”
Neither the Bolivian Constitution in force at that time nor the UN Declaration can in any way be construed to sanction mutilation and killing by an individual in the total absence of due process, that is, to sanction vigilante justice as an indigenous right. And the claim of congressional immunity for a union official is absurd. However, Quispe was not interested in being right, but in getting his man freed. He used all the power of his authority in the El Alto, Aymara, region of the Altiplano, to get roads blocked in his territory and organize protests, and he threatened to blockade roads and encircle the capital, nearby La Paz, to prevent farm produce from entering the city. In an effort to defuse the situation, the government appointed two top lawyers to defend Huampo in court, for which his wife publicly thanked the government. Then, a political dimension entered the picture. Quispe declared he had the arms to take up weapons and destroy the capitalist system and take power; he promised a “civil war” to force “the government of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to serve the people and not the multinationals.” The three local El Alto radio stations, as well as many of the multitude of local radio stations throughout the country, were at his disposal for his harangues and constant agitation. Over 100 willing and unwilling Quispe supporters started a hunger strike at El Alto’s Radio San Gabriel, demanding the release of Huampo. Coercion and punishment by his union’s “police” were an important part of Quispe’s organizational methods and were reported both abroad and in the national media.  The La Paz El Diario later carried the statement of an unwilling supporter who was dragged from his stand at the El Alto market, labeled a “traitor,” and beaten for not “following orders” to join the hunger strike.
September 18th and 19th are key dates of the coup that forced Goni’s resignation. On September 18th, Sorata, a semitropical valley and resort area near La Paz, was blockaded. It was the season of folk festivals throughout the region and over 700 tourists, among them some 22 foreigners, found themselves trapped and mistreated, hostages of Quispe’s men and his demand for Huampo’s release. After ten days of negotiations with Quispe failed to achieve their release, on September 21st, the government sent a convoy of trucks and busses with a police escort to bring the hostages out. The Spanish news agency EFE filmed fires being set to government offices by blockaders as the convoy left Sorata. On its return to La Paz, the convoy had to cross Quispe territory under the control of CSUTCB (Quispe) “police.” Reporters accompanying the convoy filed dispatches recounting that the convoy first had to bypass a dynamited bridge, then encountered ditches dug across the road, and was finally stopped by a barricade at the small highland town of Warisata. There the soldiers trying to dismantle the barricade were fired on from various heights; two soldiers fell immediately. The next day, La Razón carried a detailed story on the ambush, including that its reporter was transporting a wounded soldier in the La Razón car, but he died before reaching La Paz. The shooting lasted until nightfall, although the two sides remained confronting each other. What normally takes one hour and 30 minutes by road from Sorata to La Paz took 15 hours. La Razón  also gives the names of two soldiers and four villagers killed, and reports the death of an eight-year-old girl. However, La Razón also writes that its reporter did not see the body since the child had already been buried, and that no evidence, except a bloodied vest, exists regarding the circumstances of her death; “the villagers insisted she was killed by a bullet.” In the absence of an autopsy, it has never been established whether she was in fact killed by a bullet and, if so, whether it was an army-issue bullet. Deaths associated with road blockades were not unusual under the Banzer-Quiroga government when the blocking of roads began. Goni had issued a presidential decree in August, not to ban blockades but in an effort to establish rules and limit the danger to human life and physical integrity, as well as to limit local damage and the disastrous impact on the economy of constantly blocked roads. Morales immediately labeled the decree an attempt to “criminalize” social protest. However, the Warisata ambush was a dramatic escalation because of the over 700 liberated hostages being transported and, above all, the death of a child. The ambush was reported nationwide in the press, often with sensationalistic overtones, and the death of the child fired an angry militancy throughout Quispe territory, extending into El Alto, Quispe’s urban stronghold in the Aymara territory, neighboring on La Paz.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of news dispatches from the scene by Bolivian and foreign journalists, and the official notes of gratitude from the embassies for the rescue of their citizens, the Ombudsman Ana Maria Campero and the vice-president of ADPHB, a human rights NGO, Sacha Llorenti, and their offices, repeatedly, then and later, disputed the facts of the Warisata ambush, going so far as to declare they doubted tourists had been held hostage in Sorata. Then, on the 28th of September, a naval escort brought 198 hostages out from a barricaded village near the shores of Lake Titicaca. This time the rescue was by water, skirting Quispe territory, and succeeded without incident. The naval escort was accompanied by Catholic Church representatives, journalists, and the same two human rights activists who later cited the absence of victims as proof of the “brutality” of the Sorata rescue. It is noteworthy that Ana Maria Campero was up for re-election, with strong support from Quispe and Morales, for Ombudsman, a position she had held since 1998. Demands for her re-election often cropped up in the subsequent disorders. Today she heads an NGO whose projects often give it the appearance of a generously-financed, “soft-propaganda” arm of the Morales government. Llorenti is the Deputy Minister of the Presidency for “coordination of social action” in the Morales Government. On the other hand, in 2006, the La Paz biweekly El Pulso  carried an interview with Quispe in which he boasts that he “ordered the ambush at Warisata,” and he told his people to go armed. The Campero-Llorenti tandem is one of the sources most responsible for the misinformation and distortions that have become firmly established abroad regarding the 2003 September-October coup and Goni.
Under the pressure of events, Huampo was released on September 26th. His release did not defuse the situation. Instead, Quispe upped the ante and demanded the release of a number of other individuals being held on charges of violence and terrorism. A leading factor in the undermined authority and credibility of government in general was the practice begun under the preceding government to calm outbursts of social protest by quickly negotiating and signing agreements with unrealistic promises, which it rarely met. Now Quispe further added to his demands the fulfillment of all the 70 points of one such agreement, among them the delivery of 1,000 tractors for his Aymara small farmers. The death of the child at Warisata had heightened the aggressive militancy in Quispe territory. In the El Pulso article earlier cited,  Quispe said the death of the child “infuriated us. Blood calls for blood.” This, in combination with his continued agitation for his additional demands, created a highly volatile situation. In El Alto, with its large rural-to-urban migrant Aymara population, the first demands for Goni’s resignation were heard.
The Gas War
Just prior to the Sorata taking of hostages, the rumor had been launched that the decision had been taken to export Bolivia’s natural gas through Chile. In a war fought in the late 19th century, Bolivia lost its sea coast on the Pacific to Chile, and Chile has remained a sore point in the national pride of Bolivians. Goni responded to the rumor in a televised address to the nation on September 16th. “Chile is one technological option,” he said, “not a proposal....The government’s decision is to inform the people and see the way to reaching a consensus and moving ahead.” Two days later, the Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons repeated the denial to the press. Goni was in fact also negotiating with Peru.
On September 19th, the day after the Sorata blockade began, a “massive” protest march, called by Jaime Solares, head of the trade union federation (COB), took place in La Paz. El País, on September 18th, reported tension and the many blockades in the country on the eve of the march. El Deber, on the same day, reported that Morales had proclaimed a “gas war” or “war against the exportation of gas,” and reported his recent accusations that “Sánchez de Lozada is preparing a military coup against himself” and “is willing to sacrifice democracy just so he can sell gas to Chile,” despite “knowing full well” that the sale of gas to Chile or its export through a Chilean port “will never be permitted by the people.” He further claimed, “there are death squads with the mission of making those opposed to the planned sales disappear.” Most of these accusations were made in a telephone interview while Morales was in Geneva. The El Deber article, headlined “Evo Alleges Autocoup, Jaime Paz Wants Sea for Gas,” quotes at length a statement to the press by Paz Zamora, leader of the allegedly-leftist MIR, that “[i]f Chile wants what is ours [gas], it must bring about a radical change in its policy towards Bolivia and our presence on the Pacific….”
Morales arrived back from Venezuela on the eve of the September 19th march. It was indeed “massive,” but it was peaceful, without violence or radical militancy. Morales’s cocaleros and other unions, Quispe’s CSUTB, Solares’s COB and scores of independent unions (high-school and university students, public health professionals, taxi drivers, truck owners, etc.), and regional and local civic organizations (small entrepreneurs, employees in different areas of activity, retirees, bank debtors, etc.) marched. Each constituency articulated its own demands, but all carried banners protesting the sale of Bolivia’s natural gas to Chile or its export through Chile. As was most often the case for organized demonstrations, demonstrators were transported free, housed, and given tickets or cash for food. When asked why they were marching, more than a few had to read from pieces of paper tucked away in their clothes. Threats of burning down market stalls closed the markets in La Paz and El Alto.
The September 19th march marked the beginning of the transition from the social protests reaching back to the earlier coalition, to the strictly political Gas War and, finally, to the violence in demand of Goni’s resignation. Every attempt at dialogue, including by the Catholic Church, was rebuffed or sabotaged and accompanied by statements of growing virulence by Morales, Quispe or Solares. Meanwhile, blockades continued unabated. The lack of cohesion in the government resulted in the absence of a unified position in response to the growingly aggressive militancy, while in Congress, deputies blithely argued for four days over the election of a new Ombudsman or re-election of Ana Maria Campero, until she finally withdrew her candidacy.
On October 4th a general strike took place in El Alto. The response to the news of the death of the child at Warisata, disseminated by sensationalist reports most stridently over local radio stations in El Alto, had stoked a high degree of militancy in El Alto. It may safely be assumed that at this point Morales saw his chance to overthrow Goni; Quispe would be his surrogate. The “resignation of Sánchez de Lozada,” a slogan more in line for manipulating Quispe, would supersede the demands of the Gas War.
The strike passed without incidents of street violence, but a security guard at a municipal building was murdered, and military guards were posted to protect public buildings and facilities. With this “militarization” of El Alto, as it was called by agitators, the stage was set for the violence that would culminate on the 12th and 13th of October, to be followed on the 17th by Goni’s resignation. Quispe and Roberto de la Cruz, the head of the regional branch of the COB (COR), were to be the visible organizers, and neighborhood FEJUVE associations, the enforcers. Coercion became common. A collection of 177 accounts by youths of their experiences during the October violence, intended as a heroic portrayal of events, includes many details of the threats and violence against anybody who hesitated to participate, as well as of the distribution of weapons and dynamite, terrorist actions, and looting. There are journalists’ accounts of attempted lynchings and violence against individual journalists, soldiers and police, as well as of ambulances not being allowed passage.
On October 4th, Morales, in yet another of his press conferences from abroad, this time again from Geneva, warned Goni he had “48 hours” to change his economic policy or there would be more blockades and protests throughout the country. On October 5th, a “political analyst,” today Morales’s Minister of the Presidency, asserted that “the government refuses to declare a state of emergency because it is waiting for the conflict to grow until it reaches its zenith to then put into action all its resources of public force,” adding that “it is encouraging the conflicts because it needs to create a general panorama of protests,” while Roberto de la Cruz announced “this will be the key week for defeating the government; it will be “the battle of battles for the gas.” Meanwhile, in Geneva, in an affable meeting with Chilean parliamentarians, Morales was talking about how he wanted Bolivia’s gas to benefit her people, avoiding all mention of the violent manifestations being organized under his leadership in opposition to exporting gas to Chile or through a Chilean port.
On October 5th, Goni again addressed the nation on television. He categorically denied any decision had been taken on the export of gas. He set out his program to inform the people and consult them about the exportation of gas. In more than 400 consultations throughout the country and open to the people, detailed information, he explained, would be given on the advantages of exporting gas, the options available, the mechanisms envisaged to guarantee transparency of spending for the export and of the use of the tax money earned from the export. “Opinions and suggestions will be collected from the people and then transmitted to the people by the media, foremost by radio,” he continued. The consultations would be programmed, he underlined, to include the COB and other civil organizations. “No decision will be taken under the presidency of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada,” he emphasized, “until he is convinced the people have been informed of the facts, instead of by speculation, and he has heard the concerns and suggestions of the people directly from them.” He announced he had signed Presidential Decree No. 27210 making the program as set out official, hence, required by law. One reaction to his message was for neighborhood FEJUVE leaders to tell protestors to come armed. Goni’s Minister of the Interior told the Bolivian news agency ANF, with regard to Morales, “We see him in Caracas, and then all of a sudden he’s back.”
La Paz Under Siege, and the Violence
On October 8th, a “strike of indefinite duration (huelga indefinida)” was called in El Alto. Many streets throughout the city were blocked; stores and small neighborhood shops were forced to close; barricades were built on the only road for heavy vehicles down into La Paz; all the other roads, although very steep and most often unpaved, were soon also blocked. The siege of La Paz had begun. The city was cut off from the gasoline, diesel and natural gas delivery pipelines for supplying La Paz at the YPFB depot in El Alto, from the only international airport and main industrial park of the region, and from the roads to the country’s interior, the Altiplano towns and villages, Lake Titicaca, and the Chilean and Peruvian borders. In addition, some 1,200 people in more than 200 trucks and cars were blockaded in the semi-tropical and traditional fruit-and-coca-growing Yungas valley, Morales territory east of La Paz; barricades on the roads from other, smaller, nearby valleys were also blocking produce from reaching the city’s green markets.  While fruit and vegetables spoiled in trucks, La Paz was facing a growing food shortage.
On October 9th, because of the alarming news of 800 miners, transported by trucks across the Altiplano, gathered in an outlying El Alto district, the government decided to postpone a major operation to reopen the Yungas valley. The miners, twirling dynamite sticks on slings, were blocking 39 busses, 18 trucks and 39 cars on the main road between La Paz and the Peruvian border. Using tear gas, a contingent of 500 soldiers from army bases on the Altiplano managed to force the miners to retreat. Soldiers dismantled the barricades and directed all the traffic towards the Peruvian border. There were two deaths. The Attorney General’s office confirmed, on the basis of an autopsy, that one of the victims, a miner, was killed by a stick of dynamite exploding in his hand, and the other, a local man, was shot by a frightened, private security guard who saw him running towards him at the head of a group of people. Despite neither man having been a victim of the military or police, their deaths added to the aggressive militancy in El Alto.
Speaking to the press on October 10th, Goni, visibly distressed, accused “a small minority that wants to divide Bolivia” for the situation in the country. One by one he took up the demands being heard. “No decision has been taken on the gas, much less has a port been chosen, the options are still being studied, and no decision will be taken without consulting the people,” he insisted once again; “[i]t isn’t true that ALCA has been approved and yet I see signs demanding it be dissolved,” he underlined. With regard to demands for a Constitutional Convention he asked, “Don’t those making this demand know that Bolivia’s Congress is empowered to amend the Constitution? Don’t they know this fact?” He confirmed he would not resign: “I know what I swore to, and I will not violate my oath.… I believe all Bolivians are with me in respect for the Law and the Constitution.” He quoted the highly honored Franz Tamayo: “The only slavery that never loses rightness is slavery to the law” and said, “… Our 20 years of democracy will prevail… for our children, for our grandchildren…. Most Bolivians are less than 20 years old; they do not remember the Bolivia of the disappeared, of exiles, of censorship, without freedom.” The reference is to the 18 years of military dictatorships between 1964 and1982.
On October 10th, Goni received a committee of high Catholic Church dignitaries of El Alto, and representatives of the APDHB and the Confederation of Journalists. He asked their help to get negotiations underway for the pacification of the country. The press reported a glimmer of hope in that a meeting had been agreed upon with the three largest organizations of El Alto: the regional COB, the FEJUVE and the Federation of Small Entrepreneurs. The representatives of the three organizations failed to appear and the organizations were called “traitors to the cause” in El Alto for having even considered negotiations.
On October 11th, with gasoline and diesel running dangerously low in La Paz, a police escort was sent to accompany gasoline and diesel cisterns from the Senkata pumping station down into La Paz. The first cistern and its escort tried to pass through a threatening crowd of protesters at the entrance to the Senkata facility; the crowd surrounded the cistern, with miners swinging their dynamite slings. The escort, in fear for their lives and of the cistern exploding as it passed through heavily populated El Alto streets, retreated; the attempt to break the blockade was abandoned. There were two deaths: a protestor struck by a tear gas canister and a child hit on the terrace of his home by a stray bullet. The death of the child, once again, exacerbated a volatile situation. During the day, Morales called on soldiers, non-commissioned officers and the police to desert and join in the “social protests to stop the gas from being given away abroad and the loss of the last resource available for the development of the nation. The MST leader declared his people were ready to use firearms as “others are already doing.” COB leaders warned against separate dialogues; participants would be considered traitors and subjected to justicia comunitaria. David Vargas, no longer a police major as he had been in February when observed in an organizational role during an attempted police rebellion, announced over a local radio station that “it is a matter of hours until the police revolt,” while the Interior Ministry reported a police mutiny had collapsed and six police had been arrested. Vandalism against public and private facilities was reported. Rumors of assassination attempts, imminent water and electricity cuts, looting, and machine-gun fire were circulated and given credence by local radio reports and in the press. ADPHB President Waldo Albarracín, asked to comment on the victims and violence in El Alto, said, “We cannot say they [the victims] are ‘deaths by the State’, but simply by violence, in some cases by repression and in others by provocation by the mobilized sectors.”
The situation became critical. A Presidential Decree was issued. It declared a national emergency, ordered the Army to undertake the transport of liquid fuels and the protection of all facilities related to their storage and distribution to consumers, and charged the Ministry of Defense and Minister of Defense with the organization and supervision of the execution of these orders. The Decree also guaranteed compensation for any damage to property or injury to persons incurred in the execution of these orders.
October 12th and 13th saw the culmination of the violence in El Alto. There were blockades throughout the country, and there had been scattered marches and demonstrations in other cities, but few reports of violence and deaths. Now, on October 12th, a heavy military guard was sent to escort the cisterns through densely populated El Alto neighborhoods down to La Paz and secure their safe passage. The objective was gained. Two convoys forced their way, through violence and with violence, down safely to La Paz. Places of direct attack on the convoys as they made their way through densely populated neighborhoods were left marked by quantities of stone, bricks, garbage, destroyed cars, bullet shells of non-army issue guns, and dynamite sheaths; barricades blocking streets had been erected with stones, barbed wire, light posts, traffic lights and signals, trees, garden planters and even tombstones. The passage of ambulances from La Paz was blocked. The first caravan arrived in La Paz in the early afternoon, and the second, made up of five cisterns of household gas as well as gasoline or diesel cisterns, in the late evening. After the arrival of the first caravan, Defense Minister Sánchez Berzaín announced with satisfaction over national TV: “The city’s gas stations can now meet everybody’s needs.” His statement heightened the fury of the rioters.
The operation began at 9am on the 12th and lasted through to nightfall. The arrival of the two convoys to La Paz drove the rioters into a frenzy, and the rioting continued into the 13th. The passage of ambulances from La Paz stayed blocked; in the absence of stretchers, wounded were transported by wheelbarrow to homes opened to them, or to churches; local doctors and nurses navigating the blocked streets were delayed by constant searches. Cases of mob violence to individuals are recounted by journalists. To prevent sons being forced to participate, parents hid them under beds or refused to answer knocking at their doors. Rumors were ratcheted up in tone: Chilean officers were commanding Bolivian units; enlisted men at the Air Base had mutinied; a soldier was shot by his commanding officer when he refused to fire on protestors.
On October 13th, the vandalism acquired new, more violent dimensions: a pedestrian bridge over a main thoroughfare was blown up; offices of political parties, bank agencies, commercial facilities, stores and small shops were assaulted. And on the 13th, the insurgency in El Alto ceased to be localized. Vandalism and confrontations occurred in La Paz. Confrontations between military units and villagers were reported in localities outside of El Alto, with the death of villagers and both officers and enlisted men; a villager stated, “they, too, fired at the army.” In Chapare, an officer and a soldier were killed by a booby trap in a barricade they were removing. In Oruro, various associations of small entrepreneurs began to organize a march to La Paz. Morales’ Coordinator for Gas announced new protests, while other trade and professional associations prepared strikes.
On October 13th, Goni again addressed the nation, on television. He warned of “a large subversive project, organized and financed from abroad” threatening to destroy Bolivian democracy.” He said, “It is important to tell the people I am not going to resign.” He had received a mandate from the people, he said, and had sworn to ensure the enforcement of the Constitution. He directly accused Morales and Quispe and others of having “joined forces to bring violence and blood to the Bolivian family.” Once again, he called for dialogue: “...dialogue and debate to discuss whether we sell and how we are to manage our natural gas, land, democracy.... Dialogue is the path towards the future and prosperity....”
Various other voices were heard reflecting the situation in El Alto and Bolivia. In a letter to the President, the Catholic Church together with the Association of Journalists and the APDDH denounced the “massacre” in El Alto, citing reports by “some” media of the use of heavy weapons including machine guns. They demanded the immediate withdrawal of military and police forces. At the same time, 16 foreign governments and international organizations expressed their support for Goni. The only media reporting on the scene were the Quispe-controlled radio stations in El Alto.
Much to public surprise, Goni’s vice-president, Carlos Mesa, withdrew his support of the government, but without resigning as vice-president. The Minister of Economic Development (MIR) resigned; the mayor of La Paz went over with his political party to the insurgents. In the aftermath of Mesa’s withdrawal of support, formal demands for Goni’s immediate resignation were made by, among others, a faction of the NFR, the UCS, the political parties of the congressional opposition, the COB, and rural/indigenous and other civic organizations. Members of the chambers of commerce and of industry in Santa Cruz fiercely criticized Mesa. Morales’ future vice-president, Garcia Linera, in his role of political analyst, looked ahead to after the fall of the government. “If Carlos Mesa takes over,” he said, “his agenda will have to be the nationalization of the hydrocarbons and the repeal of the 1997 Decree handing over the property of these resources. This is a transition towards the revision of the capitalization and convening of the Constitutional Convention.”
Morales looked ahead also. His proposal was for the President of the Supreme Court to assume the presidency. Under the Constitution, when the President of the Supreme Court assumes the presidency by a Constitutional transition, he is required to call elections within six months. However, the Constitutional successor of a president was the vice-president.
Llorenti announced that 130 protestors had died during the two days of violence. Accused later of having lied, he admitted that “at one point we had 130 dead, but after carefully reviewing our list, we have come down to 83.” In November, the Attorney General’s office officially announced 51 deaths for the Warisata Ambush and the Gas War (September-October), five of them soldiers. The number of rioters who died undoubtedly exceeded the number of military deaths. The death toll certainly would have been lower if ambulances from La Paz, with medical supplies and medical personnel, had been permitted to reach the wounded. The disruption in energy supplies caused additional victims.
Hardly a soldier appeared on the streets of El Alto on October 14th, reported the press; black ribbons were tied to street poles, and funeral music was heard in different parts of the city. There were, however, two deaths: one, a man shot in the head on his way to work; the other, a man who died of burns, was the last in a group of men who died as the result of the explosion, the day before, of the gas station reservoir they were trying to drain. 
A list by names published on October 14th of the victims of the violence on October 13th cites 16 residents of El Alto, and 11 residents of La Paz who died, including two enlisted men. Of the 77 wounded listed, four were military personnel.
On October 15th, soldiers, guarding the important Patacamaya crossroads on a now, unblocked highway from La Paz, stopped eight trucks carrying armed miners towards the city. In the ensuing confrontation, three miners were killed.
Also on October 15th, the spokesman for the MIR told the national TV channel UNITEL, “three voices” may be heard in the party: one argues for withdrawal from the government, a second supports the constitutional succession of Carlos Mesa, a third wants the MIR to remain in the coalition.” The now ex-Ombudsman Campero called for a hunger strike in churches to demand Goni’s resignation. Her call found response especially among a large number of women who saw Goni’s resignation as a way out of the fear of violence and disorders in their up-scale neighborhoods. Meanwhile, in yet another call to negotiate, the three coalition partners (MNR, MIR, and NFR) committed themselves to preparing a referendum, revising the hydrocarbon law and amending the Constitution to include a Constitutional Convention. Virtually in chorus, Morales, Quispe, and Jaime Solares and Roberto de la Cruz rejected the government proposal, calling it a transparent ploy, a last minute invention without specifics.
In an interview with an international radio network, and on CNN, Goni said he could not explain Mesa’s decision to distance himself from the government. With regard to the violence on October 12th and 13th in El Alto, he rejected responsibility for the vandalism and rioting, but, he said, “The President must bear the responsibility for deaths.” It is a serious crisis, he agreed, because “it is sedition, an insurrection, backed by drug interests, against the democratic order, against the unity of the country, and this is why I will not resign…The drug mafia wants to install a dictatorship under Morales and Quispe,” he explained. “A coup,” he noted, “aims at overthrowing the government and is not interested in finding solutions to demands.” Although he said he was sure Morales was being financed from abroad, he did not specify by whom. Speaking of the international support for Bolivia’s democracy he had received, even from Cuba, he made note of the silence from Venezuela despite the support he had expressed for Chavez when he was having problems. “Maybe he was busy or absent-minded,” he told CNN.
The government never officially accused Morales of receiving money from Venezuela. Suspicions were aroused by his frequent trips to Caracas and his friendship with Chavez; they were voiced on several occasions by anonymous sources within the government. These suspicions received strong reinforcement by the return to La Paz from Caracas on Wednesday, October 15th, of a group of MAS members. ANSA, the Italian news agency, reported their return on the same day.
After a meeting with Goni on the 16th, the presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies convoked an emergency session of Congress. The agenda was the three proposals made by the coalition parties: the gas referendum, changes to the hydrocarbon law, and amendment of the Constitution to include a Constitutional Convention.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had warned demonstrators against any attempt to remove by force a "democratically elected government," and the US ambassador, David Greenlee, told the press after a meeting with Mesa, and with Mesa standing beside him, that Bolivia will find itself isolated by a government installed under pressure. He said he believed a democracy must follow certain rules and if it wants to replace a president it must do so as set down in the Constitution. “A succession by way of a forced resignation would be a tainted succession that we would not support,” he emphasized. “Our support is for a Constitutional government and Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada won an election.”
“I will not resign,” Goni told Radio Panamericana in a firm voice on the morning of October 17th. Later, after a meeting with Goni of more than an hour, Reyes Villa, the leader of the NFR, decided to withdraw his party from the government. Goni met with Paz Zamora in the afternoon. Speaking to the press on leaving the meeting, he made known his decision to distance the MIR from the President.
Tensions ran high in La Paz. Incidents of vandalism were reported and of police using tear gas to disband groups of disorderly protestors; the streets were filling with people from El Alto and outlying localities; the 800 miners had been transported down from El Alto and taken possession of the university building, waiting to be called out; more than 1,000 Yungas cocaleros were approaching the city and a column of cocaleros from Chapare were marching on Santa Cruz, in the eastern lowlands. In the early evening, Goni’s daughter and his son, with their families, including a 6-week-old baby, left the city by helicopter to the Air Force base in El Alto, and from there flew by military plane to Santa Cruz. His wife left with him later. Goni’s choice had come down to resign or accept more bloodshed.
At 9pm, Goni offered his resignation to Congress, asking that the constitutional succession be preserved. By 9:45, his resignation had been accepted, and he left the country with his family on a commercial flight from Santa Cruz. His vice-president, Carlos Mesa, as dictated by the Constitution, was inaugurated before midnight.
Early in his presidency, Carlos Mesa, Goni’s former vice-president and constitutional successor, promised a full investigation of the October violence. Accordingly, the District Attorney for La Paz assigned three district prosecutors to form the Investigative Commission. Meanwhile, on October 31st, Mesa, in one of the first acts of his presidency, signed Presidential Decree 27234, awarding amnesty for all acts committed in violation of the National Security Law of August 4th 2003 and between that date and the date of the Decree. An amnesty by definition is recognition of specified crimes committed by specified perpetrators and is a general pardon. Decree 27234 includes no statement of exclusion of any potentially accused either in its preamble or its articles. Its stated purpose is to recover the democratic order, fortify the Rule of Law, and bring about social peace and the reconciliation of all Bolivians.
Detailed references to material evidence, in the report of the Investigation Commission confirm the events and sequence of events set out in the chronology of coup based almost exclusively on reports in the Bolivian Press. The fate of the report and its authors, and the successful cover-up of the truth about the coup, help explain why the slanderous accusation against Goni of having ordered troops to fire on unarmed demonstrators has prevailed and attained the credibility of “undeniable facts.”
The three district attorneys assigned were instructed to investigate, “with all the powers and responsibilities assigned to them by law,” the events referred to as “The Defense of Gas in Black October” and in relation to the accused in five criminal complaints filed against them. The accused included, among others, Goni, his cabinet, the congressmen Evo Morales Ayma, Felipe Quispe Huanca, and Alejo Véliz, trade union and other leaders, Jaime Solares, Roberto de la Cruz, Oscar Olivera, David Vargas, Faustino Ligarte (?), and members of the Military High Command and the National Police. The Report was signed by the three district attorneys on July 28th, 2004.
The results of the 10-month investigation are set out in a 7-section, 33-page Report. It is important to reiterate that the Report confirms the events and the sequence of events reported by the press from mid-September to October 17th, 2003.
The following summary of the Report has been made in terms of the events and evidence detailed and legal conclusions reached by the three district prosecutors. The Report:
1. recounts the repeated government efforts to establish dialogue with the leaders of the escalating protests and of the evolution from June into October of legitimate local and sectorial social demands to political demands for changes in government policy to the sole goal of overthrowing the government and installing a new government. The categorical refusal by these leaders of the offer by the MNR, MIR, and NFR, the three parties of the government coalition, to negotiate a referendum on the sale of the natural gas is stated to be their judicially defining act;
2. sets out evidence based on statements by witnesses, including foreign tourists in the rescue caravan ambushed on September 21 at Warisata, and by victims and direct and indirect participants on both sides of all the other violent confrontations between September 21st and October 17th, the date of Goni’s resignation, and the collection of material evidence at more than 17 sites, including photographic, topographic and planimetric studies and various caliber spent shells (among them Mauzer (?) shells), metal fragments, dynamite slings, casings and fuses found at Warisata and in El Alto and reports, that all the material evidence was sent to the Institute for Forensic Studies (IDIF) for analysis and/or safe-keeping; and the statements and IDIF reports were attached to the Report.
3. specifies that the evidence provides detailed proof of the presence of civilians armed with Mauser rifles and other firearms and dynamite among the attackers and of recurring armed aggression against security forces and establishes the basis for the conclusions that the security forces acted in self-defense and in defense of the released hostages at Warisata and in self-defense, in defense of the Constitution, and to protect the local population from the danger of an explosion of the cisterns in El Alto;
4. pinpoints in El Alto where the deaths occurred on October 12th and 13th, demonstrating that the great majority occurred at five sites along the route, through densely populated neighborhoods, of the gasoline and diesel fuel convoys from the supply depot in Senkata down into La Paz and in the district of Rio Seco, where the overpass across a main avenue was blown up, attempts were made to blow up household gas distribution pipelines and, during the pillaging of the local service station, a gasoline reservoir exploded, causing the death of four;
5. establishes a total of 58 deaths, among them five soldiers, and 215 certified wounded for all of Bolivia during violence related to the Warisata Ambush and Gas War, that is, from September 21st to October17th; the number of deaths, listed by name and location, in El Alto on October 12th and 13th was 39;
6. excludes Goni and the members of his cabinet from the investigation for not being under the jurisdiction of a District Attorney but, as former president and former ministers, under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General;
7. discusses at length international doctrine, legal principles and Bolivian constitutional law, citing the constitutional duty of the Armed Forces to guarantee the stability of a democratically constituted government and of the National Police to preserve public order and compliance with the law, the direct orders of the Army high command and police commands and Article 123 of the Penal Code requiring public officials to resist, by all means at their disposal, acts of rebellion or sedition, and the fundamental principle that “a democracy is founded on the will of the people expressed through universal suffrage and underlining that no excuse can permit the will of the people” thus expressed to be denied, and noting that hundreds of lives depended on protecting the highly explosive cisterns from attack. The discussion establishes the basis for absolving the Army High Command and police commands of any liability for the deaths on October 12th and 13th;
8. discusses legal doctrine and comparative law regarding the granting of amnesty and the principle of equality before the law, before concluding that although sufficient evidence was found of violations of the law by the remaining accused and of lack of restraint on the part of some members of the security force, Presidential Decree No. 27234 granting amnesty for felonies committed during the Gas War barred the Investigative Commission from drafting charges. This effectively closed the five cases assigned for its investigation. The Report was signed by the three district prosecutors on July 28th, 2004, and on the 29th copies were sent up the hierarchy of their superiors. 
The conclusions of the Report were made public by the three district prosecutors, at a press conference on July 29th and were met by an outburst of rage in official and other pro-Morales quarters; the three district prosecutors had exposed the falsehood of a peaceful, spontaneous social protest fired on by government forces. On Friday, July 30th, Mesa, through his spokesman, announced that proceedings against Goni would be continued since murder, homicide, massacre, and human rights were not covered by the amnesty decree, and on the same day Mesa, taking advantage of Congress being in recess, made a number of judiciary appointments normally not his to make. Among them was the appointment of a new district attorney for La Paz, who immediately told the press she would undertake a review of the report to decide whether it should be revoked. And on that Friday, the Deputy Minister of Justice publicly stated his rejection of the report’s conclusions, alleging that the intention of the government had been to grant amnesty only to the social, political and union participants in the Gas War but not to the military and police. He also threatened to take legal action against the district prosecutors. On August 8th, the totally pro-Morales Sacha Llorenti, by now president of the APDHB human rights organization, stated his support for the inclusion in the cases against Goni and his ministers of the recently replaced Attorney General, District Attorney, and Ombudsman, all congressional appointees from before Goni’s overthrow. Llorenti accused them of cover-ups and dereliction of duty. On August 17, Llorenti wrote to the president asking for the Amnesty Decree to be abrogated to avoid it being used “maliciously,” as the Investigative Commission had, to close the cases entrusted to their investigation and as an obstacle to legal proceedings against Goni and his “collaborators.” A September 7th summary of the proceedings involving all of these cases refers to the disciplinary action in course against the three district prosecutors of the first investigative commission. The new District Attorney and Attorney General reopened the cases, saying the report would be “corrected and finished,” and subsequently appointed another three district prosecutors to do so. In December 2004, these three district prosecutors again closed the cases, citing “lack of evidence.”
One of the first acts of the new District Attorney for La Paz had been to transfer two of the district prosecutors to El Alto, where they were the targets of aggressive insults and threats, in constant physical danger, and in fear for their lives, as she must have known they would be. They finally wrote to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. In their letter, they set out in detail their investigation and their conclusions, described the political persecution, including the proceedings against them, and harassment they were suffering. They asked for an evaluation of their work and their current, untenable situation, with a view to being granted the “protection necessary to secure us respect for our constitutional rights and guarantees.” The letter is signed by the three district prosecutors and dated September 1, 2004.
Also on September 1, 2004, a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was in Bolivia “as a consultant in support of the Bolivian government’s investigation of the events that took place during February, September and October of 2003.” The UN representative met, first, with the Deputy Minister of Justice and, in the afternoon, with Mesa, but “made no statement following the meeting.” The UN Resident Representative was “very cautious” and said only that the UN is always ready to give its “technical support to any type of legal proceedings in this country or any other.” It is difficult not to conclude that the September 1, 2004 presence in Bolivia of the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was related to the reported appeal, dated September 1, 2004, to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights for protection by the three district prosecutors.
Two earlier congressional resolutions had asked Mesa to request investigation of the October violence by the OAS and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the first, on October 23, 2003 and the second in July 2004. No such investigation has ever been made.
The press chronology and Investigation Report of the three La Paz district prosecutors establish conclusively the falsehood of the accusation that in October 2003 “the army opened fire on unarmed demonstrators” during a spontaneous and peaceful demonstration. The evidential findings of the Investigation Commission set out in the report were never challenged. The Report was attacked and suppressed because of its conclusions: that the Army and police commands and members of the security force acted in accordance with Bolivian and International Law and could not be held responsible for the violence or deaths; that the actions of the organizers, enforcers and instigators of the violence, among them Evo Morales, were seditious from the moment all appeals to negotiate were rejected; that evidence was found of cases where individual soldiers, notwithstanding their right to self-defense, had acted in violation of their duty under the law to avoid excessive force; and that, where evidence of sedition and excessive use of force was found, the amnesty decree precluded drafting individual charge. Amnesty is a pardon, especially for political offenses against a government. The insistence that the amnesty was intended to cover only participants in “social action in protest against the government,” was, therefore, an admission of the probable guilt of such persons accused in the cases reviewed.
The cover-up of the truth about the October violence by the suppression of the Investigation Report, the persecution of the three district prosecutors, and the failure of President Mesa to obtain, as twice required by Congressional resolutions, an objective investigation by the OAS or United Nations, reinforces the validity of the Investigation Report and the press chronology. The report that a second investigative commission closed its investigation because of “lack of evidence,” is cause for concern that the evidence deposited by the first commission for safekeeping with the Institute for Forensic Studies (IDIF) has been removed and, perhaps, destroyed.
The evidence discloses the October violence as a coup in leftist guise and the first stage of a conspiracy by Morales to reach the presidency as a democratically elected president. His democratic election was essential, he knew, to win the support of international public opinion. The organizers and instigators of the coup, the radical nationalist Quispe, and the heads of the National Confederation and La Paz Federation of Labor, Solares and de la Cruz, all three representatives of Bolivia’s left, have no position of influence under the Morales government. Quispe withdrew from the political scene, with sharp criticism for Morales. Solares fell to the head of only a regional labor federation, and de la Cruz won a seat, but not as a MAS candidate, on the El Alto Municipal Council. The coup was to force, by violence and loss of life if necessary, Goni’s resignation The next step of Morales’s conspiracy was made clear by his statement on October 13th, the day of worst violence in El Alto when he proposed, as the democratic solution, the President of the Supreme Court replace Goni; the President of the Supreme Court, he knew, would be required to call elections within six months. When Goni’s vice-president, Carlos Mesa, assumed the presidency, Morales was not deterred. Social disorders, openly led by Morales and aided by Llorenti, forced the resignation of Mesa, and intimidated the next two constitutional successors, who refused the presidency. In less than two years Morales had achieved what he wanted: the President of the Supreme Court was Interim President and had called the elections won by Morales in December 2005.
The quantities of misinformation in the Ramonet letter, including the slanderous accusation against Goni, may clearly be seen to derive from falsehoods spun by his sources by the suppression of facts and sheer fabrication. By the suppression of the 1952 Revolution and the subsequent 50 years of Bolivia’s political, economic and social history, most notably the landmark reforms of Goni’s first presidency (1993-1997), his sources planted a perception of Bolivia not as it was in 2003 but of the semi-feudal Bolivia it had been since before its independence in the 19th century and up to the 1952 revolution. The 1952 Revolution transformed Bolivia into a multiparty democracy with universal suffrage. By 2003, rural-to-urban migration by the no longer land-bound indigenous small farmer had reduced the rural population from 75% to 40%, and the country’s indigenous population, had dropped to 50% by self-identification. Goni’s reforms had brought the indigenous languages into rural schools as the classroom language for the first three years of elementary education; noteworthy progress was being made towards the goal set of universal maternity, under-five child, and reproductive health coverage; the Capitalization had increased proven natural gas reserves by a factor ten, and 50% of the profits earned by a capitalized company, in addition to fiscal obligations, were remaining in the country; Capitalization had underwritten an old-age annual benefit, the BONOSOL, whose impact was greatest on the country’s indigent elderly, the most marginalized sector of the population; a new administrative division of the country had created over 300 self-governing municipalities, with 10% per capita of national tax receipts going directly to them for decision making by them on spending for infrastructure projects, education and health. All of this and much else about 50 years of Bolivia’s history was suppressed. Otherwise, how else could Ramonet have believed and written that “child mortality is at frightening levels,” when, in fact, under-five mortality had fallen from 255/1000 in 1960 to 77/1000 in 2001, with Bolivia ranking 58th in the world for under-5 child mortality while 105th in per capita GDP, and that “illiteracy[is] the norm,” when literacy stood at 86% in 2001, and had increased for the indigenous population from 55% in 1976 to 80% in 2001. Notwithstanding, 60% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2003, as Ramonet writes. Bolivia is undeniably a poor country, the poorest in South America, but what Ramonet does not write is that it only began to emerge from its poverty in 1952 and that 18 years of military dictatorships (1964-1982) held back its progress. No Bolivian lives today in the abject poverty and human condition of the land-bound rural laborer and his family before 1952.
Morales has built and maintains his international support and his power base in Bolivia by conflating poverty and ethnicity – that the poor are poor because they are indigenous and discriminated against. The “majority” indigenous population falsehood was launched in the Ramonet letter. It has evolved and entered post-2003 literature as a 62% percent majority population by self identification according to the 2001 census, as it appears in the 2004 Amnesty International Report, where the source cited is CEJIS, and in the July 2008 issue of National Geographic as a simple statement of fact. The truth is that calculations based on the demographic data for the 2001 Census on the web site of Bolivia’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística(National Institute for Statistics) give Bolivia’s indigenous population as 50% of the total population. A study based on the 2001 and earlier censuses shows the indigenous population to have decreased from 64% in 1979 to 50% in 2001. It would be impossible to prove the absence of social or economic discrimination for any country. What is a fact is that legal discrimination ended in Bolivia with the 1952 Revolution. Virtually all Bolivians are racially mixed, hence the recourse to self-identification and the impossibility of ethnic discrimination on the basis of physical features or language. The emphasis on self-identification is post 2003 and is important in Bolivia for Morales personally; the fiction of his birth and childhood in abject poverty in a remote Aymara village is widely accepted abroad but cannot stand up in Bolivia because he does not speak Aymara or, indeed, any indigenous language. Bolivia’s problem is the limits placed by poverty on inclusion in the exercise of the rights guaranteed to all Bolivians and on access to all the services that define a decent standard of living.
The reforms of Goni’s government specifically addressed the problem of inclusion, as well as the pro-poor growth requisite for the full realization of the reforms. The Popular Participation Act is a pioneering example in this regard. Morales political discourse wrapped in leftist rhetoric is geared to the preservation of his support in Bolivia and beyond by insisting on ethnic discrimination and fomenting ethnic antagonism and conflicts. It diverts political and practical attention from the real issue of poverty reduction to increase inclusion, the more difficult and long term challenge.
Pro-Morales “human rights” sources in Bolivia, most notably today, Jim Schulz blogs and the NGO CEJIS, continue spinning falsehood by the suppression of facts and fabrication and pipelining them abroad directly and by the internet. Human rights sources enjoy the greatest credibility. CEJIS, with five of it members in cabinet level positions in the Morales government, and the well-rewarded Campero/Llorenti tandem are cited as the sources of much of the extensive misinformation in the 2004 Amnesty International Report on Bolivia. This constant pipelining abroad of falsehoods serves both to reinforce and add to those already planted and to cloud the picture of current events in Bolivia.
Goni is on trial in Bolivia on charges including genocide. Two statements by Morales on YOUTUBE make it clear he has no chance of a fair trial: “The political is above the legal” and “When I’m told something is illegal, I tell them: make it legal! Otherwise, what did they study for?” Shortly after his inauguration, Morales publicly urged the US to expel Goni. Five days later, the Attorney General’s Office announced, “We understand that in the US it is considered anybody who violates human rights should be expelled, and to this end we have undertaken coordination with international organizations for the defense of human rights.” A well-organized campaign got underway to demonize Goni in the United States. Examples of its success are: in 2007, a media article, on the filing in the United States of the civil suit against Goni on charges including crimes against humanity, describes James Cavallaro, executive director of the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, as one of the attorneys in the “phalanx of hard-hitting attorneys for the plaintiffs;” in August 2008, an article on the website of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs repeats the “unarmed civilians” falsehood, stating, “One simply cannot deny the facts,” and calls for the prominent lawyer on Goni’s defense team to withdraw from his defense;” in September 2008, an article on the same web site argues in support of Goni’s extradition with the standard, by then, falsehoods;
The success is evident of the campaign for Goni’s international demonization, announced by Morales’ District Attorney, and launched by “coordination with human rights organizations in the United States.” Only the intentional and successful suppression of the real facts could have made it possible for the slanderous accusation against Goni, and the scores of other falsehoods surrounding the October 2003 violence, to have entered the international information flow as facts that “simply cannot be denied.” The Press Chronology and the suppressed, in its entirety, Report of the three district attorneys disclose the fundamental facts: that La Paz had been under siege for four days; that the siege had cut-off the nation’s capital from its only source of gasoline, diesel, and natural gas supplies; that the attempt on the previous day, the third day of the siege, to bring a caravan of fuel cisterns under police escort down to La Paz had to be abandoned when it was met by an aggressive crowd among which were armed men; that the Presidential Decree of October 11th explicitly and exclusively ordered the army to undertake the passage of fuel cisterns down to La Paz; that the highly explosive cisterns had to pass through densely populated neighborhoods of El Alto; that they were attacked at several points by rioters, among them armed men and including dynamite-armed miners; that two convoys of fuel cisterns arrived safely to La Paz; that the explosion of a cistern and the death of unspeakable numbers of uninvolved residents of El Alto were successfully avoided. Had the real facts not been suppressed, the U.S. human rights organizations and the participants in the international information flow taken in by the falsehoods might well have addressed the human rights of a major city under siege, the right to life during rioting, and, in the case of Warisata, the human rights of persons held hostage and, after their release, while being transported to safety.
Since Morales achieved his goal of Bolivia’s presidency in January 2006 and Goni resigned the leadership of his party, the MNR, shortly thereafter, the question must be addressed of why Morales has persisted with Goni’s political persecution in Bolivia and hisinternational demonization. Machiavelli provides a succinct answer:
If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.
The vengeance Morales fear is the international disclosure of the many falsehoods fundamental to his support both in Bolivia and abroad. It cannot be doubted that court rulings in the US, where the traditions of judiciary independence and due process are strong, will be in Goni’s favor. But they will not be able to fully erase the successes of the demonization campaign nor the preconceptions of bias shaped by the history of US policy in Latin America. The rulings will be met by many with skepticism, when not with outbursts of anti-Americanism. History, however, will write that Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was falsely accused and recognize the unique service to Bolivia and beyond of his vanguard reforms.