NEW YORK (October 8, 2008) –The Human Rights Foundation released a 14-page report detailing the crisis that claimed 21 lives in the month of September of 2008, and left hundreds of people injured throughout Bolivia. The report was sent to Bolivian President Evo Morales with a letter outlining HRF’s concerns regarding the political violence and the repeated statements by the Bolivian head of state defending racial hatred, threatening the freedom of the press and inciting conflict.
“It is appalling that the president of a country that is a signatory to the majority of the world’s human rights treaties is literally calling on the people of his nation to choose between his political agenda and death,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Unfortunately, as long as the government’s official discourse continues to promote conflict and racial hatred between Bolivians, the human rights situation in Bolivia is going to continue to deteriorate,” he added.
The report criticizes Morales for repeatedly using terms such as “racists,” “fascists,” “separatists,” and “traitors” to describe the leaders of the opposition. The report states that Morales’ calls for supporters to “die” in “defense of the revolution” are in direct violation of article 13 of the American Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits any propaganda for war or racial hatred. Similarly, the report links a growingly belligerent discourse by the government as responsible for physical assaults against members of the press by supporters of the government.
According to the report, since the beginning of Morales’ presidential term in 2006, Bolivia has become the Latin American country with the second highest number of deaths due to political conflict—second only to Colombia, which has been engaged in an ongoing internal struggle with the terrorist organization FARC. The deaths and injuries on the 11th, 12th and 13th of September add up to the more than 40 deaths and thousands of injured as a consequence of the political violence which has spread since Morales took office.
HRF believes that political tensions will only be resolved through dialogue and by the categorical commitment, both by the Bolivian constitution as well as the recently approved local government statutes, to respect and improve the individual rights of all Bolivians regardless of their race, color, gender, language, religion, national or social origin, economic position, place of birth or any other social condition. HRF urges both the President of Bolivia and the governors of the country to operate within the framework of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.
HRF is an international nonpartisan organization devoted to defending human rights in the Americas. It centers its work on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny. These ideals include the belief that all human beings have the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF’s International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Armando Valladares, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.
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