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  • Bolivia’s Regime Mobilizes Far-Right Paramilitary Groups
Published 9 August 2020
Opinion

Paramilitaries and civil shock groups linked to the defacto administration have begun carrying out attacks against social movements.

Paramilitary and extremist groups have waged assaults on demonstrators in three regions as security forces look the other way on day seven of nationwide protests demanding elections.

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Human rights defenders are warning about the use of civil shock groups and paramilitaries, linked to Bolivia’s coup regime, to violently attack the road blockades while leaving people injured. 

Bolivia’s Ombudsman, Nadia Cruz, has reported to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as well as to the UN Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, that Bolivia’s police has turned to irregular civilian groups “with a para-police and paramilitary character” to lift the blockades being carried out as organized working class sectors intensify their resistance to the coup.

The Ombudsman denounced that one of these groups was present on Saturday night at Plaza Abaroa in the city of La Paz, where youth are holding a hunger strike and vigil outside of the Supreme Electoral court.

Under the threats of force, the shock group demanded that the citizens end their protest while police stood by idle. The protesters say they are vulnerable to an escalation of attacks as media workers are now also afraid to cover the events due to intimidation by violent groups.

The Association for Human Rights of Bolivia has called on international organizations to pronounce themselves on these violations. It also reported that a journalist of the television channel Cadena A was assaulted while trying to film the far-right group intimidating the youth and student protesters.

Across the country, 61 rural workers were arrested on Saturday afternoon in the municipality of Samaipata in the Department of Santa Cruz after an ambush by paramilitary groups of the far-right Samaipata Civic Committee, in joint actions with the police. 

A number of those who were detained and released, reported torture and maltreatment and said the police planted explosives within the belongings of the arrested, in order to accuse them of carrying such devices. Around 40 people of them are currently still being held as political prisoners, some of which have been framed as carrying explosives.

Another far-right group, which calls themselves the “Cochala Youth Resistance” (RJC), laid siege on blockades on Blanco Galindo Avenue in Cochabamba on Sunday, driving around on motorcycles and other vehicles while wearing bulletproof vests, and while carrying handcrafted bazooka-type weapons.

Movement Towards Socialism candidate for President, Luis Arce, responded saying that the events which occurred in Cochabamba “demonstrate the hatred and violence of the shock groups mobilized by the defacto government that seek to convulse Bolivia.”

The Ombudsman's Office says that it has repeatedly “requested the Bolivian Police, the Ministry of Government and the State Attorney General's Office to develop the necessary actions to investigate the crimes committed by these irregular groups and to comply with the recommendations issued by international organizations so that these irregular groups dismantle.”

Defacto Interior Minister Arturo Murillo has made daily threats and ultimatums to the social movements, saying several times that he would put an end to the blockades “in the coming hours.”

Meanwhile, coup leader and presidential candidate Fernando Camacho has issued an ‘open letter’ to Jeanine Añez, threatening to mobilize violent extremist groups which carried the protests against Evo Morales if the regime fails to crush the pro-democracy protests.
Other armed, white supremacist and far-right groups have published similar threats on social media, saying they vow to evict the Indigenous and union organized blockades—all with the backing of the regime.

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