April 3, 2002
Narco News '02
Called Him a "Die-Hard,"
Worried Over Political Fallout
By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
Publisher's Note: Last December 6th, we arrived
in Bolivia within hours of the assassination of coca growers
union leader Casimiro Huanca. As we went to his town of Chimoré
in the Chapare region of the Amazon to investigate the crime,
interview eyewitnesses and take photographic evidence, Bolivian
government officials were lying to the press and the international
community about what had occurred.
Our White Paper on the Assassination of Casimiro
News, December 19, 2001) demonstrated, with evidence, that
Casimiro was unarmed when he was shot in cold blood, in front
of witnesses, by military "anti-drug" troops as he
was leading a peaceful protest.
Four months later, his
uniformed assassins have not been arrested nor prosecuted.
But this week, Narco
News obtained a U.S. government document - a cable sent from
the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia to U.S. officials in Washington,
Miami and four Embassies in South America - authored last December.
The document was uncovered by authentic
journalist Jeremy Bigwood
of Washington, DC, through a Freedom of Information Act inquiry.
The memo reveals that U.S. officials knew all along that the
Bolivian government was lying, but the U.S. Embassy remained
silent about what it knew.
memo sent by the United States Embassy
in La Paz, Bolivia, to Secretary of State Colin Powell and other
officials in Washington last December reveals that U.S. officials
knew that the December 6, 2001 assassination of coca growers'
union leader Casimiro Huanca had been committed by Bolivian government
document, obtained by Narco
News, further shows that U.S. officials knew that members
of the Bolivian military had been dishonest about the events
that led to Huanca's assassination.
"The military members admitted firing
but stated categorically that they fired into the ground as they
are instructed to do. One admitted firing into the air as a means
of attempting to control the crowd," wrote an Embassy official
who signed the communiqué only with the cryptic name of
The official noted, "The wound received
by Huanca appeared to be from a large caliber weapon, producing
a large entry and exit." In other words, the shot had to
have been fired at close range, in contradiction of the claims
of the uniformed assassins.
However, even as U.S. officials knew the
real facts, they remained silent as Bolivian officials lied to
the press and public last December about what had transpired
in the town of Chimoré on December 6th.
The official document confirms the key
finding of the Narco News White Paper on
the Assassination of Casimiro Huanca (Narco News, December
19, 2001): that the military "anti-drug" forces
Al Giordano, D.R. 2001
News had arrived in the region within
hours of the assassination and conducted an extensive investigation,
including eyewitness testimony and photographic evidence.
The existence of this official cable also
suggests that the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia, headed by Ambassador
Manuel Rocha, may have violated its duties under the Leahy Amendment
of U.S. law to inform Congress of abuses by military and police
forces in anti-narcotics activities in Bolivia.
The official cable's language also reveals
that U.S. officials saw the atrocity only through a political
lens and without regard to the human rights policies established
by Congress, or the human cost of Casimiro's murder.
"This is a particularly regrettable
incident at this time," wrote the official known as Duddy.
"The key question," wrote the Embassy official, was
not that Huanca, an unarmed union leader whose assassination
left a widow and three children, had been shot in cold blood
by military soldiers. According to the official of the U.S. Embassy
in La Paz, rather, "the key question" was the potential
for political consequences of the assassination in the Chapare
region of the Bolivian Amazon, and whether the atrocity would
cause the coca growers' movement - referred to in the memo as
"cocaleros" - led by Congressman Evo Morales to, as
a result, "regain some of the momentum they have lost."
"Casimiro Huanca," wrote the
U.S. Embassy official, "was considered a die-hard cocalero
in Evo Morales camp."
"The Chapare had been, since November
21," wrote the Embassy official, "relatively quiet
and Morales forces had been unable to regain any initiative.
Now, a strong Morales supporter has been killed, apparently by
the military. Whether the cocaleros will take advantage of this
incident and regain some of the momentum they have lost is the
The document, dated 2001, does not have
a specific date, but by definition would have had to have been
sent between December 6 and 31 of last year. The document number
is: 2001LAPAZO4988. It was sent to the U.S. Secretary of State,
the National Security Council, the U.S. Embassies in Colombia,
Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) headquarters in Washington and other U.S. agencies, including
the State Department's Air Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in
and More Lies
the Embassy cable disclosed doubts
about the Bolivian military claims of having fired from a distance,
it repeated disinformation that, at the time, the Bolivian government
had been promoting.
The full document is now available online:
Although the Narco News White Paper on
the Assassination of Casimiro Huanca established, with testimony
from eyewitnesses and local officials, including the mayor of
Chimoré, that farmers had staged a peaceful protest on
the side of the road, the Embassy cable repeated unsubstantiated
claims by Bolivian officials that the farmers had been blocking
"On December 6, at approximately
15:45, two campesinos were shot during a skirmish with counternarcotics
security forces that were trying to remove a blockade of bananas
and pineapples from the main road in Chimore," wrote the
Embassy official. "A group of campesinos belonging to the
Chimore Federation attempted to block the main road in Chimore
(the Cochabamba/Santa Cruz Highway) using hundreds of stalks
of bananas and thousands of loose pineapples as material for
The violence occurred, officials claimed
at the time, because of the alleged blockade. "Personnel
of the Chapare Expeditionary Force (FEC), having been pre-warned,
attempted to clear the road as it was being blocked. As the crowd
grew larger and started to threaten the security forces, the
police who were supporting the operation used tear gas in an
effort to disperse the crowd. The crowd became one large mass
as the campesinos continued to advance on the FEC causing both
campesinos and security forces to receive the full effect of
Chimoré Mayor Epifanio Cruz,
among other witnesses, told Narco News last December that
there was never any blockade of the road on that day:
"The military says that the farmers
were in the road, blocking the road. That is not true,"
insisted the mayor. "The farmers were along the side of
the road, handing bananas and fruits to passing motorists, as
a protest of the 'alternative development' programs that have
left them with rotting fruits and no market to sell them. It
was a peaceful demonstration, not a blockade."
"The compañeros invited the
soldiers to eat the pineapple, and some did. Then came the commander
giving orders. The soldiers took all the pineapples, all the
bananas away -- moments before they had been receiving them as
gifts -- and the soldiers became very aggressive. They grabbed
our brothers like they were animals, pushing and pulling them.
They kicked them. I saw one farmer get kicked in the back of
the neck. The farmers fled into and behind the union headquarters."
Al Giordano, D.R. 2001
Mayor Cruz also told Narco News
that he was standing near the soldiers as the farmers were chased
away from the road and behind the union headquarters. At no time
did the farmers "advance" on the military troops. In
fact, they were fleeing from the tear gas and beatings that the
soldiers were administering.
The version sent last December by the
Embassy official was pure fiction. It said, "At one point,
apparently feeling threatened, some military members fired into
the crowd resulting in injuries to two campesinos. Fructuoso
Herbas was wounded slightly above his right ankle. Casimiro Huanca,
the main cocalero leader for the Chimore Federation received
a gunshot wound in the groin on the left side that exited his
left thigh apparently severing an artery. Huanca died a short
time later at the Chimore hospital. (Note: Casimiro Huanca was
considered a die-hard cocalero in Evo Morales camp. End note.)"
However, as eyewitnesses told Narco
News last December, no shots were fired into any crowd. Both
Casimiro and Fructuoso (interviewed in the hospital by Narco
News) were shot at point blank range. The soldiers who had chased
Casimiro and Fructuoso shot them individually, one at a time,
at point blank range.
Herbas, in Hospital, the Day After the Shooting
Al Giordano, D.R. 2001
even as the U.S. Embassy cable repeated the disinformation of the Bolivian government, it admitted a key
fact: That the "anti-drug" soldiers had assassinated
Casimiro Huanca and that the nature of Huanca's fatal wound precluded
the official story that soldiers had mistakenly fired into a
Instead of correcting the record to the
press and public, the U.S. Embassy of Viceroy Manuel Rocha chose
to remain silent, and allowed the lie to spread.
Casimiro Huanca was 55 years of age. A
memorial plaque now placed at the roadside where he was assassinated
says, "Casimiro Huanca Choque, Executive of the Chimoré
Federation, Hero, Coca Grower, Fallen in the Defense of National
Sovereignty, December 6, 2001."
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