Francisco “Pacho” Cortés Is Transferred to La Paz
Very Ill, He Leaves the Maximum Security Prison of Chonchocoro
By Alex Contreras Baspineiro
Narco News South American Bureau Chief
March 20, 2004
COCHABAMBA, BOLIVIA, MARCH 20, 2004: Weakened, ill, and under the effects of a year of imprisonment, without being charged or sentenced for any crime, Colombian citizen Francisco, “Pacho” Cortés, considered a “dangerous terrorist,” was transferred yesterday from the maximum-security prison of Chonchocorro (El Alto) to the San Pedro Penitenciary in La Paz.
Under strict security measures by the police and very quietly, yesterday afternoon, the Colombian was transferred to the aforementioned prison and is in a cell in the section of the prison named “Guanay.”
Recall how on April 11, 2003, “Pacho” was arrested in a spectacular and televised “anti-terrorist” operation together with Claudio Ramírez, former La Asunta City Councilor in the Yungas region, Carmelo Peñaranda, a social leader in the Chapare, and two minors of age.
Ramírez and Peñaranda remain imprisoned in Chonchocoro and the minors are free on personal recognizance.
On that day, the government of the fallen Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (of the coalition of four parties: MNR-MIR-UCS-NFR), presented the “terrorists” first as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in its Spanish initials), but found no proof; later they were accused of being members of the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN), still without any proof; and, finally, it was alleged that they formed illegal groups linked to narco-trafficking… but still without evidence.
Almost one year from his arrest there is no formal charge nor evidence offered.
On March 2nd, Narco News obtained an exclusive interview with “Pacho.” We reported the delicate state of his health – he had an ulcer and severe gastritis, frequent nosebleeds, hearing problems, pain in his kidneys, poor circulation and suffered from stress.
Since all illnesses in the maximum-security prison are treated with nothing more than aspirin, the Colombian turned to “chewing” coca leaf to try to calm his nerves and this improved his state of being.
Defense attorney Mary Carrasco today informed Narco News that the Colombian citizen is in very fragile health and is also affected psychologically by the unjust detention.
In this state of health he can’t face trial, she said.
“The right to live is the most important. That’s why we have moved that the pertinent authorities deal with the Cortés case. This Colombian citizen has not been sentenced, but, rather, merely impugned, and has been in jail for close to a year,” said Carrasco.
After evaluating Pacho’s medical reports that recommended his transfer to a treatment center, Judge Carlos Sánchez Casteló ordered his transfer to San Pedro jail in La Paz.
It is necessary to remind that, prior to April 10, 2003, Pacho had never been held in any prison, not in his native Colombia, not in Bolivia, or in any other country, because for 25 years he has dedicated himself to defending human rights, to social work, to the defense of the most dispossessed, to developing work projects, to renewing human values, to stopping the spread of transgenic seeds, and to strengthening farmer organizations. He was also a schoolteacher.
“I’m not a terrorist. I’m a defender of human rights and, now, the neoliberal governments and the U.S. government consider me as some kind of trophy because they have nothing real to show for the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking,” he told us in the first interview.
The San Pedro prison is located in downdown La Paz, at 3,600 meters above sea level, compared to the 4,150 meters of altitude where he was held in Chonchocoro.
Attorney Carrasco said that the judicial authorities have the responsibility to deal with the Cortés case, and also those of the other coca growers’ leaders arrested and facing charges of armed uprising and “terrorism.”
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