"He who owes
nothing, fears nothing"
-- Evo Morales,
on Hunger Strike
Al Giordano, D.R. 2002
Narco News '02
Still on Hunger Strike
By Luis A. Gómez
News Andean Bureau Chief
they've taken dozens of leaders prisoner
during the War Over Sacaba. They've also assassinated four more
coca growers. Last Thursday, in a dark morning for the legislative
history of Bolivia, they succeeded in expelling Evo Morales from
Congress with arguments that were completely illegal, burdos,
without even adjusting their maneuver to the mechanisms of the
Ethics Laws of the House of Representatives. But yesterday, kind
readers, when the hour came to arrest Evo Morales definitively
between their garras, the judicial branch (that elegant hand
of Latin American governments) simply took two steps back and
let him go
Do we begin this story on last Friday,
when Evo left the hall of Congress toward Cochabamba to hold
a hunger strike? Or do we briefly summarize all that has happened?
With New Information
will remember that the history of this
new conflict (the most violent in five years) between the Bolivian
coca growers' movement and the current government of this country,
began with one Supreme Decree (number 26415). In this document,
President Jorge Quiroga has decided that the coca from the Chapare
region can not be sold because it is (so insist the government
and the U.S. Embassy) a product of illegal crops. This unleashed
a war over the eldest coca-leaf market in the country: Sacaba.
After various days of struggle in the
streets with bonfires at almost every corner, four coca growers
died in Sacaba, along with three military soldiers and a police
officer. Beginning on Saturday, January 19th, the combined forces
of the army and the police unleashed a wave of selective arrests
that brought more than 100 leaders and militants of the Six Federations
of Peasant Farmers of the Cochabamba Tropic. After these tragic
acts and the arrests, the Congressmen from the traditional parties
(fundamentally MIR, AND, MNR and NFR) came to an agreement: Evo
Morales, the maximum leader of the coca growers and elected Congressman
from the Chapare, had to be expelled.
On Thursday, the 24th, at 3:20 in the
morning, the separation of the man who obtained the most votes
in the general election of 1997 (according to data of the national
Electoral Court, 70.3 percent) from his post was completed. In
a process unworthy of representatives of the people, Morales'
colleagues accused him of "abuse of immunity." That
is to say, of taking advantage of his congressional immunity
to foment crimes or protect criminals. In passing this resolution,
the members of Congress based their maneuver on photocopies of
newspaper reports! Although that was not the worst part of it,
nor the fact that some of those who asked for his expulsion also
have similar charges pending
The worst was that they violated
their own ethics rules: they prevented him from defending himself.
Evo Morales, according to said regulation (of which we have a
copy), had 15 days from the presentation of the accusation against
him to present proofs exonerating him, but this never occurred.
And if it's about noncompliance with procedure, the stupidity
of the congress members has come to the point of failing to deliver
a copy of said resolution, in which, according to the internal
norms and procedures of the House of Representatives, Morales
would still be a member of Congress, because nobody has formally
informed him of his definitive separation from Congress.
Nonetheless, Evo began his hunger strike
in the seat of the Bolivian Congress, where they threatened to
expell him by force and did not permit even the entrance of banners
or placards. That's why, on Friday in the first flight to Cochabamba,
the leader of the Chapare coca growers went there to continue
his strike. On Tuesday, Morales reached his sixth day of hunger
strike, installed in the offices of the Central Labor Union of
the State of Cochabamba, a few steps from the police, the judges
and other authorities in this city. His attorney, Dr. Héctor
Arce, has presented a motion to the Supreme Court, the maximum
judicial authority in Bolivia, against the illegal separation
of Evo from Congress.
To continue, we present for you an interview
given by Evo Morales to Narco News in Cochabamba this week.
Who Owes Nothing, Fears Nothing"
each wall of the habitation where he sleeps,
Evo Morales has hung a sign with his five basic demands, important
to understanding the current posture of the coca growers' leader:
1. The immediate release of political
2. Cancellation of Supreme Decree # 26415.
3. The Closing of Congress.
4. Against the Dictatorship of Quiroga.
5. Compliance with Agreements.
Narco News: Approximately
how many political prisoners are there from the coca growers'
movement at this moment?
Evo Morales: There are almost 60 (50 men in the Maximum Security
Prison of Abra and Six women in the San Sebastián Jail).
They have already freed don Filemón Escobar, an advisor
to the movement.
Narco News: We know
that on Friday, you barely arrived at the airport in Cochabamba
and they delivered you a subpoena to appear in court for the
case they have brought against you for sedition. However, with
the rapidity with which they have pushed this case, and because
they seem to be taking advantage of the weekend, does it appear
to you that they are improvising the process at these moments?
Evo Morales: In fact, last Friday, the 25th, I presented myself
voluntarily to face charges over this process. He who owes nothing,
fears nothing. It would be great if Banzer similarly presented
himself to appear and face his charges in Argentina
why doesn't he? Because, he is afraid. Certainly, on that day
they waited for me in the airport with a citation to appear on
Monday at 9:30 a.m. I also appeared for that, but they did not
allow me to testify and I have not been able to clarify what
type of accusations there are against me for the charges of sedition
and others. And they haven't delivered us anything. There is
a rumor that they are preparing to arrest me. But I reiterate:
I'm not afraid. And if it is a crime to defend the poor, this
is a political problem. Everyone knows that the general election
Narco News: That is to say, are you convinced
that this montaje is meant to impede the coca growers (through
the Movement Toward Socialism party) will again win congressional
seats in 2002?
Evo Morales: Totally. It's not just about congressional seats.
There are many movements that are gathering steam against the
"unpatriotic," against those who sell and auction the
country. The conscience of the political parties grows against
the political model that agonizes us. It all surges from that.
What they are trying to do is liquidate us. Already, in 1998,
they had decided upon my civilian death and in 1999, when we
obtained very good results in the municipal elections, the situation
Narco News: And what role does the United
States Embassy play? Is it involved in all this?
Evo Morales: Last year, the current Speaker of the House, Luis
Vásquez, told me: "Evo, I'm sorry, but there is an
extreme pressure against you." A member of the MNR (National
Revolutionary Movement party) said to me: "I am not in agreement
with the pressure from the United States." Even Roberto
Fernández of the New Republican Force said to me that
there had been a lot of pressure from the U.S. to get me out
That's why in my last speech in the House
I said that the Congressmen who speak against me do so to pay
accounts to the United States. They compete to demonstrate which
is more anti-Evo and to have a good image with the United States
government. They forgot about having a good image with the people.
What they can't accept (the US officials) is that, second to
the miners, the coca growers, we are so strong, not only organizationally,
but also culturally and ideologically.
For the United States and the multinational
corporations it seems to be a crime if the farmers continue being
owners of their own lands and if they can't separate us from
our culture. Meanwhile, the original indigenous people, possessing
their lands, will continue being a threat, because land is synonymous
with liberty. And what they want is for us to become agricultural
employees. This is the real battle.
Narco News: Are you saying that it's already
not just about eradicating coca in the Chapare, but also converting
the crops to serve the needs of the multinational businesses?
Evo Morales: Exactly. And that the farmers become their agricultural
workers. It's already not about 'zero coca.'
Narco News: Returning to the case of your
separation from Congress. What arguments did they use against
Evo Morales: Well, they said that I had abused my congressional
immunity. And they based their accusations on newspaper clippings
in which it was said that I would heat up the Chapare, which
is totally false. And it also must be noted that any declaration
made by a congressman or senator, according to Article 51 of
the Political Constitution of the State, is protected speech.
What's more, all my declarations were to predict what, later,
did happen in Sacaba. There is no serious error nor any crime.
There had been no previous charge.
Apart from this, the information that
we have indicates that it was not the Ethics Commission of the
House of Representatives that edited the document. My expulsion
was edited and later passed through the hands of (ex president
and leader of the MNR party) Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada,
(the ex president and leader of the MIR party) Jaime Paz Zamora
and (the president) Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga.
Narco News: How did you experience the conflicts
Evo Morales: Since before those confrontations began, I sent
letters to the Public Defender and to the Catholic Church. We
knew that this was going to unleash social unrest. And my hypothesis
of years has resulted true: I said, I said, the coca will be
the national flag in the defense of dignity and sovereignty.
Now it's all coming true. Now, on the 5th or 6th of January,
I declared that the Supreme Decree # 26415 would heat up the
country. I never said that I would heat up the country. It's
about the consequences of the Decree, that penalizes the transport
workers, the producer and the consumer of coca leaves. Who can
stand for that? It is a direct attack against identity and culture.
Then we asked for talks, but they didn't accept that.
I was in the march on the 14th, and after
tha, in a meeting. The compañeros decided to reopen the
market. We have to look at the context: Constant abuses, eradication
without alternative development, more hunger, more misery. There
comes a moment in which the people revolt and when that happens,
who can stop it?
Narco News: However, the grand majority of
the politicians (and various media) blame you, directly, for
what happened in Sacaba.
Evo Morales: Sure. Instead of interpreting the causes of everything,
they attack us, the leaders, as the reason for the problems of
all the people.
Narco News: Maybe then you could explain to
us how the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba and the
unions make decisions. That is to say: How are decisions made
inside your organization?
Evo Morales: It is
decided in a large meeting (assembly). No one imposes upon it
and almost always the decision is unanimous. On very few occasions
we have decided things by a majority vote. Including, in some
meetings with the unions, my proposals have been defeated and
I respect that because, from the maximum leader to the last compañero,
we all have the right to propose initiatives, to launch proposals,
to innovate upon ideas.
Narco News: Finally, is there something you
could say to our readers about the current situation?
Evo Morales: The world must take notice that the worst enemy
of humanity is capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like
our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model,
which is the representation of a savage capitalism. If the entire
world doesn't acknowledge this reality, that the national states
are not providing even minimally for health, education and alimentation,
then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated.
I ask, please, that the people reflect about the reality of millions
and millions of human beings who have been excluded, humiliated,
marginalized, above all, the indigenous peoples. It would be
good to reflect in order to find new models of development that
permit us to resolve the problems of the majority and not merely
to augment the enrichment of the minority.
and End... for Now
Sunday the 28th, at 9:30 a.m., Evo
Morales presented himself to the Court. But nobody attended to
him in this place. Surrounded by some 50 compañeros (and
a score of journalists), Morales entered the offices of the local
police command. Here, in an illegal manner, they impeded passage
to everyone and only the leader could enter to be interviewed
by the prosecutor. His compañeros began to shout and demand
passage, because they thought now that the authorities would
arrest him. For 20 minutes this uncertainty lasted. A little
while later, Evo appeared, free because the prosecutor refused
to take any testimony - because of a lack of guarantees!
At noon, in a march and meeting in the
Plaza of the 24th of September of Cochabamba, in front of the
offices where Evo today remains in his hunger strike, his compañeros
again demonstrated and in full vanguard, among them other coca
grower women, and a very young widow asked that Evo be returned
to Congress, that all her compañeros arrested be freed
and that justice be made of her black banner and long tears.
But nothing, kind readers of Narco News,
nothing happens still. The authorities continue refusing to liberate
the prisoners and lying about them. They say they haven't tortured
them as the president of the Human Rights Assembly of Cochabamba
has accused. They also say that none of them are wounded and
that the women prisoners have not been mistreated. And they refuse
to allow the journalists to see them in their jails to report
the facts. But this correspondent, undercover as a social worker,
did enter and saw the men and women of the Chapare who are prisoners
for defending their culture and patrimony. And, yes, they were
tortured (I saw wounds on some of them). Yes, they were mistreated
in the jails. But speaking of their fight, of their leader, and
their implacable will that makes them smile and continue firm
in their struggle which, like the hunger strike of Evo Morales,
is not over yet.
more Narco News, click
Nothing, Fear Nothing