<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español August 15, 2018 | Issue #33

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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Voices From Around the World Unite for the Release of “Pacho” Cortés

Representatives of a Humanitarian Mission to Bolivia Criticize “Anti-Terror” Policies

By Alex Contreras Baspineiro
Narco News South American Bureau Chief

June 8, 2004

La Paz, Bolivia: Social activists and leaders, elected politicians, trade unionists, and human rights activists from around the world joined forces this week to resist the anti-terrorism policies of the United States, and to demand that the Bolivian government release Colombian citizen Francisco “Pacho” Cortés.

Cortés has been imprisoned in Bolivia for more than a year. He is currently being held in the San Pedro prison in La Paz. Earlier, he was held, together with Bolivian citizens Claudio Ramírez and Carmelo Peñaranda, in the maximum-security Chonchocoro prison, in the nearby city of El Alto.

Social leaders José Bové from the French Confédération Paysanne (“Farmers’ Federation”), Honduran leader of Vía Campesina (“Farmer’s Path”) Rafael Alegría, Belén Torres of the Colombian National Association of Peasant-Farmers, Frey Sergio from the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement, and Bolivian congressman Evo Morales gave a press conference from the National Parliament building.

Evo Morales and José Bové in the press conference at the National Parliament
Photo: Alex Contreras Baspineiro, D.R. 2004
Bové called Pacho’s case very significant. The previous government, under deposed president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, fabricated charges of terrorism, armed revolt, and narco-trafficking without any evidence, said Bové.

The U.S. government, continued Bové, hopes to criminalize the struggle of the social movements in Bolivia, as well as the rest of the continent, using the cover of the so-called “war on terror”.

If the government does not free Cortés in the next few days, said the well-known anti-globalization activist, he and his colleagues will begin an international human rights campaign for Cortés’s release.

No to Terrorism

Rafael Alegría, who leads the international peasant-farmer organization Vía Campesina, said that Pacho is no terrorist, as he is being accused of under pressure from the U.S., but that he is rather a defender of human rights.

Rafael Alegría
Photo: Alex Contreras Baspineiro, D.R. 2004
Criticizing the Bolivian government for its attempts to link forty-five coca-growers’ leaders with illegal, terrorist activities, Alegría said that all these leaders have done is to fight for democracy and human rights.

Frey Sergio of the Landless Workers’ Movement called Cortés “a political prisoner” who is being used as a trophy in the war on terrorism.

Hundreds of people signed a letter delivered today to President Carlos Mesa, noting that Cortés has been illegally detained in La Paz since April 10, 2003.

“Mr. Cortés has been publicly slandered, accused of charges that are unacceptable to those in his country (Colombia) and in Europe who know him for his long career as a peasant-farmer, social leader, and human rights defender,” reads the letter.

In the most respectful possible manner, the letter presents the group’s demands within the framework of Bolivian law, and announces that the group will press for Cortés’s release because he is being held with no evidence.

Clamor for Justice

Though Cortés has now been denied his freedom for more than a year, he said from his jail cell that he feels strengthened by the solidarity of the International Mission.

Congressman Morales presents wiphalas, traditional flags, to visitors
Photo: Alex Contreras Baspineiro, D.R. 2004
“As is well known by the public,” he said at a press conference from the San Pedro jail, “Francisco Cortés has been classified as a terrorist by the public prosecutor. However, the international community and the entire world know that Francisco Cortés is a defender of human rights and a social worker. That is the truth.”

Belén Tórres, a leader in Cortés’s National Association of Peasant-Farmers, said that the organization had received thousands of letters of solidarity, from all over the world, during the year of Cortés’s unjust detention.

She said that if the Bolivian government is truly sovereign and dignified, it must free Cortés as soon as possible.

The Humanitarian Mission’s members will also hold a series of meetings with local labor, political and human rights leaders.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America