One dead after police violently repress student protests
On 24th May 2018, students from El Alto University took to the streets to call for an increase in the institution's allocated budget. The mobilisation was repressed by police officers, leading to the death of one student. Jonathan Quispe, died after he was fatally wounded by a gunshot wound fired by Bolivian security forces.
After Quispe's death, several protests took place demanding justice for the unwarranted use of lethal force during the protests. Protesters also rejected the Bolivian authorities' attempts to blame protesters for Quispe's death. A few days later, on 30th May 2018, a police officer was identified as the perpetrator and held responsible for firing the shot which killed the student activist. Despite this, there yet to be an agreement on the additional funds allocated to the public university, leading to further protests in June by students. Reports note that these mobilisations have been subject to further repression.
In a separate incident, during May and June 2018, Bolivia hosted the South American Games. During the inauguration day, it was reported that a young woman was harassed by police officers who asked her to remove a shirt emblazoned with the “21F" message. Bolivian activists are using this slogan in commemoration of a consultation where people voted against the reelection of President Morales. This decision was later revoked by the Supreme Court. The activist was identified because she started singing “Bolivia said no” and at one point she was followed by the whole stadium. Carlos Romero, the Ministry of Government, justified the police intervention saying that international law states that no messages promoting violence or discrimination are allowed in sports scenarios. Maria Suarez, the activist affected, said that by no means the message she was wearing contained violence or discrimination. She also reported receiving threats after the incident.
#UPDATE #Bolivia On 15 May 2018, two policemen tried to detain #HRD and lawyer Nelson La Madrid at a bus station. The following day, a judge declared a popular action by indigenous communities Nelson was representing inadmissible. https://t.co/M39emP15Pa pic.twitter.com/ZdszvEPLeQ— Front Line Defenders (@FrontLineHRD) May 24, 2018
As previously reported in the Monitor, activist and lawyer Nelson La Madrid reported receiving threatening calls in April 2018 due to his work representing an indigenous community fighting against the building of a hydroelectric project owned by Bolivia’s Electric National Company (ENDE). Reports indicate that this harassment has continued. For example, on 15th May 2018, when he was about to take a bus to the community of Lagunillas to support the community in a hearing related to this case he was detained by two police officers. The officers insisted that La Madrid had to join them to the police station regarding a complaint made against him, but La Madrid refused to do so without an arrest warrant. While he was allowed to leave station, after returning from Lagunillas he was informed that no complaint against him had been filed. During the hearing in Lagunillas on 16th May, the judge ruled against the community stating that the right to prior and informed consultation hadn't been violated given that the project was still in its planning stage and the document signed with the Chinese company is only an expression of interest. La Madrid said that they will appeal the decision and if it is unsuccessful, they present the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
On 25th June it was reported that Galo Hubner Mamani, director of a local station in the town of Chulumani, received death threats for his work covering the crisis of the coca producers in the Yunga region. As reported in the Monitor, during mid-March the Asociación Departamental de Productores de Coca (Association of Coca Producers - Adepcoca) had an internal crisis that led to violations to the freedom of peaceful assembly and clashes between the two leaderships in Adepcoca. Mamani and his radio station, Radio FM, covered this situation and tried to persuade the leaders of Adepcoca to sit and resolve the situation through dialogue. Mamani claimed that Adepcoca is polarizing political opinion the region. Given the divisive rhetoric, the reporter also claimed his work has led to him to be unfairly subject to a barrage of threats and harassment.
After the South American Games the National Press Association published a statement explaining the obstacles journalists faced during the coverage of these events. The organisation expressed the overburden that independent journalists faced, as opposed to State TV journalists who had unrestricted access.
¿Y la libertad de expresión en #Bolivia? El director de Radio FM Bolivia del municipio de #Chulumani Galo Hubner Mamani, denunció que recibe amenazas de muerte a través de mensajes de texto por su labor periodística #DDHH #Yungas https://t.co/6FEaoqFlU3— Jorge Luis Alurralde (@jlaap) June 25, 2018