Criminalisation and disruption of protests continue in Bolivia

Peaceful Assembly

As reported by the Monitor, residents of Achacachi sustained protests against the locality's mayor for over a month - through August - blocking access to the road into the city. On 18th September, police reportedly used excessive force against demonstrators in both Achacachi and La Paz, where citizens had also mobilised in solidarity with Achacachi. In La Paz, police violently dispersed the demonstrators, and when the activists tried to film the police intervention, three of them were arrested. The activists were released three days later. 

During the protest in Achacachi, 15 people were initially arrested,11 of whom were ordered to remain in detention. Four were later released. In early October, two community leaders who participated in the above-mentioned protests were arrested and now face prosecution On 22nd September, a group of local civil society organisations issued a statement condemning the criminalisation of protests in the region  and calling on the government to engage the protesting groups in a productive dialogue. 

In a separate incident on 20th October, representatives of Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory), an area under indigenous control that is currently endangered due to road construction, held a protest in the country’s capital. Police officers also forcibly dispersed that protest.

Expression

Asociación Nacional de la Prensa de Bolivia (The National Association of the Press in Bolivia) and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) raised concerns over a proposed modification to the Criminal Code that is under discussion in the National Assembly. Article 200 of the Criminal Code punishes "medical malpractice" but the proposed change aims to reword the language as "professional malpractice". A representative of IAPA stated that this could threaten media freedom as media workers could then de facto be investigated for conducting their activities, if deemed "malpractice".

During the police operation that dispersed the 20th October Isiboro protest as mentioned above, journalists were reportedly harassed. Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores de la Prensa de Bolivia (Press Workers’ Union) has demanded that the General Commander of the National Police remove two police officers from their positions as they were caught on tape harassing a journalist. A government official stated that there will be an investigation to determine the alleged infractions by the police officers.

Association

On 20th September, pro-government activists intervened during a meeting of Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos de Bolivia (Permanent Assembly of Human Rights of Bolivia). Earlier this year, the Assembly was subjected to the same interruption. The reason for the continued disruption is that the authorities have demanded that the organisation vacate its offices, which it has thus far refused to do.