Lawyer threatened for advocating on behalf of indigenous communities' rights

Association

Between late March and early April 2018, human rights lawyer Nelson La Madrid reported receiving threatening calls in retaliation for his work supporting an indigenous community's fight against the construction of the Rositas Hydroelectric Project (property of Bolivia’s Electric National Company - ENDE) in the region of Santa Cruz. La Madrid is advocating for the communities of Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao as they claim their right to prior and informed consent regarding the building of the hydroelectric project. La Madrid reports that he has been receiving phone calls saying that “he won’t make it to the trial”. Two judges have refused to hear the case, claiming that they lack the jurisdiction in this particular instance; however, La Madrid believes that their decision was made under pressures from ENDE and government officials.

On 15th March, Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos de Bolivia (Permanent Assembly of Human Rights of Bolivia - APDHB) reported that members of the Central Obrera Departamental (COD), broke into their offices in Oruro and caused damage. In the 1980s, the APDHB helped the COD to buy the office. In the last General Assembly of the COD, the APDHB requested permission to continue operating in those premises as a show of solidarity for the support given in the 80s, a request that was initially accepted. However, the COD's Board refused to sign the final agreement, allegedly due to the critical position of the APDHB towards the government of Evo Morales. The disagreement over the use of the office space led COD to break in on 15th March.

Peaceful Assembly

On 21st February, citizens took to the streets in support of or against President Evo Morales. The protests took place in the context of the second anniversary of the referendum during which citizens rejected the option of another reelection for the incumbent, Morales. Nonetheless, a Supreme Court decision later enabled Morales to run indefinitely in subsequent presidential elections. The February protests took place in eight regions with multiple acts of repression reported as well as clashes between groups of demonstrators.  

During the week of 19th March, Asociación Departamental de Productores de Coca (Association of Coca Producers - Adepcoca) had an internal conflict when some of its leadership did not recognise the election of Franklin Gutierrez as the new head of the organisation. Gutierrez used to support President Morales but has become a critic of the government in recent times. The leaders who opposed Gutierrez’s election took over the premises of Adepcoca, along with police officers, and prevented Gutierrez’s supporters from entereing. The situation led to several clashes between Gutierrez’s supporters and the police that lasted over a week and ended with more than 40 people injured. After some negotiation, Gutierrez was elected head of Adepcoca. During the conflict, government official Carlos Romero alluded that Gutierrez and his supporters were being financed by the U.S. Embassy. Days later, on 10th April, Coca Vice Minister Froilan Luna declared that coca producers not aligned with the ruling party would not receive further government support.

Expression

During the 167th Period of Ordinary Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Asociacion Nacional de la Prensa (ANP) reported that the right to freedom of expression in Bolivia is under threat. From 2010 to 2017, the organisation documented 136 acts of physical aggression and 155 verbal attacks and threats against media outlets and journalists. During the IACHR hearing, ANP's Marcelo Miralles Iporre stated that in Bolivia:

"Censorship manipulated by state advertising, prior censorship promoted by laws, financial asphyxia to the media, and intolerance with critical points of view, create a risk for press freedoms, and therefore for democracy".

In a separate incident, Asociacion Nacional de la Prensa (National Press Association - ANP) expressed concern over a court decision that convicted Isaac Nogales Rocha of minor charges, instead of attempt homicide. In 2017, Rocha broke into the house of journalist Adolfo Yavari with a knife and stone and attacked the journalist. ANP asserted that:

"The prosecutor, Alvaro Arce, and the judge, Marco Maraz, should have considered the intention to attempt the murder of Yavarí, before issuing this ruling".