Tuesday, September 16, 2008

UNASUR Shows Morales Unwavering Support

Sept 16 (digitalwarriormedia) Yesterday, during an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Bolivia ’s President Evo Morales told his fellow heads of state that the opposition had just attempted a coup against his government.

Gathering in Santiago, Chile at the urgent calling of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, representatives from 12 countries in South America responded to Bolivia ’s internal crisis that threatens trade and stability in the region.

Weeks of roadblocks, coordinated by anti-government protestors and instigated by the opposition-led National Democratic Council (CONALDE) have disrupted trade between Bolivia and neighboring Argentina and Paraguay.

Last week pipelines to Brazil were sabotaged, resulting in at least a 10% drop in natural gas exports. Brazil receives 50% of its gas from Bolivia.

Anti-government protesters sacked and looted government buildings in five provinces last week, attacking the police and the military. The worse incident occurred in Porvenir, near the capital city of Cobija in the northeastern province of Pando. Paramilitaries ambushed a group of government supporters with automatic weapons, leaving at least 15 dead and over 100 wounded.

UNASUR unanimously condemned the actions of the opposition governors and threw their support behind President Morales.

The meeting was attended by: Cristina Fernandez (Argentina); Lula da Silva (Brazil); Alvaro Uribe (Colombia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay); Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay) and Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), as well as representatives from Suriname and Guyana, and the Foreign Minister of Peru, Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde.

Last night, President Bachelet read aloud the Declaration of the Palacio de La Moneda - an 8-point manifesto that was unanimously signed and adopted by all 9 heads of state in attendance. The regional bloc also created a commission to investigate the massacre in Pando.

Morales expressed his appreciation for the solidarity that the regional body, individual governments and social organizations had shown in the wake of Bolivia ’s current political crisis.

“I want you to know that my government, together with the social movements, only works to seek equality for all Bolivians, profound transformations in the social and cultural structure, and in democracy,” said Morales.

He said what had happened in recent days was undemocratic and the actions of these groups had violated human rights.

Justice Sought

According to Mario Uribe, Bolivia 's chief prosecutor, Governor Leopoldo Fernandez and other top officials in Pando, will be charged with genocide for provoking "a bloody massacre."

Four survivors of the massacre at Porvenir gave testimony that the paramilitaries were organized into groups that ambushed the marchers at three different places and pursued people as they tried to carry their wounded into the woods, shooting indiscriminately.

Meanwhile in La Paz, more than a thousand government supporters marched on the U.S. Embassy yesterday, burning an American flag and chanting anti-American slogans while demanding justice for those massacred in Pando. Bolivians also marched in the city of El Alto denouncing Governor Fernandez and calling for his arrest.

The army arrested 10 people on Monday accused of organizing anti-government protests in Cobija. Reports from the Bolivian government indicate that some of the gunmen from Pando have escaped to neighboring Brazil. The Brazilian government has been asked for cooperation in finding and detaining the perpetrators.

UPDATE: The prefect of Pando, Leopoldo Fernandez Ferreira, was arrested at around 11:00 am on Tuesday as he boarded an aircraft, presumably headed to La Paz, although this information was not confirmed by any official source.

Fernandez did not put up any resistance to the military operation. He is accused of being the ringleader of a conspiracy that led to the slaughter of peasants in the region of Porvenir, Pando. In a press conference, President Morales said the ambush of his supporters last week left at least 15 dead and 37 injured.

Anti-Morales activists seized buildings last week in Pando and three other states to protest a planned vote on a new constitution granting greater power to Bolivia's poor indigenous majority.

According to Morales, the arrest was made pursuant to constitutional and legal norms governing the country, in particular Articles 111 and 112 of the Magna Carta.

(Sources: AP and Agencia Boliviana de Informacion - ABI)



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