Bolivian President Evo Morales ended martial law in the northern department of Pando Nov. 23, more than two months after government supporters were killed in the region amid strikes and protests by the opposition. The decision by Morales clears a legal barrier for the government to hold a Jan. 25 referendum on a new constitution. “As of midnight, martial law was lifted,” said government minister Alfredo Rada. Earlier this month, Bolivia’s electoral court warned it would not allow the referendum to go forward if martial law was still in effect in the remote department of Pando. The prefect of Pando at the time martial law was declared, Leopoldo Fernández, remains under detention. (Reuters, Nov. 23)
An investigative commission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) found that Pando department prefect officials were responsible for the massacre of peasant supporters of Morales on Sept. 11. The results of the inquiry are to be formally released this week. The commission determined that the 15 killed on the outskirts of Porvenir village were ambushed by a paramilitary force organized by the Fernández administration. The report also finds that at least another 70 peasants are still missing and that other massacres may have taken place. The Tahuamanu river valley and area around Porvenir are being searched for common graves. (ABI, Nov. 21)
Officials and political leaders from Pando and its capital Cobija are identified in a video of the attack broadcasts by Bolivia’s state TV station, Canal 7. Among those identified are José Villavicencio, a senator with the National Unity party, and the evangelical pastor Luis Antonio Rivera—who was wounded by friendly fire in the attack. (Prensa Latina, Nov. 24)
In another sign of Bolivia’s polarization, Adolfo Cerrudo, a leader of the pro-government Popular Civic Committees, was placed under house arrest Nov. 14, accused of taking part in physical assaults against a score of journalists outside San Pedro de La Paz prison, who were there to cover the investigation into Fernández on Oct. 29. Already under investigation for threatening to rape a journalist of the daily La Razón, Cerrudo was under a legal injunction preventing him approaching members of the press as a condition of his bail. (Reporters Without Borders, Nov. 20)
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