Violent tensions are flaring in Bolivia's capital between rival factions of one of the country's coca-grower unions, which oversee sales to the legal market. Clashes broke out in early August between two factions of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers of La Paz (ADEPCOCA)—one loyal to President Evo Morales and his ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), the other to imprisoned union leader Franklin Gutiérrez. The former group staged "parallel" elections for new union leaders in late July, but the latter refuses to recognize the poll, and continues to demand the release of Gutiérrez and other imprisoned unionists. The first clashes on Aug. 2 came as MAS supporters besieged the ADEPCOCA headquarters in the Villa Fátima district of La Paz, demanding that the Gutiérrez supporters surrender the offices.
An appeals court in Rome sentenced 24 to life in prison on July 8, including former senior officials of the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The officials were found to have been involved in Operation Condor, under which opponents of military rule were tracked down and eliminated across South America's borders in the 1970s and early '80s. The exact number of people who were killed through this operation is not known. The case before the court focused on the disappearance of 43 people, 23 of whom were Italian citizens. The prosecutors applied the universal jurisdiction precedent from the 1998 arrest in London of Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. They also referenced the 2016 conviction of leaders of Argentina's military dictatorship, which confirmed the existence of Operation Condor for the first time.
Bolivian President Evo Morales launched his campaign for a fourth term with a massive rally May 18 in the Chapare region where he began his career as a peasant leader a generation ago. But the country's political opposition charges that Morales is defying a 2016 referendum, in which voters rejected a fourth consecutive term. The referendum results were later overturned by the Plurinational Constitutional Court—sparking a wave of protest. (Al Jazeera, Reuters, May 18) The campaign begins amid controversy surrounding accusations that opposition lawmakers have sent a letter to US President Donald Trump jointly calling for his "intervention" against Morales' re-election.
Aymara indigenous leader and opposition lawmaker Rafael Quispe says he will file "abduction" charges against the Bolivian government after he was arrested in La Paz Feb. 21, and shortly released when a judge found there was no grounds for his detention. Quispe, of the left-opposition Unidad Demócrata party, was brought before the Second Anti-corruption Tribunal for having supposedly missed court appearances in a legal case against him for alleged "harassment" of Felipa Huanca, a militant of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) and former candidate for governor of La Paz department. The case stems from Quispe's accusations that Huanca was involved in embezzlement of funds slated for development of indigenous communities when she was La Paz head of the Bartolina Sisa Federation of Campesina Women in 2014. (La Razón, La Paz, Correo del Sur, Sucre, Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Feb. 21; La Razon, Jan. 11)
US senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bob Menéndez (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have introduced a resolution calling on Bolivia's President Evo Morales not to stand for re-election this October. Cruz said Bolivia is going in a "very dangerous direction, aligning itself with illegal and illegitimate regimes, including that of [Nicolás] Maduro in Venezuela. It is important that all parties respect the constitution of Bolivia, which includes term limits." (Peru21, Feb. 1) Bolivia saw a wave of strikes and protests after a December ruling by the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal allowing Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term in the 2019 election.
An international space venture called Satellogic was just announced, with headquarters in Buenos Aires, to produce satellites for the China Great Wall Industry Corp at a new plant in Montevideo, Uruguay. It is slated to deliver its first 13 satellites this year, to be launched on China’s Long March 6 rocket. China Great Wall was established in 1980 under auspices of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, and operates the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, the principal space facility in the People's Republic (MercoPress, SpaceNews, NASA SpaceFlight) But the announcement comes amid growing concern within Argentina about activities at the Chinese-operated "spaceport" at Bajada del Agrio in Patagonia—and the apparent role of the People's Liberation Army in the facility.
Bolivia has seen strikes and protests since the Dec. 4 ruling by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) allowing President Evo Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term in the 2019 election. The ruling was met with marches, road blockades and work stoppages that caused varying degrees of disruption in eight of Bolivia's nine departments. A student mobilization in the hydrocarbon-rich eastern department of Santa Cruz, heart of anti-Morales sentiment, ended in violence, with the regional offices of the electoral tribunal burned to the ground. Hunger strikes were launched in six cities, with at least 20 still ongoing.
Speaking at the fifth International Andino-Amazonian Forum for Rural Development in Cobija, Bolivia, a member of the delegation from Ecuador accused the Quito government of masking the despoliation of indigenous territories in populist phrases. Mónica Chuji, a community leader from the Ecuadoran rainforest, accused former president Rafael Correa of invoking the indigenous concept of Sumaj Causay or Vivir Bien (Good Living) in his new constitution only to "folklore-ize it [folklorizaron] so it ends up being a cliché without content." She said there is a "divorce between the discourse and the reality" as Ecuador's Amazon is opened to "mega-corporations that destroy our territories with the protection of successive governments." She also charged the government with persecution of indigenous leaders who resist. "In Ecuador, there are now more than 500 leaders, men and women, subject to different legal processes—some sentenced, other facing trial, and many fugitives in the face of persecution and prosecution of social protest." (Agencia de Noticias Fides, Bolivia, Oct. 17)