'Anti-terrorist' militarization in Bolivia
The new Bolivian regime's Government Minister Arturo Murillo has announced creation of a special "Anti-Terrorist Group" (GAT), drawn from elite units of the National Police force, to "completely disarticulate all the terrorist cells" operating in the country. Murillo made the announcement at a Dec. 2 meeting of the National Police Special Anti-Crime Struggle Force (FELCC) in Santa Cruz, where he charged that recent political violence in the country had been instrumented by foreign "terrorist" operatives financed by Venezuela as part of a plan to "destabilize" the countries of South America. He particularly mentioned Martín Serna Ponce, a supposed operative of Peru's defunct Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), and Facundo Morales Schoenfeld, a veteran of Colombia's FARC. (Aristegui Noticias, Mexico, Dec. 3; La Razón, La Paz, Dec. 2)
Lawmaker Tomás Monasterio, a leader of the right-opposition under the recently deposed government of Evo Morales, is meanwhile calling for the imprisonment of Alpacino Mojica, a Santa Cruz candidate for the Chamber of Deputies with Morales' Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) in the recently annulled elections, claiming that his campaign was financed by Serna Ponce. (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Dec. 4; Página Siete, La Paz, Dec. 3)
Morales Schoenfeld was arrested Nov. 30 on "criminal association" charges related to the recent unrest in Bolivia, and remains detained in Santa Cruz. (Diario Popular, Argentina, Nov. 30) Although the new reports are vague on his current whereabouts, Serna Ponce was convicted in 1999 on charges of kidnapping Bolivian businessman Samuel Doria Medina, and was a fugitive for several years after escaping from a prison in La Paz. He was recaptured by Bolivian authorities in January 2012, and presumably remains incarcerated. (La Información, Madrid, Jan. 9, 2012)
Murillo also told Reuters Dec. 6 that he will seek Israeli help to fight "terrorism," again citing a supposed Venezuelan conspiracy to destabilize regional governments. "We've invited them to help us," he said of the Israelis. "They're used to dealing with terrorists. They know how to handle them." He added, without irony: "The only thing we want is to bring peace."
Bolivian diplomatic ties with Israel, broken in 2009 by the Evo Morales government, have been restored by the interim regime.
Days earlier, Murillo said Bolivia's interim government would file a case against Evo Morales with the International Criminal Court (ICC) for "crimes against humanity," Murillo has already opened a criminal case in Bolivia accusing Morales of sedition and terrorism. Murillo said Morales "must answer to justice for what he has done, and is doing, in addition to his accomplices who have participated in the tragic events that Bolivians have experienced."
Murillo meanwhile darkly warned an Argentine delegation of human rights activists who had just arrived in Bolivia: "We recommend these foreigners who are arriving...to be careful. We are looking at you. We are following you... There is no tolerance for terrorism, sedition or armed movements. Zero tolerance."
The Argentina Delegation in Solidarity with the Bolivian Poeple, led by left-wing academic Juan Grabois, tweeted in response: "While the de facto government accuses us of being terrorists, we have started what we came to do, take testimony of the different human rights violations that the Bolivian people are enduring."
When the delegation arrived at Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz, it was met with jeers and threats by a crowd of right-wing militants. Some members were repotedly detained by the police for interrogation, prompting the mediation of the Argentine consulate in the city. The group intends to continue to La Paz by land. (AFP, Dec. 1 La Diaria, Uruguay, Nov. 30; InfoBae, Argentina, Nov. 29)
The exiled Evo Morales this week flew from Mexico to Cuba for medical treatment. Before his departure, he was interviewed by Mexico's Heraldo Media Group, and seemed to accept the recent political deal in Bolivia that calls for new elections, without him as candidate. He named as possible MAS presidential candidates his former cabinet members Diego Pary and David Choquehuanca, and Andrónico Rodríguez, leader of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba, the cocalero alliance formerly led by Morales himself. (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Dec. 9)