Human Rights Watch released a report on Sept. 11, asserting that Bolivia's interim government, led by President Jeanine Añez, uses the judiciary to attack former President Evo Morales, his supporters, and former members of his administration. The report claims Añez's government "has publicly pressured prosecutors and judges to act to further its interests, leading to criminal investigations of more than 100 people linked to Morales government and Morales supporters for sedition and/or terrorism." The report states that many of these investigations "appear to be politically motivated." Among those charged is Morales himself, who was accused of terrorism after he fled the country last November.
The US Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit in Miami vacated a lower court judgment that had exonerated former Bolivian president Gonzalo ("Goni") Sánchez de Lozada and his defense minister Carlos Sánchez Berzaín of responsibility for the killing of protesters during the 2003 "Gas War." The pair fled to exile in the United States after repression that led to the deaths of at least 58 protesters failed to put down the protests. In 2007, surviving relatives of eight killed in the repression brought suit against the two exiled leaders in a US district court under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The case, Mamani et. al v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, marked the first time a former head of state has stood trial for human rights violations in a US court. In April 2018, the jury found the two liable under the TVPA and awarded plaintiffs $10 million in damages after a month-long trial that included six days of deliberations. But in an unusual move, Judge James I. Cohn set aside the jury verdict and entered its own judgment in May 2018, holding the defendants not liable based on insufficient evidence. The Eleventh Circuit has now reversed Cohn's ruling, and remanded the case to the district court. The lower court is instructed to weigh whether the jury verdict should be reinstated.
Protesters have launched blockades across main roads through Bolivia over the past days, effectively cutting off La Paz and other cities, to oppose the government's postponement of new presidential elections. The blockades have raised fears of food and gasoline shortages, with throngs of La Paz residents lining up outside markets and petrol stations. Chancellor Karen Longaric portrayed the protests as being masterminded from exile by ousted president Evo Morales, saying "Ex-president Morales and groups aligned with the Movement Toward Socialism have initiated violent and inhuman acts."
A thousands-strong march through the Bolivian highland city of El Alto on July 28 was followed by a cabildo, or mass meeting, in which unions and popular organizations agreed to immediately begin an "indefinite" general strike, demanding that new elections be held on schedule. The country's first elections since the ouster of president Evo Morales last year were slated for Sept. 6, but the government of interim president Jeanine Añez has postponed them to Oct. 18, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The cabildo was called by the Bolivian Workers Central (COB), the country's main trade union bloc, and included representation from campesino organizations such as the Túpac Katari Federation and Ayllus de Norte Potosí, as well as El Alto's powerful alliance of working-class neighborhood organizations, FEJUVE. COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi affirmed: "If we join together as miners, campesinos, the middle class and El Alto, we can be dynamite." (Latino USA, Guerrerxs del Arcoiris, Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, Opinión, La Paz)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) formally agreed June 22 to hear a complaint filed by 64 indigenous communities in Bolivia's eastern rainforest, accusing the Bolivian state of violating their territorial rights under the administration of ousted president Evo Morales. "The proposal and actions by the Bolivian government to build the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway, whose central section (section II) crosses the heart of the Isiboro-Sécure National Park & Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS), have generated multiple violations of the rights of indigenous peoples by the Plurinational State of Bolivia," according to a statement by the advocacy group EarthRights International. The complaint charges that the Bolivian state undertook to build the highway through the territory without consulting or obtaining the consent of indigenous inhabitants. It also alleges that the government illegally used force to break up the cross-country "VIII Indigenous March" that was called to protest the road construction in 2011. (Agencia de Noticias Fides)
Peru's right-wing opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who had been jailed in January while corruption charges are pending against her, was released from pre-trial detention at Lima's Chorrillos prison on May 4, ostensibly on fears she could be exposed to the coronavirus. Fujimori will be under "restricted release," meaning she cannot leave Lima without prior authorization and must check in every 30 days with judicial authorities. Of course there has been no general discharge from Peru's dangerously overcrowded prisons, and one leading anti-corruption prosecutor in the Fujimori case, Rafael Vela, is protesting her release as "illegitimate." (Milenio, Japan Times, Diario Uno)
Mounting police-state measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now resulting in stand-offs between executive and judicial authorities. In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele, for the third time in 10 days on April 16 publicly dismissed Supreme Court rulings to respect fundamental rights while enforcing quarantine regulations. First, on March 26, the court ordered the government to release individuals who had been detained while grocery shopping. Then on April 8, the court explicitly provided that the government lacked proper statutory backing to detain citizens. After both rulings, Bukele took to Twitter, urging security forces to be strict with the lockdown and reiterating that violators will be placed in a containment facility. The third order states that the Bukele administration must respect the COVID-19-related rulings. Again, Bukele responded on Twitter, declaring that "five people will not decide the death of hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans." Security forces have already arbitrarily detained hundreds of people in the containment centers, where rights observers charge they face an increased risk of spreading COVID-19. (HRW, CISPES, Jurist)
Ten days into a national "quarantine" declared in Bolivia, protesters are taking to the streets to demand food in working-class districts of cities across the country—in defiance of lockdown orders. Residents are calling for either greater flexibility in the lockdown, which has paralyzed the economy, or food distribution in their barrios. Street protests have been reported in El Alto, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Tarija, Trinidad and Riberalta. The government of interim leader Jeanine Áñez has pledged one-time payments of $60 for elders, the disabled, pregnant women and others with special needs. Her supporters on social media are portraying the protests as fomented by the ousted Movement Toward Socialism (MAS).