Once we had reached the barracks, we were subjected to innumerable insults, blasphemy and foul language. Everyone knew us to be priests and monks, and it was to that fact that the insults referred. The main courtyard of the barracks held about 100 paramilitary people who were armed and visibly enraged, numerous soldiers and officers, tanks and other vehicles, some of which were ambulances.
took us to the Department II (Intelligence) building. There were some 15 people in the hall, mostly paramilitary
types. They put us with our faces
to the wall, asked our names and while shouting insults at us and beating and
kicking us, they ordered us to hand over shoes, belts and all personal items
(I had no identity document or article of value on me, except my watch and
keys which they did not see).
then went out again into the courtyard, and they took us toward the stables.
Along the way, a civilian, whom I did not know, beat and kicked me at
will, and nobody tried to stop him. Once
we got to the stables, we saw some 30 to 40 people lying down; I thought that
they were going to kill or torture us. They
forced us to lie face down with our hands behind our heads on top of the mix
of manure and straw that covered most of the floor.
The rest of the day, they went on bringing more detainees, including
all the journalists who were covering the events at the presidential palace,
deputies, trade unionists, university people, etc.
During all this time, the guards threatened us continuously with
insults, orders not to move, etc., some of which were accompanied by a few
kicks and blows with the butt of a gun (the guards were first of all
paramilitary, and then uniformed soldiers; there frequently appeared an
individual with a clearly Argentinean accent, which seemed different from the
one we had heard earlier. He was
particularly cruel and gross in his insults and beatings).
At approximately midnight, a soldier stole my watch.
Until about 3:30 a.m., we were unable to get up to urinate; some who
asked to do so were told they would be urinated on.
the last hour, we were guarded by a soldier (who seemed to be an officer of
the rank of Captain or Major) who behaved in a humanitarian way:
he did not threaten us, did not insult us, did not object to our making
ourselves a little more comfortable; he allowed us to get up and urinate
against a wall in the stable.
At around 4:30 a.m. on Friday the 10th, they took us barefoot out of the stable, with out hands on our heads, which we were told to keep down; they forced us to walk two by two and they beat us a little. They put us into some ambulances of the CNSS (National Social Security Bank) from which the litters had been taken out. They threw us onto the floor of the ambulance, some four or five people in each ambulance. Two civilians came into the ambulance armed with machine guns. All indications were that they were taking us to some out-of-the-way place to kill us. The ambulances went through the streets of La Paz, and when we got out, we realized that we were outside the DOP prison, some 15 meters from the Presidential palace (since the end of the Banzer dictatorship, the place had been used as offices for the Chamber of Deputies, and it was clear that it had just been fixed up again as a jail).
inside the DOP, they again put us up against the wall and asked our names.
Then an agent took us priests aside and put us together in a cell:
at that time, there were only three of us:
the fourth Jesuit was brought into the cell in the afternoon; they had
taken him out of the General Staff Headquarters on the first trip. The cell measured 3 meters x 3 meters, and was lit only by
the light that came in through the cracks in the door. It had a cement floor and the only thing that we had to cover
ourselves with was a torn piece of dusty matting. At 7:00 a.m., they gave us hot coffee, the first food we had
had since our detention; later, at midday or in mid-afternoon they gave us a
plate of food.
We stayed in this cell from the Friday the 18th until the morning of Tuesday the 22nd, when they transferred us to another cell which was in fact an office with a wooden floor fixed up as a cell. One night, they took us out at 1:00 a.m. to take down our basic personal data: name, age, occupation, place of detention. On Sunday the 20th, they returned our shoes.
stayed in that cell until Friday August 1st.
The treatment we received in the DOP was humanitarian, given the
circumstances: the food was not
abundant, but it was well prepared; we were allowed to received blankets,
food, wine for the Eucharist, playing cards, cigarettes, etc., we were not
mistreated. However, we know for
certain that during those days, others were mistreated by soldiers (not from
the DOP) during their interrogation. After
six days’ imprisonment, the DIN (National Investigation Bureau) took a
statement from me without using violence: personal data, occupation, place and
circumstances of detention, information on membership of political parties,
political meetings, possession of arms, plan for an armed struggle in the
country and other questions. I
was given the statement to read and I signed it.
Monday the 28th, they brought three Salesians into our cell; we had been
unaware that they had been detained a week earlier. On the following day, they brought in two Methodist pastors
one from La Paz and the other from Sapecha (Alto Beni); we had seen the one
from La Paz for some days, because he had been detained on the same day as
ourselves. Two or three nights,
we spent some anguished moments hearing and seeing that they were taking
prisoners out to we knew not where and that new detainees were arriving.
Over the days, we saw prisoners, many of them under 20 years of age,
who had been beaten up with varying degrees of cruelty.
There were six women, whom we estimated to be between 20 and 50 years
of age, who had been beaten up with varying degrees of cruelty.
There were six women, whom we estimated to be between 20 and 50 years
of age, who had been beaten up with varying degrees of cruelty.
There were six women, whom we estimated to be between 20 and 50 years
of age, detained in a cell across from ours.
One day, we had a visit from an insolent employee of the Ministry of
the Interior, who was accompanied by his bodyguards bearing submachine guns;
among other nonsense, he told us that no one was interested in us, when by
other channels, we knew of the efforts that were being made by the Church.
think it was on the 30th that Brother José Marco was transferred to the
Copacabana Clinic (Police clinic) to receive care for symptoms of Phlebitis.
Most of our bruises and traces of ill-treatment had practically
disappeared. We were visited by a
DIN doctor three or four times. For
the whole of our stay in the DOP, we went outside on three occasions, for a
total of 20 minutes.
On Friday the 8th of August, at approximately 11:00 a.m. they took us out of the DOP to an unknown destination, but without armed guards. We were taken to the General Staff Headquarters. Later, we were taken into a meeting in the operations room of the High Command, where we saw the Nuncio, two bishops, the Salesian and Jesuit religious superiors, and the three chiefs of intelligence of the Armed Forces. Seeing the attempt by the chiefs of intelligence to hide the truth, we graphically described the treatment that we had received after our detention; the meeting was not very cordial after that.
were returned to Department II, where three priests and two nuns detained in
their places of residence in the northern altiplano joined us later.
We were not spared insults by the civilians and soldiers, who seemingly
proceeded on their own initiative, taking advantage of the prevailing chaos.
AT night, they took us eleven men to an office-turned-cell.
They gave us mattresses and blankets.
The treatment was relatively humanitarian. The food was insufficient, and often cold.
We never once went outside. Five
small tanks and three large ones were parked in the courtyard beneath our
windows, which were covered with newspaper. We often were visited by some
soldiers and paramilitary people; some of them behaved cordially, and others
were domineering or insulting. One
of them was blatantly hypocritical about what he told us, and what he then
said to other people.
August 4, we learned that on the following day, we would all be going to the
palace of the Papal Nuncio. On
August 5, seven were released, while the other four (the three Salesians and
myself) were taken to the Nunciature. When
we went outside, the courtyard of the barracks held the customary group of
about 100 paramilitary people, who were armed and looked like criminals.
Armed Forces intended our stay here to be a step toward exile, but we have
been told that the Nuncio, the Bishops and our religious superiors are not in
agreement, and intend to prevent it.
have learned the charges against: I
find them stupid, unjust because they are false and unproven.
Therefore, I consider my detention to be unjustified and unjust.
Equally unjust will be my exile if it comes to pass.
are living in excellent conditions in the Nunciature and really have complete
freedom within the building.
Until today, August 12, we do not know whether they will exile us or whether they will release us. It is my desire to stay in Bolivia.
The Commission will now
refer to the situation of those in exile and those in compulsory
residence, because it is closely linked to the right to personal
freedom, and the right of movement and residence upheld in the American
Convention on Human Rights.
Article 7, paragraph g) of the Bolivian Constitution upholds
“the right to enter, remain in, travel through and leave the national
territory.” Article 15 of
the Constitution establishes that unless a state of siege has been
declared, public officials who take measures the molestations,
confinement or exile of citizens, and have these measures carried out
shall be subject to payment of compensation for damages and to
corresponding criminal action, if it is proven that the acts done in
violation of the rights and guarantees established in the Constitution.
as stated earlier, when the state of siege is in effect, the declaration
of the state of siege authorizes the Executive to suspend the guarantees
and rights upheld in the Constitution for certain persons charged upon
good grounds with conspiring against the public order.
In such cases, in addition to their arrest by means of a warrant
from a legitimate authority, orders may be issued for them to be
confined to a department of provincial capital where their health is not
in danger, if preservation of public order requires them to be moved
during the state of siege, the Constitution prohibits exile for
political reasons; however, persons confined, sought or under arrest on
such grounds who ask for passports to travel abroad may not be denied
them for any reason whatever, and the authorities must grant them the
guarantees necessary for this purpose.
Those who carry out orders in contravention of this provision may
be tried at any time for violation of constitution guarantees.
It may be said, on the basis of the legislation cited and the
denunciations and reports obtained, that hundreds of Bolivians,
particularly political and trade union leaders, have found themselves
forced to go into exile in various countries, in the face of threats and
intimidation by government authorities, or as an essential means of
obtaining their freedom; others have opted for voluntary exile, or were
deported from the country, while a smaller group have been placed in
“compulsory residence,” i.e., forced to live in a particular area of
the country and appear from time to time before the authorities.
In the opinion of the Commission, these measures were taken
without heeding or respecting the requirements of the Constitution and
for the purpose of liquidating any political opposition, 7
albeit peaceful opposition, in open contravention of the text and spirit
of the American Convention on Human Rights.8
who were able to gain asylum9
in various diplomatic missions on the day of the military coup d’état,
or in the days following, obtained their safe conduct passes after about
three months’ delay. The
IACHR wishes to reiterate its view that the prolonged confinement of
individuals in places like diplomatic missions which have the privilege
of immunity is also a violation of the freedom of persons granted
asylum, and becomes a punishment. In
November 1980, the Bolivian Government informed the commission that all
the people who had been in the diplomatic missions had been granted
their safe conducts and were leaving the country.10
In notes dated April 3 and 30, 1981, the Commission asked the
Bolivian Government for the official list of persons exiled, granted
asylum, deported and in “compulsory residence” in order to clarify
the various reports it had been receiving. The Government to date, has not replied.
The Commission has received document GB/214/11/9 of the 214th
session of the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International
Labour Organisation, which studied Case No. 983 on alleged violations of
trade union freedom by the Government of Bolivia.
Appendix II to that document gives the list of persons who have
been placed in 2internal exile,” freed or exiled.
This information was provided to the ILO by the Government itself
on November 10, 1980.11
Because of its source, the
IACHR felt that it would be useful to include it, since it confirms the
accusations of arbitrary measures affecting the observance of personal
liberty as well as the right of movement and residence upheld in the
Pact of San José.
list appears below:
Below we give some of the other information from exiles on undue
Juan Antonio Solano, born January 27, 1955 in Llallagua,
Bolivia. A metallurgy
student a t the University of Oruro and member of the University
in 1977 during the Banzer Government, and again in 1980 after the coup
d’état. He has been in
exile in Switzerland since November 22, 1980. when he was forced to
leave his country, Bolivia.
on July 18, 1980 in the university cafeteria of the University of Oruro
by the Armed Forces and the police, along with 250 other students.
He was first taken into detention in a military post in Vinto (Oruro),
and then to the Oruro DOP, where he remained for 45 days and was later
transferred to the Ministry of the Interior in La Paz.
During the entire period of his detention, he was mistreated and
was forced to sign false statements.
The interrogations were conducted by agents of the Intelligence
Service. Since he was
considered to be a “dangerous element” he was to be sent to
Argentina. The intervention
of the church (CIME)12
and the United Nations prevented Bolivian political prisoners from being
sent to Argentina. He was
taken to Viacha, where CIME officials interviewed him and facilitated
his exile in Switzerland.
after his arrest along with 250 other students, they were taken to a
military post in Vinto (Oruro0 where they underwent a mock burial, being
forced to get into a trench where they were sprayed with tear gas and
covered with earth and water. They
were then beaten with sticks and were put through mock shootings.
There were than taken to the DOP in Oruro, where prison
conditions were very bad. They
were forced to sign statements under duress; there was neither water nor
food. There were between 30
to 40 detainees in cells measuring 2 x 3 meters.
The detainees’ families took them food.
Since there were a number of detainees from the interior of the
country, they had no one to take food to them.
During the 45 days he was in the DOP, he survived basically on
the food that other prisoners with him.
His next transfer was to the Minister of the Interior in La Paz,
where there were a large number of detainees who would later be taken to
the concentration camps in the east of Bolivia.
(Madidi, San Joaquín, Puerto Rico, Exiamas).
For the first days, they shut him up in a small room and took him
out to interrogate him late at night.
During the first stage of interrogations, they did not use
violence, but when he did not confess, they beta him until he lost
consciousness. He was left for two days in a dark room without anything to
eat or to drink, and was than taken out to be interrogated again.
He was again beaten, and then taken to a cell which contained all
his companions who were in the same psychical condition as himself.
In cells measuring 3 x 4 meters, there were up to 60 people, and
no sanitation facilities. Juan
was classified as a “dangerous element” and together with other
detainees, was on the list of deportees.
On October 25, they were given safe-conducts to be deported to
Argentina as members of extreme leftist groups.
When they were at the airport, they heard the news that CIME, the
church and the United Nations were intervening to prevent political
prisoners from being sent to Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay.
They were taken to Viacha, where CIME officials helped Juan to
leave for Switzerland.
the whole time he was detained, Juan had no meeting with his family and
no opportunity to tell them where he was and in what condition.
He had to leave Bolivia without contacting anyone in his family.
Diego Morales Barrera, painter and professor of the
plastic arts, born in La Paz (Bolivia0 on November 12, 1946.
Professor of the plastic arts at the Higher School of Fine Arts
for six years. From 1976 to
1979, he worked as a sculptor in the Museum of Ethnography and Folklore,
where he was press and propaganda secretary of the First Union of Public
Employees. In February 1979, he head to leave the museum because of
pressure exerted by the Armed Forces.
Morales Barrera has no political affiliation, but his work as a painter
has expressed his disagreement with military coups, he is against de
facto governments and his tendency is leftist.
October 16, 1980, he was detained along with his mother in La Paz by
agents of the (SIE) (State Intelligence Service).
Mrs. Morales was released an hour later. Diego was taken to the Ministry of the Interior where he was
beaten and his papers confiscated.
He was taken to the DIC Section Office in Obraje, a suburb of La
Paz. He stayed there for
four days until October 20, handcuffed with shackles on his feet, in the
dark, without water or food and without toilet facilities, using a
bucket for his physiological needs.
On the 20th, he was taken to the Ministry of the Interior.
There, he was taken to the Ministry of the Interior.
There he was interrogated, his testicles beaten and his hands
burned with cigarettes. The
interrogation continued in the offices of the Ministry of the Interior. Using photographs of his paintings as their grounds, they
questioned him about his political affiliation, who had financed his
exhibit of pictures and whether he belong to the ILN; the interrogation
was punctuated by blows to his ears and body.
doing the beating were agents, while those supervising and asking
questions appeared to be senior military officers.
Between insults and blows, they frightened him by saying that
they were going to take out his eyes, cut off his hands or some other
part of his body. This went
on more or less from two in the afternoon until eight at night, when
three army lieutenants belonging to the SIE took him to a house in the
satellite city of El Alto in La Paz:
this is a low-income neighborhood where most of the houses belong
to workers and minters. The
people in the house were dressed in civil clothing, but they were
soldiers from Tarapacá. Their
leader was a captain and his seconds-in-command were lieutenants, one of
whom they nicknamed “Rommel.”
they prepared the cattle-pick and in spite of continued threats, the
interrogations did not end in violence.
the 22nd, he had the opportunity to escape, since although he was
handcuffed when he was in his cell, he was so thin that he could take
them off. On the night of
October 22nd, they brought in a prisoner whom they savagely tortured by
putting electric current to his testicles.
On the morning of the 23rd, the lieutenants gave the guards
orders to type out the confession of the man who had been tortured, and
to fix the wiring because they were going to continue with Diego.
When he heard this, Diego decided to escape and overcoming his
pain, he freed himself from the handcuffs, jumped out of the window
which gave onto a garage, with the assistance of a neighbor, and later
found safe refuge in the Red Cross and the Swiss Embassy until he
obtained his safe-conduct, with the cooperation of CIME, to go into
exile in Switzerland.
Not only has the Military Government of Bolivia disregarded the
constitutional rules for abnormal situations and the rules on
international protection of human rights, it has also made judicial
guarantees for protection of those rights into a dead letter.
These recourses in Bolivian legislation are constitutional
provisions that seek to protect individuals from arbitrary
detention–habeas corpus–and against illegal acts or undue omissions
by public officials and private individuals who restrict, deny or
threaten to restrict or deny the rights and guarantees of the individual
upheld in the constitution and the law (amparo).
In light of the background information given in this Chapter and
all the information that has come to the Commission’s attention,
particularly information on the way in which the authorities have
proceeded n the individual and mass detentions and the circumstances
surrounding them. It must be concluded that these legal guarantees of
Bolivians’ right to life, personal freedom and safety have been
frustrated and have become an ineffective tool with which to control
illegal acts by the authorities: in practice, exercise of those rights
does not obtain the expected results, given the military government’s
refusal to report the whereabouts of detainees, the reasons or charges
against them and generally, because there is no communication with the
victims, who are deprived of their freedom for longer periods than
permitted by the Constitution, even during a state of siege.
4. Another factor related to what has been said here are the massive arrests for failure to observe the curfew which continues through the country. There have been other instances in which individuals did not have their papers during round-ups by the security forces. In these cases, the people are normally set free in a short period of time. The Commission has also received information about a mass arrest of miners in Siglo XX and Catavi during a work stoppage on January 12, 1981.
IACHR has also learned of the detention of some political opponents and
dissident military officers in May and June 1981. It is also alleged that the conditions under which the
prisoners are living continue to be incompatible with human dignity.
There have recently been statements by various Bolivian
authorities affirming that public officials would not be allowed to
abuse citizens and that it was becoming necessary to return to the rule
of law, with real compliance with the Constitution and the law,
submitting those responsible for violations to the competent judicial
authorities. The Commission
feels sure that this will open the way toward the regularization and
effectiveness of these basic judicial guarantees.
American Convention on Human Rights.
Article 22: 1. Every person
lawfully in the territory of a State Party has the right to move
about in it and to reside in it subject to the provisions of the
law. 2. Every person has the right to leave any country freely,
including his own. 3.
The exercise of the foregoing rights may be restricted only
pursuant to a law to the extent necessary in a democratic society to
prevent crime or to protect national security, public safety, public
order, public morals, public health, or the rights or freedoms of
The exercise of the rights recognized in paragraph 1 may also
be restricted by law in designated zones for reasons of public
No one can be expelled from the territory of the state of
which he is a national or be deprived of the right to enter it. 6. An alien
lawfully in the territory of a State Party to this Convention may be
expelled from it only pursuant to a decision reached in accordance
with law. 7.
Every persons has the right to seek and be granted asylum in
a foreign territory, in accordance with the legislation of the state
and international conventions, in the even that he is being pursued
for political offenses or related common crimes.
8. In no case
may an alien be deported or returned to a country, regardless of
whether or not it is his country of origin, if in that country his
right to life or personal freedom is in danger of being violated
because of his race, nationality, religion, social status, or
political opinions. 9.
the collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited.
Article 112, paragraph 4 of the Political Constitution.
Political leaders who opted for mandatory exile include Hernán
Silez Suazo and Jaime Paz Zamora, who were the winners of the 1980
According to testimony taken in a considerable number of
cases, the exiles’ passports were stamped with an express
prohibition on reentering the country.
The most representative of those who have sought asylum is
former Constitutional President Lidya Gueiler, who after the events
surrounding the military coup, was given asylum in the Apostolic
Nunciature, where she stayed for three months until she was allowed
to leave for Paris.
Press clippings that
the IACHR has received from the information bulletin “Bolivia
Semanal,” which carries the news from the major international
agencies, indicated: in
the Bulletin of November 8-16, 1980, “On November 8, the
Minister of the Interior, Colonel Luis Arce Gómez, said that the
Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (CIME) had
offered to finance the exit of some 20,000 people from Bolivia,
which would enable the government to pay the travel costs to deport
“all persons prejudicing the country’s development.”
However, he explained that for now, he was thinking only of
deporting a total of 300 Bolivians.
“According to eyewitnesses, the last 18 persons who had
taken asylum in the Mexican Embassy in La Paz left the country
today. Five deportees
arrived in Lima from la Paz on their way to Switzerland.
They said that they had been threatened with death if they
returned to Bolivia, and two of them said that they had been
deported for a number of weeks to the Puerto Cabinas concentration
camp, where there were still about 100 detainees.”
November 12, sources close to the Ministry of the
Interior report that difficulties that arose at the last moment in
Caracas prevented the arrival in La Paz of a Venezuelan military
aircraft that was to pick up more than 100 political detainees who
were to have gone into exile today. November 13, Lieutenant Colonel Javier Pammo Rodríguez,
Prefect of Cochabamba, announced that all political detainees would
be deported from Bolivia or confined in the interior of the country
until next Saturday, but that it was impossible to specify their
number, “since the number varies daily, because some are freed at
the same time as other arrests are made.”
The bulletin of November 17-23, 1980 said:
November 20, the Minister of the Interior, after
handing over 47 detainees into the jurisdiction of the
Inter-Governmental Committee for European Migration (CIME) said that
there were no further detainees in Bolivia under the responsibility
of the Security Agencies. However,
in January, it says,: “other information indicates that exiles
continue in different ways: officially
by CIME, and clandestinely by the Government using air Force planes,
as happened on December 25 when a TAM aircraft took 46 detainees,
most of them young, out of the country to Paraguay.”
The bulletin of January 18-24, 1981 indicated:
January 24, 1981, a large group of exiled peasants,
including women and children, arrived in Bogotá, Colombia, from the
jails of La Paz. The
peasant group said that they belonged to the Chuquinuma Grande
community. The exile of
this new contingent of Bolivian citizens happened immediately after
agitation and protest broke out in the major cities and mining
centers of Bolivia.”
It is essential to clarify that according to statements by
senior Bolivian officials, the legal status of some of the persons
included in the present list may have changed since November 1980.
this is the case, for example, of Juan Lechín and Simón
Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration.
Article 18 of the Political Constitution:
any person who believes that he is being unduly or illegally
prosecuted, detained, tried or imprisoned may appear, in person or
through anyone acting on his behalf, with or without a notarized
power of attorney before the Superior District Court or before any Juez
de Partido, at his choice, to demand that legal formalities be
observed. In places
where there is no Juez de Partido, the appeal may be entered before
Article 19 of the Political Constitution:
In addition to the right of habeas corpus referred to in the
preceding article, it is hereby established that there shall be a
recourse of amparo against illegal acts or undue omissions by
public officials or private individuals that restrict, deny or
threaten to restrict or deny the rights and guarantees of persons
recognized in this Constitution and in the laws.
A writ of amparo may be entered by the person
believing himself to be aggrieved or by another person on his
behalf, with sufficient power of attorney, before the Supreme courts
in the Department capitals and the Juez de Partido in the
provinces, in very summary form.
In addition, the Ministry of the Interior may ex officio
enter into a writ of amparo when the affected individual has
not or cannot do so. The
authority or person against whom the writ is filed shall be summoned
in the form specified in the preceding article in order to provide
information and present, if applicable, the action taken on the
alleged event, within a maximum of 48 hours. The final ruling shall be handed down at a public hearing
immediately upon receipt of the testimony of the person accused, and
failing that, it shall be given on the basis of evidence offered by
the petitioner. The
judicial authority shall examine the competency of the public
official or the acts of the private individual, and should he find
the accusation to be true, shall grant the amparo requested,
provided there is no other means or legal recourse for immediate
protection of the rights and guarantees restricted, suppressed or
threatened. Heshall ex officio submit his ruling to the Supreme Court of
Justice within 24 hours, for review.
The prior rulings of the judicial authority and the final
decision granting amparo shall be carried out immediately and
without objection, and in case of resistance, the provisions of the
preceding article shall apply.