REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE REPUBLIC OF BOLIVIA
THE RIGHT TO PERSONAL LIBERTY,1 HUMANE TREATMENT AND PERSONAL INTEGRITY
1. Of the essential rights established in the American Convention on Human Rights, the greatest number of denunciations of alleged violations received by the IACHR are those that concern personal liberty, humane treatment and personal integrity.2
2. Article 6 of the 1967 Bolivian Constitution provides that every human being has legal personality and capacity, enjoys the rights, freedoms and guarantees recognized by the Constitution, and that respect for and protection of the dignity and freedom of the person, which are inviolable, is the primary duty of the State.
Article 9 of the Constitution provides that “no one may be arrested, detained, or imprisoned…” except by virtue of an order “issued by a competent authority and served in writing.” It also states that “a person may not be held incommunicado except in obviously serious cases and never for more than twenty-four hours.”
3. Further, Article 112 of the Constitution states that “the rights and guarantees granted by this Constitution shall not be suspended ipso facto and in general by the mere declaration of a state of siege; but they may be with respect to specified persons charged upon good grounds with conspiring against the public order.” In such cases, “the legitimate authorities may issue orders for the summons or arrest of those accused but within a maximum of forty-eight hours they shall be placed at the disposal of a competent judge …”3
4. An arrest without charges being brought, without a trial and without the right to defense is illegal under both international standards for protection of human rights and the provisions of the Constitution of Bolivia cited earlier. Such an arrest is a clear violation of the rights to liberty and to due process of law.
5. The Bolivian Constitution guarantees the right to personal security and integrity. Article 12 prohibits any kind of torture, coercion, extortion or other forms of physical or moral violence. Article 13 of the Constitution states that attacks against personal safety render the immediate authors of such attacks responsible, and the fact that such attacks were perpetrated on orders from a superior cannot be invoked as an excuse.
In the Penal Code, Article 295 in title X, Chapter I, on Crimes against Individual Freedom, states the following:
Any official who harasses, orders or permits harassment of a prisoner shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of six months to two years. The punishment shall be imprisonment for two to four years if any form of torment or torture is inflicted. If the torture causes injury, the punishment shall be imprisonment for a period of two to six years; if the torture causes death, the penalty shall be imprisonment for ten years.
6. The Commission felt it appropriate to combine its analysis of the rights indicated in the preceding paragraphs since the documents and denunciations received indicate a very close link between detention, unlawful duress generally occurring immediately after the arrest during the interrogations to which the individuals in question have been subjected, the release of the victims and their exit–forced in most cases–from the country or their compulsory residence in a specific part of Bolivian territory.
7. The testimony and denunciations also give accounts of robberies, lootings and destruction of homes during seizure operations, generally conducted by paramilitary groups or security forces in civilian dress who present neither the appropriate identification nor an arrest warrant issued by the competent authorities.
8. As indicated in the chapter on the Right to Life, the Commission has processed the denunciations received in accordance with its Regulations, and in so doing has transmitted the pertinent parts thereof to the Bolivian Government and requested the corresponding information, so as to establish the truth of the matters denounced and to determine the current legal status of the individuals alleged to have been arrested. In almost all cases, thus far the Government of Bolivia has not replied to those requests for information.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights deplores this attitude on the part of the Government of Bolivia, which constitutes a flagrant violation of the international commitments it undertook as a member state of the OAS and as a State Party to the American Convention on Human Rights.
1. According to reports received since the coup d’etat of July 17, 1980, thousands of persons have been arrested, without such constitutional requisites as a warrant from a competent authority and formulation of charges being fulfilled. The official statements on the number of individuals arrested are contradictory. According to the former Minister of the Interior, Luis Arce Gómez, the arrests involved no more than 500 individuals. However, some days after this revelation, the Secretary to the President, Col. Mario Escobar, told the press that there were no more than 2,500 arrests. After its visit to Bolivia in November 1980, Amnesty International reported there were between 1,000 and 2,000 political prisoners. The Commission’s information indicates that most of the detainees have been released on the condition that they leave the country. This has forced hundreds of individuals into voluntary exile; others have been expelled or forced into compulsory residence, while some are still in prison.
2. In some cases it is alleged that the individuals are being held incommunicado. In earlier reports, the Commission has established that the practice of holding an individual incommunicado is not in keeping with the constitutional guarantees or the standards with respect to human rights. The situation creates an atmosphere conducive to other illegal practices, particularly torture; if those in charge of the detention facilities need not produce the prisoner posthaste they can use brutal methods with impunity, for purposes of either interrogation or intimidation.
3. The Commission has received reports, testimony, and statements that point to the practice of unlawful duress and torture in Bolivia, which is a violation of the Constitution and laws and a flagrant violation of human rights. Unlawful coercion was particularly common during interrogation of detainees in the days that followed the military coup of July 17, 1980. It is alleged that the principal methods used are as follows: blindfolded prisoners are beaten; electric shocks; intimidation of the prisoner or members of his family; mock executions; cigarette burns; psychological duress and sexual abuse.
4. These abuses, it is said, have occurred, among other places, in facilities of the Army Intelligence Services (Miraflores headquarters); at the headquarters of the Division of Political Order (DOP) and in offices of the Ministry of the Interior.
Some denunciations received are mentioned below:
1. Case 7459: Salesian Priests. On July 23, 1980, the arrest of Father Alejandro Chiera, Father Pedro Chicó, and Father José Luís García, Catholic priests of the Salesian order, was denounced. They were seized after the military coup and taken to the Tarapacá Regiment where they were beaten and kicked brutally; later, they were taken to the Miraflores headquarters, where they were held prisoner, uncharged and untried.
Despite repeated requests for information, the Government has not replied to the notes of the IACHR, which still has this case under study.
2. Case 7460: Jesuit Priests. On July 23, 1980, the Commission received a denunciation concerning the arbitrary arrest of Jesuit priests associated with radio FIDES: Father Arbenz, Father Claudio Pou,4 Father Salvador Sánchez and Brother José Marco.
The Government has not informed the Commission of the grounds for the arrest, the charges brought against the priests and their current legal status. The IACHR still has this case under study.
3. Case 7461: Hugo Tijerina. On July 23, it was denounced that Reverend Hugo Tijerina, a Methodist Minister and former Director of Social Services of the Evangelical Church, and his wife were arrested in La Paz in July 1980. As yet, the reasons for their arrest, whether they were remanded to the competent authorities and their current legal status are not known.
4. Case 7458
The following individuals were arrested on July 17, 1980, at the headquarters of the Bolivian Workers Federation (COB) in La Paz, where they were meeting at the time:
Guillermo Capobianco, one of the three leaders of the Revolutionary Leftist Movement (MIR).
Oscar Eid, one of the MIR leaders. Second Organization Secretary for CONADE and a representative of the Popular Democratic Union (UDP) at the meeting.
Juan Lechín Oquendo, President of the COB and of CONADE.
Simón Reyes, chairman of the Bolivian Communist Party (PCB), a prominent leader of the miners and CONADE’s Secretary for International Affairs.
Oscar Sanjimes, Secretary General of the COB and Alternate President of CONADE.
In a note dated August 25, 1980, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of the denunciation to the government and requested the pertinent information. To date, the Government of Bolivia has not replied.
The IACHR was able to establish that Juan Lechín and Simón Reyes were forced to leave the country in November 1980.
5. Case 7470 Maryknoll Priests
On August 8, the following denunciation was received:
Two Maryknoll priests were arrested in Riberalta on August 5, 1980.
Their names are: Father William Coy and Father John Moynihan. The charges against them and their current legal status are not known.
The Commission has not received information from the government and continues to consider the case.
6. Case 7472: Julio Tumiri
On August 14, 1980, a denunciation was received to the effect that Father Julio Tumiri Javier, 69 years of age, Director of Cooperative Development and National President of the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights, was taken prisoner on July 29 by civilian agents armed with machine guns. Father Tumiri is a man of great prestige. He is held in general esteem throughout the country because of his tenacious and productive efforts in the area of cooperativism and is known as a human and devout priest. After being identified, he was taken to Section II of the Army General Staff. Arrested with him was a monk who was working in the Altiplano and who had come to Father Tumiri’s office to pick up a number of pamphlets on organizing cooperatives.
On August 15, 1980, the IACHR sent a note to the Government of Bolivia to transmit the denunciation. Later, in a note dated December 16, 1980, the Commission repeated its earlier request for information. Thus far, no reply has been received.
According to the information the Commission has been able to obtain, during his arbitrary detention Father Tumiri was mistreated, intimidated and threatened. After being held under arrest for more than three months, Father Tumiri was taken to a monastery near Cochabamba, where he is in confinement.
The Commission wishes to point out that in this case, because of Father Tumiri’s age and his apparent ill health the Government of Bolivia, for purely humanitarian reasons, is obligated to provide him all necessary medical care and to establish his legal status posthaste.
7. Case 7473: Floriano Unzueta
On August 14, 1980, the Commission received the following denunciation>
The arbitrary arrest and torture of Mr. Floriano Unzueta, a Cochabamba attorney and national President of the “Junta Vecinal” Organization, is hereby denounced. He was arrested on July 18. They broke his arm and removed his fingernails.
On August 19, 1980, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of the denunciation to the Government of Bolivia and requested that it provide information on the allegations. In a note dated December 16 of that year, the IACHR repeated its request. As yet, no reply has been received. The Commission continues to study the case.
8. Case 7474: Germán Crespo
On August 14, 1980, the Commission received the following denunciation:
The arbitrary arrest and mistreatment of Germán Crespo are hereby denounced. He was taken prisoner in the city of La Paz, all his clothing with the exception of his underwear, was taken from him. Mr. Crespo is a Methodist minister and was working for human rights.
The Commission has received no reply to its requests for information and still has the case under consideration.
9. Case 7477: Oscar Peña Franco and Fernando Salazar
On July 23, a denunciation was received concerning the arrest of Oscar Peña Franco and Fernando Salazar Paredes, Press Secretary and Integration Secretary, respectively in the Cabinet of President Lidia Gueiler. They were arrested on July 17, 1980, together with 24 journalists. They were held in facilities attached to the Army General Staff located in the residential neighborhood of Miraflores.
Despite the fact that Bolivian Government failed to apply to its requests for information, the IACHR has received reports that indicate that Mr. Peña was released and Mr. Salazar left Bolivia for Argentina.
10. Case 7483: Mortimer Arias
On August 28, 1981, the Commission received the following denunciation:
On August 26, 1980, Reverend Mortimer Arias, Secretary General of the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches in Latin America, was arrested arbitrarily in his home in Cochabamba by a group of armed individuals in civilian dress. Reverend Arias had just returned from a four-week mission in Brazil, where he had visited Methodist churches. He is jailed in the Armed Forces headquarters in Cochabamba.
The Government of Bolivia has not replied to the Commission, which continues to consider the case in accordance with its regulations.
11. Case 7530: Guillermina Soria
On October 30, 1980, the Commission received the following denunciation:
On September 22, 1980, Mrs. Guillermina Soria, Director of the Social Integration Service Center in La Paz, was arrested by a group of paramilitary from the state Intelligence Service. She was interrogated at the Ministry of the Interior and then at the Miraflores headquarters. In early October, she was being held incommunicado at the headquarters of the DOP, located in Plaza Murillo. She was tortured to the point that she had to be seen by a neurologist. From time to time they interrogate her at the Ministry of the Interior. It has been said that she will be sent to a prison in Viacha, or possibly exiled to Peru or Paraguay. In this country, her life could be in danger.
Because of the urgent nature of this case, the IACHR sent a cable to the government requesting that it provide the Commission the appropriate information. Despite the fact that it repeated its request as yet the Commission has received no reply and still has the case under consideration.
In January 1981, the Commission received the following denunciation:
Mr. Gregorio Andrade, a member of MIR, a rural labor leader and member of the Settlers Federation, was arrested on January 15, 1981. It is feared that his life and safety may be in jeopardy. Mr. Andrade was arrested in Parque Uruguay, at 2:00 p.m.
He was elected as deputy for the City of La Paz in the elections held in June of 1980. The charges and allegations against him are not known.
The Commission has received conflicting reports on this case. While some reports state that Mr. Andrade was arrested and is now being held in government facilities, other reports indicated that while he was in fact arrested, his whereabouts are not known. Because of the Government’s refusal to provide information, the IACHR has been unable to determine the facts surrounding the arrest of Mr. Andrade, but it has established that he left the country in March and went to Sweden.
The Commission received the following denunciation:
Gloria Ardaya, a 35 year old professor of sociology at the University of San Andrés, a deputy and member of MIR was arrested by combined security forces on January 15, 1981m while attending a meeting of MIR. Nine individuals died in that same action and it is presumed that Gloria Ardaya was seriously wounded. However, there is no information as to where she is being held or her physical condition, and it is feared that her life may be in jeopardy.
The Commission has received reports that indicate that Gloria Ardaya left the country. The IACHR still does not know the charges that led to her arrest or the circumstances under which she left the country.
On August 12, 1980, the following denunciation was received:
The arbitrary arrest and torture of Professor Cayetano Llobet Tabolara on July 17 is hereby denounced. He is being held under the custody of the Division of Political Order, although no charges have been brought against him.
The Commission requested the corresponding reports, although thus far it has not received information on the case. However, the IACHR has been notified that Mr. Llobet was released on November 2, 1980, and left the country.
The Commission considers it important to include this section wherein some of the clergymen detained–some of whom were the victim of unlawful duress–give an account of their experiences from their current state of forced exile. The IACHR is presenting the most salient parts of the testimony received:
On Thursday July 17, 1980, at 1:30 p.m., I was one block away from San Calixto School when I encountered Father Javier Corda. He was very nervous and told me to accompany him to the archbishop’s residence. On the way, he told me that a few months earlier, paramilitary had burst into the San Calixto School and, after destroying the equipment of Radio Fides, had seized “a number of those present.”
Unfortunately, we did not find the Archbishop at home, but they allowed us to speak by phone with the Apostolic Nuncio and the Ambassador of Spain.
At that point, Father Blajot, the Jesuit Provincial in Bolivia, arrived in the company of Father Jorge Trías and Father Javier Velasco, for the same purpose that had brought us there a few months earlier.
I suggested to Father Provincial that we take advantage of our Human Rights credential–specifically to visit all prisoners–to do whatever possible to locate the Jesuits arrested.
i) Locating the detainees
Accompanied by Father Jorge Trías, we sent to the DIN–National Bureau of Investigation–they told us that the individuals arrested were in the Ministry of the Interior. At the ministry they assured us that they were not being held there and that most assuredly they had been taken to the Miraflores General headquarters. My companion did not believe he should go there because his human rights efforts were not viewed favorably and he was afraid that something might happen to him. I did not think I should go alone, and it was with some trepidation that I went to the Miraflores General headquarters.
ii) My arrest
When I asked about my companions who had been detained, they flatly denied that there had been any arrest. However, when I said that before going there I had gone to the DIN and from there they had sent me to the Ministry of the Interior where they assured me that may colleagues were at the Miraflores headquarters, they told me to step inside where I waited for some time, surrounded by experienced soldiers armed with machine guns.
When I had waited some fifteen minutes, a civilian armed with an automatic rifle called to me in a mocking tone from a distance of some 15 to 20 meters. While repeatedly hurling gross insults at me, he told me that I was under arrest and that I should prepare myself because they were going to get everything I know out of me. As I walked through the patio, a distance of some 100 meters, I was jeered at and mocked by all the soldiers that passed me. The reason I was mocked and threatened was that I was a human rights priest.
iii) First Interrogation
They directed me to the ground floor of a two-story building. The spectacle was impressive: some thirty men, of all ages, were standing with their face to the wall and their hands crossed at the nape of their neck. I was unable to identify anyone, because they did not allow them to look at me. There were bloodstains on the floor. Suddenly, I found myself face-to-face with a young man approximately twenty years of age; he was crying and his face had been beaten pathetically. As he looked at me, my eyes were riveted on his look of supplication. Two men, who looked like torturers, took him firmly by the arms and ordered him to lower his head immediately. They told me to enter an office where civilians repeatedly asked questions concerning the Assembly of Human Rights. To my replies concerning its work and the ideas behind it, they replied: “Don’t lie, you communist priest,” and a barrage of insults that cannot be put to paper.
About one half hour of interrogation and after taking away my identification card and the human rights credential four civilians arrived. They looked like executioners and I was afraid that they would beat me. But without touching me, they ordered me to accompany them to another interrogation.
In silence, I crossed another large patio and suddenly found myself facing an open floor to a small dirty shed. At the door, there were three masked men who brusquely ordered me inside. I was in the stable. The victims were crowded into each one of the stalls as it they were dead, all of them. They were all lying on top of the manure, face down, their bodies rigid and their hands behind their heads. Hence they were being forced to keep their mouths in the manure. The first stall contained the women; the other stalls housed men of all ages. Although they ordered me not to look, I was trying to identify my companions. I though I saw them, but I was unable to get a good look because they threatened me not to look. I remained unsure whether or not they were there.
They ordered me to stop and to take off my shoes and glasses. I was told to lie down like the others, on top of the manure. The only difference was that in my case, since there was no room on the large pile, they put me down below where there was less manure, almost in direct contact with the cold cement floor. I had to remain in that position for 16 hours, without moving a muscle unless I wanted to be kicked or hit by the guards with the butt of their rifles.
In those hours, one of the tortures was psychological in nature. They repeatedly ordered us to keep our hands behind our heads and not to move an inch. From time to time, someone passed by who seemed to be an officer; he warned us to obey the orders continually being given to us. AT the same time, they ordered that we would be abused and even killed if we did not obey.
As the hours passed, the pain in the arms, the back and at the back of the head was excruciating. It being almost impossible to avoid, we moved and were immediately kicked. I considered myself fortunate in comparison with the others being tortured, whom the paramilitary walked on, digging the heel of their boots into their backs. When the sharp pain made them cry out, they were beaten even more severely. Other times, the guards urinated on the bruised bodies, while laughing and jeering.
As night came, one of those being tortured asked permission to go to the bathroom. The reply was a barrage of insults and the individual was ordered to urinate in his pants. Many did just that. Since they were at a slightly more elevated position the urine from the group alongside me poured down until it formed a puddle precisely where I was. I soon felt totally soaked, even in my mouth.
Since the windows were opened and one of them was nearby, as it go darker and the temperature dropped below zero, as it does at that time of the year. This was yet another of the torments suffered that terrible night. I was dressed in light-weight clothing when they detained me and now I was soaked in urine. The cold was terrible. For many hours they cold was my greatest torment.
v. Change of prison
Finally, at 4:30 a.m., they ordered us to get up and walk in a squatting position, with our hands behind our heads. It was a humiliating posture that made it impossible for us to identify who was at our side. Because of the color of the pants, it seemed to me that the Jesuit Brother José Marcos was at my side. After moving a distance of some 100 meters in the dark, and having tripped a number of times, we reached a number of ambulances. They ordered us inside and to lie face down. Our position was so humiliating that I was force to lie on top of one of the three individuals who were on the floor of the vehicle. I was on top of my Jesuit colleague and alongside Brother José Marcos. I did not address either of them and there was no way that I could even attempt to do so because two paramilitary with machine guns were behind me.
After a short ride, our ambulance stopped at a well-known street. We were at the DOP. They made us get out of the ambulances in a crouched position and, in that same position, to enter a room where we were told to face the wall with our hands behind our heads. From there they took Father Claudio Pou, Brother José Marcos and myself to a cold cell, without windows, and with an iron door with large openings that allowed the cold air to enter in. We were very glad to see that we were together. We embraced one another heartily and at the same time gave one another absolution because of what might happen.
Toward the evening of that same day we experienced the greatest joy of our captivity: Brother Sánchez joined us and with him present we felt more animated and more tranquil.
For the first three days we were without shoes, most assuredly in order to make us feel the cold even more… Sunday began with great optimism. They told us to go out to the patio where we joined the other detainees; as they called out our names were allowed to pick up our shoes, which were thrown together in a pile. For the first time they gave us breakfast. At midday they gave us soup and a second dish. In the afternoon they gave us a cup of tea and at night something else to eat. Because we were receiving better treatment, we began to entertain hopes of a swift release from our captivity. On Monday night, a new Commissioner arrived, who appeared to be stricter than the previous Commissioner. When he came to visit us in our cell, he did so with some arrogance and “Christian” self-complacency. He told us: “ You’re priests and I, too, am just as Christian as if not more Christian than you. You’re not going to cause me any problems and suffer as Christ suffered.
On Tuesday, they told us to go to the patio. Naively, we though that they were going to release us. They removed us to another cell which was somewhat more comfortable; the floor was of wicker and we were allowed to have a number of old chairs and two tables. A few days later, we learned that that cell had been used to torture other detainees, to force them to say what the military wanted to hear.
That first night in our new cell was terribly cold. It was impossible to sleep or rest. It was a bone-chilling cold that caused constant pain.
At mid-morning we told our guards that we would like to speak with the Commissioner. We told him that we needed blankets to prevent another night of torment. To secure the blankets, we asked his permission to write a letter to our brothers at the San Calixto School. That day, thank God, our brothers sent us more than we had asked for and from that day until the day we were released, we no longer suffered from the cold.
vi. Back to the Miraflores Headquarters
On Friday, August 1, our cell was opened at mid-morning and we were ordered to gather our things together quickly. We thought that the freedom that we had longed for had at last arrived. They grouped us together in the patio, first in twos and then single file. After a short time, we were told to return our things to the cell and to return to the patio. We realized that that was the end of our captivity. We were divided into two groups and told to go outside. We were then put into two vehicles, which headed in the direction of the Miraflores headquarters. Again, we experienced doubt and uncertainty about our future. Still, we were never afraid, because our consciences were clear.
They moved all of us into a room belonging to Section Two of the Army, situated on the ground floor. We were again surrounded by paramilitary mercenaries. One of them arrived with an order for the three Salesians to follow him. The three Jesuits and the Methodist ministers remained behind. After a short time, two military men arrived. The higher-ranking of the two politely told us to follow him. After crossing a large patio, we entered a building heretofore unknown to us. It was carpeted and furnished luxuriously. Ever polite, the Navy Colonel led us to a room on the first floor. Though it was what we least expected, we found ourselves with the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Mestre, and our Provincial Father Plajot, accompanied by Father Fuster and Father José Magrina. Also present was the Salesian Provincial, accompanied by two other priests. With them were the Director and Deputy Director of the entire machinery of the Military Intelligence Service, Colonel Rico Toro and Colonel Fernández.
After exchanging affectionate greetings with our colleagues and superiors, what transpired can be summarized as follows: For their part, our superiors requested our immediate release, with no question of exile; the military not only questioned both points but emphatically stated that while some would be released, others would go into exile and that the following Sunday they would give the names of those who would go elsewhere.
A somewhat disagreeable episode occurred when the Papal Nuncio asked the military that he be allowed to take all the priests and monks to the Papal Nunciature. In reply the Military virtually said that we were in paradise and that we have never been subjected to any form of torture. I found the lie so gross and incredible that for a moment I hesitated, thinking that I should remain silent because of possible reprisals; but in the end, I decided to take one more risk and to relate, there in the presence of everyone, everything that they had done to us.
The reaction of the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Mestre and our superiors there present was one of indignation and protest which in some way the chiefs of the executioners expected, though they looked at us as if astonished.
vii. Meeting with New Detainees
That day, we were punished by being denied our midday meal and afternoon tea. This was no surprise to us, since we were in the very midst of the torture machines. We had a large box of chocolates which the Papal Nuncio had been kind enough to leave for us, along with boxes of vitamins.
At the end of the afternoon I had a very sad experience when, after opening the door abruptly, one paramilitary, by now only too well known to us, appeared. He was cursing and threatening a wretched group of prisoners, priests and nuns, who entered with him. He told them to remain in a crouched position or to sit on the floor and to look at the floor. He warned us not to speak to one another. All of us had to remain silent, since those who had just entered were “very dangerous …” Inside I was indignant at the crude and mean behavior of this known henchman. How long would they treat calm and peaceful individuals in that miserable fashion… I was well acquainted with two of the Sisters of Charity; it was as if their deep sense of sacrifice and dedication to serving their fellow poor had made them criminals. I felt pity and pain for the vulgarity of these high-ranking military chiefs who directed that repressive machinery.
After interrogating each of the three American priests individually and one of the two nuns, and while they interrogated the other nun, they took us to what had to be our last cell. The number in the cell increased with the arrival of three American priests.
viii. The last Sunday Mass
The mass that we had on the last Sunday of our captivity should be recalled, as it is worthy of mention. The day before we had seen Father Tumiri pass by our cell. He was walking with difficulty, in the direction of the bathroom. Because he was National President of the Assembly for Human Rights, he must have had a very bad time, which his physical appearance and limp seemed to bear out.
The highest authority in the facility where we were being held was Colonel Mena. We asked him to allow Father Tumiri to attend mass the following Sunday. Fortunately, he granted our request. By common agreement among all of us there, we decided that it should be Father Tumiri who should preside over this concelebrated mass, but he preferred that someone else do it. Father David Raterman presided.
ix. Our Release
On Monday evening, Colonel Mena summoned me and, accompanied by him, we went to the offices of Colonel Fernández. When he saw me he greeted me very affectionately and told me that the following day we would all go to the Papal Nunciature. All of us were very happy, although the happiness was mixed with some sadness. What did our removal to the Papal Nunciature mean? We realized that we were not going to be free, but rather that we were going to be taken our of the country.
Mid-morning the next day, Colonel Mena visited us, with a list in hand. The first name he called was mine, then Brother Salvador Sánchez, and finally the Methodist minister, Germán Crespo. With our belongings, we went to Colonel Mena’s office, where he gave us a form to take with us and, if we agreed, to sign. It was a pledge not to participate in any political matters and to appear there whenever we were summoned. We signed it. When we delivered it to the Colonel, he told us: “If you were involved in politics, the experience you have had must serve to remind you not to get involved again in the future. If you were never involved in politics, you are pardoned…” And without even giving us an opportunity to object, he continued to speak, but this time in a louder voice: “You are being warned that if in the future you become involved in politics, we will grab you wherever you are and the punishment will be fatal; the Church will not free you, not even the Pope himself…” Colonel Mena gave the order that we be left one block from San Calixto. As we were leaving, we asked that our belongings that were taken away from us when we were arrested be returned: identification papers, wallet, watches, glasses, money, etc. Nothing was returned to anyone. This left us with serious problems, because at the present time, when you least expect it, anywhere in the city, they ask for your identification and we don’t have it…
Testimony by Father Alvaro Puentes S.J.
Friday, September 26, I was celebrating mass with young students at the San
Calixto College at 11:50 a.m. I
don’t know exactly when it was that some adults came in and stayed at the back
of the chapel until mass was over. When
I had finished, three of these agents came up to me and asked me to accompany
them “to the DIN” where they had a few questions to ask me.
As I was leaving the chapel, I was able to tell Father Blajot that they
were taking me away. He asked for their papers and ordered me to stay.
He also saw that they used force to get me out of his room, where they
had been joined by yet another agent.
the time we had reached the College doors, another agent, who seemed to be in
charge of the group, ordered me to show him my room; he wanted to see the
documents that I had. We again went
up to my room. They checked through
everything that was there, and meanwhile, allowed me to prepare a small suitcase
with a few clothes, toilet articles and some cigarettes.
They took away a cassette (taped from the radio) on Father Luis Espinal,
13 other cassettes of classical and folklore music (that they wanted to check
out), a small notebook with telephone numbers, my papers (military papers,
passport, etc.) and some written papers by students in the fourth (last) year of
college. We then went to the office
I used as Director of the Night School. There
too, they also checked through everything and took away some photographs of the
farewell party given by Father Oizumi. What
with all this, it was 12:45 and they put me into the cab of a small pick-up
truck and went off to the Miraflores barracks.
afterwards, I was taken to the Office of Colonel Mena, where I waited
comfortably for him until 2:30 or a little later in the afternoon.
Col. Mena came in, he received a call–as he told me afterwards–informing him
of what the older boys in the College had been saying in the papers that had
been taken from my room. H came
into his office visibly annoyed. He
said that “the foreign priests were fouling other people’s nests,” that we
should go back to our own countries. I
told him that I was Bolivian, and I tried to explain to him that the boys’
comments were in connection with a class in which we had been discussing the
Bishop’s Pastoral Letter and the Church’s obligation to care for people and
see justice done. He replied that
all that was a lie, that no one had been touched, that he would introduce to
Father Tumiri and Juan Lechín, who had not been touched by anybody, although
they were those who deserved it. I
was taken, still very politely, to a room where there was a bed and a chair, and
I was told to wait for the Minister of the Interior.
believe it was between 5 and 6 in the afternoon when they took me to another
office where Colonel Luis Arce and more or less ten military and civilian
personnel were waiting. He shouted
me, telling me that I was a bad Bolivian, too much influenced by foreign
priests, and that they were going to kill me.
He held in his hand my pupils’ papers which had already been underlined
in red. Some of the pupils had
stated their own opinions of the army or the country’s situation.
Some even referred to problems in their families.
In front of me, he gave an order to detain ten or so of these young
people, then he took up another sheet of paper from the table, and asked me
whether I knew that young man Azurduy. I
asked for more information, since I did not know whom he was talking about. They called him in and I recognized a boy for whom I had been
asked for economic assistance. Monsignor
Mestre had given me this help when I had explained the boy’s situation.
They found a notebook that belonged to the boy, Miguel Azurduy, with my
name and address in it (since he had to come to collect the 2,000 bolivares that
I was holding for him).
a number of insults and death threats, the Minister ordered:
“Call in my men so that they can kill them.”
A few moments later, four or five came in and began to beat us up right
in the office, in front of everybody. We
were punched, kicked and whipped with a steel cable all over our bodies, from
the knees to the head. If either of
us fell down, we were stood up again and the punches continued, interspersed
with questions as to our relationships, political affiliation, etc. Half-way through the session, an older man came in and they
beat him up along with us (I think I remember that he was a shoemaker, Mr.
Sevilla). At the end, the tied a
blindfold around my eyes. The
beating continued for a little while longer.
When I was taken to the cell (I estimate it was between 7 and 8 o’clock
in the evening), they put the barrel of a gun against my temple and made as if
to fire. They held me like that for
a few seconds and then took it away, saying that the execution would be at three
in the morning instead.
was impossible to sleep that night because of the pains in my ribs and stomach.
The doctor here in Buenos Aires found that I had cracked some ribs, in
addition to the visible bruises and the split lip.
Nonetheless, I had the impression that the other two suffered worse
punishment than I did, because I remember that when Miguel Azurduy came up, he
already had scars and blood on his face.
At ten o’clock in the morning on Saturday, they came to get me. I wasn’t told anything. We went to the Ministry of the Interior. I sat waiting in one of the migration offices. I understood that they were waiting for something in order to put a visa in my passport. Later, they ordered two employees to put me on the plane, and instructed them that I was not to talk to anybody. We waited in the car on the runway itself. When all the passengers had got on, they gave me a ticket and passport, and took me by the arm to the steps up to the Aerolíneas Argentinas plane. This was 24 hours after my detention in San Calixto.
Tuesday July 29, at about 11:30 in the morning, I went to the office of
“Cooperative development,” whose president is father Julio Tumiri (Father
Tumiri, a secular Bolivian priest, is also the president of the Permanent
Assembly for Human Rights in Bolivia). The
office is located at 545 Yanacocha Street, right downtown.
U went there to ask for a model statute for a “consumer shop” for
the Titikachi community. It was
with surprise that I saw Father Julio Tumiri, and I told him to be careful,
because of the things that were going on. He was in somewhat of a hurry, and given the order to close
the office until August 10, for everybody’s safety. I asked him “and what’s happening with Human Rights?
He told me that we would talk later.
In fact, he had gone to arrange the situation for the employees of
Cooperative development. I then
went into his office. After I had
picked up the consumer cooperative statute, I saw four men coming into the
office. I said to the employee:
“now we are all up the creek,” because I was the men’s faces and
attitudes. One stood at the door and two went into Father Tumiri’s
office. One asked for my papers.
I told him to identify himself and then I would give him my papers.
He told me that this was not a time for jokes because the thing was
serious. I insisted that he
should please identify himself. He
told me to wait a bit and then came in with machine guns saying: “now you
know who we are.” I gave him my
identity card, and they told me: “of course he’d be a priest, and worst
still if he is Italian.” With
these words, they took us outside, with our heads down, telling us not to
look. They threw us on the floor
of a white Jeep, without number plates. There
were six of them, armed paramilitary personnel or soldiers dressed in civilian
clothing, plus the driver. I
asked where they were taking us, and they told me to “an office.”
On the way, they told me to pray the last Our Father of my life, if I
wanted to go and see my God, because I would have not more time.
I replied that I was not praying for myself, but rather for them.
We reached that General Staff Headquarters, and as we got out of the
Jeep, I could see six ambulances, one parked next to the other.
went into a passageway where there were many armed civilians and a number of
people with blindfolds on and their hands up against the wall.
They put us in that position too.
Shortly afterwards, they made us go into a room where five people were
lying down on mattresses. They told us both not to talk, and an armed civilian guarded
us until they took out Father Julio Tumiri, who was the “big fish” in the
round-up. The people who were
there told me that if had had something compromising on me, to make it
disappear, and to hide my pouch under the mattress.
I don’t know why they hadn’t taken it away from me.
so often, armed men came into our room, telling me that I was an “extremist
Italian priest,” “that they were going to shoot me,” “that I had not
come to Bolivia as a missionary but rather had been sent by an extremist group
in Italy, and that with Father Tumiri, we were preparing a plan to subvert the
peasants.” I replied that this
was not true, and that they had no proof.
They told me that they were looking into my background in Italy.
Of course, there was no question of trying to enter into a dialogue
first afternoon, I had with me a peasant who had been accused of setting up
road-blocks. They had beaten him
all over. He was 61 years old.
His stomach was swollen and his fact was covered with wounds as a
result of the beatings. Also there were two young brothers from a poor neighborhood
who were accused of keeping dynamite in their mother’s house to be used for
blowing things up. There was a
young man accused of knowing the whereabouts of his uncle, who was a factory
leader, and another young man, accused of being a suspicious character because
of his beard and black clothes, and of belonging to the UDP. They had picked him up on an “operation” they were
conducting in ambulances in the factory area of Achachicala.
All had been brutally beaten, to the point where they couldn’t even
move from the mattress. The body
of one of them was black and blue as a result of the beating. Around 10 at night, they took them all to the DOP and I
didn’t see them again. Half an
hour later, they brought in five more people.
They had been blindfolded all day in the passageway with their hands
behind their heads and their legs apart, and they had been constantly
subjected to kicks, beatings, and jokes inflicted on them by all and sundry.
Before they were brought to the room, they had all gone through the
interrogation, receiving their does of kicks and beatings with iron.
They were beaten on their backs, their buttocks, the muscles of their
legs and their stomachs. One of
the miners had his toes broken with the but of a machine gun, which they also
used to hit him on the shoulder blade, which was left dislocated.
Another who was in a poor condition was a boy accused of having beaten
up a sergeant in civilian clothes in April.
His head was hurt, his left eyebrow split as the result of a kick and
he had a burn on the top of his forearm caused by a red-hot iron.
The other two miners and a porter at the Teachers Training College were
beaten less severely.
following morning, they brought in five more people from the town of Comanche,
accused of setting up road blocks. The
were hardly beaten up at all. A
number were taken blindfolded to the interrogation and were beaten.
The only person they did not beat was a miner who said that the new
President had given orders “not to touch the miners,” that they had done
unspeakable things to him and he would rather they kill him once and for all
than go on punishing him in such a brutal way.
When they heard this, they treated him well; in the interrogation, they
took of his blindfold and made him sit down.
He was away happy when he came back to tell us all this, but afterwards
they took him away to the DOP with some others.
They came back the following day but he did not.
At night they brought in three lads from the “Workers’ Vanguard”
who had been detained since July 22. They
had passed through the Ministry of the Interior, where they had been severely
beaten and had everything taken away from them.
Then they were taken to the General Headquarters, where they were
beaten again and were terrified that they might have to stay there. Two more boys came in, another porter from the Teachers
Training College and a young man accused of having forged a memorandum the
year before. I remained with this
group of 12 people until August 5th, the day on which I was released.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (July 29, 30 and 31), the officers
and armed civilians terrorized us constantly, and threatened us verbally.
They made us get up at night, they put us face down on the floor with
our hands behind our heads, or they turned off the lights and masked civilians
would interrogate us. Some of the
civilians’ nicknames were “the Argentinian,” the “Guy with White
Hair” and “Fantomás.” Two
officers spoke Italian and German well. On
Wednesday night, a number of the armed civilians asked for the keys to the
ambulances to take them away. I
could hear very well because the way to the radio room where the keys were
kept was through our room. The
first two nights, we had no blankets and we slept huddled up against each
other. They never gave us
breakfast, and at lunch and dinner there was too little food.
On orders of Lieutenant Colonel Mena, one blanket was handed out for
each two people, and we were allowed to go to the bathroom more
nurse came in the afternoon to salve on people who had been beaten up and to
give pills for the inflammation. She
gave everybody cough syrup and cold pills.
She said that the first days had been terrible, that she had seen
greatest luck was when the International Red Cross came.
From that day on, they didn’t beat anybody, and they left us fairly
the interrogation, the accusations against me were: that I was part of Human Rights, that I was from CONADE, that
I had come with an extremist Italian organization, that together with Father
Julio, we were preparing to subvert the countryside, that my congregation in
Switzerland (where we studied theology) was in contact with humanitarian
organizations, and that I had studied at the University of Louvain (where I
have never set foot), and that there I had been trained to come to Latin
America. Let me add that they
brought in many people at night, many of them drunk, who were severely beaten.
I have the impression–seeing some lists–that in the section where
we were, there were at least 40 people in a number of rooms.
Some nights, the officers and civilians got drunk, annoying us in
when they all formed up, there were more or less 80 armed civilians.
I want to state that I did not receive any physical ill-treatment, other than the accusations and interrogations. I suppose this was because I was a priest. They set me free after I had signed a pledge with the Military High Command, together with all the priests, sisters and ministers of the Methodist Church, thanks to the mediation of the Apostolic Nuncio in La Paz.
Pou Viver, priest of the
Company of Jesus, living in La Paz since 1977.
I previously lived in Sucre. I
came to Bolivia from Spain, where I was born in 1952.
I have left the country on a number of occasions in order to study
(Ecuador, Italy, Spain, USA). My
current work is: Administrator
(Procurator) of the Company of Jesus in Bolivia, Coordinator for Planning of
the Company of Jesus in Bolivia, sporadic pastoral activity, Treasurer of the
Bolivian Conference of Nuns and Priests, and member of the Board of Directors
of Radio Fides. In my
declarations to the authorities over these last few days, I stated only that I
work as a priest (pastoral work) and an Administrator (without specifying that
it was at the nation-wide level). I
am writing the present report from my asylum with the Papal Nuncio.
I was detained by armed civilians (irregulars, paramilitary) in the courtyard of the San Calixto College last July 17, at approximately 12:30 p.m. When I heard shooting and an explosion in Radio Fides, I went down to the porter’s lodge with the intention of closing the street door; I encountered a civilian who threatened me with a gun and warned me to turn to the wall with my hand up or he would fire (my case is similar, in terms of the places of detention and treatment, to the cases of Father Juan Enviz and Brothers Salvador Sánchez and José Marco, who are also Jesuits). I tried to talk to him but it was useless. At the same time, this same individual detained Brother Salvador Sánchez and three employees of the college. Shortly afterwards, three paramilitary individuals came downstairs; they had just destroyed the Radio Fides Studios and detained brother José Marco. They beat us up a little, and used the butt of a gun on my head, leaving a bleeding wound.
three Jesuits were taken to a small station wagon parked in front of the
college. There were a lot of
people in the street and on the balconies opposite.
I thought that they were taking us away to kill us.
The station wagon went toward the Miraflores Barracks where the General
Staff Headquarters is located along with other offices.
American Convention on Human Rights.
Article 7: 1. Every person
has the right to personal liberty and security.
2. No one shall be
deprived of his physical liberty except for the reasons and under the
conditions established before hand by the Constitution of the State Party
concerned or by a law established pursuant thereto.
3. No one shall be
subject to arbitrary arrest or imprisonment.
4. Anyone who is
detained shall be informed of the reasons for his detention and shall be
promptly notified of the charge or charges against him.
5. Any person detained
shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officers authorized by law
to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a
reasonable time or to be released without prejudice to the continuation of
the proceedings. His release
may be subject to guarantees to assure his appearance for trial.
6. Anyone who is
deprived of his liberty shall be entitled to recourse to a competent court,
in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his
arrest or detention and order his release if the arrest or detention is
unlawful. In States Parties whose laws provide that anyone who believes
himself to be threatened with deprivation of his liberty is entitled to
recourse to a competent court in order that it may decide on lawfulness of
such threat, this remedy may not be restricted or abolished.
The interested party or another person in his behalf is entitled to
seek these remedies. 7.
No one shall be detained for debt.
This principle shall not limit the orders of a competent judicial
authority issued for non-fulfillment of duties of support.
American Convention on Human Rights.
Article 5: 1. Every person
has the right to have his physical, mental and moral integrity respected.
2. No one shall be
subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or
treatment. All persons deprived
of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of
the human person. 3.
Punishment shall not be extended to any person other than the
Accused persons shall, save in exceptional circumstances, be
segregated from convicted persons, and shall be subject to separate
treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons.
5. Minors while subject
to criminal proceedings shall be separated from adults and brought before
specialized tribunals, as speedily as possible, so that they may be treated
in accordance with their status as minors.
consisting of deprivation of liberty shall have as an essential aim the
reform and social re-adaptation of the prisoners.
Article 112, paragraph 4 of the Constitution.
The Commission was able to establish that subsequent to his arrest,
Father Pou was given asylum in the Apostolic Nunciature.