Bolivia Under Martial Law
Urgent Message From Jim Shultz
Just a few hours ago Bolivia was declared under martial law. People are being arrested, the army is occupying the streets, human rights offices are being invaded by government agents, radio stations are being closed by the military and huge sections of the city have had their electrical power cut (I had to leave home to find a computer that was still charged to write this).
The situation is grave and we need help to get the story out. Please share the brief article below as far and wide as you can with anyone who will publish or broadcast it. My own media list is in a computer which I can't access. For the time being I can still be reached at 591-4-290-725. I will try to send updates as the situation allows. Please do not worry for our safety, my family and I are fine and keeping well away from the violence. IF YOU RESPOND, PLEASE RESPOND TO THE EMAIL BELOW, NOT THE RETURN ON THIS ONE.
Jim Shultz The Democracy Center Jshultz@democracyctr.org
BOLIVIA UNDER MARTIAL LAW
As of 10 am Saturday morning Bolivia was declared under martial law by President Hugo Banzer.
The drastic move comes at the end of a week of protests, general strikes, and transportation blockages that have left major areas of the country at a virtual standstill.
It also follows, by just hours, the surprise announcement by state officials yesterday afternoon that the government would concede to the protests' main demands, to break a widely-despised contract under which the city of Cochabamba's public water system was sold off to foreign investors last year.
The concession was quickly reversed by the national government, and the local governor resigned, explaining that he didn't want to take responsibility for bloodshed that might result.
Banzer, who ruled Bolivia as a dictator from 1971-78, has taken an action that suspends almost all civil rights, disallows gatherings of more than four people and puts severe limits on freedom of the press. One after another, local radio stations have been taken over by military forces or forced off the air. Reporters have been arrested.
The neighborhood where most of the city's broadcast antennas are located had its power shut off at approximately noon local time. Through the night police searched homes for members of the widely- backed water protests, arresting as many as twenty.
The local police chief has been instated by the President as governor of the state. Blockades erected by farmers in rural areas continue across the country, cutting off some cities from food and transportation. Large crowds of angry residents, many armed with sticks and rocks are massing on the city's center where confrontations with military and police are escalating.