The cancer of socialism continues to metastasize in Latin America. In Bolivia, the country’s president has arrested the governor of Santa Cruz for harshly criticizing the leftist leader.
Is Bolivia the Next Nicaragua?
The arrest of opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho has set off protests and raised worries about the political process in the country.
The arrest of the governor of Santa Cruz department and opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho on December 28 was so unexpected that many in Bolivia believed that it was an April Fools’ joke—a holiday which, in Latin America, is celebrated on December 28. When they received the news, some media outlets withheld their reports until they were sure that it was not a joke.
This shows how controversial Camacho’s arrest is. No one imagined that the government would detain a personality of such stature, leader of the most populated and economically strongest region of the country, besides being the center of the opposition to the regime of President Luis Arce. The move raised concerns that Bolivia could be well on its way towards taking its place among countries in the region like Nicaragua, where the democratic process is obstructed by the imprisonment of opposition figures.
An order was issued last October for Camacho to appear before a prosecutor’s office in La Paz on charges of “terrorism,” but his lawyers demanded that Camacho do so in Santa Cruz, his place of residence. In the midst of this legal discussion came his arrest, which took place as tensions run high between the capital, La Paz, and Santa Cruz over the timing of a postponed national census that many expect to give more political influence to a growing Santa Cruz. The department is located in the Bolivian lowlands and its economy is based on agribusiness and cattle raising.
After Camacho’s arrest, in which an elite police unit fired guns and broke the windows of the governor’s security vehicles, Camacho’s whereabouts were unknown for several hours until it was learned that he had been transferred to La Paz by helicopter. A seven-hour court hearing that same day determined his pretrial detention for four months in a high-security prison, located 4,000 meters above sea level in the cold Bolivian altiplano. The Chonchocoro prison holds dangerous detainees, many accused of murder, rape and drug trafficking. Some 25 detainees have died in Chonchocoro, due to fights between inmates and other reasons, since its inauguration in 1992. Five others “committed suicide” in strange circumstances.
The population of Santa Cruz reacted immediately. On the night of Camacho’s apprehension began a series of violent protests, which take place mainly at night and which, as of the night of January 4, had been going on for eight consecutive days. During the protests several public offices were looted and set on fire, vehicles burned and private property was destroyed. The demonstrations met with a forceful police response. Policemen have fired tear gas and pellet guns at point-blank range, injuring dozens of people, including journalists.
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