Persecution of Evo’s Main Ministers in Bolivia

Graciela Ramírez Ramón Quintana

In the morning of Friday, December 20, the media in Bolivia highlighted the attack on the house of Juan Ramón Quintana, a Minister in the administration of Evo Morales, until the coup d’état. It was a clear threat not just to Quintana but all supporters of Evo and the Movement towards Socialism (MAS).

“The goal is to be able to locate and proceed to kidnap any element that is related to him or the facts that are being investigated,” said Colonel Iván Rojas, national director of the Special Force Against Crime and one of the participants of the coup d’état that interrupted the institutionality in Bolivia.

It is not the first time that Quintana’s private residence has been disrupted. Telesur condemned the assault on his home by shock groups led by the so-called “civic leaders” who operate with fascist methods. Latin Americans watched on TV the destruction they caused in his homes, putting the lives of both Quintana and his family at risk. Only a few hours had passed since the November 10 coup d’état, that forced President Morales to resign, when the persecution against the members of his government which had directed the country’s destiny since 2006 began.

On November 13, self-proclaimed president Jeanine Áñez appointed Arturo Murillo as Minister of Government (Interior) who was a member of her Democratic Unity Party. The former senator of the Bolivian right, wasted no time in making threats in the media, stating that, “all those who are seditious will go to jail.” By “sedition” he was referring to the people who heroically took to the streets to resist the coup.

He immediately pointed to Quintana as responsible for the popular rejection of the coup plotters. “We are going to hunt down Juan Ramón Quintana. Why is it a hunt? Because he is an animal that is killing people in our country and we will not allow it,” he said brutally

Days later, on November 22, Murillo filed a criminal complaint with the Public Prosecutor against the Constitutional President and Quintana charging them with alleged sedition and terrorism. What is the evidence for these accusations of such gravity? An alleged telephone call from Evo calling for the blockade of the city and what was expressed by Quintana in an interview with Sputnik.

They used a video that showed a person receiving a fictional call in which Evo gave instructions, everything was a gross concoction. Communication specialists denounced it in social networks. It wasn’t Evo’s voice; it was a made up simulation to mount the accusation.

Since the triumph of Evo on October 20, the destabilizing actions began. To ignore the results that the majority of the voters gave to MAS, they implemented a fraudulent narrative to help create the coup.

On October 30, Sputnik published an interview in which Quintana said, “What we are seeing is the trajectory of the coup that is being triggered intensely and at different speeds throughout the national territory.” The interview took place in the Casa Grande del Pueblo, the venue of the Government, which also was housed the peasant movements, of the miners organization, the native peoples and MAS. Today it is being populated by military, agents, politicians and coup plotters.

In the conversation about the challenges they faced in the emergence of the coup, Quintana warned about a scenario of “high-intensity war in terms o time.” In relation to the strengths of the process of change established by Evo, and the confrontation with the right-wing, he expressed “Here is a political accumulation of social movements that are willing to fight… “Bolivia is going to become a great battlefield, a modern Vietnam because here, social organizations have found a place to reaffirm their autonomy, sovereignty and identity”.

Murillo based his accusation by taking the words of Minister Quintana out of context, and with the creation of the supposed orders given by Evo. “The evidence is clear, we have presented it, Juan Ramón Quintana who said he was going to turn Bolivia into a Vietnam, is trying to do it (…), Mr. Evo Morales’s evidence is that video and the recording that has been presented clearly, that says ¨ kill the Bolivians, laying siege to the city,” Murillo said before the doors of the Prosecutor’s Office in La Paz.

And then a real hunt was launched against Quintana. Day after day the Bolivian media talks about the search for Quintana as if he were a dangerous criminal. The media, political and judicial campaign adds a new lie every day, a new charge to the existing ones that include the allusion of alleged links with drug trafficking. They exhibit his photo and with big block letters they write “WANTED” below, as if he were a dangerous criminal.

Faced with such persecution, Juan Ramón Quintana was forced, as well as other ministers and the intellectual Hugo Moldiz, minister until 2015 and member of the Secretariat of the Network in Defense of Humanity, to request asylum in the Mexican embassy in La Paz to safeguard their lives and physical integrity.

On November 13, the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador granted asylum to Quintana in La Paz. On November 15, the Mexican Government asked the Bolivian coup authorities for the corresponding safe passages for Quintana, Moldiz, several ministers and a governor , so they could leave the embassy headquarters and move to countries that have already offered to grant them asylum or political shelter.

The order for apprehension is unfounded, was issued by a coup and usurper government criminally accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacres perpetrated, illegal detentions, disappearances, torture and persecution of indigenous and peasants, government leaders and MAS . The charges against the characters of the coup are based in the courts of Argentina under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction that states that when crimes against humanity are not investigated in the country where they occur, another can judge them. The complaint was signed by the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH).

The arrest and detention order is irrelevant as it was issued after the Mexican Government granted asylum to Quintana, but flaunting his threats Murillo said;“In the case of Juan Ramón Quintana, clearly what the Mexican embassy should do is to leave him at the door for us to put him in our car and take him to trial for sedition and terrorism.

On a recent visit to Washington, Murillo declared that “the order for Juan Ramón Quintana urgent capture has already been issued, which is why he will not be given a safe conduct to leave the Mexican embassy, ​​where he is a refugee. We will not let him out of Bolivia.”

Murillo must be reminded that denying the safe conduct and asylum to Quintana and ministers is a serious violation of the Geneva Convention and public international law.

And he also needs to be reminded that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights –IACmHR-, the European Union, numerous human rights organizations in the region, associations of lawyers and magistrates have all expressed that Bolivia must deliver safe-conduct to Minister Juan Ramón Quintana, intellectual Hugo Moldiz, the Minister of Cultures Wilma Alanoca, the governor of Oruro Víctor Hugo Vázquez, the director of communication, Nicolás Laguna. These last three were also charged with false judicial processes initiated by the de facto government after they had been granted asylum.

The international organizations ask that the Minister of Defense Javier Zavaleta, the Minister of Justice Héctor Arce, the Minister of Mining Félix César Navarro, and the Deputy Minister of Rural and Agricultural Development Pedro Damián Dorado also be granted the safe-conduct.

Failure to do so would make these ministers of recognized national and international prestige, political hostages of the dictatorial regime that prevails in Bolivia.