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In today’s Bolivia: racism, intolerance and violence

The burning of the Wiphala flag —which represents native peoples and farmers— and the prevention of access to public places experienced by women in traditional pollera skirts (carried out by groups aligned with the de facto government and new authorities that do not represent the people) are proof of the return of discrimination. Among the indigenous peoples, there is fear of losing the rights that were recognised in the 2009 Constitution.

 

Nara Romero Rams

 

With Bible in hand, Jeanine Áñez, representative of the conservative Christian sector, entered the Palacio Quemado and illegally assumed the presidency of this Andean-Amazonian nation — an act that announced the return of the racism that has been stamped out since 2006.

Indigenous peoples’ fears further increased when the self-declared leader broke with the tradition, promoted by Morales, of appointing an indigenous person as chancellor, and instead named the academic Karen Longaric. Faced with criticism and pressure, days later she appointed Aymara social leader Martha Yujra as culture and tourism minister.

Moreover, the barring of Aymara leader Juan Carlos León from standing as the first senate candidate for Cochabamba —and of ex-chancellor Diego Pary as the candidate for Potosí— in the general elections on 3rd May (following the coup d’état) is also evidence of persecution and racism from the de facto government and the self-declared president Jeanine Áñez.

What is more, Áñez’s Twitter account has demonstrated clear examples of discrimination, such as the tweet published on 20th June 2013, in which she declared: “What Aymara New Year or Morning star! Satan worshippers, nobody replaces God!”

The comment was a rejection of the celebration of Andean cultural rituals celebrating the arrival of the new year on 21st June each year.

Although it was deleted from the social network after her self-declaration as president, the racist comments continued, and in October she shared a cartoon of Evo Morales with the caption “last days”, followed by the phrase, “clinging on to power, the poor Indian”.

After 14 years of the Morales government’s defence of the rights of native peoples and farmers, which were suppressed during the neoliberal period, the attitude of Bolivia’s unconstitutional president has not gone unnoticed by the public ombudsman, Nadia Cruz. Cruz rejected statements made by Áñez that urged for the return of the “savages” to be stopped.

Cruz also questioned Áñez for casting doubt on the legal proceedings that resulted from the humiliation suffered on the 24th May 2008 by more than 50 farmers, who were forced by followers of the opposition party, Comité Interinstitucional, to strip half-naked and subjected to physical and verbal attacks.

Moreover, former vice president Álvaro García Linera (currently in exile in Argentina) has said that the coup is a means of exorcising the Movement for Socialism’s (MAS) process of social equality, and that fascist logic is alive and kicking, as shown by the burning of the Wiphala, the indigenous flag which represents equality between the traditional middle class and the class that escaped (extreme) poverty.

In her report on the situation of 10 countries, presented in Switzerland on 27th February, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, condemned Bolivia for the 35 people killed and 800 wounded as a result of clashes between police and military forces and the opposition during the coup.

At 62.2%, Bolivia is the country with the most indigenous population in Latin America, and is a plurinational state, with 36 indigenous nations recognised in the 2009 Constitution. (PL)

(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Eail: rebeccandhlovu@hotmail.co.uk)Photos: Pixabay

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