Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014, 13:37 GMT

Bolivia: Information on the state of siege imposed in September 1985 (the reasons for its imposition, its geographic coverage and any human rights abuses connected with it)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 October 1995
Citation / Document Symbol BOL21740.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bolivia: Information on the state of siege imposed in September 1985 (the reasons for its imposition, its geographic coverage and any human rights abuses connected with it), 1 October 1995, BOL21740.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6acab64.html [accessed 17 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

For information on the state of siege imposed in September 1985, please refer to Responses to Information Requests BOL4965 of 3 May 1990 and BOL0884 of 11 May 1989, available through the Refinfo database and at your Regional Documentation Centre.

In addition to the above-mentioned Responses, the attached excerpt from a NACLA Report on the Americas issue provides the following information:

Events moved very quickly in the fall of 1985. On September 1, miners struck to oppose the austerity measures, joined a few days later by factory, oil and transport workers across the country. A general strike was declared, and a week later COB [Bolivian Workers' Central] leaders voted to extend the strike indefinitely. The government refused to budge and, when union leaders began a hunger strike on September 19, President Paz declared a state of siege. One hunderd forty three strike leaders, including 70-year-old COB founder Juan Lechín, were imprisoned in Amazonian internment camps. Another 150 leaders went underground. On October 4, the government agreed to negotiations, and the general strike came to an end, thought the state of siege remained in force until December 19 (Apr. 1991, 12).

The report states that during the state of siege "the government laid off thousands of workers in public administration and state mines," adding that "those still working were suddenly deprived of the protection of a series of labour laws" and pointing out that the policies imposed effectively weakened the strong union movement of Bolivia (ibid.). For more details, please refer to the attachment.

 The attached excerpts from Country Reports 1986 and Amnesty International Report 1985 report that hundreds of persons were detained during the state of siege declared in September 1985. Amnesty International reports that "over 400 were sent into internal exile and were released only in October," adding that "there were reports that prisoners had been ill-treated in detention and had not received adequate medical attention" (1986, 126). The same source describes the case of a COB board member who was detained and internally exiled and who faced criminal charges after his release in December 1985 (ibid., 127-28).

The attached section of Country Reports 1985 states that the temporary detention of some 3,000 trade union members on September 19 under provisions of the state of siege curtailed the freedoms of assembly, travel, and peaceful protest, albeit under terms of the Constitution and without any reports of torture, deaths, injuries, or disappearances such as had occurred under previous governments (1985, 431).

The same source adds that

[m]ost detainees were never charged, and within 24 hours the government had released all but some 200 unionists who were given a choice of internal or external exile, in accordance with the constitutional provisions on a state of siege. Four trade unionists went to Peru while the others remained in Bolivia where they were internally exiled to rural military bases in isolated parts of Bolivia (ibid., 432).

Finally, the source adds that "the government began releasing detainees on October 1, and the following day the Government and the unions approved an agreement ending the strike" (ibid.). The report states that by October 9 all the detainees were released, except for the union member mentioned also in the Amnesty International report. Country Reports 1985 corroborates that he was held for criminal acts, adding that "other trade unionists who were also charged with criminal offenses, notably former officers of the Central Bank, were released on bail" (ibid., 432-33).

For additional information on the state of siege, please consult the attached documents.

The reports on the 1985 state of siege consulted by the DIRB do not indicate its geographic limit.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References

Amnesty International. 1986. Amnesty International Report 1986. New York: Amnesty International USA.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1985. 1986. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

NACLA Report on the Americas [Washington, DC]. April 1991. Vol. 25, No. 4. Soñia Davila. "In Another Vein.

Attachments

Amnesty International. 1986. Amnesty International Report 1986. New York: Amnesty International USA, pp. 126-29.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1985. 1986. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, pp. 431-33.

NACLA Report on the Americas [Washington, DC]. April 1991. Vol. 25, No. 4. Soñia Davila. "In Another Vein," p. 12.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld

Countries