Bolivia: Fear for safety
28 November 2007 - Amnsty International

Urgemt Action Call: AMR 18/996/2007
UA 318/07 Fear for safety

BOLIVIA Hundreds of protesters in the city of Sucre

Gonzalo Durán Carazani (m)
Juan Carlos Serrudo Murrillo (m)
José Luis Cardozo (m)

Protesters in the southern city of Sucre, Chuquisaca department, are in danger
following violence by demonstrators and police on 24 and 25 November, in which
three people died. During the second day of violence, the authorities ordered
police off the streets in a bid to contain the fighting.

The protests came as at least 138 pro-government Constituent Assembly members
met in a military training school in Sucre to approve the outlines of a new
draft constitution. The meeting was boycotted by Assembly members from
opposition parties. On 24 November, protestor Gonzalo Duran Carazani died of a
gunshot wound. Juan Carlos Serrudo Murrillo, a 25-year-old student died on 25
November after being hit in the chest by a tear gas canister fired into the
crowd by police. Another protester, José Luis Cardozo, died on 26 November of a
gunshot wound he received during the disturbances.

According to national and international press reports, on 24 November police
used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of demonstrators, who
were armed with rocks and clubs. The following day, some protesters armed with
stones, firecrackers, and molotov cocktails attacked the headquarters of the
Transport Police (Organismo Operativo de Transito), destroying computer
equipment and documents, and setting fire to motorcycles and a dozen police and
civilian cars. Following the attack, police officers were ordered off the
streets by authorities in a bid to contain the violence.

The Constituent Assembly, which meets in Sucre, was set up in August 2006 to
write Bolivia's new constitution – a task that social movements had urged the
authorities to undertake for decades. However, this process has led to a number
of violent demonstrations by civilian groups from different political parties
in recent months in Sucre and other cities, in which several people have been

The Constituent Assembly was given a maximum of one year to write Bolivia’s new
constitution. It is made up of 255 members, 137 of whom come from Evo Morales’
party, the Movement Towards Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS).

The assembly has polarized the country and heightened tension between President
Morales and his conservative rivals, who want more autonomy for the regions
they govern. A campaign was also initiated by the opposition in early 2007 in
Sucre, calling on the Assembly to debate moving the seat of government and
Congress to Sucre from La Paz, which is a stronghold of support for the
president. The demand to make Sucre the political and administrative capital
has aroused tensions in the capital, La Paz, and also in Sucre. Sucre was
Bolivia’s capital until 1899 and currently houses the Supreme Court.

In August 2007, one year after the Constituent Assembly was inaugurated, not
one text had been approved and so a law was passed to allow the Assembly to
continue its work until 14 December. Assembly members determined to put aside
the debate on moving the capital in order to move forward with their sessions.
This decision was met with violent opposition in Sucre and sessions were
suspended. Following one of the most violent days of protest in Sucre on 8
September, the Chuquisaca Court of Justice ordered the Assembly to debate the
issue of the capital during its sessions. On 21 November the Assembly suspended
its sessions for the eighth time amid fears for the security of its members. It
reconvened on 23 November, and during this session a draft outline of the new
constitution was approved by 138 members of the Constituent Assembly. The new
constitution will be put to a referendum.