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The Bolivian government will be seeking to hold the political leadership of Sucre’s Inter-Institutional Committee responsible for the their role in coordinating the horrifying events of May 24, 2008. On Saturday, the Prosecutor’s Office issued its long anticipated indictments on the day of racist violence, street clashes, and public humiliation. Its conclusions were backed up by reports from the Defensoría del Pueblo and the Legislature’s Human Rights Commission. The allegations, which will serve as the basis for prosecutions of many members of Sucre’s right-wing political elite, ratify the assessment of responsibility put forward by Cesar Brie’s June 2008 documentary Humiliados y Ofendidos. [Background on this blog about that day and its aftermath: 1 | 2 | 3 ].

Peasants forced to kneel in Sucre

Captured peasants are forced to kneel by civic protesters in Sucre's central square. They were required to strip to the waist, hold the Chuquisaca flag, watch as the indigenous wiphala was burned, and shout political slogans as press cameras filmed.

The accused include:

  • Savina Cuéllar, Prefect of Chuquisaca from June 2008 to May 2010
  • Jaime Barrón Poveda, former rector of the Universidad San Francisco Xavier, and Mayor Elect of Sucre
  • Aydée Nava, former Mayor of Sucre.
  • Fidel Herrera, former council member of Sucre.
  • John Cava, expresident of the Comité Cívico and recent unsuccessful candidate for governor of Chuquisaca.
  • Epifania Terrazas, member of the the Constituent Assembly

The formal accusation will suspend Barrón from taking office as Mayor.

The MAS/State newspaper Cambio editorialized about the case on Monday under the headline “Racism out of time“:

The indignation of people who have arrived in the 21st century with the mentality of this new century will not accept racist acts like those that took place in the capital of the Plurinational State. … We are sure that the Prosecutor’s Office will fulfill its duty to put Bolivia back in tune with the times.

Cambio also noted the prominence of indigenous individuals among the actors on May 24:

Racism has been and is one of the practices upon which colonialism bases its power. Many times, like in Sucre in 2008, violent actions taken against the racil condition of its victims are carried out by those who share the victim’s blood, an old practice well known among the sepoys of English colonialism in India, the caporales, blacks who managed black slaves, and the so-called kapos, Jews who managed the Jews who would be killed in Hitler’s death camps. [...]

What leads these people to act against their own origins? Perhaps, like the sepoys, caporales and kapos, to enjoy a rise in social and economic status, to be Mayor or Prefect, must imply a new social relationship with the representatives of the old regime that still has so much power in colonial cities like Sucre.

The enormously long lapse of time between the events and the beginning of prosecution is not atypical of the Bolivian justice system, especially in political cases. The trial of Leopoldo Fernández, former Prefect of Beni, for the Pando Massacre has yet to begin, and he is jailed awaiting trial (none of the Sucre defendants are currently jailed).  Women jailed at Cochabamba’s San Sebastián began a hunger strike picket against judicial delays on Saturday, according to a report in Tuesday’s La Prensa.

Full story available in Spanish from Los Tiempos.

For those of you as curious as I am how exactly the Justice Department has pursued its so-called terrorism cases (the sketchy Liberty City 7 case has been discussed here in the past), there’s now a fascinating look at one of the few “successful” prosecutions thus far: the Justice Department’s prosecution of the Detroit Sleeper Cell case. This American Life devoted an entire episode to Richard G. Convertino’s prosecution of four men of Middle Eastern descent for an alleged plot to attack Disneyland. Leaps of logic and imagining the worst appear to have combined with a zealous effort at prosecution. The case unraveled not due to any search for justice, but, it seems, due to internal Justice Department politics, which raise huge questions about public accountability. Reporter Petra Bartosiewicz’s The Best Terrorists We Could Find should make an interesting read when it comes out next year.

Meanwhile the FBI is proposing to let race and travel schedules tell them who is a terrorist, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights:

The proposed guidelines would give the domestic intelligence agency authority to investigate American citizens and residents without any evidence of criminal acts, relying instead on a “terrorist profile” that would include race, ethnicity and “travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity” to spark an initial “national security investigation.”

These proposed guidelines would also allow, according to the reports, for FBI agents to ask “open-ended questions” about the activities of Muslim or Arab Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match other criteria considered to be “suspect.” Once this initial investigation stage was completed, a full investigation could be opened – allowing for wiretapping of phone calls or deep investigation of personal data – all guided merely by a “terrorist profile” that openly relies on race, ethnicity, religion and community connections.

Do something about it by pressuring Attorney General Mike Mukesey.

Also, the “terrorist watch list” is now over a million names. More on who’s on it from the ACLU.

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