Diana Collins

A Brutal Crack-Down?

On Sept.26, 2011, the Andean Information Network reported that  “[o]n September 25 at 5 pm, approximately 500 Bolivian police officers tear-gassed and used excessive force against camping indigenous protestors outside of  Yucumo, in Beni Department.”  For many years, Bolivia, like other countries in the so-called Third World, was in the grip of a local oligarchy and foreign corporations. The same is still true in Peru, Chile, Colombia etc. We remember the Siglo XX massacre in Bolivia when so many miners were killed by the armed forces. We remember the dead and disappeared under the Banzer dictatorship when the regime cooperated with Pinochet and Videla and carried out the infamous Operación Condor instigated by the U.S. that resulted in about 30,000 death in Chile, at least 30,000 in Argentina, and an unknown number in Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. We know that for the Bolivian army and police, the life an an indigenous person or a poor person or a dissident always counted very little. Countless persons were shot during demonstrations in the past. The international press, the BBC, VOA, and organizations comparable to AVAAZ (a very recent organization) had very little to say about this.

Of course no degree of police brutality is acceptable.
Not during demonstrations on Wall Street, New York. Not in Toronto. Not in Stuttgart or Barcelona. Certainly not in Bolivia where a renewal of democracy is attempted and social justice just as indigenous rights are finally getting priority.

The Andean Information Network titles its story: “Turning Point for Morales: Bolivian Police Repress and Detain Indigenous Marchers.”

Let me ask, How many protesters were seriously wounded? And is it true that seven people have been killed? – Something that would have been commonplace in Bolivia in the past...

The online edition of Los Tiempos writes on Sept. 29, 2011:
“El presidente Morales tildó de "imperdonable" la represión policial, luego pidió perdón a los indígenas por la intervención, pero también negó que él o sus ministros la hubieran ordenado […]”

We still wait for President Obama to stand up and declare publicly that “the police repression” against those mazed and beaten by the police during the recent Wall Street demonstration was “unpardonable”.

We are waiting for the Spanish Prime Minister, Zapatero, to ask the peaceful victims of police repression in Barcelona and Madrid for “forgiveness”. 

We also ask his minister of the interior who will soon run for office, hoping to succeed Zapatero.

And how about German Chancellor Angela Merkel?

Exactly a year before the protesters near Yucumo, Bolivia, were tear-gassed and beaten up by the police, in late September 2010 about sixty-thousand peaceful citizens demonstrated in Stuttgart, Germany, for a good cause – for the protection of trees, just as the indigenous protesters in Yucumo protested for the protection of trees.

Michael Slackman of The New York Times reported on Oct.1, 2010 in an article titled “Crowds Fault Police Actions in Stuttgart” how the German chancellor commented on police brutality in Stuttgart: “[...] ‘I would hope that demonstrations like these would pass off peacefully,’ Mrs. Merkel told the public broadcaster SWR on Friday. ‘This must always be tried, and anything that leads to violence must be avoided.’[…]” Clearly, Ms. Merkel, in this and other, even more misleading comments on the events in Stuttgart, tried to suggest that the police reacted to violence of demonstrators. She defended the police. In its so-called “Correction” of October 12, 2010, the New York Times defends her position implicitly and misleadingly speaks of “a violent confrontation in Stuttgart, Germany, between police officers and demonstrators protesting the demolition of centuries-old trees where a rail transportation project is to be built”, regardless of the fact that the protests were peaceful and that demonstrators as well as opposition parties in the Stuttgart parliament (which have since been voted into office, forming the new state government) agreed in their condemnation of unprovoked police violence. 

A German-language version of an AFP (Agence France Press) report gives the number of injured demonstrators as “at least 130” (“dass bei
einem umstrittenen Polizei-Einsatz mindestens 130 Menschen verletzt wurden”, cf. N.N.(AFP), „Zwei verletzte "Stuttgart 21"-Gegner kaempfen um Augenlicht“ [Two Injured Opponents of the Stuttgart 21 Project Feared to Remain Blind] http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i-zYBrMTabh3

According to more trustworthy sources, and among them are apparently the committees which legally registered the demonstration in advance, more than 370 injured people were seen on the scene after the police attack. And many received first aid on the spot. AN EMERGENCY HOSPITAL HAD TO BE SET UP IN THE SCHLOSS-PARK. Several REGULAR HOSPITALS in STUTTGART faced tight capacities as injured people were coming in…
The falsifying of numbers is scandalous and reliance of reporters on figures
provided by the police amounts to an unprofessional failure to check facts and
perhaps even to unethical collusion.

At least one paper, however, Financial Times Germany gave an approximatively correct estimate of the number of persons suffering either light injuries (treated in the emergeny hospital set up in the downtown park) or severe injuries. PressEurop published a French version of the Financial Times Germany article which tells us the following: “la police a sorti les canons à eau et les gaz lacrymogènes blessant environ 400 personnes.”
(N. N.:  «Allemagne : Répression policière contre de "braves citoyens"» , in :
Financial Times Deutschland, 1 octobre 2010; French translation, in: PressEurop.eu   http://www.presseurop.eu/fr/content/news-brief-cover/350821-

In other words, up to 400 persons were injured in a peaceful demonstration attended by about 60,000 persons, according to independent witnesses. The figure given by AFP (about 130) apparently refers to those with injuries that could not be treated immediately in the emergency hospital, making it necessary to transport them to various hospitals in the city.

In the independent online journal Telepolis, Florian Roetzer quoted an elderly, pensioned bystander during the demonstrations, Mr. Dieter Reicherter, who had come to see what was happening and who became a victim of unjustified and unprovoked police violence. Mr. Reicherter  had still been President of the Penal Court (Vorsitzender einer Strafkammer des Landgerichts) in Stuttgart the preceeding month. In a letter to the minister of the interior, Mr. Reichert wrote, “Allow me to remark that up to now I have known of such use of the police against peaceful citizens only thanks to reports coming from China or other dictatorships.”(„Gestatten Sie mir die Bemerkung, dass ich einen derartigen Polizeieinsatz gegen friedliche Buerger bislang nur durch Berichte aus China und anderen Diktaturen kannte." Dieter Reicherter, quoted by Florian Roetzer, “Stuttgart 21-Gegner wollen mit Volksbegehren […]”, Telepolis, 6.Okt.2010  http://www.heise.de/tp/blogs/8/148512)

The pensioned engineer Dietrich Wagner (age 66), a bystander, tried to protect school children (which were engaged in a peaceful sit-in) against a beginning attack with water canons.  Gesticulating, pointing at the kids, and  obviously hoping to make the police officers call off the attack,  he was hit by a sudden jet of water with such force that he was swept to the ground. He was found unconscious. Mr. Wagner went blind, the press reported, having lost both of his eyes. Another demonstrator also lost an eye permanently. Many had severe head injuries.

Mr. Wagner told the German weekly Stern that he simply does not understand “how they can cause such an inferno directed against the population of Stuttgart.”
(Er verstehe nicht, "wie man gegen die Stuttgarter Bevoelkerung ein solches Inferno anrichten kann", sagte Wagner dem Magazin [Stern].“ N.N./AFP, „Zwei verletzte "Stuttgart 21"-Gegner kaempfen um Augenlicht“ http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i

Many citizens of Stuttgart agreed with Mr. Wagner’s condemnation of the government and its ferocious use of the police. The next day, not 60,000 but 150,000 protesters took to the streets peacefully in Stuttgart.
Indignant because of unfounded allegations that the violence of the police had been provoked, many Stuttgarters assembled in front of the state capitol, tossing shoes against its walls in contempt while shouting, Liars, liars!

Interestingly, in the Stuttgart case the press in Europe and North America was not particularly worried about the things that had happened. They did not care to investigate and denounce the excessive violence of the police and no organization, from AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL to AVAAZ, questioned the role of the Chancellor, Ms. Merkel,  or of other (federal and regional) ministers. 

No one spoke of a “turning point” for Ms. Merkel or for German democracy. Obviously what happened is “normal” in countries like Germany, the U.S., Spain, Italy, Britain, France etc.  So why speak of a “crack-down”?

In Bolivia, for the first time in its long history, a president of the people is heading the government. He assumes the responsibility for the unwarranted, inexcusable brutality of the police. He asks the victims for forgiveness.

Let us be clear. 

Both the brutality in Germany, on Wall Street, in Barcelona, Madrid and in Bolivia IS OBJECTIONABLE.

In no way was the term “Crack-down” used by AVAAZ in the Bolivian case justified.

It’s absurd to speak of a brutal crack-down in Bolivia, a term with implications far wider than each of the objectionable cases of police violence (whether against people on Wall St., in Stuttgart, or at the edge of the Amazonian forest) forces us to assume. Certainly, civil rights are violated. Certainly, it causes grave concern if a government refuses to accept responsibility, if it defends what happens, if it uses the police in this way again and again. All this is bad; but a crack-down is an all-out effort to silence and destroy a massively present popular opposition. 

Why does AVAAZ speak of a “Crack-down”?

What kind of organization is AVAAZ?
And who is behind the media attack against the Morales government?


Check: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/17/democracy_uprising_in_the_usa_noam



Andean Information Network 
on the events near Yucumo

Los Tiempos reports that
Morales calls the action of the 
police unpardonable


Democracy real YA!

Suite 101. net

Carolina Castañeda López, La "Spanish Revolution" y los movimientos sociales en la red

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Lola Romero Gil, Movimientos ciudadanos, la red se mueve

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Lola Romero Gil, "Una semana 
de España acampada, por la democracia real"

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Al Ahram Weekly

Galal Nassar, "The Arab Spring and the crisis of the elite" 

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Ahmad Fouad Najem, "Forbidden"

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K21 (Stuttgart)

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documenta 11:
demokratie als permanenter,
unabgeschlossener  prozess

Beharrlich unbequem
Hans Herbert von Arnim, kritischer Verfassungsrechtler,der die Entmachtung des angeblichen  Souveräns - der Bevölkerung - beklagt

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Heinz Dieterich, "Transición 
al Socialismo del Siglo XXI: avances en Europa y Asia"

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Alternative web.es

Esther Vivas

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Retos anticapitalistas

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Libcom.org, Theses on the global crisis 

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Local to global.org

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Forum Social Mundial

Z Communications  AND Z mag



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