[News] Human Rights Watch Watches Out for US’ Bolivian Friends, Condemns Amnesty for Political Prisoners

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 16 15:35:03 EDT 2021

Rights Watch Watches Out for US’ Bolivian Friends, Condemns Amnesty for
Political PrisonersBy Alan Macleod – Mar 12, 2021

*Since its establishment, HRW has consistently been criticized for being an
agent of U.S. foreign policy, employing former U.S. government officials in
key positions and displaying bias against governments unfriendly to the
United States.*

New York – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned a general amnesty for
over a thousand Bolivians persecuted under the one-year dictatorship of
Jeanine Añez. Yesterday, the Washington-based human rights organization
plan to drop all charges against people resisting the government as
“opening the door to impunity.” Its Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco,
said that the new law “undermines victims’ access to justice and violates
the fundamental principle of equality before the law.” HRW alleges that a
handful of anti-coup demonstrators carried out serious crimes, such as
arson or kidnapping, while opposing the regime, thus making general amnesty
seriously problematic.

New President Luis Arce won an overwhelming electoral victory in October
after a citizens’ revolt
the country and forced Añez to hold an election. Human Rights Watch notes
with concern that this new decree “suggests that anyone prosecuted by the
Áñez government for actions during social protests had their rights
violated,” something that many consider to be obvious and uncontroversial.

“Human Rights Watch is criticizing the Bolivian government for lifting the
charges against leftists who were persecuted by the former coup regime
(seriously). This is why Bolivians are suspicious of these U.S. NGOs,”
reacted <https://twitter.com/OVargas52/status/1370099690813931520> Bolivian
journalist Ollie Vargas.

*An odd position for a human rights org*

A layperson might expect one of the best known human rights organizations
in the world to celebrate the acquittal of over a thousand innocent people
charged with “crimes” such as reporting
massacres in a way that displeased the government, hospital workers
the regime’s victims, or calling
a “dictator” in WhatsApp conversations. Yet HRW strongly supported
coup as it was taking place, insisting
President Evo Morales was actually “resigning” of his own accord, and
merely “traveling to Mexico” rather than fleeing at the barrel of a gun.

RELATED CONTENT: How Human Rights Watch Whitewashed a Right-Wing Massacre
in Bolivia

HRW’s executive director, Ken Roth, made a series of public statements on
social media expressing his delight, even as security forces took over La
Paz, massacring civilians and overthrowing a democratically-elected
president. Roth also described the coup approvingly as an “uprising
<https://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/1196133917247655939>” and a “transitional
moment <https://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/1194415776205352961>” for
Bolivia, while presenting Morales as an out-of-touch “strongman
<https://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/1196133917247655939>.” For Roth,
Morales was “the casualty of a counter-revolution aimed at defending
democracy…against electoral fraud and his own illegal candidacy,” falsely
Morales had ordered the army to shoot protesters.

As Roth was making his pronouncements, Añez was signing
new law that gave security forces complete immunity for killing dissenters.
HRW described
as a “problematic decree,” as if Añez had merely used insensitive language.
The organization also attempted to hide who were the perpetrators of the
ensuing massacres, telling readers that “nine people died and 122 were
wounded” during a Cochabamba demonstration, but refusing to fill them in on
who was dying and who was shooting.

Even in yesterday’s 2,800-word report, published 16 months after the
incident, the word “coup” is completely absent. Instead, HRW states
(emphasis added) that Morales “was forced to *resign*on November 10, 2019,
after the commanders of the armed forces and the police *asked* him to step
down.” Morales, however, made it clear
the time that he was leaving only to avoid a bloodbath.

HRW also continues to describe Añez as the “interim president” — her own,
propagandistic word for her role — rather than “dictator,” and maintains
that Morales’s election was “controversial” because of “allegations of
electoral fraud.” This is despite the fact that the allegations were
immediately debunked
independent statisticians. Last month, HRW demanded
<https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/08/us-impeachment-not-enough> that Donald
Trump be prosecuted because he promoted false theories of a “stolen
election” in the U.S. Yet, in Bolivia, HRW itself is doing exactly the same
thing — and based on just as shaky evidence.

*A brief and brutal fascist interlude*

Elected in 2005, Morales was the first leader in the country’s history to
come from its indigenous majority. During his 14 years in office, his
administration reduced
by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%, halving unemployment and increasing real
GDP per capita by 50%. Taking the country down a more socialist path, he
fostered links to like-minded neighboring countries such as Ecuador,
Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, and was sharply critical of U.S. actions
abroad. In October 2019, he won an unprecedented and controversial fourth
term by over 10 points. However, sectors of the U.S.-backed Bolivian
right-wing cried foul, alleging fraud, with the military and the police
using the ensuing chaos to justify overthrowing him.

RELATED CONTENT: Jeanine Áñez Arrested for Sedition, Conspiracy and
Terrorism in Bolivia

The military handpicked Morales’s successor, Añez, a little known senator
from a far-right party that received 4% of the vote. A hardline Christian
conservative, Añez sparked controversy by declaring the country’s
indigenous majority as “satanic” and arguing that they should not be
allowed to live in cities. She immediately started crushing dissent,
targeting followers
Morales, media outlets
and human rights observers

Añez also began privatizing
economy and reoriented the country’s foreign policy away from an
independent path and towards the United States. Despite calling herself an
“interim president,” she repeatedly canceled
leading many to believe she was attempting to stay in power indefinitely
with help from the military, which ruled the country directly for much of
the 20th century. However, a nationwide general strike
August shut the country down, forcing her to agree to an October election.

Morales was banned from running. But Luis Arce, his former economy
minister, was elected in a 27-point landslide, gaining almost twice the
votes of his nearest challenger.

*Highly Reactionary Worldview*

Unfortunately, this sort of behavior from Human Rights Watch is far from
unusual. Headquartered in NYC, with a branch on D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue,
the organization was originally established in 1978 as Helsinki Watch, an
American group dedicated to exposing the crimes of Eastern Bloc countries
and monitoring their compliance with the Helsinki Accords.

Its founder, Aryeh Neier, is a libertarian fundamentalist who equates the
very idea of economic or labor rights with oppression, writing that they
are “profoundly undemocratic.” “Authoritarian power is probably a
prerequisite for giving meaning to economic and social rights,” he added
Thus, under this interpretation of rights, the Morales administration’s
actions in reducing poverty, hunger and labor insecurity are not
achievements, but black marks against it.

Since its establishment, HRW has consistently been criticized for being an
agent of U.S. foreign policy, employing former U.S. government officials in
key positions and displaying bias
<https://nacla.org/article/hypocrisy-human-rights-watch> against leftist
governments unfriendly to the United States. Vivanco himself penned a
much-derided <https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/4051>report on human
rights in Venezuela, which, in an open letter, over 100 Latin American
experts claimed “did not meet even the most minimal standards of
scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility.” And while constantly
describing <https://twitter.com/JMVivancoHRW/status/892109810027593728>
leader Nicolas Maduro as a “dictator,” in May, Vivanco called
under Añez’s rule a democracy.

HRW worked hard to legitimize the U.S
.-, British
and Brazilian-
coup. With this new report, it appears as if it is still trying to turn the
clock back, showing that it all too often places Western imperial interests
over liberty for oppressed peoples.

*Featured image:  Masked police detain a supporter of Evo Morales after
they launched tear gas at a massive funeral procession that was marching
into La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 21, 2019. Photo | AP*

(Mint Press News

Alan MacLeod

Alan MacLeod is a member of the Glasgow University Media Group. He is
author of "Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and
Misreporting." His latest book, Propaganda in the Information Age: Still
Manufacturing Consent, was published by Routledge in May 2019.
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