[Marxism] Bolivian government-owned newspaper charges disabled protesters with beating up cops

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 8 12:24:15 MST 2012

In La Paz
Belén Fernández 6 March 2012

In June 2009, the Bolivian state-run newspaper Cambio reported 
that Alán García, the then president of Peru, had accused Boliva’s 
president, Evo Morales, of inciting genocide against the Peruvian 
police force. Morales had expressed solidarity with inhabitants of 
the Peruvian Amazon opposed to the multinational corporate 
exploitation of the region’s resources.

Since then, Morales seems to have adjusted his position on both 
environmentalism and the rights of indigenous peoples. There are 
plans to build a highway through Bolivia’s Isiboro Sécure National 
Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS). The government has 
portrayed the road’s opponents as politically motivated allies of 
US imperialism, and the police have cracked down violently on 
protesters. The road would benefit Brazilian energy companies and 
coca-growing Morales supporters who have moved into the area.

Cambio has meanwhile cast the Bolivian police as the victims in a 
confrontation with disabled protesters in La Paz last month. The 
protesters arrived in the city at the end of a 1000-mile march to 
request an annual disability subsidy of 3000 Bolivianos (around 
$400). Amnesty International drew attention to reports that the 
police had used electric shocks and pepper sprays indiscriminately 
on the crowd. Cambio dwelled on the injuries sustained by the 
police and blamed the violence on a group of infiltrados posing as 
disabled people.

Having watched the marchers arrive in La Paz on 23 February in 
wheelchairs and on crutches, some of them missing limbs, I was 
surprised to hear from my newspaper vendor the following day that 
the disabled had attacked the police in the city centre.

As evidence of the violent infiltration, Cambio unveiled a 
photograph of a man in a striped sweater standing in front of a 
policeman in riot gear, accompanied by the caption ‘Activist beats 
up policemen at disabled protest’. Below that were two more 
photographs, purportedly of the same man protesting against the 
TIPNIS road.

Through such manoeuvres, Cambio has shown itself to be no better 
than the right-wing Honduran paper that in 2009 ran a headline 
claiming that Morales had been declared president of Bolivia for 
life. The non-story underneath was about a Bolivian citizen who 
said he’d like Morales to be president for life.

As for the Bolivian state’s insistence that indigenous opposition 
to the TIPNIS road is inextricably linked to the US embassy, 
USAID, various pro-US NGOs and followers of the US-backed former 
president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, there’s no denying the 
meddlesome history of the US in Latin America. But that doesn’t 
give Morales a free hand to suppress dissent. It’s worth 
remembering that one of the grievances against Sánchez de Lozada, 
whose retirement in the US has been undisturbed by Bolivia’s 
extradition requests, was his harsh way of dealing with public 

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