University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Bolivia, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 8 rev. 1 (1997).






1. In a letter dated February 5, 1997, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, Antonio Araníbar Quiroga, wrote to the then-chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Dean Claudio Grossman, as follows: "I have the honor to address you to confirm the conversation we had yesterday during which I transmitted to you the request from my Government to have the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights undertake the work of investigating and clarifying the events at Capasirca and Amayapampa, and any parties responsible for them, during the month of December 1996 as promptly as possible. As I told you yesterday, my government is most deeply concerned that the conclusions the Commission reaches be made known to us no later than July 15, 1997, since the President of the Republic, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, has committed himself to making public the findings of that investigation and clarification work before ending his term of office on August 6 of this year. My government would be most appreciative if the IACHR could meet this request in the terms set out. Accept the assurances of my highest consideration."

2. The Commission--through the then-chairman, Claudio Grossman--wrote to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia on February 11, 1997, to respond to the invitation from the Government of Bolivia. That letter indicated, among other points, "I wish to inform Your Excellency that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is most willing to cooperate with the democratic governments of the hemisphere in promoting and protecting human rights, including contributing to clarifying situations such as the one you referred to in your letter. With that purpose in mind, the IACHR considers that the most appropriate way to act within the framework of its powers and authority is to conduct an on-site visit to familiarize itself with the situation pertaining to Capasirca and Amayapampa. As you are aware, on such visits the IACHR has access to places, persons and information is necessary for its mission. Similarly, such a visit by the IACHR is preceded by the sending of secretariat personnel and attorneys who perform preparatory work. The specifics of the visit will be considered by the Commission in its upcoming regular session which begins the 24th of this month at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. To determine the details of the visit and to coordinate it, we will be in contact with the Permanent Representative of Bolivia, Ambassador Carlos Casap, for the purpose of holding, during the last session of February, a full meeting of the IACHR with your distinguished Government."

3. During the course of its 95th Regular Session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights welcomed a delegation from the Republic of Bolivia. This delegation was headed by the Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Carlos Casap. During that hearing, Ambassador Casap repeated to the Commission the request that the Commission conduct an on-site visit in his country to investigate the events that occurred at Capasirca and Amayapampa in December 1996. This hearing gave rise to IACHR press communique No. 2/97, issued on February 28, 1997.

4. In a letter dated March 4, 1997, the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, wrote to the Permanent Representative of Bolivia, Ambassador Carlo Casap, to make the final arrangements for the visit. In this regard, the letter stated, among other points, "the visit will be conducted in accordance with the provisions of Articles 18(g) of the Statute of the Commission, and 58 of its Regulations." And, "its purpose shall be to investigate the events that occurred at Capasirca and Amayapampa, with a view to making recommendations on the basis of the evidence or presumed responsibilities that can be determined for the Bolivian state. The Commission, as Your Excellency is aware, has no jurisdiction to establish individual responsibilities nor may it prejudge any actions of the Bolivian state which, in the future, might come as cases before this same Commission, in conformity with the American Convention and its Statute and Regulations. Prior to the on-site visit, the Commission will send a mission composed of staff members from the Executive Secretariat to prepare the visit and begin the preliminary inquiries into the events."


5. From April 5 to 12, 1997, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights sent a technical mission to Bolivia to prepare the on-site visit. This mission was composed of the Deputy Executive Secretary, David J. Padilla, and Milton I. Castillo, the staff attorney responsible for Bolivia. The technical mission met with governmental and military authorities and members of civil society, and went to where the events unfolded. There it heard testimony from the peasants and miners living in the area, as well as family members of the victims.


6. From April 26 to May 2, 1997, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to Bolivia for the purpose of investigating the events that occurred in December 1996 at Amayapampa, Llallagua, and Capasirca, located in the northern part of the department of Potosí.

7. Participating in the visit were the chairman of the Commission, Ambassador John S. Donaldson, and Commission members Dean Claudio Grossman and Jean Joseph Exume. The Commission members were assisted during the visit by the Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana, and the Deputy Executive Secretary, David J. Padilla, and by attorneys Milton Castillo and María Noel Rodríguez.

8. In the city of La Paz, the President of the Republic, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, welcomed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Commission met as well with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Araníbar Quiroga; the Minister of Justice, René Blattman Bauer; the Minister of Interior, Víctor Hugo Canelas; the Minister of Human Development (the Minister of Interior at the time of the events), Franklin Anaya Vásquez; the Minister of Economic Development, Jaime Villalobos; the Minister of Labor, Alberto Vargas; the Minister of Defense, Alfonso Kreidler; and the Chief Prosecutor of the Republic, Oscar Crespo.

9. The Commission met as well with several formers ministers of state: Mauricio Balcazar (Social Communications); Carlos Sánchez Berzaín (Interior); and Hugo San Martín (Labor).

10. As part of its activities, a group from the IACHR delegation went to the place of the events on Thursday, May 1, 1997. There the group conducted an inspection visit and heard numerous testimonies from mine workers and peasants who live in the area. The Commission met with the family members of the deceased and a group of wounded persons at the Universidad Siglo XX located in the city of Llallagua, and traveled to Amayapampa and Capasirca, where it heard testimony from trade union leaders and peasants.

11. The IACHR also held meetings with the Human Rights Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. It met with its chairman, Juan del Granado, and with deputies Jorge Albarracín, Lucio Felípez, Jorge Suárez, Rosario Paz Ballivian and Luis Vázquez Villamor. Also meeting with the IACHR were national senators Gonzalo Balda Cardenas, Joaquín Aguirre Lavayen, Luis Lema Molina, Martín Quiroz Alcalá, Raúl Gallo, Valentín Abecia, and Walter Zuleta Roncal.

12. As part of its investigation, the Commission took statements from the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Daniel Saavedra; Colonel Alberto Vélez Ocampo, the Commander of Section III of the Army; and Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Pozo, the commander of the Illimani Regiment. The Commission also took a statement from General Willy Arriaza, the former General Commander of the National Police of Bolivia.

13. Similarly, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received testimony and abundant information from several members of civil society, including Waldo Albarracín, the chairman of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights; Edgar Ramírez, the director of the Bolivian Workers Central; Milton Gómez and Guillermo Dalence, from the Mining Federation; and Román Loayza, from the Single Trade Union Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB); Reverend Roberto Durete, the director of the Radio Pío XII and the chairman of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights of Llallagua; Tomás Quiroz, chairman of the Multiactiva cooperative; Silvia Rojas, a leader of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights of Llallagua; Dr. Rodrigo Flores (a physician who was wounded at the place of the events); Yerco Kukoc (the former prefect of Potosí); and Mr. David Collins, the general manager of the Da Capo company.

14. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also received the widow of Colonel Eduardo Rivas and the police officers who were wounded during the events.

15. The IACHR ended its on-site visit on May 2, 1997, when it held a press conference and issued communique No. 06/97.


16. Article 41(e) of the American Convention on Human Rights, along with chapter IV, Article 18(g) of the Statute of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Article 58 of its Regulations, set out the legal framework for the on-site visit to Bolivia. Article 41(e) of the Convention provides that the Commission has as a principal function promoting the observance and defense of human rights, and in carrying out its mandate it has, among others, the function of responding, "through the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, to inquiries made by the member states on matters related to human rights and, within the limits of its possibilities, to provide those states with the advisory services they request." For its part, Article 18(g) of the IACHR Statute states as follows:

Article 18. The Commission shall have the following powers with respect to the member states of the Organization of American States:

g. To conduct on-site observations in a state, with the consent or at the invitation of the government in question.

17. Article 58 of the Regulations of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights provides:

Article 58. Necessary Facilities

In extending an invitation for an on-site observation or in giving its consent, the government shall furnish to the Special Commission all necessary facilities for carrying out its mission. In particular, it shall bind itself not to take any reprisals of any kind against any persons or entities cooperating with the Special Commission or providing information or testimony.

18. Article 41(c) of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 62 of the Regulations of the Commission lay the legal foundation for preparation of the report. In effect, Section II, Article 41(c) of the Convention mentions, among others: "The main function of the Commission shall be to promote respect for and defense of human rights. In the exercise of its mandate, it shall have the following functions and powers:

c. to prepare such studies or reports as it considers advisable in the performance of its duties.

19. In addition, Article 62 of the Regulations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights lays out the procedure that the Commission must follow in preparing a report on human rights in a given state. That article indicates:

a. after the draft report has been approved by the Commission, it shall be transmitted to the government of the member state in question so that it may make any observations it deems pertinent;

b. the Commission shall indicate to that government the deadline for presentation of its observations;

c. when the Commission receives the observations from the government, it shall study them and, in light thereof, may uphold its report or change it and decide how it is to be published;

d. if no observation has been submitted on expiration of the deadline by the government, the Commission shall publish the report in the manner it deems suitable.


20. In preparing this report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has taken into account by the various officials and members of the Bolivian state and members of civil society. In addition, the Commission has considered the testimony offered by the family members of the persons who died in the place of the events, as well as the persons wounded during those same events. As part of its investigation, the Commission also heard testimony from military personnel who were present when the events occurred. The Commission has also used as background information the constitutional and legal order, which has been the subject of close analysis.

21. This report examines the events that occurred from December 19 to 22, 1996, at Amayapampa, Llallagua and Capasirca, in the northern part of the department of Potosí, Bolivia. The Commission has also deemed it necessary to analyze the background leading up to those events, as well as the socioeconomic situation of the region where those events occurred.


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