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Free Bolivian political prisoner Facundo Molares!

By staff |
February 5, 2020
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Facundo Molares.
Facundo Molares.

Bolivia suffered a vicious coup d’état on November 10, 2019 that was provoked by right-wing gangs rampaging in the street, traitorous police and military officers, the old guard political elite, and, of course, supported by the United States Embassy. As soon as Evo Morales was elected to a fourth term as president of Bolivia on October 20, with almost 47% of the vote, right-wing elements, centered in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, started a campaign to destabilize the progressive government headed by Evo.

Directly after the results announcing that Morales won in the first round of the presidential election, reactionary gangs began attacking supporters of Morales’ party MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) in the streets, making loud, false, accusations of massive voter fraud. When the chief of staff of the army, who had the backing of large segments of the army and police, asked Morales to step down, Morales resigned and fled the country. A dictatorial government was installed on November 10, headed by Jeanene Añez, a politician whose party won 4% of the popular vote in the election. She immediately showed her contempt for her indigenous fellow citizens, who constitute the majority in this country, referring to them as “Satanists.”

In order to stabilize the dictatorship, the Bolivian de facto government initiated a campaign of state-sponsored terror to consolidate its grip on power. The dictatorship committed multiple extra-judicial killings of opponents, which include the massacres of Senkata (El Alto) and Sacaba (Cochabamba). An Argentinian Human Rights Delegation (Delegación Argentina en Solidaridad con Bolivia) was in Bolivia shortly after the coup to study the human rights situation of Bolivia after the coup and stated the following:

We observed that the repressive system put into place by the de facto government has caused dozens of deaths, hundreds of arbitrary arrests, thousands of injuries, innumerable cases of torture, rapes and other crimes violating the physical, psychological and sexual integrity of the victims, who are men, women, children, elderly, and members of collectives.

One case of arbitrary detention that causes great concern is the case of Facundo Molares Schoenfeld, an Argentinian photo-journalist who went to Bolivia in October of 2019 to document the Bolivian election and its aftermath for the left-wing Argentinian magazine el Centenario (https://revistacentenario.com/).

Facundo’s father, Hugo Morales, who is a justice of the peace in his native Argentina, received a call towards the end of October from his son stating that he wasn’t feeling well. After this call Hugo didn’t hear from his son for more than a week. Hugo then received an anonymous call that his son was sick in the hospital in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Hugo immediately went to Bolivia and on November 12. Hugo Molares, along with his partner, visited his son in the hospital and found Facundo in a coma, with a diagnosis of kidney failure, a pulmonary edema, possible lead poisoning and hantavirus.

The Bolivian authorities only allowed Hugo to visit his son for 15 minutes. After Hugo left the hospital to buy some medicine for his son, he was approached in the street and stopped by three men who threatened Facundo’s father with death if he didn’t leave the country immediately.

The dictatorship arrested Facundo in the hospital and detained him without any evidence that he had committed a crime. The de facto government discovered that Facundo was a left-wing activist who had written articles on the conflict in Colombia and was reputed to have been a former member of the FARC. Facundo’s beliefs are widely believed to be the motivation of the dictatorship to prosecute this political prisoner.

The prosecution of the dictatorship made the claim that Facundo was involved in a confrontation between MAS supporters and supporters of the coup in which two people died. The government charged Facundo with homicide, with the only purported evidence being that one person stated that Facundo may have been present during the confrontation between the two groups. There is no evidence that Facundo participated in any of the events between the pro and anti-Evo Morales protesters.

Without any judicial order, or medical authorization from his treating doctors, Facundo was first transferred to Palmorola prison in Santa Cruz on December 2. Shortly after this, the journalist was transferred to the Chonchorro Prison in the Bolivian capital, La Paz. This prison does not have adequate medical facilities to treat kidney disease and the other ailments that Facundo suffers from. He has also not been allowed any visits from his family. Hugo Molares stated, “Our whole family is in deep anguish over his present and immediate future. The news that I get about him is through the consul, who goes to see him at the Chonchorro prison every ten days.”

Due to the concern about Facundo’s health and his illegal detention, a solidarity committee formed in Argentina. The fear is that Facundo will die if he is not released and sent back to Argentina for urgent medical care as he may need a kidney transplant. The solidarity committee is looking for support and states, “The committee welcomes all forms of diplomatic, political and popular struggles that initiates and calls for the repatriation of Facundo Molares.”

The Bolivian dictatorship holds Facundo in the most dire conditions in the Chonchorro prison in La Paz. This prison was built to house 800 prisoners but actually holds 4000. There is rampant violence between various groups in the prison, and there is not the most basic hygiene that a patient such as Facundo requires. Due to the imminent risk to the health and welfare of this Argentinian journalist, the despicable conditions in which the Bolivian dictatorship holds this political prisoner, and the clear falsity of the charges, human rights organizations around Latin America say: Free Facundo Molares!

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