This weblog was created to provide a fuller and more accurate picture of the current situation in Bolivia. Our principal effort to try to pull things together and place them in proper perspective is the penultimate post below, titled "Main Story."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ominous turn

Journalist arrested
for telling too much

In the off and on political crisis through which Bolivia is living, last week had seemed like an off week.
So little of import happened we were going to violate our rule of posting something each week -- until Monday, when thirty uniformed men with their faces covered broke into the home of a TV commentator in Riberalta, the capital of Beni.
According to news accounts, they beat the man up, ransacked the house, smashed the windows in his car, and spirited him off to La Paz, where he was charged with sedition, conspiracy, and possibly terrorism. (The accounts are unclear.)
Jorge Melgar Quette, who has had a fifteen-minute daily commentary program on a local television station for eight years, has unquestionably been a pain in the neck for the government in recent weeks.
Recorded Quintana's "worms" speech
It was he who recorded and made public inflammatory speeches made in the Department of Pando by the minister of the Government, Juan Ramon Quitana, calling for the death of Pando's elected governor, Leopoldo Fernandez, promising in Godfather-esque terms that the pro-autonomia governor would "lie with the worms." (Fernandez was arrested after the referendum and imprisoned without a trial or the prospect of one.)
Melgar had also reported that Quintana had been visiting this section of Pando, which adjoins Beni in northern Bolivia, three times a week during the recent recall referendum to stir up groups of indigenous people in the area.
It was in this area that the so-called "Pando Massacre" occurred when there was a shoot-out between supporters of President Evo Morales and supporters of autonomy. A still undetermined number of persons died. Martial law was declared, and Fernandez arrested.
Melgar's reporting, based on interviews with the families of people involved, and with people who had fled to Brazil, had also substantiated the reports that the pro-Morales contingent had been armed by a local functionary of President Morales' party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS).
MAS demonstrators paid
Melgar's interviews also disclosed that the campesinos in the MAS group were being paid by the government.
Melgar's son, Percy, is a leader of the Union Juvenil of Riberalta, a sort of pro-autonomy proto-militia, which had a proment role in the takeover of government buildings and the airport by pro-autonomy demonstrators.
Percy Melgar told the press he thought the soldiers or police who arrested his father were also looking for him, but that he had not been at the family's house when the arrest squad broke in.
At least one other prominent advocate for autonomia in the city was reportedly in hiding after Melgar's arrest.
So it has come to this -- the imprisonment without trial of an elected opposition leader, and now the arrest of a hostile journalist.
The mask is off.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just shows it still pays to have friends in high places if not, an ear to the ground. My in-laws fled Santa Cruz to Argentina to escape masked govt. hacks in the 1950's. Our prayers are with Melgar, his family and the people who've taken him hostage from his own home. May he be treated better then those captured in the 50's...