Constitutional and institutional developments
A new Constitution was approved in December amid continuing civil unrest. The Constituent Assembly, inaugurated in August 2006 to draft the Constitution, was dominated by regional and political tensions on a variety of issues, including the future location of the country’s capital. The Assembly’s sessions were suspended several times.
The text of a new Constitution was approved in the absence of some members of the opposition. It provides for a degree of decentralization by granting autonomy at Indigenous, municipal and regional level as well as at departmental level. The Constitution affirms Bolivia as a unitary, pluralist and multi-ethnic state with a two-house congress. It provides for state ownership of natural resources, free health care
and education, and the right to private property. It establishes Sucre as the historical capital of the country and the seat of the judicial and electoral power and La Paz as the seat of executive and legislative power. The text was due to be put to a referendum.
In February an agreement was signed between the government and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a UN field presence in the country. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights began work in July to contribute in the promotion and protection of human rights, including improving the administration of justice and enhancing capacity throughout the country to combat racism and racial discrimination.
Freedom of expression – attacks on journalists
Members of the security forces and others were reported to have attacked and threatened media workers during the year. In November dozens of journalists held a demonstration to highlight abuses against them and journalists’ unions protested at criticism of their work by members of the government.
- More than 10 journalists were reportedly attacked in Sucre in November while they were covering violent confrontations between police and demonstrators protesting about the new Constitution.
Violence erupted in several cities, including Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, between government and opposition supporters. The clashes left at least five people dead and hundreds injured.
- In January Christian Urresti and Juan Ticacolque were killed and more than 100 were injured in Cochabamba, Cochabamba Department, following clashes between groups supporting the governing Movement Towards Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS), who were calling for the resignation of the Prefect of Cochabamba, and groups supporting the Prefect and calling for greater regional autonomy. Judicial investigations into the killings were initiated but had not concluded at the end of the year.
- In November, three people were killed and over 100 were injured in two days of violent confrontations in Sucre, Chuquisaca Department. Members of the police, using tear gas and rubber bullets, battled with thousands of demonstrators carrying rocks and clubs. Some protesters attacked the headquarters of the Transport Police using firecrackers and Molotov cocktails (home-made explosive devices). They destroyed office equipment and set fire to police and public vehicles. Gonzalo Durán Carazani and José
- Luis Cardozo died of gunshot wounds. Juan Carlos Serrudo Murillo died after being hit by a tear gas canister. Members of the police were also injured during the clashes. Investigations into the incidents have been announced.
Amnesty International visit/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited the country in February.
- Bolivia: The national authorities must maintain order and protect inhabitants (AMR 18/001/2007)
- Bolivia: Amnesty International calls for Human Rights Plan, action to prevent further clashes and protection for defenders (AMR 18/003/2007)