Demonstrators demonstrate in support of jailed opposition leader and Santa Cruz Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Civic movements and citizen groups critical of President Luis Arce on Wednesday called for an amnesty law that, within a period of no more than 30 days, determines the release of regional governor Luis Fernando Camacho and other opponents who are in prison.
If this is not done, they assured that they will “actively promote a constitutional process to revoke their mandate.” They joined the campaign to collect signatures to carry out a referendum on justice reform.
In the nine capital cities of Bolivia, a town hall was held on Wednesday, a kind of local assembly of the bases, to decide the course of the opposition actions that in the last two weeks have led protests in the country.
The call with the greatest concentration was that of Santa Cruz, considered the economic engine of Bolivia and an opposition stronghold, where the imprisoned opposition leader is governor.
The president of the civic committee of that region. Rómulo Calvo, read the questions and considerations that were subsequently approved by the attendees.
Among the determinations, a departmental guard was demanded to protect the population and a departmental Ombudsman, in addition to the release of Camacho and 180 other people whom they consider political prisoners.
“The Government of the Plurinational State should not decree amnesties and that is precisely what is being requested in this council,” Justice Minister Iván Lima told Unitel television before the public meeting.
In the morning, with the support of the Catholic Church, Bolivian lawyers and volunteers began a campaign to collect signatures to carry out a referendum on justice reform,
“Enough! I sign”, is the name of the campaign that seeks to gather 1.5 million signatures. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal granted the books for the collection of signatures which, according to the law, will be carried out for 90 days.
“It is time for all Bolivians to be part of this crusade to reform this justice system,” said Juan del Granado, a lawyer and former mayor of La Paz. For his part, the vice president of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, Monsignor Ricardo Centellas, explained that the Catholic Church “is supporting the referendum in Bolivia and making the transformation of justice a reality.”
Senator Luis Adolfo Flores, from the pro-government Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), described the campaign as “stories” and maintained that the pre-selection of candidates for the judicial elections scheduled for the end of the year will begin in the Legislative Assembly at the end of March.
The justice reform is one of the demands of the opposition and civil groups critical of President Luis Arce that arose from councils called after the arrest of the governor of Santa Cruz, Luis Fernando Camacho.
Camacho was sent to jail for four months on December 30 while he is being investigated for alleged terrorism.
The governor of Santa Cruz is accused of encouraging the protests that followed the failed 2019 elections in which then-President Evo Morales was seeking his fourth consecutive term and which were described as fraudulent by the Organization of American States (OAS). This unleashed a political and social crisis that left 37 dead and forced Morales to resign and flee the country.
Subsequently, the then opposition senator Jeanine Áñez assumed the presidency on an interim basis. Áñez was also sent to jail for alleged terrorism and was later tried and convicted of illegally holding office, in the first instance.
In parallel, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) arrived in the country to verify the progress of the recommendations of an interdisciplinary group of experts on the 2019 crisis. The experts blamed the governments of Morales and Áñez for the violence which led to massacres, torture, summary executions and serious violations of human rights.
Miners rest after a protest against the imprisonment of opposition leader and Santa Cruz Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)Supporters of opposition leader and Santa Cruz Governor Luis Fernando Camacho kneel during a protest at a barricade in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
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