Bolivia’s Search for Justice and Reconciliation
Recommendations of the Human Rights Experts Group
Bolivia’s October 2019 national elections convulsed the country as fraud allegations triggered widespread protests and social conflict. Facing a national police mutiny and a public warning from the military to step down, then-President Evo Morales resigned and fled Bolivia. Amid the turmoil, security forces backed the installation of legislator Jeanine Áñez as interim president and cracked down on demonstrations in the towns of Sacaba and Senkata, killing at least 20 people and injuring hundreds more. Preliminary reporting by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) characterized the two episodes as massacres.
In December 2019, the IACHR and the Áñez government signed an agreement to create an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to investigate the acts of violence and human rights violations that roiled Bolivia in the wake of the 2019 elections. The GIEI experts planned to travel to Bolivia in February 2020, but impediments created by the Áñez government and the COVID-19 pandemic forced the experts to delay their field investigations until November 2020 after Luis Arce had been elected president.
The GIEI carried out its rigorous research with the resources and accompaniment of the IACHR and with financial support from the Mexican and U.S. governments, as well as from the Ford and Konrad Adenauer Foundations. In August 2021, the GIEI released its report and conclusions, including recommendations for much-needed reforms to strengthen a more credible national judicial response to this deeply polarizing period for Bolivians.
On December 13 USIP and WOLA held an in-depth discussion of the GIEI’s findings and an examination of how the GIEI’s recommendations can promote the kind of accountability, healing and common understanding across Bolivia’s political and identity divides that could ultimately prevent the repetition of the conflict, violence and human rights violations that marked the country’s 2019 electoral crisis. Take part in the conversation on Twitter with #BoliviaGIEI.
Steve Hege, introductory remarks
Deputy Regional Director for Latin America, U.S. Institute of Peace
Former Member, GIEI; Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence, Washington College of Law, American University
Patricia Tappatá Valdez
Former Member, GIEI
Member, Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Former Executive Secretary, GIEI; Coordinator, Follow-Up and Impact Section, IACHR
Senator Patricia Arce
First Secretary, Justice Commission, Senate of Bolivia
Eduardo Rodriguez Velzté
Former Interim President of Bolivia
Alejandro Bilbao La Vieja
Chargé d’Affaires, of the Embassy of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the US
Kathryn Ledebur, moderator
Director, Andean Information Network