One of the major flash points in terms of COVID-19 in Latin America has been with migrants trying to cross borders to return home. Bolivian migrant workers trying to return home from Chile have been stuck in the highlands border region in dire humanitarian conditions and facing criminalisation and persecution from the transitional government. Here we share ‘Chronicle of an Exile Foretold’, an account of their situation shared by activists in Bolivia and translated by a LASC member.
CHRONICLE OF AN EXILE FORETOLD
The document that we present to you here is a chronological account of the humanitarian crisis and human rights violations against Bolivian migrants who are trying to return to their country. All of this is taking place in the midst of the world health crisis caused by the Coronavirus, and the hard-line, repressive measures used by the Bolivian transitional government in its strategy to fight COVID 19, including closing its borders even for compatriots.
Thursday, March 26th, 2020
With Supreme Decree 4200, the Bolivian government declares a STATE OF SANITARY EMERGENCY and a total closure of borders, starting at 00:00 on Thursday, March 26, 2020, as a way of stepping up measures to prevent the spread COVID19.
On the same day, a group of Bolivians, including pregnant women, children and elderly people became stranded on the border with Chile, in the town of Huara. The compatriots ask the government to allow them to enter Bolivia as far as Pisiga, located two hours from the border. These Bolivian nationals were surprised by the news of the Bolivian State of Emergency and the Chilean curfew, and ended up stranded right at the border, in a harsh, arid environment and facing the extreme cold weather characteristic of this high mountain plateau.
Friday, March 27th, 2020
Under great emotional stress, over 150 people made the decision to leave Huara for Pisiga on foot, traveling approximately 160 km over three to four days of walking, an incredibly difficult situation for the children and pregnant women who are part of this group, and which meant serious risks to their health and even their lives.
With the intense sun and carrying their belongings they set off their destination in the afternoon. After more or less two hours of travel, the police stopped them and after threats were made against the walkers, they decided to turn around and return from their own country to Chilean territory.
That same day the Minister of Public Works, Iván Arias, contacted one of the people in the group to discuss a possible solution to this problem, but this didn’t go anywhere despite the predisposition of the Bolivian nationals to abide by all necessary biosecurity conditions.
Saturday, March 28th, 2020
The Interior Minister, Arturo Murillo announces that he is not aware of the situation of the more than 150 families stranded on the Chilean border; declaring later the same day that: “I have no information, all the people who were in Pisiga have been evacuated to their regions, we have guaranteed their health and safety, all of which is the responsibility of the Bolivian State. We should be wary of all of the videos going around. I ask you to verify if they are actually true” said Murillo.
Nevertheless, our Bolivian compatriots remained stranded on the Chilean border with some help from the neighbouring country, who apparently provided them with tents and some food.
This first situation that the migrants went through is really worrying due to the violation of rights that was committed against a most vulnerable population: children and pregnant women who were sleeping on cardboard, in inhumane conditions and without any type of biosecurity care appropriate to the State of Sanitary Emergency that we are going through.
Sunday, March 29th, 2020
After three days stranded on the border and after listening to the statements by the Interior Minister, Arturo Murillo, the Bolivian migrants publicly denied what he was saying, insisting that health conditions were not guaranteed, nor where their basic rights to food, decent accommodation, or support for evacuation. On the contrary, despite the fact that Chilean authorities provided assistance for their transportation, the compatriots were returned to Chile.
Meanwhile Oruro’s regional authorities offered to set up shelters for their compatriots, but this attempt failed since the central authorities did not make their passage to our country viable.
For his part, the mayor of the Chilean municipality of Colchane, Javier García, observed the lack of humanity on the part of the Bolivian government towards their compatriots, stressing that the road that Bolivians intended to take in a desert region was extremely dangerous and so he had provided transportation to take them to the border. But seeing the severe danger faced by the Bolivians of not being allowed to pass the border into their own territory, they felt that they had to return them to the town of Huara since the climatic conditions of Colchane are very harsh. But none of this moved the current government and the group of more than 150 people continue to roam the border as if they were landless exiles.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Works, Iván Arias, highlights that the borders were closed and that an inter-ministerial meeting would have to take place to resolve the case. For her part, Chancellor Karen Longaric published on her personal twitter account that she would go to the place accompanied by the Defence Minister Fernando López to escort the migrants on their entry, complying with all the protocols of the WHO (World Health Organisation).
The Ombudsman’s Office also spoke out about what happened and asked the government to take action to make possible the return of the 150 Bolivians to national territory, reminding them that Supreme Decree 4196, which provides that the closure of borders “does not include Bolivian citizens, and residents that are returning to Bolivian territory, all of whom will have to comply with the protocol and procedures of the Ministry of Health”. For this reason he insisted that the Interior Ministry prepare a report on this situation. Through its twitter account, the IACHR (Inter-American Court of Human Rights) reports on the 150 people prevented from returning to the country, after the tightening of the restrictive measures imposed by the government.
Monday, March 30th, 2020
After stating that the Bolivians would return to the country, Chancellor Karen Longaric now announced that due to presidential decisions, the repatriation of the migrants in Colchane was suspended. For his part, Defence Minister Fernando López claimed that the Bolivian nationals were responsible for their own situation because they took vacation in the midst of the health crisis. These declarations were denied by the migrants who affirmed that they are seasonal workers and that none of them were on vacation. If they had been, they would have had the financial resources to avoid the precarious conditions to which they are being subjected.
The Chief of National Defence in Tarapacá, Army General Guillermo Paiva, criticised the “inaction” of Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez and accused the government of “playing games with the hopes” of his compatriots. But even after these strong statements there was no response from national authorities to the General.
It is important to highlight the mockery that the Bolivian State has made of our compatriots, highlighting a lack of coordination with the high command and the lack of political will to solve the current health emergency as it pertains to migrants. Making statements like those of the Defence Minister only reveal his ignorance of the socioeconomic reality of the country that he governs. It is shameful that the neighbouring country has to answer for the rights of our compatriots and not their own government.
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
Bolivian feminist María Galindo, a member of the “Mujeres Creando” collective, seeing the vulnerable situation of migrant women, especially pregnant women, those with young children and the elderly; conducts negotiations with journalist Ximena Galarza and UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) Chile, to provide appropriate disinfected installations so that 12 women (including a 6-month pregnant woman) and 3 children can comply with the quarantine at the premises of the feminist collective, called “La Virgen de Los Deseos ”, in the city of La Paz.
Galindo stated that due to the journalist’s efforts, Defence Minister Luis Fernando López accepted the repatriation of the migrants. 12 of the women even signed an affidavit committing to the fulfilment of the confinement.
However, to date, none of the women has arrived at the Mujeres Creando facilities and the national authorities have not accepted further contact with the Women’s Collective despite their insistence.
Over the following days, more people came to Huara from Chile, staying in precarious tents provided by the Chilean police, feeding themselves thanks to the support of Chilean and Bolivian authorities residing in Iquique, waiting to be allowed enter the country. By April 4th, there were 480 migrants.
Saturday, April 4th, 2020
Finally, after spending 10 days on the border in a critical situation and uncertain of their future, and as a result of criticism from civil society, international human rights organizations and public officials from the border region of Chile; the group of 480 migrants managed to cross over by bus to the Tata Santiago camp, installed in Pisiga by the Bolivian State and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This camp was only set up 10 days after the arrival of the migrants at the border, days in which the State did not guarantee them food nor shelter, and during which they suffered uncertainty, hunger and cold.
The repatriated Bolivians went through immigration procedures and went through biosafety controls, after their luggage was disinfected. The migrants will remain in quarantine for 15 days under State control with the promise that they would be provided with optimal conditions of health, food and shelter.
The general director of Migration, Marcel Rivas, indicated that the camp conforms to international medical protocols and that it even has a laboratory area. These statements are contradicted by the complaints of the migrants about the conditions in the camp.
In one migrant testimony, they stated “We are already in Pisiga. They assigned me a 3x3m tent where there are six mats and, so far, eight of us have to fit. There is no light; we have to go to the bathroom in groups of five. We are going to be on top of each other, despite being told repeatedly that we had to maintain a meter distance. So far there is no water, we went to the bathroom and we cannot wash our hands.” Defence Minister Fernando López responded to these complaints by saying that nothing is perfect and that the migrants should have patience, that fourteen days would pass quickly and they could return to their homes.
Monday, April 6th, 2020
The returnees at the Tata Santiago camp released a statement expressing the serious, precarious and dangerous situation in which they found themselves.
They denounced that the State was not complying with what it committed to in order to guarantee quality standards at the camp. Their complaints are wide-ranging and include, among other points: the retention of their identity documents; food shortages with very small servings per person; health problems as a result of hunger and climatic conditions (Pisiga is in the arid zone of the Altiplano at an altitude of 3695 meters above sea level with temperatures that reach 4º below zero at this time of year. This causes stomach problems, dizziness, altitude sickness, colds, among other ailments); the overcrowding of up to twelve people in a 3x3m tent with six mats on the floor; the lack of personal hygiene supplies and toilets for all migrants; and that three days after entering the camp, they had not had any medical tests to detect the coronavirus disease.
And there was a serious complaint that the migrants were threatened by a member of the police that they would be taken back to the border if they do not agree with the treatment given to them by the camp. Their demands were accompanied by photographs and videos that corroborated the situation of migrants inside the camp.
Regarding these complaints, and the possibility of returning to their homes, Minister Murillo declared that “positive discrimination” had to be made since they could not enter and put the population of the cities at risk, that they would have to put up with the discomforts. At the same time they were not being given necessary tests to be certain of the real danger represented by the returnees. Nevertheless Minister Murillo ruled out the transfer to their regions.
Tuesday, April 7th, 2020
On the morning of April 7th, the 480 migrants faced with the lack of food, the deterioration of their health and the appalling hygienic conditions carried out a peaceful protest, “We cannot bear the conditions of hunger that we are experiencing”, they state in videos that circulated on social media. They asked the government to provide them with food and hygiene items, in statements to the press, “There are mothers with their children, they ask for food and basic hygiene items that we haven’t received yet. Given this, and given that the government is not listening to us, people in our group are asking to leave, they prefer to be at home if the government is not going deal with us or is going to practically let us die here.”
In the videos made by the same Bolivian nationals, the entry of armed police and military personnel threatening repression is observed, which ultimately did not occur.
At the same time, the Director of Immigration Marcel Rivas and the Chancellor Karen Longaric indicated that in the group of returnees there was a group of militants of the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) party who were trying to break the quarantine of the Pisiga returnees, and that were instigating people to make complaints and to rise up against the military and that some had escaped from the camp. While according to the testimonies of the migrants, they rose in protest at the lack of food in the first instance and the lack of adequate shelter to withstand the cold temperatures of the highlands and for hygiene supplies.
In turn, international organisations such as the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Health Institutions against Torture, Impunity and other Violations of Human Rights, demanded that the Bolivian government assume full responsibility for the safety and well being of the repatriated migrants in isolation in Pisiga. They expressed their concern about the actions taken by the Bolivian government in the face of a humanitarian crisis on the border, characterised by the lack of conditions like food, cleanliness and rest, thus violating their human rights.
They regretted that in the Pisiga camp, the migrants are overcrowded and the necessary distance between people is not being respected to avoid contracting the coronavirus; that there is no electricity or hygiene supplies; and concluding that the camp where the Bolivians are does not have the minimum conditions to house the 480 people during the 14 days of quarantine. In this situation, the Network demanded that the Government guarantee migrants adequate spaces where they can reside during quarantine, as well as appropriate assistance to cover all basic food and health needs.
While this was happening in the camp, that same day, a series of videos showing the moment when around 300 people stranded in the Colchane region stoned a group of soldiers who act as a border wall, were broadcast on social media. This second group of migrants returning from Chile had gathered. The despair, exhaustion and the harsh environmental conditions of this border resulted in some of the migrants attempting to force their way to Pisiga and occupy the camp that was set up for the first group on April 4th. As a result of this action, nearly 50 people will be convicted of the charge of “violating the quarantine,” said the director of migration, Marcel Rivas, and they will carry out their sentence after the quarantine.
He also claimed that this clash between the military and Bolivian compatriots was organised and directed by people linked to MAS, saying “These are the citizens who want to attack the quarantine centre in Pisiga, those who planned to break the quarantine of the Oruro department and they seek to destabilise the country. Many are militants and sympathisers of MAS, with residence in Chile where their family lives.”
Minister Arturo Murillo even asserted that they were being paid 300 Bolivianos to cause trouble, an accusation that to date has not been proven.
Bolivian pariahs or second-class citizens are some of the names that can be read in the online comments and in social media showing the outrage felt at the mistreatment of migrants, and some others denouncing the mistreatment of soldiers. In these comments we see tit for tat claims and accusations. There is no shortage of opinions on the irresponsibility and risk that they are putting ‘all other Bolivians’ under by returning home in such uncertain circumstances to the country. Once again Bolivia is deeply divided even at this early stage of a pandemic that is just beginning.
Over the days, more compatriots who for different reasons enter the northern regions of Chile, mainly Arica and Antofagasta, where migrants, mostly women, find temporary job opportunities in markets and fairs and work in the informal fruit and vegetable trade. Jobs such as bricklaying, food harvesting and packing, hairdressing and bar work are common activities among Bolivians. All of these jobs are performed ‘under the table’ or without any form of social or formal benefit from the Chilean State.
The temporary nature of these jobs is undoubtedly part of the informality of the legal situation of migrants who, due to the lack of job opportunities in their country and with just some small savings, they resort to taking the risk of living in these situations.
Only the mayor of Colchane, Javier García, supported the migrants with the few resources that this small community has, as he himself relates: “Only 30 women with their babies, pregnant women and some elderly people sleep indoors where possible. But the rest, who are more than 600, sleep outdoors, in tents made by themselves with blankets and others directly wrapped by cardboard and blankets to withstand two degrees below zero at night. Others entered roofless abandoned homes “to protect themselves in some way from the cold” of winter and the highlands. Lunch and dinner are being provided. ”
Javier García at first through his twitter account urged President Añez: “Madam President of Bolivia, with great respect, take charge of your citizens. These crowds of Bolivian people are very desperate and just want to enter their country.” García’s statements exposed the appalling conditions that this second group of Bolivian citizens are facing and have been since Monday, April 6th in their attempt to return to the country.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2020
In response to the government statements there were MAS militants in the camp trying to break the quarantine, the returnees released a statement in which they emphatically expressed: “We regret and deny the statements of the director of migration, in our group, there are no infiltrators, nor instigators, the more than 400 repatriated people are humble people, workers who have left our country in search of better opportunities for our families” while they expressed their solidarity with the second group of compatriots who are on the border and suffering the same accusations from the government.
They claim that the two people named by the government as MAS instigators who allegedly escaped from the camp and are now being brought to justice do not appear in their records in the lists of names that the migrants have drawn up as a form of self-management and self-organization. So they ask the national authorities to act with greater care and not to look for enemies where there are none.
In turn, the Bolivian Ombudsman Office, after showing the precarious conditions in which the migrants find themselves and that put their human rights in question, and seeing inconformity of the migrants themselves, asked the regional governments to consider the transfer of people to their home regions in order to guarantee the welfare of the returnees.
As you can see, throughout their short stay in the Tata Santiago camp, Bolivian returnees have been victims of a series of human rights violations with impunity and have faced constant threats of being returned to the border, and sent back to Chile. They have been denied return to their homes, but at the same time, from all that has been observed, it is clear that they are not offered the minimum conditions to quarantine with dignity inside the camp, from the human right to the necessary food and water, to the fact that the Government stigmatises and criminalises them as a threat to the health of Bolivians and with being ‘destabilizers’ from the previous MAS government.
Under these assumptions, they are being deprived of their fundamental rights and the rights established in the Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
That same day, while some Bolivians were sleeping among cardboard boxes and ruins of abandoned houses in the border area of Colchane, and those in the camp were demanding food and water, a humanitarian flight organised by the government and relatives of the 48 passengers on-board landed in Bolivia from Chile, sparking not only controversy but outrage in parts of the country. In addition there were contradictory statements by the Director of Migration, Marcel Rivas regarding the date of the organisation and approval by the Foreign Ministry for the entry of the flight that supposedly had taken 25 days (which meant when the air borders had not yet been closed due to the pandemic in Bolivia) and regarding the number of passengers that would arrive on the flight, first stating 25, later 35 and then 48 finally landed between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.
This exacerbated the already divided climate in the country and was very clear from social media between those who supported the government’s action and others who repudiated them resolving the issues of a group of wealthier Bolivians but not those of a few hundred compatriots stranded on the Colchane – Pisiga border.
Subsequently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through a note, explained that people from the Santiago flight “hired” a plane to be picked up and will cover “the cost of quarantine” that they promised to comply with once in Bolivia. “It is worth mentioning that these citizens in the city of Santiago de Chile have been subjected to clinical controls. A medical certification has been issued to them, which certifies and endorses that they have given negative results in the COVID-19 tests. However, in both cities they are going to be subjected to a period of quarantine. “
In a statement, the Bolivian Ombudsman, Nadia Cruz, said that: “There is unequal treatment” for these groups of Bolivians held on the border with Chile, unlike other cases in which facilities have been provided for the return from other countries. She suggested that regional governments assume the responsibility of moving their residents to their final destination, given the unsustainable situation of keeping them in the border camp.
To date, the central government has not been able to allow or manage the entry of Bolivians on the border with the neighbouring nation because they insist that the Pisiga camp, installed under pressure from a first group of returnees that entered on April 4th, has a capacity for 300 people. The Mayor of Colchane, in statements to the Fides radio outlet, pointed out that there are approximately 500 to 800 people currently stranded at the border point, including pregnant women, children and the elderly with underlying illnesses and mobility issues, who want to enter to the national territory.
Thursday, April 9th, 2020
The Mayor of Colchane, Javier García, denounced that there is a “humanitarian tragedy” in his municipality due to the situation of Bolivians who are on the border and criticised the Bolivian authorities for preventing them from entering, and not helping or caring for them in the midst of the pandemic. Garcia said that he had denounced the violation of the rights of the almost 700 Bolivians stranded at the border before the United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Institute of Human Rights and international media.
The community leader said, “I have denounced this irresponsible and offensive act against Human Rights to media all over the world. I have been in the media in Europe, in the United States, yesterday in Venezuela, in Argentina a little while ago and I will continue to denounce”, adding that he was outraged by the government’s decision to close its doors to its own compatriots.
In the interview with ERBOL, Javier García stated that in the group of more than 500 people there are children, pregnant women and older adults. He questioned why people who can afford a plane were allowed to enter Bolivia, but not those who travelled many kilometres on foot. For him, the statements of Bolivian officials who accuse the people stranded at the border of mobilising for political purposes are false and he explained that these people lost their jobs, especially in the fields of construction and agriculture in Chile, and that they reached the border crossing without organisation and they didn’t even know each other.
“Two days ago, when they arrived, I gathered them together, I told them that a delegate should be appointed so that I can speak with them, and so that they also have a valid spokesperson for dealing with police officers, and health workers. And when I heard these statements from the Bolivian authorities that they are being paid and there are MAS operators, those statements are totally irresponsible and false,” he stressed.
“They are crying because of hunger, they are suffering from the cold, they are desperate to get to their country, and it is really regrettable to have to say so, as a lawyer myself, to have to hear irresponsible statements from the Bolivian authorities,” he reproached.
He stated that there are supply problems in Colchane, given that its population in this context of the pandemic multiplied by 500%, and the presence of the more than 500 Bolivians exceeds its capacity. He said that in Pisiga there are better conditions and quality of life, because there are more services such as hotels.
In another development, the national director of Immigration, Marcel Rivas, confirmed that Bolivian citizens who are prosecuted for causing violent acts and confrontations with military personnel in the Chilean border town of Colchane are violating the law and warned that anyone who wants to enter Bolivia must do so by complying with all of the established procedures and norms.
“Citizens who attacked the armed forces or who stole a rifle are not being attacked, they are not being prosecuted simply because they have a political affinity, it is being done because they definitely violated the law,” he said.
Finally, the Minister of Justice, Álvaro Coimbra, said that the mayor of the Chilean municipality of Colchane, Javier García, is from the Movement for Socialism (MAS). The Chilean authority had advocated hours earlier for the coordinated repatriation of Bolivians waiting at the border. “First of all, I imagine that the mayor of that municipality is from MAS. Second, we have already issued a decree yesterday (Wednesday) to regulate the entry of Bolivians,” he declared. The repercussions of his statements were strongly criticised, forcing him to apologise for his accusation through a tweet.
After verifying the situation in which the group of Bolivian migrants in Colchane finds itself, the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) of Tarapacá also spoke out, noting “in our opinion we are facing a humanitarian crisis of people who have not received any help whatsoever, except the support that the mayor of Colchane has been able to provide, which shows his social responsibility ”.
Friday, April 10th, 2020
The mayor of Colchane writes a letter addressed to the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia asking her to help the Bolivian citizens stranded in his town and also dismisses the claims against him for an alleged political affinity with the Movement for Socialism.
He explains the situation that Bolivian migrants are facing: “these historical circumstances of a pandemic disease have brought us face to face. More than 700 Bolivians have arrived at our border. However, the closure decreed by you prevents them from achieving their dream of arriving home to refuge among their own people. Your brothers and sisters are out in the open, taking refuge in bushes, with cardboard, pieces of roofing, stones. The most fortunate are in abandoned houses, without doors or windows, and I encourage you to protect the rights of these Bolivians, who as human beings, their dignity and rights must come before politics and power. ”
That same day, a delegate from the UN International Organisation for Migration in Chile arrived in Colchane, who was able to confirm that the place where Bolivian migrants are found is a “precarious human settlement” and not a camp that has a roof, food and basic services.
The humanitarian tragedy experienced by the second group of migrants in Colchane has found in the mayor of this town a true defender of the rights of Bolivians, who has contacted various Chilean and international organisations, and the Bolivian Ombudsman, so that a solution to this crisis can be found, amid the silence of the Bolivian government.
Saturday, April 11th, 2020
On the night of Friday, April 10th, the First Constitutional Chamber of the Departmental Court of Justice of La Paz determined the transfer “to their place of origin” of Bolivians unemployed in different parts of the country due to the quarantine, in response to a legal action filed by Cruz against President Jeanine Áñez and the Ministries of the Presidency, Defence, Interior, Public Works and Health.
Wilson Santamaría, Vice Minister of Citizen Security indicated that he hopes that the Ombudsman will send the information about these 474 people to coordinate the transfer, although he warned the fact that the mobilisation of this number of people cannot be authorised, since this could put the health of others at risk.
Santamaría highlighted that the court ruling established that the transfer of these 474 people will be subject to an evaluation of “relevance and urgency”. He said that this provision does not reach citizens “on the border”, such as the 480 people who returned from Chile and are in quarantine in the Tata Santiago camp, nor the close to 700 Bolivians who are in Pisiga, waiting for be able to re-enter national territory.
By April 11th, thanks to the presence and pressure of the UN, and other human rights organisations, but above all to the public demands of the migrants, the situation in the Tata Santiago camp has improved, as they now have more suitable food, water and clothing.
After a week of fruitless efforts by the mayor of Colchane for the Bolivian government to allow the migrants to enter, the Chilean authorities reported that the Bolivians stranded at the border will return to Iquique, where they will remain until the Bolivian government authorises their entry into the country.
The mayor of Colchane coordinated –together with the Iquique mayor’s office- a shelter with a roof, bedding and food for the 825 Bolivians who want to return home. He stated “I just communicated with the mayor (of Iquique) Mauricio Soria (…) they are enabling the A7 high school in Iquique, with the sleeping mats (necessary). It is a large high school, it has the conditions, like a bathroom… well, all the minimum conditions” said García. So in the afternoon, the first buses departed transporting some 500 Bolivians, most of them women, children and older adults. The rest would be transferred the following day.
García, mayor of Colchane, received a send off marked by cheers, applause and tears from the migrants, whom he had been with for a week providing food and shelter. Days later, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged Latin American countries to “open the borders to their own citizens who are stranded abroad”, naming specifically the case of Bolivian migrants.
We believe that this chronicle that we have called “Chronicle of an Exile Foretold” reveals the serious humanitarian crisis and the systematic human rights violation that our compatriots are experiencing by the Bolivian government, right at a time when the State must give rapid responses to the COVID 19 pandemic.
The events experienced by our compatriots show that the State is not ensuring the well being of all citizens in the face of the humanitarian and health emergency. It also highlights the discrimination between citizens on the part of the Bolivian government, since it has facilitated the repatriation of foreign citizens and the arrival of Bolivian citizens who have the economic capacity to pay for an air ticket. Meanwhile it has refused, delayed and made excuses to not allow citizens of indigenous and popular sectors to enter the country who cannot afford an air ticket and who have been walking on foot to the Chile-Bolivia border, leaving these people exposed to unhealthy conditions, in a cold and precarious environment, suffering hunger that exposes them to catching the coronavirus and other ailments.
We also denounce the criminalisation of Bolivian migrants by classifying them as sympathisers of a certain party, as if that were a crime, and accusing them of being part of a “destabilisation plan”, using this as an excuse to continue violating their rights and to justify the inhumane treatment that is being given, both to those who are in the Tata Santiago camp and to those who remain at the border. While according to the facts and the testimonies of the migrants, and to the human rights organisations that have made statements, these people are only workers who want to return to their country and to receive dignified treatment.
Meanwhile, at the national level we have been living through a quarantine characterised by improvisation, and the repression and criminalisation of poverty, without any human rights body at the national level raising their voices. There is also silence and fear on the part of the population, due to the almost daily threats that the Interior Minister Arturo Murillo makes to any person who questions the government, accusing them of being a “terrorist and seditious”.
Because of all of this, we call on you, in a desperate cry to organisations, personalities and institutions linked to the defence of human rights, to inform themselves and raise their voices and call on the Plurinational State of Bolivia, to take immediate actions that restore the rights of our compatriots and for a healthy and dignified quarantine within our country.
Colectivo Ramonas Revolucionarias BOLIVIA
Written and Oral Testimonies from one of the migrants in the Tata Santiago Camp on April 7th 2020.