Observers on the ground in Bolivia are calling on the United Nations to take urgent action to prevent the country from descending into a full-blown civil war as the military, with a green light from the right-wing coup regime, continues to repress and massacre supporters of ousted former President Evo Morales.
"This conflict is spiraling out of control and I fear it will only get worse. That's why so many Bolivians are desperately calling for international help."
—Medea Benjamin, CodePink
On Thursday afternoon, Bolivian security forces teargassed a massive Indigenous-led funeral procession in the city of La Paz for the eight people gunned down by security forces Tuesday in the nearby working class city of El Alto, where Morales supporters blockaded a major gasoline plant.
"They're killing us like dogs," cried a Bolivian woman whose son was shot during the massacre.
Photos and videos from the funeral march showed thousands of Bolivians attempting to flee as security forces fired tear gas canisters into the crowd:
LO ÚLTIMO #21Nov La Paz #Bolivia, el pueblo civil de manera pacífica marcha cargando los ataúdes de las víctimas que murieron en #Senkata, al llegar,un grupo de militares y policías disparan nuevamente sus armas y reprimen brutalmente a los manifestantes #GolpeDeEstadoEnBolivia pic.twitter.com/gXK8MpWsa2
— Iván Alfonso Rivera (@ivanrive3) November 21, 2019
Aún y cuando la censura en #Bolivia es evidente contra medios de comunicación que desean informar la verdad, el pueblo con celular en mano ha tomado el rol de reporteros para transmitir las imágenes de las acciones represivas de la policía y FFAA en contra de los manifestantes. pic.twitter.com/ka3OU6dmrL
— Iván Alfonso Rivera (@ivanrive3) November 21, 2019
At least 30 people have been killed and more than 700 injured since the November 10 military coup that forced Morales from power and ushered in the anti-Indigenous interim government of Jeanine Añez. Just days after declaring herself president on November 12, Añez signed a decree shielding the military and security forces from criminal prosecution for gunning down demonstrators.
In a dispatch from Bolivia in Common Dreams Friday, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin wrote that the "result of this decree has been death, repression, and massive violations of human rights."
Benjamin, who has been livestreaming anti-coup demonstrations in Bolivia, warned that the violent chaos and repression she has witnessed in the streets could spark a civil war if the U.N. does not take immediate action.
BREAKING: Police and military forces have tear gassed Bolivian protesters at a peaceful anti-coup march & memorial procession in La Paz, #Bolivia.
— CODEPINK (@codepink) November 21, 2019
"This conflict is spiraling out of control and I fear it will only get worse," Benjamin wrote. "Rumors abound on social media of military and police units refusing the de facto government's orders to repress. It is not hyperbole to suggest that this could result in a civil war. That's why so many Bolivians are desperately calling for international help."
Benjamin quoted the plea of a mother whose son was shot by Bolivian security forces.
"The military has guns and a license to kill; we have nothing," the woman said. "Please, tell the international community to come here and stop this."
In a petition launched Tuesday, CodePink called on U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Chile Michelle Bachelet to join her on the ground in Bolivia.
"I call on the IACHR and the U.N. to denounce and stop this massacre of Indigenous brothers who ask for peace, democracy, and respect for life on the streets."
—Former Bolivian President Evo Morales
"Please travel to Bolivia to witness the terrible situation that is unfolding," reads the petition, which has been signed by more than 3,300 people. "Hopefully, your presence will save lives and prevent Bolivia from descending into even greater chaos."
Morales, who received asylum in Mexico, has also called on the U.N. to intervene in Bolivia.
"I call on the [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] and the U.N. to denounce and stop this massacre of Indigenous brothers who ask for peace, democracy, and respect for life on the streets," Morales tweeted Tuesday.
In a statement last Saturday after the Bolivian military killed eight anti-coup demonstrators, Bachelet said she is "really concerned that the situation in Bolivia could spin out of control if the authorities do not handle it sensitively and in accordance with international norms."
"The country is split and people on both sides of the political divide are extremely angry," said Bachelet. "In a situation like this, repressive actions by the authorities will simply stoke that anger even further and are likely to jeopardize any possible avenue for dialogue."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, expressed support for the right-wing regime in Bolivia in a statement Thursday.
"We recognize the importance of Bolivia's political transition to democracy in our hemisphere, and we admire the Bolivian people for standing up for their constitution, their democracy, and for free, fair, and transparent elections," Pompeo said. "We pledge our support to the Bolivian people and to the transitional government led by President Jeanine Añez as they prepare for these elections."
On Twitter, Benjamin noted the timing of Pompeo's statement.
"At the very moment the Bolivian military teargassed a funeral procession for those murdered by the military two days ago, the State Department put out a press release supporting the new government and its commitment to peaceful assembly," Benjamin said. "You can't make this shit up!"