The man in the center of this photo, Leopoldo Fernández, is on the run after paramilitaries in the Bolivian department he governs, Pando, ambushed and slaughtered at least 30 and possibly as many as 70 men, women and children.
YVKE Mundial (Luigino Bracci Roa), with information from Erbol and ABI
Bolivian military forces finally took control of Cobija, capital of Pando Department, but they have not apprehended the prefect, Leopoldo Fernández, whose detention was ordered on Saturday. It’s feared that the final number of those killed in last Thursday’s massacre may be much higher.
Sunday, September 14, 2008, 8:27 a.m.
Early this morning the Bolivian Armed Forces took complete control of the city of Cobija, capital of Pando Department, where a state of siege had been declared last Friday after an ambush and slaughter that took the lives of many peasants.
The first unofficial reports indicated that armed separatist groups who controlled the city, at the command of Pando’s prefect, Leopoldo Fernández, did not offer much resistance. The operation took place between one and two in the morning today, September 14.
The first reports from the Erbol Network indicated that the military operation has taken control of practically the entire city and that shortly a commission will head for Porvenir where the massacre of peasants took place last Thursday. Until now, Pando’s prefect, and the armed civilian groups that he commanded had obstructed the entry of humanitarian organizations to the scene, and while initial reports mentioned 8 deaths, the figure has increased as the days have gone by.
According to the first reports of certain authorities, there were no casualties among the Armed Forces this Sunday. Last Friday evening, the soldier Ramiro Tañini Alvarado was killed, a shooting victim when the military forces faced off against armed civilian groups who were holding the Cobija airport.
On Saturday evening, the government minister Alfredo Rada, reported that the number of peasants killed in Porvenir had reached 30. “The magnitude of the massacre which took place in Porvenir surpassed that of the El Alto massacre in October, 2003, where there were 60 killed while in Porvenir the number approaches some thirty deaths. If a comparison is made between the population of El Alto and that of Pando, it will be evident that we are facing the most bloody slaughter in democratic times,” said Rada, at Palacio Quemado.
In a press conference, Rada indicated that Pando’s prefect, Leopoldo Fernández, is mainly responsible for last Thursday’s massacre. “Today we’ve confirmed another 10 deaths,” he indicated and added that this act would not remain unpunished, “it should be dealt with by the first power of the state, the Congress.”
The government fears that the death toll will grow with each passing day, and has demanded that the national Congress begin an investigation into the bloodiest genocide of recent times in Bolivia.
According to constituent Veimar Becerra, the figure could be higher. “According to my calculations, I who am familiar with the place, there are around 70 dead,” he told the Erbol Network. He said that “the accounts I collected indicated that they were practically slaughtered like animals, including those killed in the Tahuamanu river, when many people threw themselves into the river and tried to flee.”
“It’s not a movie, it’s the truth: there were children, women, we don’t know how many were killed, the attack, the ambush began at 10 and went on until 5 in the afternoon. I got away because I hid in the bushes,” a survivor of the Porvenir massacre told the Erbol Network.
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.