Congressman Hank Johnson

Representing the 4th District of Georgia

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Rep. Johnson, colleagues call on Trump Administration to support human rights and restoration of constitutional order in Bolivia

November 22, 2019
Press Release
Rep. Johnson, colleagues call on Trump administration to support human rights and restoration of constitutional order in Bolivia
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, Rep. Hank Johnson and 13 House members sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on the Trump Administration to support democracy and human rights in Bolivia. The nation’s death toll continues to climb, and the country has descended into political turmoil since its contested elections held on October 20, 2019.      
 
The letter states that the events leading to President Evo Morales’ resignation and exile bear “the hallmarks of a military coup d’état”, and criticizes the Administration’s statements welcoming Morales’s departure, while recognizing Senator Jeanine Áñez as president, despite the unconstitutional manner in which she assumed power. Congressman Johnson expressed dismay that the Department of State has failed to condemn the killing of numerous protesters by state security forces, and the racist attacks targeting indigenous peoples and their traditions.
 
“I am appalled by the Trump Administration’s reaction to the emerging crisis in Bolivia,” Rep. Johnson said. "Rather than supporting a military coup, our government should make it clear that the unconstitutional removal of an elected president is unacceptable, as is the persecution of individuals based on their race or political affiliations. This Administration is once again showing that it has nothing but disdain for democracy and human rights when they get in the way of President Trump's agenda.”
 
The letter expresses alarm that the de facto government of Bolivia has issued a decree protecting military units that engage in violent repression and threaten to prosecute journalists and political leaders for “sedition.”  It encourages the Trump Administration to reverse course and push for restoration of constitutional rule, including holding new elections in which every voter and every candidate can safely and freely participate.
 
In addition, the letter expresses concern regarding unsubstantiated and misleading statements made by Organization of American States (OAS) officials shortly after the October 20 elections which “contributed to further polarization at a moment in which violent politically motivated incidents were taking place throughout the country.” Johnson and his colleagues call on the Administration to “assess the merits of OAS officials claims before repeating them.”
 
Johnson was joined on the letter by Congressmembers Ilhan Omar, Susan Wild, Raul Grijalva, Jan Schakowsky, Jared Huffman, Deb Haaland, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, James McGovern, Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia, Bobby L. Rush, Ayanna Pressley, Alan Lowenthal and Eleanor Holmes Norton.   
 
Full text of the letter in English and Spanish below:
 
Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington D.C. 20520
 
Secretary Pompeo,
 
We are deeply concerned that recent statements and actions on the part of senior Trump Administration officials are contributing to an escalating political and human rights crisis in the Plurinational State of Bolivia following contested elections held on October 20, 2019.  
 
On November 10, Bolivia’s democratically elected president, Evo Morales, announced that he was stepping down after the commander of Bolivia’s armed forces called on him to resign. In a live television broadcast, Morales stated that a coup was underway and that he was resigning in order to avoid further bloodshed and unrest. Other resignations of top officials followed, resulting in a dangerous constitutional power vacuum. On November 12, opposition Senator Jeanine Añez declared herself President of Bolivia, in violation of Bolivia’s constitution. She received immediate support from the high command of the country's armed forces. 
 
Over the last week, Morales allies have faced attacks, and threats and protests have been violently repressed by security forces, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Bolivia’s de facto authorities have issued a decree exempting members of the military from prosecution as they engage in the violent suppression of demonstrations. Morales meanwhile has received asylum in Mexico and pro-Morales legislators and journalists have been threatened with arrest for “sedition.”
 
Given this context, we are troubled by statements from Administration officials, including President Trump, that welcome these developments in Bolivia that bear the hallmarks of a military coup d’état. On November 11, the White House released a statement saying that “Morales’s departure preserves democracy” and that “we are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous, and free Western Hemisphere.” On November 12, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Michael G. Kozak recognized Senator Añez as “interim constitutional president of Bolivia.” Senior Trump Administration officials have failed to denounce violent attacks by security forces, even as demonstrations made up largely of indigenous Bolivians have been fired at with live ammunition. 
 
We urge you to consider an immediate change in course and to take action to support democracy and human rights in Bolivia.  While there is legitimate debate surrounding Morales' decision to run for a fourth term, it is simply not acceptable for the U.S. administration to welcome the forced removal of a democratically-elected leader before the end of their mandate. Our government should call for the prompt restoration of constitutional order, and for an immediate end to all persecution and attacks targeting leaders and supporters of Evo Morales and his political party. Additionally, we call for the adoption of protective measures for those facing threats.
 
Your Administration should support calls for dialogue mediated by the United Nations and other international bodies. It should also support new elections and work with other countries in the region to ensure adequate conditions that guarantee that every voter and every candidate can safely and freely participate in the next election campaign and electoral process. The legitimacy of Bolivia’s government will depend on whether former President Morales’ party, which continues to be supported by millions of Bolivians, can fully participate in these elections. 
 
We wish to also express our concern regarding statements made by officials from the Organization of American States (OAS), a multilateral organization that receives the majority of its funding from the U.S. government. In particular, unsubstantiated and misleading statements made by the OAS electoral mission in Bolivia on October 21, which subsequently were echoed by the State Department, contributed to further polarization at a moment in which violent politically-motivated incidents were taking place throughout the country. United States officials should exercise greater caution and assess the merits of Organization of American States officials’ claims before repeating them, particularly when post-election tensions are high.
 
Finally, we are deeply dismayed that the Administration has failed to denounce racist attacks targeting Bolivia’s indigenous communities and their symbols, such as the Wiphala pan-indigenous flag which is one of the country’s official flags. Evo Morales was Bolivia’s first indigenous president and Bolivia’s 2009 constitution enshrines rights and protections benefiting indigenous peoples that experienced centuries of oppression and racist discrimination. Self-declared interim President, Jeanine Áñez has a history of appalling statements about indigenous people, including tweeting comments that refer to indigenous religious rituals as “satanic”, and after supplanting former President Morales, she declared that “The bible has returned to the palace”. Your Administration should be publicly critical of attacks and racist hate speech targeting members of indigenous communities and call for the constitutional rights of Bolivia’s peoples to be respected.  
 
Bolivia’s escalating crisis threatens to spiral into violent internal conflict. The Administration’s current approach is dangerously misguided and could well contribute to a further breakdown in the rule of law in Bolivia and a full-blown humanitarian emergency, with large migrant outflows.  We strongly urge you to revise this approach and support the prompt restoration of constitutional order, dialogue between opposing political factions, fair and inclusive elections and respect for the human and cultural rights of all Bolivians.
 
Sincerely,
 
Rep. Hank Johnson
Rep. Ilhan Omar
Rep. Susan Wild
Rep. Raul Grijalva
Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Rep. Jared Huffman
Rep. Deb Haaland
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Rep. James McGovern
Rep. Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia
Rep. Bobby L. Rush
Rep. Ayanna Pressley
Rep. Alan Lowenthal
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton
 
Mike Pompeo
Secretario de Estado
Departamento de Estado de EE.UU.
2201 C Street NW
Washington D.C. 20520
 
Secretario Pompeo,
 
Nos preocupa profundamente que las recientes declaraciones y acciones de altos funcionarios del Gobierno del presidente Donald Trump estén contribuyendo al incremento de una crisis política y de derechos humanos en el Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, luego de las controvertidas elecciones celebradas el 20 de octubre de 2019.
 
El 10 de noviembre, el presidente democráticamente electo de Bolivia, Evo Morales, anunció que dimitía después de que el comandante de las Fuerzas Armadas de Bolivia le pidiera que renunciara. En una transmisión televisiva en vivo, Morales declaró que se estaba produciendo un golpe de Estado y que renunciaba para evitar más derramamiento de sangre y mayores disturbios. Le siguieron otras renuncias de altos funcionarios, lo que resultó en un peligroso vacío de poder constitucional. El 12 de noviembre, la senadora opositora, Jeanine Añez, se declaró presidenta de Bolivia, en violación de la Constitución boliviana. Recibió el apoyo inmediato del alto mando de las Fuerzas Armadas del país.
 
Durante la última semana, simpatizantes de Morales han sufrido ataques y amenazas, y protestas han sido violentamente reprimidas por las fuerzas de seguridad, lo que ha resultado en numerosas muertes y heridos, según la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Las autoridades de facto de Bolivia han emitido un decreto que exime a los militares de ser procesados por su participación en la represión violenta contra las manifestaciones. Mientras tanto, Morales recibió asilo en México, y legisladores y periodistas pro Morales han sido amenazados con ser arrestados por “sedición”.
 
Dado este contexto, nos preocupan las declaraciones de funcionarios del Gobierno, incluido el presidente Donald Trump, acogiendo con beneplácito estos acontecimientos en Bolivia que encarnan las características de un golpe de Estado militar. El 11 de noviembre, la Casa Blanca emitió un comunicado expresando que “la partida de Morales preserva la democracia” y que “ahora estamos un paso más cerca de tener un hemisferio occidental completamente democrático, próspero y libre”. El 12 de noviembre, el subsecretario del Hemisferio Occidental, Michael G. Kozack, reconoció a la senadora Añez como la “presidenta constitucional interina de Bolivia”. Altos funcionarios del Gobierno de Trump han fallado en denunciar los ataques violentos de las fuerzas de seguridad, incluso cuando manifestaciones conformadas principalmente por indígenas bolivianos han sido disparadas con munición real.
 
Le instamos a considerar un cambio inmediato en el curso de estas acciones y a tomar medidas para apoyar a la democracia y a los derechos humanos en Bolivia. Si bien existe un legítimo debate en torno a la decisión de Morales de postularse a un cuarto periodo presidencial, simplemente no es aceptable que el Gobierno de EE.UU. acoja con satisfacción la destitución forzada de un líder elegido democráticamente antes del final de su mandato. Nuestro Gobierno debería pedir la pronta restauración del orden constitucional y el fin inmediato de toda persecución y ataques a líderes políticos y simpatizantes de Evo
Morales y de su partido. Además, solicitamos la adopción de medidas de protección para quienes enfrentan amenazas.
 
Este Gobierno debería apoyar los llamados al diálogo con una mediación liderada por las Naciones Unidas y otros organismos internacionales. También debe apoyar nuevas elecciones y trabajar con otros países de la región para asegurar condiciones adecuadas que garanticen que cada votante y cada candidato puedan participar de manera segura y libre en la próxima campaña y proceso electoral.
 
La legitimidad del Gobierno de Bolivia dependerá de si el partido del expresidente Morales, que sigue siendo apoyado por millones de bolivianos, pueda o no participar plenamente en las próximas elecciones.
 
También deseamos expresar nuestra preocupación por las declaraciones hechas por funcionarios de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA), una organización multilateral que recibe la mayoría de sus fondos del Gobierno de Estados Unidos. En particular, nos preocupan las declaraciones infundadas y engañosas vertidas por la misión electoral de la OEA en Bolivia el 21 de octubre, de las que posteriormente el Departamento de Estado se hizo eco, contribuyendo a una mayor polarización en un momento en el que ocurrían incidentes violentos por motivos políticos en todo el país. Los funcionarios de Estados Unidos deben actuar con mayor precaución y evaluar los fundamentos de las afirmaciones de los funcionarios de la Organización de los Estados Americanos antes de repetirlas, particularmente cuando existen álgidas tensiones postelectorales.
 
Finalmente, estamos profundamente consternados por que este Gobierno no haya condenado los ataques racistas contra las comunidades indígenas de Bolivia y contra sus símbolos, como la bandera panindígena Wiphala, que es una de las banderas oficiales del país. Evo Morales fue el primer presidente indígena de Bolivia y la Constitución de 2009 de Bolivia consagra derechos y protecciones que benefician a los pueblos indígenas que por siglos han sido oprimidos y discriminados de manera racista. La autoproclamada presidenta interina, Jeanine Áñez, tiene un historial de declaraciones deplorables acerca de los pueblos indígenas, incluidos comentarios en Twitter refiriéndose a los rituales religiosos indígenas como “satánicos”; mientras que luego de suplantar al expresidente Morales, declaró que “la Biblia vuelve al Palacio”. El Ejecutivo estadounidense debería criticar públicamente los ataques y los discursos racistas de odio contra miembros de las comunidades indígenas y exigir que se respeten los derechos constitucionales de los pueblos de Bolivia.
 
La creciente crisis de Bolivia amenaza con convertirse en un violento conflicto interno. El enfoque actual del Gobierno estadounidense está peligrosamente equivocado y bien podría contribuir a un mayor colapso del estado de derecho en Bolivia y a una emergencia humanitaria en toda regla, con grandes éxodos de migrantes. Le recomendamos encarecidamente que revise este enfoque y apoye la pronta restauración del orden constitucional, el diálogo entre los grupos políticos opuestos, unas elecciones justas e inclusivas y el respeto a los derechos humanos y culturales de todos los bolivianos.
 
Atentamente,
Rep. Hank Johnson
Rep. Ilhan Omar
Rep. Susan Wild
Rep. Raul Grijalva
Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Rep. Jared Huffman
Rep. Deb Haaland
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Rep. James McGovern
Rep. Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia
Rep. Bobby L. Rush
Rep. Ayanna Pressley
Rep. Alan Lowenthal
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton
 
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