Bolivia Repeals Decree Giving Security Officers Immunity

  • Earlier, the interim president defended the decree, arguing that it was "a constitutional appeal" against "violent acts that had never been witnessed before" in the country.
  • The decree made security forces exempt from prosecution and allowed for excessive use of force.
  • The decree was widely condemned, both domestically and internationally.

The interim government in Bolivia revoked a decree Friday giving immunity to police and army officers who used live ammunition and excess force on protesters. According to interim President Jeanine Áñez, the measure has been revoked because the country has achieved “the desired peace.” Thirty-four people have been killed during three weeks of protests that followed the resignation of former Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Jeanine Áñez is a Bolivian politician and lawyer who has served as a senator for Beni since 2010. In November 2019, following the resignation of Evo Morales, Áñez declared herself interim president.

Earlier, the interim president defended the decree, arguing that it was “a constitutional appeal” against “violent acts that had never been witnessed before” in the country. Áñez issued the controversial decree on November 14, just two days after she assumed office. Áñez insists that the move was constitutional and served to pacify the country that had been engulfed by anarchy.

Supreme Decree 4078, which came into effect without the support of a majority of Parliament, stated that the personnel of the Armed Forces of Bolivia “participating in the operations for the restoration of order and public stability,” will be “exempted from criminal liability” when “in compliance with their constitutional functions, as they act in self-defense or in the state of need.” The order also gave authority to the security forces to use excess force to suppress social protests. “The Armed Forces must frame their actions as established in the approved Manual on the Use of Force . . . and may make use of all available means that are proportional to the operational risk,” the decree reads in part.

Evo Morales is a Bolivian politician and former cocalero activist who served as the 80th President of Bolivia from 2006 to 2019. On November 10, 2019, he resigned amidst significant unrest in the wake of a report by the Organization of American States alleging his government had rigged the year’s elections.

The decree, which was widely condemned both nationally and internationally, was issued on the same day as a massacre in which nine protesters were killed by the nation’s security forces, with hundreds of others left nursing serious wounds. Although the government denies that the shootings were carried out by police, humanitarian organizations like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which even dispatched a delegation to Bolivia to investigate human rights violations, claim that there was excessive use of force by the security forces in the crackdown on protesters. Other international and national entities, such as Amnesty International and the People’s Defender of Bolivia, questioned the legality of the decree in the first place.

Protests ensued across Bolivia after the country’s then-president, Evo Morales, was declared the first-round winner in the October 20 elections by the country’s elections commission. Amid allegations of electoral fraud by the opposition, an Organization of American States (OAS) mission audited the poll and advised Morales to annul the elections, due to the many irregularities that were confirmed. The president accepted the request, and on the morning of November 10, made the announcement.

Shortly after the declaration of nullity of the elections, the Armed Forces went public and asked Morales to resign. At that point, Morales, who was under pressure from the opposition and amid riots in the country’s police barracks, decided to resign but classified the situation as a coup d’etat.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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