Bolivia declared under martial law

Dear Friends:

Just a few hours ago Bolivia was declared under martial law. People are being arrested, the army is occupying the streets, human rights offices are being invaded by government agents, radio stations are being closed by the military and huge sections of the city have had their electrical power cut (I had to leave home to find a computer that was still charged to write this).

The situation is grave and we need help to get the story out. Please share the brief article below as far and wide as you can with anyone who will publish or broadcast it. My own media list is in a computer which I can't access. For the time being I can still be reached at 591-4-290-725. I will try to send updates as the situation allows. Please do not worry for our safety, my family and I are fine and keeping well away from the violence. IF YOU RESPOND, PLEASE RESPOND TO THE EMAIL BELOW, NOT THE RETURN ON THIS ONE.

Jim Shultz
The Democracy Center

As of 10 am Saturday morning Bolivia was declared under martial law by President Hugo Banzer. The drastic move comes at the end of a week of protests, general strikes, and transportation blockages that have left major areas of the country at a virtual standstill. It also follows, by just hours, the surprise announcement by state officials yesterday afternoon that the government would concede to the protests' main demands, to break a widely-despised contract under which the city of Cochabamba's public water system was sold off to foreign investors last year. The concession was quickly reversed by the national government, and the local governor resigned, explaining that he didn't want to take responsibility for bloodshed that might result.

Banzer, who ruled Bolivia as a dictator from 1971-78, has taken an action that suspends almost all civil rights, disallows gatherings of more than four people and puts severe limits on freedom of the press. One after another, local radio stations have been taken over by military forces or forced off the air. Reporters have been arrested The neighborhood where most of the city's broadcast antennas are located had its power shut off at approximately noon local time. Through the night police searched homes for members of the widely- backed water protests, arresting as many as twenty. The local police chief has been instated by the President as governor of the state. Blockades erected by farmers in rural areas continue across the country, cutting off some cities from food and transportation. Large crowds of angry residents, many armed with sticks and rocks are massing on the city's center where confrontations with military and police are escalating.

Tom Kruse
Casilla 5812 / Cochabamba, Bolivia
TelFax: (591-4) 248242, 500849
TelCel: 017-22253

Stopping Colombian Minister destroying Native peoples' habitat

The (Colombian) Minister of the Emvironment, JUAN MAYR, is refusing to recognise the rights of the Embera Katio Indians who have walked 800 kms to talk to him , and have set up camp outside his office in Bogota. The Goverment, supported by the paramilitaries, (equivalent to theBlack and Tans) began flooding their tribal lands without relocating the Indians, who demand that;

1. the Government should urgently resolve the ecological problems cause by the Sinu River, which is resulting in famine downstream of the dam

2. their rights be respected as guaranteed in International Law

Amnesty International issued an urgent action on 9 March 2000 for fear for the safety/possible disappearnce of JAIRO BEDOYA HOYOS, an Indigenous Rights activist who was working for the security and protection of the Emberra Tribe, which exposed him to attack from unknown (as yet) armed forces.

Not only is this Minister supporting oil exploration on the ancestral lands of the famous UWA tribe, (NE Colombia), he has openly granted approval for goldmining in the river Caqueta in the South and the use of MERCURY in the process is poisoning all the river life as it runs into the Amazon system

PATRICK VON HILDREBRAND, an environmentalist, (brother of Martin, winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize for his work with Indians in the Amazon) has been working for years in the pristine reserve in Lower Caqueta. At this moment, his life is in danger for speaking out on this issue.

We are ALL connected and this further pollution of `the Lungs of the World' is an outrage in this supposed enlightened age of the 3rd Millennium.

Urgent international action is needed against the actions of this Minister of the Environment. He has two more years to serve and will no doubt wreak more destruction. Protesters in Colombia are silenced or killed.

Please do what you can to highlight this grave situation by writing to your M.P.s, Senators, M.E.P.s, Cabinet Ministers etc., the media and any one of the following:

1. Dr. JUAN MAYR, Ministro del Medio Ambiente, Calle 37 No 7 - 76 Bogota, Colombia

2. Dr. Humberto Martinez, Ministro del Interior, Carrera 8, no 8 - 09, Bogota, Colombia

3. The Rt. Hon. Robin Cook, MP, PC., Foreign Secretary, House of Commons, London SW1.

4. Margot Wallstrom, D.G. for the Environment, 200 Rue de la Loi, B-1049, Brussels Belgium.


P.S. The Atlanta Foundation produces a monthly newletter about trying to `green' Colombia and it is well worth joininh their mailing list via Mary Kelly, Atlantis House, Burtonport, Co Donegal, Eire
The National Music Trust Project

Don Chisholm 613 476 1700 fax 476 6331
* "Our ignorance is not so vast as, *
our failure to use what we know."
M.K. Hubert
"The fact that this has not happened before says
nothing about what's needed now for survival."
R. Theobald 99