Canadian Labour Congress statement on Bolivia

This is the Canadian Labour Congress's letter to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressing 'deep concern regarding the current attack on democracy in Bolivia and other areas of Latin America'.

This is the Canadian Labour Congress's letter to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressing 'deep concern regarding the current attack on democracy in Bolivia and other areas of Latin America'.

September 15, 2008

Honourable David Emerson
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister;

On behalf of the more than 3.2 million working women and men represented by the Canadian Labour Congress, I write today to share our deep concern regarding the current attack on democracy in Bolivia and other areas of Latin America.

Minister Emerson, we strongly encourage you to make clear to the international community that Canada, like other nations in the Americas will not recognize any authority in Bolivia other than the democratically-elected government of President Evo Morales and will not tolerate outside interference supporting secessionist factions in that beleaguered country. President Morales was democratically elected in 2005 and the Bolivian people again endorsed his leadership in a recent "recall referendum" which he won by a large majority of 67%.

As I am sure you are aware, right-wing opposition groups have been conspiring to secede from Bolivia for months using violence and racist attacks to intimidate and terrorize the government and the majority of Bolivians that support it in an attempt to incite civil war or a coup d'etat. The strategy is clearly articulated by opposition leader Oscar Urenda: "We will not be beaten, if we are talking about confrontations let's talk about confrontations, if we are going to talk about war, let there be war, but they will not impose anything on us. We are sufficiently strong to split off from the country, and if I have to take a stick, a sling, a gun, I will do it..."

Last week at least eight people were killed and dozens injured in violent protests carried out by right-wing youth groups and shock troops in conjunction with departmental governors and other opposition leaders. These gangs carried out a series of shootings, beatings, and ransacking of offices of the government, human rights and indigenous organizations. Natural gas exports to neighbouring Brazil and Argentina were temporarily cut off in order to sabotage the economy. The loss of human life was most costly in Panda where paramilitary gangs armed with machine guns massacred more than 60 campesinos leaving more than 100 unaccounted fro (disappeared). The victims were pursued, tortured, and murdered before the government declared a state of siege to end the rampage. These horrendous actions have elicited a huge response of outrage from civil society, social movements, the media and many governments from the hemisphere.

Recent events suggest there is evidence for President Morales' assertion that the U.S. Embassy is supporting these violent, autonomy-seeking groups and "conspiring against democracy". As I am sure you know, President Morales has declared the US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg persona non-grata and requested his removal from the country after documenting months of Goldberg's meetings, exchanges, contacts and involvement with secessionist leaders. Washington's refusal to provide information about which groups it is funding through its AID program only adds to the suspicion and lack of trust between the two governments and gives the impression that the U.S. is contributing to efforts to destabilize and overthrow the Bolivian government.

These events in Bolivia are reminiscent of the US-supported overthrow of democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende in Chile who also believed he could peacefully transform the formal democratic state he inherited. Events in Bolivia and rumors of coup d'etat being planned in Venezuela and against the fledgling government of Fernando Lugo in Paraguay is leading many to feel that Latin America now faces its most serious crisis since the re-introduction of democratic practice at the end of the last century.

Minister Emerson, Canada must support the Bolivian people's right to be governed by a democratically-elected government. Canada must offer support to the government of President Morales, directly and through the Organization of American States to promote a dialogue and keep open legal and democratic channels for resolving differences and conflict. We cannot allow our hemisphere to succumb to past practices of military intervention and return to the dark days when the Pinochets of this world were in power.

Many governments in the hemisphere have made their views known on the crisis. The current federal election should not stop Canada from expressing its views at the critical moment in our hemisphere. I look forward to seeing clear and concrete measures taken by Canada to help resolve this crisis of democracy in Bolivia and to prevent its escalation both inside Bolivia and to other countries in the region.


Kenneth V. Georgetti
(President - Canadian Labour Congress)

cc Officers and Assistants Executive Committee; Embassy of Bolivia in Ottawa

Original text of the statement in pdf format is at:

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