On the 24th of May, a group of thugs violently attacked social activists at the "14 de septiembre" square in the centre of Cochabamba. This cowardly attack was organised out of the office of the Prefect of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa.
Manfred Reyes Villa is one of the main figureheads of the right-wing opposition in Bolivia. Villa, accused of corruption and the theft of public property, sparked protest last January when he announced that he would attempt to repeal the referendum results which rejected the idea of autonomy for the Eastern departments of Bolivia. In ensuing confrontation between the ultra right-wing pro-autonomists, who resemble paramilitary gangs, and the working class and indigenous people two were killed and 150 wounded.
To Manfred Reyes Villa
Gobierno departemental de Cochabamba
Plaza 14 de septiembre acera norte nr 243
I want to protest in the strongest possible terms against the violence being used in your department against political and social activists. I am referring to the events on 24 May when a group of thugs attacked social activists of the youth organisation Red Tinku in the ‘plaza 14 de septiembre’. Surely, it is not a detail, and will not be seen as such by world opinion, that these thugs came out of your office when they launched their attack against the people in the square. The logical conclusion must be that these intimidations are being organised in collusion with the prefecture and act under the orders of the prefecture.
You must be aware that political developments in Bolivia are being followed the world over. I promise to do everything in my power to denounce the use of violence against social activists in Bolivia and to advertise the suspicion that the prefecture itself is organising this violence. I will remind world opinion that the events on 24 May are not an isolated incident. On 22 of January of this year two people were killed and a further 150 wounded after attacks by the so-called ‘Youth for Democracy’ group. The independent, non-profit, non-partisan, research group, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, described these events as follows: "Calling themselves "Youth for Democracy," the ultra right wing pro-autonomists resembled paramilitary gangs as they beat protesting indigenous with two-by-four planks after the crowds had been gassed by the authorities".
We demand that the intimidation and attacks on activists in the Department of Cochabamba are immediately stopped. This letter to you is but the first step in an international solidarity campaign. An injury to one is an injury to all.