By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
SUCRE, Bolivia — Roger Pinto, the head of an opposition party in Bolivia took political refuge in the Brazilian Embassy, in La Paz, Bolivia. Pinto stated that he and his family face death threats and political persecution after alleging that links existed between corrupt government officials and drug trafficking.
Pinto, a long-time foe of the current Morales government, stated that “I have no other alternative to the relentless harassment and persecution to which I was subjected to under the government of Evo Morales.”
President Evo Morales is head of the Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement for Socialism, MAS), a left wing, Socialist party founded in 1997. The MAS has governed the country since 2006 after the first majority victory by a single party in the elections held in December 2005. The MAS regime grew out of a movement to defend the interests of local Bolivian coca growers.
Since Morales came into the Presidency, international law enforcement officials have said that drug activity has increased dramatically. In 2006, Morales promised to expand the cultivation and growing of the coca plant which is the raw material of cocaine—a legal crop in Bolivia, used often as a chewable, mild stimulant.
This is not the first time Pinto has taken a stand against the Bolivian government. Recently, Pinto made several claims presenting documents alleging meetings between several senior level Morales officials and drug traffickers.
Since presenting these allegations, Pinto says he became a victim of at least 20 criminal investigations including sedition and defamation. These investigations developed into death threats which prompted him to seek political asylum in the Brazilian embassy. In a letter Pinto wrote to the Embassy, he said “I have been a victim of constant death threats, and my family has also been threatened.” His daughters also mentioned that they received many anonymous calls that they believed were from people affiliated with the Bolivian government.
As of yet, Brazil has not yet decided whether to grant Pinto the asylum he has requested. While Brazil continues to work for good relations with its neighbors, the country is also hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2009 coup in Honduras. In 2009, Honduran leader Zelaya took up residence in a Brazilian embassy claiming that he was under attack by unseen Israeli agents. Because Brazil lost some credibility in trying to resolve this situation, the country remains hesitant to offer Pinto political asylum.
For further information, please see:
ABC News–Bolivia: Senator’s Asylum Bid Embarrasses Morales–1 June 2012
The Republic–Bolivia says right-wing senator’s asylum bid seeks to embarrass Morales on eve of OAS summit–31 May 2012
Topix–Bolivia: Senator’s asylum bid embarrasses Morales–31 May 2012
The New York Times–Bolivian Politician Takes Refuge at Brazilian Embassy–30 May 2012