Bolivian UU on Hunger Strike

By Eric Cherry

Unitarian Universalists who have been involved with the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, or who attended the International Convocation of U/U Women this past February are likely to know Olga Flores Bedregal. Olga has joined with three other Bolivians in a hunger strike. Details about the hunger strike's purpose and expectations are found within this stirring video and letter from Olga. Please extend your caring thoughts and prayers to these four brave people and their cause.
Dear fellow Unitarian Universalists,
My name is Olga Flores Bedregal, and I am currently on a hunger strike in La Paz, Bolivia. As I will explain further, I am seeking justice for persons, including my brother, who have been “disappeared” and murdered by Bolivian military governments.
I have been active in developing the Unitarian Universalist movement in Latin America for many years. I am the sister of Carlos Flores Bedregal, who was forcibly taken from a political meeting on July 17, 1980 by soldiers during the military dictatorship of Luis Garcia Meza Tejada. Joining me in the hunger strike is Marta Montiel, 47 years old, the daughter of Sergio “Pablo” Tirso, disappeared on August 31 of 1970 by the military dictatorship of Alfredo Ovano Candia. Also joining the strike is Hortensia Gutierrez, 69 years of age, whose husband, Rodolfo Flores Sanmillan was disappeared on August 21, 1968 under the dictator Rene Barrientos. I myself am 52 years old.
We are seeking justice for ourselves, our family members, and all of the disappeared during Bolivian dictatorships, of which there are many. Included in the disappeared are many non-Bolivians killed during military dictatorships, including Argentineans, Chilean, Peruvians, and Brazilians.
The hunger strike began in the Human Rights Assembly building in La Paz on May 5, 2009. We have been forced to begin a hunger strike because the three branches of the Bolivian government-the judicial, the legislative, and the executive-have not brought justice to those effected by the capture and murder of dissidents during Bolivian military dictatorships. Not only have those who have committed murder not been properly prosecuted, the bodies of the deceased have not been returned to their families.
Family members of the disappeared who have sought justice have found a justice system that is so slow and corrupt that there have been no convictions for these murders, even though the cases have been open for more than 10 years.
Even though the current Bolivian government gives lip service to the concept of human rights, and has promoted a new constitution that contains language prohibiting illegal detentions and torture, nothing has been done to punish those who have committed crimes under prior governments.
The hunger strikers seek that the Bolivian government comply with the following demands:
  1. That President Evo Morales order the army give to family members the mortal remains of our loved ones, and to also return to us their personal belongings that are under military jurisdiction. Furthermore, that President Morales order that all military files created during the military dictatorships be declassified so that the public may understand what has happened in their country, and family members of the disappeared will know what happened to them.
  2. That formal investigations be commenced regarding all of the persons who disappeared during the military dictatorships commencing with the dictatorship of Teoponte. We also request that, as part of these investigations, the bodies of the disappeared be exhumed and examined.
  3. That the president of the Supreme Court agree to end the delay of justice by prosecutors, and that disciplinary proceedings be commenced against all the judges who have obstructed justice in the cases of Jose Carlos Trujillo Oroza, Renato Ticona Estrada, Juan Carlos Flores Bedregal and Marcel Quiroga Santa Cruz.
  4. That the National Congress of Bolivia open an investigation against the Attorney General of the Republic Mario Uribe Melendrez because in the cases mentioned herein his office has not only failed to comply with its role of representing the interests of society, it has been an accomplice of these crimes by covering them up.
  5. That the National Parliament provide funding and legislative authority so that compliance with the constitution, national laws, and international treaties concerning the illegal capture and execution of persons be guaranteed. Furthermore, that the National Parliament solemnly apologize to our disappeared family members.
These are the aims of our hunger strike; we also want to let new generations know who our family members were, what heir ideals were, how they saw history, what the historical context of their lives was, what the circumstances of their disappearance were, and who their repressors were.
- Olga Flores Bedregal

About the Author

Eric Cherry

Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving as the English...


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