Issue - February 2009

February 2009

In this issue: Sara Vinci interviews Guido Ripamonti about Willaldea Project their time in Bolivia, and future plans; Gaia Pacha Foundation's spoke with Rebecca Wearmouth about the Ecoteca Project and the different environmental ideas they have to teach children; How to protect our rights in Bolivia is one of the main concerns for Amnesty International, Victoria Cowell talked to them; and Walter Sanchez tell us more about Cochabamba's more...

February 2009

Human Rights in Bolivia

Victoria Cowell speaks to Inez Perez from Amnesty International, Bolivia, about human rights in Bolivia, Amnesty´s campaigns around the world and how vital it is to defend and protect our rights.

Victoria Cowell
Projects Abroad volunteer
Coventry - United Kingdom

Created in London in 1961, Amnesty International is an international movement of volunteers and activists working to establish respect for human rights in all corners of the globe. In Bolivia it officially became active in 1989 with action groups in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Their members organize themselves in over 150 countries and number over 2.2 million, with more than 4000 active, local groups. Since its inception AI has concentrated solely on civil and political rights, campaigning tirelessly to put an end to the grave abuses against the rights to life and physical and mental integrity, opposing torture and freeing political prisoners. Recently, AI have expanded their vision and now focus on economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to a dignified place to live and work. Many of their campaigns span the globe and are present in Bolivia. One includes educating the public about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrated its sixtieth anniversary this year and ´Stop Violence against Women´, which is a high priority in many countries, such as here and in Mexico including the campaign for safe schools for girls. Girls have a right, argue AI, to an educational environment in which they will not be beaten or sexually groomed and abused.

Amnesty’s objective of educating the public is achieved in various ways, such as by running free workshops, as they have in Santa Cruz and la Colonia Piraí, in which they distribute literature and present short films on why it is important to stand up for and protect human rights. Bolivian young people and volunteers from the US marked The World Day Against Torture in La Paz by handing out leaflets and information to which the public responded positively, remembering all the disappeared and tortured people during Bolivia´s dictatorships. Promoting justice in response to terror is part of AI´s campaign against the ´war on terror´ which Bush and his acolytes sponsor, and with which AI disagrees, taking issue with Guantanamo bay for example, and thedetaining without trial and the torture which, they allege along with others, takes place there. In Bolivia they galvanized positively the anger of people surrounding the torture of the nations past. Although Bolivian AI members for the sake of objectivity and impartiality cannot publicly denounce the recent massacre in Pando, it can be conveyed to the international secretariat for other countries to denounce. AI might be reconsidering its policy on this matter. However it is vital, therefore, for AI members in other countries to take an interest in Bolivia and encourage respect for indigenous and poor communities and open dialogue.

One of AI´s important campaigns is to put an end to the death penalty which they view as a terrible abuse of the right to life. They are also trying to improve the conditions within many prisons and challenge judicial, police and other forms of corruption at the local and national level. Here in Bolivia a musical initiative is underway to create interest in the subject of human rights: The Small Faces Tour consists of artists and bands speaking out in support of Amnesty’s work and against torture, corruption and other mistreatment. They are performing all over Bolivia.

AI is also, where it is needed, attempting to safeguard the free speech of journalists and writers, so they are free from governmental censorship to write what they feel needs to be written. AI also supports writers repressed by governments for having done exactly that, and lobbies and campaigns for the release of incarcerated writers.

Due to a history of dictatorships, corruption, machismo and strong political allegiances, Bolivia does not hold a very good human rights record. However it is not prioritized as an emergency nation in the way that, for example, Darfur, Sierra Leone, Iran, China and certain other countries are. Little by little Amnesty hope to have worthwhile successes here in Bolivia, especially amongst young people, whom they already attract as volunteers. “We try to work with young people and get them involved in our campaigns.” says Inez Perez, AI is often most successful with young people because they question the injustices and human rights abuses that occur in Bolivia and worldwide. From AI´s perspective it is good to work with youth because they are the next generation and will carry on the work into the future.

AI is working alongside certain work-based groups and through their literature to promote economic rights and dignity for all. They believe that everyone should have the right to a safe job that does not keep people in poverty, a dignified home, sufficient food, water and clothes and the right to continue in cultural practices and customs which hurt no one else. To achieve this aim requires a wholesale shift in our values and they are attempting to tax the daily movement of capital and affect worldwide institutions and policy makers that have the potential to alleviate grinding poverty by their policy decisions.

If you are committed to protecting human rights and want to join an organization at the forefront of the human rights movement then get involved with AI by going to the website (increasingly activists´ work can be done via the internet) or attend one of their workshops, phone or write for information and become a member. When it comes to volunteering you can do as little or as much as your time constraints allow. Members pay a monthly amount which goes towards AI´s work as they receive no government funding. This allows them to plan how to spend their funds. AI continues to go from strength to strength recruiting new members and conveying their ideas and with such a presence in Bolivia they can achieve much for the people here.

Cochabamba’s Cathedral

The main church or Cathedral is the most important architectural structure in the city of Cochabamba. Its eclectic style owes to the fact that it was not constructed all at once, but is the product of a long process of reconstruction from XVI century until now.

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