By Alan MacLeod
Boliviaâs new Interior Minister Arturo Murillo has unveiled a new battalion of heavily militarized, black-clad âanti-terrorâ police aimed at neutralizing what the government claims are foreign groups âthreateningâ the South American country.
âThis anti-terrorist group has a mission of dismantling absolutely all the terrorist cells that are threatening our homeland,â Murillo said, at an official ceremony launching the force. The Interior Minister posed for photos in front of the masked and heavily armed force.
Murillo justified the new creation based on a âgrand conspiracy against all of the Americasâ he claimed to have uncovered, asserting that the Venezuelan government had colluded with ousted Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera to flood the continent with narco-terrorists and drug runners.
He went on to claim that Venezuelan politicians Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello âhave financed all the terror we have seen in recent timesâ in Bolivia, referencing the massacres that claimed over thirty lives since the right-wing coup of November 10. Police Chief Rodolfo Montero claimed that the unit is designed to âdismantle the foreign groups who were trained and guided to sow terror among the citizenry.â
Deposed president Evo Morales hit back at the new Interior Minister, stating that, âthe coup plotters who seized power in Bolivia are now inventing incredible stories in order to blame others for the state terror they are imposing on others,â noting that the only terrorism in the country is their âblood and fireâ attack on the Bolivian people.
Murillo has filed a case at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, against Morales, attempting to convict him of crimes against humanity. Morales faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
While the new government has portrayed the battalion as a counter-terror unit, there are well-founded fears that the force will actually be targeted at foreign journalists and human rights activists that might present a different picture of the country to the outside world than the one the government wants. Murillo recently directly threatened a newly arrived human rights delegation from Argentina. âWe recommend these foreigners who are arrivingâ¦to be careful,â he said, âWe are looking at you. We are following you,â warning them that there will be âzero toleranceâ for any âterrorismâ or âseditionâ they enact. He added that âAt the first false move that they make, trying to commit terrorism and sedition, they will have to deal with the police.â
The human rights group responded, âWhile the de facto government accuses us of being terrorists, we have started what we came to do, take testimony of the different human rights violations that the Bolivian people are enduring.â Murillo was true to his word: the police subsequently detained 14 members of the delegation.
The irony is that it is precisely the new Bolivian coup government and the death squads Murillo controls that have been responsible for grave human rights violations across the country, including two massacres near the cities of Cochabamba and La Paz. Last month the military demanded newly elected president Evo Morales step down, handpicking Senator Jeanine AÃ±ez as president, in an action most mainstream media refused to label a âcoup.â The move was hailed by the Trump administration but condemned by some of the Democratic Partyâs left-wing, including 2020 presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. AÃ±ez immediately exonerated all security forces of past and future crimes during what she called the âre-establishment of orderâ, widely understood as granting them a license to kill with impunity. Morales was forced into exile in Mexico and Murillo began âhunting downâ elected pro-Morales officials like the âanimalsâ they were, in his own words.
The new government has also attacked the press, forcing critical international media, like TeleSUR and RT en EspaÃ±ol off the air. Meanwhile, an Al-Jazeera anchor was tear-gassed in the face live on air by a member of the security forces. Other journalists have simply been detained and disappeared.
Throughout all this, the Organization of American States and the media have whitewashed events, claiming Moralesâ election was fraudulent and supporting the new âinterim transitional government.â More than 100 economists, statisticians and academics signed a letter Monday, confirming that, after careful analysis, the results of the October election Morales won were completely legitimate. They claim that the âOAS has to answer for its roleâ in supporting the coup, contributing to the human rights violations and state terror sweeping the country.
The new move creating an unaccountable armed security force directly aimed at foreign terror will do little to quash fears that Bolivia is heading down the road to a totalitarian dictatorship with no freedom of expression.
Alan MacLeod is a MintPress Staff Writer as well as an academic and writer forÂ Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book,Â Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and MisreportingÂ was published in April.
* This article was automatically syndicated and expanded from Mint Press News.