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Bolivia defends handling of protests in UN rights review

Published on November 12, 2019

Bolivia’s justice minister insisted Tuesday the government had shown restraint in responding to deadly unrest during demonstrations sparked by President Evo Morales’s reelection last month.

During a review of Bolivia’s rights record at the United Nations in Geneva, Justice Minister Hector Arce insisted that “the Bolivian government, which respects human rights, is in no way repressing the extremely violent demonstrations.”

“The police intervention,” he said, “is limited to ensuring the security of citizens and of state property.”

The so-called Universal Periodic Review — which all 193 UN countries must undergo approximately every four years — came as deadly unrest has gripped the South American country since Morales was named winner of the October 20 election for a fourth term.

His opponents have branded the result a fraud, and Carlos Mesa, the runner-up in the recent polls, has called for a new vote to be held.

The interior minister last week said two demonstrators were killed in clashes. State authorities say 140 people have been hurt in the unrest.

During Tuesday’s review in Geneva, a range of Western countries voiced alarm over the situation.

“We are deeply concerned by reported irregularities in Bolivia’s electoral process,” said US representative Sean Garcia, warning that these “undermine public confidence in the fairness of the most recent election.”

He urged La Paz to respect the findings of “international audits of the October 20 election and their determinations of whether it was genuinely free and fair, transparently investigate allegations of election irregularities.”

The United States quit the UN Human Rights Council last year but still participates in the UPR process.

Meanwhile, the Russian representative called on “political forces (in the country) to resolve the current disagreement through dialogue,” adding that the international community should help, but only in “a constructive manner”.