Below are eye-witness reports from the massacre perpetrated by fascists in Pando province, northern Bolivia, on Thursday 11th September, in which thirty peasants were killed and fifty wounded. Over one hundred people are still missing.
This video (the speech is all in Spanish but the footage can speak for itself) show fascists shooting at peasants as they swim across the river in a desperate effort to escape the violence.
Report by Cristián Dominguez (one of the victims)
“We accompanied our comrades in the minibus from Las Piedras to Puerto Rico. They accuse us of having brought weapons, but no-one even had a pair of nail scissors. We killed no-one, but yes, we did fight back to defend ourselves.
“The first death was caused when a minibus coming from the blockade and another arriving there at about 8:30am met, and one person took out [a gun] and killed an engineer. This was the first death, and it was them who killed him – you can check this – with what must have been a bullet from a handgun.
“We heard the sound of a handgun because we were about 300 or 400 metres away. From that point on we assumed that they were armed.
“We decided to leave, but when we had got about a kilometre away we were ambushed. We defended ourselves, and hitting them we forced them back to Porvenir.
“In Porvenir they ambushed us again with more weapons and with the yellow trucks of the Roads Service. There were three organised groups, which had chased from the Arroyo, from Porvenir and on the river Tahaumanu”.
“One group chased us down the road: another was in the town itself. Several comrades beside me were struck down: I saw honourable people who had been shot. We fought them as we could, but they chased us through the woods like dogs, like animals, and wiped us out.
“Then the ambulances came. People were riddled with bullets as they were put in the ambulances: for this not only were the governor’s supporters to blame, but furthermore some of the Police and some of the Army were involved in the genocide. They timed it all to plan perfectly”.
Report by Rodrigo Medina Alipaz
“Never has such a thing as this happened in our history. We went to a peasant congress and afterwards set off for a protest march through the streets of Cobija. Unfortunately we were ambushed in Porvenir.
“As always, we had brought our wives and children. Mr Leopoldo Fernández, as governor of Pando, is to blame for what happened: we saw the Prefecture’s vehicles being used, each full of 30-odd men armed with guns, sub-machine guns and revolvers.
“Since we could not defend ourselves people scattered. People dived into the river, but using sub-machine guns they riddled the people crossing the water with bullets. They threw bombs at the heads of the women and men crossing: they disappeared.
“Throughout the night they chased us with dogs. There are still people in the fields and people who do not want to leave the woods because they are afraid. They are in a frenzy. When they hear a van or an ambulance go past they hide themselves even deeper in the woods. Some of the wounded died in the woods. Yesterday (Sunday), we found 35 comrades and led them out of the woods: we had shouted that we were from the Peasants’ Federation, and we took them to Puerto Rico.
“We want to denounce these crimes and demand justice for the peasant people. We feel low, since nothing like this has happened to us before. We ask the forces of Parliament, the Government, and the Bolivian Permanent Human Rights Assembly to enforce justice: there are documents and witnesses.
“They shot two bullets at me, but thank God, they passed by my head: however the comrade next to me was shot in the forehead and in the stomach.
“We know that there were many Brazilian and maybe also Peruvian mercenaries, as well as people from Porvenir, Santa Cruz and Riberalta. It seems that they were on drugs, as they killed our brothers and sisters with relish.
“They took a woman with her five year old son by the hair, and when she begged them not to kill her, they shot her in the head with a revolver. The boy cried, and so they took the boy and shot and killed him. This is genocide.
“We did not bring weapons with us, since if we had done so we could not have brought women and children with us – we could have seized Porvenir and even the Cobija Prefecture, but we could not have had a peaceful demonstration after the congress.
“The Cobija Provincial Federation have told us that there are still prisoners in Villa Busch, and we have asked the Army Joint Command to help us since we have no confidence in the Police, who betrayed us in Porvenir. We had six hostages who we planned to give back peacefully: they asked us to let them go, and the Police Commandant came with a policewoman and asked us to let them go.
“After we let them go, she gave the signal (lifting up her hands) and a shoot-out began on all sides of the vans, and thus the massacre began. This is why we have to investigate health-workers and the Police”.
Report by Rosa Lucia Alpire
“We were heading along with a group of comrades from Puerto Rico and all the communities to the provincial congress in the Filadelfia district.
“We were ambushed at three in the morning at Tres Barracas. All our comrades jumped out [of the van] and we were attacked. They fired firecrackers and tear gas at us: we begged them to let us pass.
“At dawn we turned back to the community of Cedro, but they told us before leaving that they would kill us, so we headed for Puerto Rico. Then they (hit-men, the Governor’s men and the right-wingers) arrived where we were gathering our things, threatening us with guns and grenades.
“They were all from the Provincial authorities, the Roads Service, The Civic Committee and Porvenir. We told ourselves that if they wanted war, they’d get war: we were not afraid.
“We clashed: we were victorious, they ran away and we caught six hostages. One man from the Roads Service had a bomb on him, made of dynamite.
“A comrade from the CSUTCB (United Trade Union Confederation of the Working Peasants of Bolivia) got out of a van and arranged for us to be let through again.
“Again we were held for three hours in the van, and the children were crying out of hunger and thirst.
“The Police said they were waiting for more Police to come, but in fact they themselves were holding us in a snare, holding us there until the other armed men arrived.
“When their friends took back the six hostages we had been holding, they began to shoot at us. What did the Police do? They hid. Rather than intervening they saved themselves.
“The Police gave them every opportunity to shoot us, using sub-machine guns, shotguns, revolvers, gas and everything they had, since they were well-armed and had Brazilian mercenaries.”