Letters from the Issue of January 1, 2009

Ignoring the Facts

The writer sucks: Tim Elfrink's December 18 piece "Black October" is a one-sided and misleading characterization of the events of 2003 in Bolivia. The deaths and injuries associated with these events were indeed tragic and regrettable, but Mr. Elfrink's effort to blame all of this on the government ignores the facts.

Nowhere in his nearly 5,000-word piece did Mr. Elfrink mention that even before the violence erupted, now current Bolivian President Evo Morales and Felipe "Mallku" Quispe had publicly and repeatedly vowed to topple the democratically elected government of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. As the Bolivian press documented contemporaneously, Morales and Quispe rejected all attempts at a national dialogue to resolve the upheaval they fomented, including efforts by Bolivia's Episcopal Conference.


Black October

Mr. Elfrink also ignores information contained in internal State Department reports provided to him that prove it was the demonstrators armed with guns who first resorted to violence, held hostage more than 800 people (including foreign tourists) in the city of Sorata, and endangered the lives of innocent people in La Paz by preventing the safe passage of food, fuel, and other needed supplies. As just one example, the State Department and media reports document the deaths of three newborn babies when their hospital, in the Bolivian capital, ran out of oxygen. Imagine a similar situation occurring in Washington, D.C., were armed protesters to take hundreds of hostages or shut down the city — as Mr. Morales's followers did first in Sorata and then in La Paz. Our government would be chastised unless it immediately freed the innocent hostages and re-opened the city.

Mr. Elfrink also omits mention that the events of 2003 were investigated by the independent prosecutors from Bolivia's Public Ministry. Those prosecutors concluded the Bolivian military acted appropriately and with a measured response to the unrest. Contemporaneous reports from the State Department also state the Bolivian government's response was appropriate in light of the threat posed by the rioters.

Finally, for all the dramatic flair of the quote that "For the Aymaras, the only hope lies in Miami," the fact is that the Bolivian national congress recently approved a second law to compensate monetarily the families of the victims among the military and the protesters. The case simply does not belong in the U.S. courts. And it remains part of an effort by President Morales to persecute former political opponents both inside and outside his country. In fact Morales has ordered legal actions against all five former living Bolivian presidents. U.S. courts should not be party to the political vendettas of foreign leaders.

Howard Gutman

Williams & Connolly Law Firm

Washington, D.C.

But NT is great: Great article. Thank you for reporting what is important. It has been a while since I have read a New Times story about justice. I hope for it to be served, and hope you keep up the good work.

Andy Moore

Via web commentary

Thanks, Braman

In response to Gus Garcia-Roberts's December 18 story "Bet on Braman": So far, Norman Braman has put his heart as well as his monies into seeing that justice for the people be recognized, whether you agree with him or not. We of the Concerned Citizens Committee in Liberty City fully support him, and he might just win this case owing to the economic downslide.

Marva Lightbourne


Illinois needs him: We need more men like Norman Braman; he puts his money where his mouth is. Just look at what is happening in Illinois with its thieving governor. He gets elected to public office and then the regular citizen owes him and his wife a living for the rest of their lives? Keep up the good work, Mr. Braman. God bless you.

Hal Tripp

La Paz, Bolivia

Crooked system: Just assume these local ass-clown politicians are lying when they say anything, and that they do not have the community's best interests in mind when they are climbing all over themselves to get a project approved. I think they have proven over the years this is a safe bet. Way to go, Norman Braman. Kick some ass!

Nuclear Skull

Bay Harbour


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