Statement in solidarity with the conscientious objectors of Bolivia for ANOOC, Colombia

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This year on the 22nd of March, the Bolivian Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal (PCT) rejected the right of conscientious objection as an alternative to its obligatory military service. This has occurred in spite of the generally agreed-upon right to constitutional protection, brought to attention by 18-year-old objector Ignacio Orías Calvo, who claimed refuge under this fundamental right based on his religious beliefs.

This decision would not seem to follow the same logic of a government fostered by a constitution which, at least on paper, affirms that “Bolivia is a pacifist state, which promotes the Right to Peaceful Solutions and a Peaceful culture”. In actuality, what would appear to be a contradiction fits neatly within the patriarchal and militaristic confines that have characterized the Movement for Socialism of Bolivia (MAS), ever since its army first took root in the country.  Although this organization continues to respect and strengthen the privileges of the armed forces (some of which were acquried during Hugo Banzer’s criminal dictatorship), thousands of poor young farmers and the indigenous citizens remain forced to “serve their homeland” beneath the orders of an antiquated and anarchronistic system—a system which many of its defenders, among them being Bolivia’s own Ministry of Government, view as an instiution vital in expanding a sense of citizenship in Bolivian society. As of late, Bolivia’s Obligatory Military Service’s principal goal seems to be the very same that the Evangelicals once had during the years of colonization: to civilize the indigenous population by force and via the cult of nationalistic symbology. Curious indeed how this “national intent” should be proposed by a government that has a “Vice Minister of Decolonization”.

While the government of Bolivia would claim to continue to be a defender of human rights, numerous complaints brought forth by both farmworkers and the indigenous population against its armed forces would mark this institution as the biggest violator of human rights in this Andean country. “Between 2013 y 2014, 27 deaths related to the armed forces have been recorded”, according to the Defensor del Pueblo in a 2015 report which also describes how others have had to endure “cruel and degrading treatment, violations and abuses of military power against civilians and against those of lower rank—most of which is public knowledge”.

Because of all of these and other issues that merit more detailed revision—for example the omition of the fundamental rights of young Bolivians and the relationship between its militarism and its high rates of femicides in the country—we, just as ANOOC does, declare ourselves in favor of Conscientious Objection and against a military sector that is still indisputably power hungry. We, being the men and women conscientious objectors, do not see the breakdown of the “Multinational State” that would result from this colonialist, “civilizing” project that continues to survive thanks to the military sctructures that hold it up.

We furthermore show support for objectors such as Ignacio Orías Calvo, along with all of the teachers who strive to enforce nonviolent mentalities; with all of the women who every day have to face the deadly consequences of a damaging, chauvanistic patriarchy; and with the thousands of young indigenous and farmers that even today, 500 years after the violent conquest, are still needing to be “civilized” under the slogan “God and Country.”

Translation: Sarah Schoenhaar

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