Bolivia: Let’s Wake up. Please

By Nacho Levy on November 27, 2019

Photo: Renaldo Schemidt

I haven’t been able to sleep, I don’t want to anymore, I can’t, I don’t know. I loaded my backpack and headed from Argentina for Bolivia but I never arrived there. I had pictured how it would be to show a search, narrating crimes against humanity, how to name them, how to report about it, I never pictured how it would be to actually breathe them in. Now I’m seeing pictures I had only seen in black and white, meanwhile I cover my ears to hear again our disappeared victims in Argentina, demanding memory, truth, justice. It all became terror, nothing becomes news. Mere darkness until I close my eyes out of mercy on myself. And I see them coming again, urgent, a fluorescent human whirlwind desperately running towards me, and I knew perfectly well that all those people didn’t know who I was, or how I got there, or how the hell I showed up in that public assembly of Bolivians who were waiting for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to tell them about the Senkata massacre. I still can hear them, it still kills me. “Please, help us! Please, do not leave us alone! Please, promise us that we are going to get out of here!”

There was not one indigenous woman, there were ten, now fifteen, now thirty; now thousands and thousands who won’t let me sleep. They didn’t know who I was but they wouldn’t let me go. They cried and cried, they trembled, they are trembling. And I feel like dying. I can’t stop crying while I try not to stop writing. Protected, cuddled up by a group of women, they pushed me through the chapel up to the altar, where the IACHR was beginning to listen to those words that I will never forget. “My husband was killed. He was shot in his heart because he was pulling an injured person!” They asked me to film but there were too many people, so they lifted me up. “I’m a walking dead!” yelled a woman, covering herself up with a scarf so that no one could see her, until she reached the front and revealed her face. “I am the witness who survived the massacre, because I stayed, of course I stayed there when I saw the tanks coming, because I never thought they were coming to kill us, that they would start shooting just like that. And I saw everything, I saw how they killed them and, when I turned back, I could also see a very little girl shot in her face, but they took her and we didn’t know anything else about her, we didn’t see her again. I stayed there collecting bullet casings so that you can believe in us.”

We were all crying, as I’m crying over every one of these lines, as she emptied a bag of casings in front of the eyes of the Commission:

Plowing through that wave of terror, tears and sorrow, I tried to get back to the street somehow, because the female comrades asked me to go out, to talk to Andronico, a young contact from Chapare, a coca grower trained to be an organizer, who is still calling for mobilizations and who was also present there, regardless of the current persecution. It was impossible to reach the gate where a group was trying to protect him, but they keep asking me to try to interview him. We were finally pushed into a car that awaited at the end of the avalanche, amidst screams from the crowd overflowing the chapel. Suddenly, a woman put her head inside through the window. It was the woman with the scarf, now crying, her stomach filled with impotence and the arrogance of proper dignity, when life is less worthy than truth: “Please Andronico, don’t let them kill you!” “Please, Andronico, you have to exchange cars, they are already following you, they came looking for you,” “please, Andronico, I’m telling you, they are going to kill you!” We went out with our chest freezing, two men on top of him and two more on top of me, interviewing Andronico only for a couple of minutes because I had to get out seven blocks away, because they in fact had to exchange cars, because they in fact did want to kill him. “Thanks, we’re going to meet again.”

Another day, whenever you want, we can talk about Evo and all the mistakes he may have committed.

Another day, whenever you want, we can talk about the elections they came to promise.

Another day, whenever you want, we can talk about balances and dream about the future.

But now, we can’t, we can’t sleep now.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano, translation, North America bureau