Hunger Strike: Activist Protests Ahmadinejad's Visit to Bolivia

Carlos Aliaga Uria, dressed in a black poncho with the yellow Star of David on the front, holds a poster that translates: “Ahmadinejad Denier of History and the Holocaust Get Out of Bolivia.”

Aliaga began his hunger strike in La Paz to protest the November 24th visit of the Iranian president. Aliaga said:

Recently Angela Merkel, the German president, admitted to the horrors committed by her country during the Nazi period, which claimed the lives of 6,000,000 Jews. Ahmadinejad denies this historical fact. Ahmadinejad can visit Venezuela, Brazil or even the moon, that doesn’t interest me; however, he should be prohibited from visiting Bolivia.  He shouldn’t be allowed to come here, not just because this is my country, but because Bolivia was the only country on this continent that authorized visas throughout WWII to more than 7,000 Jews who escaped from the Nazi terror.

Aliaga proclaimed an "ambulatory" hunger strike because he is worried about being harassed or arrested for his protest. During the last six months, there have been many arbitrary arrests without due process. It is important that the Evo Morales government abides by the law. Instead, it is intentionally subverting the institutions in the judiciary branch. The Supreme Court, which should have 12 voting members, is now down to six and is without a quorum. This is just the latest attempt to paralyze the Bolivian judicial system.

Because Evo Morales is such a popular leader, many in the human rights community feel that to criticize the Morales government is to be aligned with the old, corrupt opposition. During the last visit by Ahmadinejad, Evo Morales had all female ministers wear headscarves. Ironically, the minister of justice, who is female, dutifully followed orders. No feminist leaders spoke out against this act.

Many in South America and the world are worried about the region's new alliance with Iran. Iran has promised Bolivia materials for a new state-run television station. It has already given milk-processing plants and a new hospital to one of Bolivia’s poorest cities, El Alto. There are more projects in the works, such as a cement plant, help with the petrochemical industry, and the mining of lithium and uranium. There is a lot of money being distributed by Iran on every level.

Apart from the obvious economic aid pouring into Bolivia from Iran, there are very strong ideological ties. Since the Evo Morales government came to power, it has methodically broken relations with countries that it considers part of the imperialist empire. Bolivia ordered the expulsion of U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg on September 11, 2008. Soon after, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was expelled and USAID was thrown out of the coca-growing Chapare region. Economic trade agreements were canceled, as was a meeting that was scheduled last week to renegotiate American-Bolivian ties.