Bolivia’s unelected transitional administration has repeatedly threatened international electoral observers, detained monitors from Argentina in the airport, and shared the private information of Spanish supervisors with a far-right activist.
By Ben Norton
LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – On the eve of Bolivia’s first election since a violent November 2019 military takeover that removed President Evo Morales from office, the unelected de facto government has detained, doxxed, and threatened international electoral observers.
On October 16, Bolivia’s migration department shared the private information and photos of Spanish electoral observers with a far-right activist, who promptly published these sensitive materials on social media, spawning a campaign of incitement against the monitors.
Later that day, the right-wing Bolivian administration detained observers from Argentina in the airport outside the capital of La Paz. Among the monitors apprehended by police were numerous members of Congress. Video later circulated showing an apparent Argentine embassy official being roughed up by Bolivian police as he accompanied the delegation.
These disturbing incidents took place within a larger context of threats by Bolivia’s coup administration and its supporters against international observers who traveled to the country to monitor the October 18 general election.
Several contributors to The Grayzone, including Max Blumenthal, Anya Parampil, and Ben Norton, are electoral observers in Bolivia from a delegation organized by the US human rights organization CODEPINK. Even before we entered the country, we were stalked and threatened by Bolivian coup officials, and have since received a flood of violent threats.
Bolivian coup administration doxxes Spanish electoral observers
On October 16, an extreme right-wing Spanish blogger named Alejandro Entrambasaguas published the private information of Spanish electoral observers. He obtained it all from the Bolivian migration department.
Entrambasaguas shared the photos, full names, and records that four Spanish monitors filed when they entered Bolivia. The photos were captured by the migration department at customs. The only way Entrambasaguas could have access to these sensitive materials is if they were provided to him by sympathetic sources inside the Bolivian coup regime.
The four doxxed Spanish lawmakers had official invitations from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to serve as observers. They included Lucía Muñoz, of Podemos; Francisco José Pérez, of Izquierda Unida; Maite Mola, of the Party of the European Left; and Gerardo Pisarello, of Barcelona en Comú.
Los ‘observadores’ de Podemos en las elecciones bolivianas dicen a la Policía que viajan por «negocios» y «turismo».
— Alejandro Entrambasaguas (@entrammbasaguas) October 16, 2020
Entrambasaguas writes for a website called Okdiario, which is linked to Spain’s far-right party Vox. He has made his name as a staunch defender of Bolivia’s coup administration, going to extreme lengths to attack the left-wing Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party of former democratically elected President Evo Morales, often with extremely dubious stories based on rumors and little to no evidence.
The Spanish blogger’s full legal name is Alejandro Sanmiguel Entrambasaguas. He hails from a powerful oligarchic family in Spain, and is often criticized for frequently spreading fake news.
After the 2019 coup d’etat, Bolivia’s de facto government appointed the far-right activist Marcel Rivas as the head of migration.
Rivas has threatened other electoral observers, including the CODEPINK delegation, which includes The Grayzone contributors.
Rivas is also notorious in Bolivia for sharing the private information of targets on social media, doxxing his political opponents.
Afortunadamente algunos pseudo-observadores tuvieron que inhalarse lo que les regalaron para sus pasajes. https://t.co/foeGdYbCnT
— Marcel Rivas F. (@Marcelrivasf) October 16, 2020
Bolivian coup administration detains Argentine electoral observers
Later on the evening of October 16, the campaign against international observers escalated from online threats to the physical detention of Argentine lawmakers.
Three members of Argentina’s Congress from the governing center-left Frente de Todos coalition traveled to Bolivia to ensure that the election was transparent.
As soon as he arrived at the El Alto airport outside the Bolivian capital of La Paz, Argentine Congressman Federico Fagioli was apprehended by armed police.
Autoridades diplomáticas argentinas llegan al aeropuerto en El Alto, La Paz, ante la retención ilegal del diputado Federico Fagioli, quien es miembro de la Misión de Observación del Congreso argentino. pic.twitter.com/9r8DxE79u4
— Alina Duarte (@AlinaDuarte_) October 17, 2020
Paula Penacca, another Argentine member of Congress and electoral observer who was blocked from entering Bolivia, published video and photos on Twitter showing heavily armed police accusing her colleague Fagioli of committing “crimes against humanity,” without presenting any evidence.
Esto está pasando ahora. No nos dejan ingresar a Bolivia. Acusan al diputado Fagioli de haber cometido crímenes de lesa humanidad. Esto es una afronta a nuestro país. pic.twitter.com/48d3klnUZn
— Paula Penacca (@PaulaPenacca) October 17, 2020
From his official Twitter account, Fagioli stated, “This is another clear example of the right-wing’s attack on democracies on our continent. We insist that they allow us to observer the elections to ensure their transparency and denounce any acts that violate the human rights of the Bolivian people.”
The third member of the Argentine delegation, lawmaker Leonardo Grosso, said they had been invited by Bolivia’s National Assembly and the president of the Senate, Eva Copa.
The unelected administration of President Jeanine Áñez apparently does not recognize these observers because they did not obtain official invitations from the de facto government-controlled Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).
Fuimos invitados por la Presidenta del Senado de Bolivia, Eva Copa, como veedores de acompañamiento electoral internacional para las elecciones del domingo. Al llegar, pasamos el Aeropuerto de Cochabamba sin ningún problema, pero cuando llegamos a La Paz nos detuvieron. pic.twitter.com/Z8pdZQmwDs
— Leonardo Grosso (@Leonardo_Grosso) October 17, 2020
Grosso tweeted video showing police attacking an Argentine diplomat who was accompanying the delegation. The footage also shows Bolivian authorities throwing Fagioli into an unmarked car, as the lawmaker shouted “I am being kidnapped.”
Grosso called the de facto government a “dictatorship,” adding, “This is an absolute blow against democracy. They are violating all kinds of laws and international treaties.”
Estamos autorizados por el propio gobierno boliviano para ser veedores internacionales y no nos dejan entrar, nos detienen, nos golpean. Es inentendible lo que está pasando. pic.twitter.com/ElUGp4Z1eo
— Leonardo Grosso (@Leonardo_Grosso) October 17, 2020
Argentine President Alberto Fernández tweeted a statement late the same night condemning the “maltreatment” of the lawmakers, stating, “It is the direct responsibility of the de facto government of Jeanine Áñez to preserve the integrity of the Argentine delegation.”
Legisladores argentinos fueron maltratados al llegar a La Paz para cumplir con sus tareas de veedores de las elecciones del próximo domingo. Es directa responsabilidad del gobierno de facto de @JeanineAnez preservar la integridad de la delegación argentina.#EleccionesBolivia2020 https://t.co/MiMjt497bj
Update, October 17: After this article was published, the unelected Bolivian government once again doxxed international observers.
Marcel Rivas, the far-right director of migration for the coup administration, tweeted a photo of the ID of Federico Fagioli, the Argentine congressman who was attacked and detained. This tweet includes all of the private information of the lawmaker, including his date of birth and ID number.
Rivas also published the photo of Fagioli that was taken at customs in the airport, as well as the information filed in the migration department’s system.
Rivas referred to the Argentine electoral observers as “tourists,” falsely claiming, “None of the Argentine tourists was mistreated or illegally detained, in Bolivia a tourist does not have immunity much less impunity, the times of the systematic violation of human rights ended with the runaway of the fugitive of justice” — a reference to the democratically elected President Evo Morales, who was told to resign by the Bolivian military in November 2019 and was forced to flee the country.
Ninguno de los turistas argentinos fue maltratado o ilegalmente retenido, en Bolivia un turista no tiene inmunidad ni mucho menos impunidad, los tiempos de la violación sistemática a los derechos humanos terminó con la huida del prófugo de la justicia. pic.twitter.com/b1SxwXGGMu
— Marcel Rivas F. (@Marcelrivasf) October 17, 2020
Bolivia’s unelected top minister repeatedly threatens electoral observers
One of the most powerful people in Bolivia’s coup administration is the draconian Interior Minister Arturo Murillo.
On October 15, Murillo tweeted an indirect threat to the CODEPINK electoral observers: “Behave, we know who you are and where you are.”
Next, in a press conference on October 16, Murillo doubled down on his threats against international monitors, falsely claiming “most of them are leftists and agitators,” and pledging to imprison or deport them if they crossed any lines.
Bolivia’s Interior Minister Arturo Murillo has once again threatened to jail critical electoral observers. He said in press conference today that ‘most of them are leftists and agitators’ and that they’ll be deported or ‘behind bars’ if anything happens. pic.twitter.com/dXTxCWldtn
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) October 17, 2020
The unelected Bolivian government’s systematic intimidation and physical detention of international observers has revealed its deep-seated fear of transparency. On October 18, it will become increasingly clear what it was trying to hide.