• Short Summary

    Bolivia's seven year period of military rule under President Hugo Banzer Suarez may soon be at an end.

  • Description

    SV & CU Senor Guillermo Capobianco speaking in Spanish with from left to right, Alfonso Ferrufino, Oscar Eid Franco, and Jaime Paz Zamora, seated beside him

    Initials BB/0015

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Bolivia's seven year period of military rule under President Hugo Banzer Suarez may soon be at an end. General Banzer who seized power in a coup d'etat in 1971, has announced the country is to have elections in July next year -- and that he intends to lift the ban imposed on left wing parties when he took power. Since the coup that overthrew the short-lived left wing regime of President Juan Jose Torres, General Banzer has, his critics claim, employed brutal methods to suppress opposition. Trade unions have been outlawed and the army used to end strikes. Now with the promise of free elections, one of the country's outlawed left wing parties, the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionara, the MIR, has announced its intention to participate in the elections, if there are guarantees of genuine democratic freedoms. At a secret news conference in the capital, La Paz, earlier this month (6 December) one of MIR's leaders, Senor Guillermo Capobianco spoke of what he saw as the party's role in Bolivia's future.

    SYNOPSIS: Senor Capobianco said that the MIR would participate in the elections only if there were guarantees of genuine democratic freedoms -- a general amnesty for all political prisoners, free access to the media for all parties and full freedom for trade unions and other organisations. He said that the economic and political programme instituted by General Banzer was already displaying signs of break-down because of internal economic and political factors and the world economy.

    Maladministration had, he said, made constitutional change inevitable, but the MIR believed the government was seeking to gain, via the democratic process, the power it needed to guarantee its survival. It was crucial now, he said, for the Bolivian people to be made aware of this and participate fully in the democratic process. It was only then that the country would progress and not slip back further. After six years of military rule, the country had been ground down economically and politically.

    President Banzer has announced his decision not to stand at the forthcoming elections and had hoped to retire completely, though the army has refused this. Senor Capobianco said the M.I.R. felt this decision was a good one that could contribute to the growth of better conditions. He spoke to an invited group of newsmen and photographers. The ban on left wing parties has not yet been lifted and, until it is, he and other party leaders could face arrest and imprisonment. Left wing newspapers and church organisations inside Bolivia have recently expressed concern at the nation's political situation.

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