He is 71 years old. He arrived to Bolivia after 20 years in the United States where he was in jail serving a drug dealing sentence; he now must respond for asassinations and disappeared people in the dictatorial government of 1980-1981 where he served as Minister of Internal Affairs. The Supreme Court of Bolivia has sentenced him in the 90s and has been waiting for his return in order to make this sentence be complied with.
When he arrived to El Alto International Airport in La Paz, Bolivia, a cold winter dawn and a police operation were the only witnesses of his arrival, so old and full of aches and disorders that he needed a wheelchair. So different from 31 years ago, when he was the strongest man of Luis Garcia Meza dictatorial government. His most famous saying at that time was that 'all who oppose this government should walk around with their last will under their arms', sentence by which he lead all his ministry affairs on that doomed year.
This old, frail man accompanied Garcia Meza in the Coupe d'Etat of July 17th, 1980. They have overthrown President Lidia Gueiler and installed a terror regime from the same day they acquired power. That day a group of violent para-military men assaulted the COB (Bolivian Labor Union Central). They killed Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, Carlos Flores Bedregal and Gualberto Vega Yapura. They kidnapped, tortured and exiled union leaders, politicians and journalists. They are also attributed the death of Father Luis Espinal and the massacre of 8 leaders of MIR (Movement of Revolutionary Left).
A year ago he served half of his sentence and the US Justice freed him under parole. He tried to avoid deportation by applying for assylum but the legal arguments were through and his departure was ordered. Upon arrival he had a thorough medical review and was sent to the maximum security jail of Chonchocoro.
With the burden of his years, his left eye blind, his audition partially lost in both ears as a sequel of the type 2 diabetes, and limping with the consequences or radiation therapy that treated his prostate cancer, the former strong man of the dictatorship has arrived into his prison cell to fulfill the 30 years of prison without indult imposed upon him by the Supreme Court. This convict's cell is RC-01 and will be in isolation regime for four weeks. He is the key to finding Marcelo's body.
This old man is the perfect example of how being 'strong' can make you weak, and how being 'the best' can make you 'the beast'. The families of the dissapeared and the assassinated are asking him to step forward and say where the bodies of his victims are. That is all they want from him. But odds are not with them, as men like him usually prefer to die before having to tell the truth.
Bolivia is the country with the smallest number of people disappeared in dictatorial governments: around 80. Argentina has several thousands, as well as Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay. But it is not about the number. It is about what us, Bolvian people, believe in. This is quite simple: we believe that people should not be killed for any reason at all. We are really surprised when someone kills a human being and we do not admit assassinations.
We just hope our governments, former and present, understand the inefable goodness and naive nature of Bolivians and act accordingly. For us, one person disappeared, one person killed or one person tortured, is already too much. Unnacceptable. Unbearable pain for all of us. Marcelo and Father Luis have never been forgotten, as they represent all the rest who suffered the same fate. They are emblems of democracy. And we hope today's and tomorrow's governments, whatever their political line, will not give us any more emblems to remember. Stop the killings. This government has 75 people dead in its hands already. See the example of how you can end in this old, wrinkled man.