Press Release Bolivia Latin America and the Caribbean Organization of American States US Foreign Policy

US Senate Appropriations Language Directs Secretary of State to Examine OAS Role in Bolivia’s 2019 Coup

October 20, 2021

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460Mail_Outline

Washington, DC — Language included in 2022 appropriations legislation directs the US Secretary of State to assess the transparency and legitimacy of Bolivia’s October 2019 elections and to specifically assess the role played by the Organization of American States (OAS) in those elections. The Appropriations Committee report attached to the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill also expresses concern about “the political crisis that followed [Bolivia’s 2019 elections], and the role of the Organization of American States [OAS] electoral observation mission in that process.” The report language instructs the secretary of state to report on “progress” made in determining who is responsible for human rights violations during the coup period.

Along with similar legislative language that was approved by the House of Representatives in July, this text further demonstrates that members of Congress remain determined to hold the OAS and other actors accountable for their role in the tragic events that took place in Bolivia in late 2019. Previously, Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, Hank Johnson, and other members of Congress have sought answers from the OAS regarding its statements and actions that, in the words of The New York Times, “heightened doubts about the fairness of the [2019] vote and fueled a chain of events that changed the South American nation’s history. The opposition seized on the claim to escalate protests, gather international support, and push Mr. Morales from power with military support weeks later.” Congress members Jan Schakowsky and Chuy Garcia have also called for an investigation into the OAS role, in an op-ed published by The Hill. 

The OAS has yet to respond to the questions and concerns raised by members of Congress.

“This language is a significant step toward holding those responsible for the 2019 coup in Bolivia, and its violent aftermath, accountable,” CEPR Director of International Policy Alexander Main said. “This represents the strongest action the US Congress has yet taken to fully investigate what happened during Bolivia’s 2019 elections and to hold the OAS accountable for its role in supporting a military coup that toppled the country’s democratically elected government and that was followed by violent repression that saw many Indigenous Bolivians massacred.”

The appropriations language states, in part: 

The Committee directs the Secretary of State to assess: (1) the transparency and legitimacy of the elections by soliciting information from independent experts, including an assessment of the role of the OAS; and (2) progress in investigations of responsibility for violations of human rights that occurred during that period, taking into account the August 2021 findings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ interdisciplinary group of independent experts, the GIEI–Bolivia.

The US Secretary of State is required to submit a report to the appropriations committees no later than 120 days after the appropriations bill is passed.

“The Appropriations Committee is also forcing the State Department to take seriously a recent report by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts [GIEI, by its Spanish acronym] that investigated human rights abuses during and after the coup,” Main said. “The GIEI–Bolivia found, among other conclusions, that the post-coup de facto government of Jeanine Áñez was responsible for the Sacaba and Senkata massacres, which it concluded were racist in nature, among many other grave human rights crimes.”


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