Silvestre Saisari, a bearded, soft-spoken leader in the Bolivian Landless Workers' Movement (MST), sat in his office in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The building was surrounded by a high cement wall topped with barbed wire. It looked like a military bunker. This made sense given the treatment Saisairi and other like-minded social and labor organizers received from the city's right wing elite. In 2005, the young MST leader was attacked while giving a press conference on landowners' use of armed thugs to suppress landless farmers. To prevent him from denouncing these acts to the media, people reportedly tied to landowners pulled his hair, strangled, punched, and beat him.(1) Sitting in his well-protected headquarters, Saisari explained, "Land is a center of power. He who has land, has power .we are proposing than this land be redistributed, so their [elites] power will be affected."(2)
A soldier running from angry protesters died instantly when he fell off of a cliff, town offices were burned down, and one mayor escaped to Lima, claiming that his constituency was planning to lynch him. In spite of the Organization of American States' report of a normal election, Peruvian President Alan García called on the armed forces to quell violence across the country during and after regional elections held November 19, 2006.
The United Nations " spells – and it ought to spell – the end of the system of unilateral action, exclusive alliances, and spheres of influence, and the balances of power and all the other expedients which have been tried for centuries and have always failed" said President Roosevelt after the Crimean Conference where plans for the UN were laid. Yet today most of the expedients that Roosevelt said had always failed are back in full force. We see this clearly in the field of human rights.
As we walked briskly toward the demonstration, my fixer, Hasan, called over his shoulder, "Stay close. If anyone asks where you're from, tell them you're Canadian."