With the support of more than 100 human rights organisations, the family of Sebastián Moro launched an international campaign a few days ago to demand justice for the Argentinean journalist murdered in Bolivia during the coup d’état against Evo Morales and to demand that the case be classified as a “crime against humanity”. As I was saying, Penélope Moro, Sebastián’s sister, is there in the Bolivian capital to tell us how things are going.

Thank you very much to Cuatro Elementos, to you Mariano and to Radio Pichincha and to all the audience in the region who are listening to us. We have been wanting to communicate for a long time, but it has been complicated by the different steps I am taking here in La Paz.

Tell us, because the truth is an issue that unfortunately has not reached the mainstream media, tell us what we know about what happened to Sebastian and how this is progressing in terms of justice there in Bolivia.

Well, Sebastián was my brother. He was an Argentinean journalist living in La Paz, he lived in La Paz for two years, he worked for the Central Campesina de Bolivia media, he was editor of the union newspaper “Prensa Rural” and also for the union’s radio station, Radio Comunidad. At the same time, he was reporting for different media in the region and since the elections of 20 October onwards, he was chronicling for Página 12 as a correspondent, the scenario that the right wing was putting forward of false fraud, which coincidentally today the last official count, after there had been so many in charge of the Bolivian justice system, revealed that there was no fraud, but that the MAS had won by that famous 10 %. We know that in 2019 the right-wing took advantage of this situation, and created this confusion in society in order to promote and carry out the coup d’état that ended up being consummated on 10 November 2019. In this framework, Sebastián worked in anticipation of what was going to happen, in fact his last act alive was to tell Página 12 about a coup d’état in Bolivia, which took place on Saturday night, 9 November. Let’s not forget that Sunday 10 November 2019 is when Evo Morales is due to leave the country under death threat, his family and a lot of other officials, of course. That is why we say that this is when the coup is consummated because it is also on that date that the military forces, the police, the so-called mutinies had already done so days before. Sebastián had been writing about it for Página 12 since 8 November, days before that too, but above all from 8 November onwards, and on 9 November itself, these were very dangerous days for the workers of the popular, public, peasant media, among whom Sebastián worked mainly, which was the eye of the storm, the media of the Federation of the Tropic of Cochabamba, which were set on fire. It was in this context that we lost contact with Sebastián on Friday night. We had previously learned that his director, the head of the CCB media, José Aramayo, had been kidnapped; I don’t know if you have seen the photos of a journalist tied to a tree, handcuffed?

Yes, it was horrifying.

At that time, we were already in communication with Sebastián, he was telling us everything that was happening, it was just days before the coup was due to take place, he would have to leave the country. He never lost his temper, “take care of yourselves” he would say to us who were desperate and we would say “take care of yourself” and “come to Argentina urgently” and he would say “yes, after a while, first you have to be here, you have to tell us what is happening”. We never thought it was going to be such a violent coup, I think that was a mistake, not thinking it was going to be such a bloody coup, with blood, with guns, military and police in the streets, a state turned upside down as happened during the 70s in our region. But it happened like that and that night we lost contact with Sebastián, until he was found in his house on Sunday, beaten, unconscious, he was admitted to a clinic here in La Paz and we had already organised ourselves to travel, we arrived in batches, the women in the family, me, my mother and my other older sister. Sebastián died a week later, as a result of a stroke which, in the light of the forensic doctors’ reports and evidence, which we initially presented to our lawyers specialising in human rights in Argentina to remove them, they consider that he died as a result of a beating, which caused this tremendous stroke, and after, a chain of responsibilities that we are fighting for to be investigated.

Was he unable to give any kind of testimony, was he not in a position to tell us what had happened to him?

No, when I arrived in La Paz my brother had already been transferred to intensive care and no, my brother never spoke again.

And how is the investigation into these events progressing? I imagine that during the year that the coup d’état lasted, nothing more must have been done than to try to cover it up. Since the return of democracy, let’s say, in Bolivia, has it been possible to make some progress or it is the case that things are very slow today?

I can tell you how things are not moving forward, if you like. Unfortunately, here in La Paz no progress is being made in any kind of investigation linked to the crimes against humanity suffered during the coup and the subsequent establishment of the dictatorship of Jeannine Áñez and company, I don’t want to avoid mentioning Fernando Camacho, Pumari, Tuto Quiroga and many more, Almagro, Trump, we know that it is an interminable axis upwards. But the reality is that no progress is being made, I have come here to get the case that the coup had opened by order of the IACHR Rapporteurship. The coup of course opened it, but with the intention of dropping it, we fought for a year and a half to get a lawyer, in the end it was a lawyer who represents us here in Bolivia. It was an impossible undertaking because here there is no perspective of human rights and crimes against humanity as we have in Argentina, so we could not establish trust or compromise with the lawyers we were talking to. The case ended up being taken as a simple homicide, it ended up being taken out of context of the coup d’état, a tremendous thing, seeing what was happening in the country and that Sebastián was the first journalist to denounce the coup, both within Bolivia and abroad. It had been two very difficult years and thanks to the human rights organisations that accompanied us, from Argentina and now from Bolivia, I am here and I am very happy. Well, we have been able to find a lawyer we trust, who is Bolivian, of course. In Argentina we did have representation, but we needed Bolivian representation and it was a struggle. Now we have it and we are reviewing the case and asking for an investigation to be reopened because what the coup had done was just empty paperwork, meaningless testimonies, there was no one to clear up the case. So, we are now re-launching it. And then, in the rest of the massacres that occurred in this context, such as the Senkata and Sacaba massacres, the El Pedregal massacre, unfortunately I have to tell you that no matter how much political will the government seems to have, because that is what the current Bolivian government has said, the justice system is not working on them. In fact, they are isolated cases, it would be logical that they should be investigated jointly. So, there are no detainees in the massacres of the brothers and sisters of these indigenous populations, who died after Sebastian. The people who are in prison are officials of the dictatorship, like Jeannine Áñez and many others, they are in prison for corruption and illegitimate seizure of power, but not for any of the massacres. So, there is still a long way to go in terms of crimes against humanity and in this sense, since I arrived, we have been trying to get closer to the relatives, to introduce them to Sebastián, who is one more brother who died in the same situation as theirs, and for us to unite, because it has been very difficult for us from Argentina to carry on the struggle alone, it is with them, with whom we share the pain, with whom we have to fight, so that is what we are trying to do.

We were talking about the same colleague, the person he worked with who was tied to a tree, there were many cases of torture, of kidnapping that occurred during those days, I imagine that there must be several investigations that should be progressing in parallel and how important it would be that all of this….

No, Mariano, they are not progressing. I can’t lie to you because I talk to the relatives and the pain and the impotence is the same. We thought that they were a bit more on track because they were in this country, that we were lagging behind in the process because we were in Argentina, with a pandemic in the middle that made it impossible for us to get there, but I am together with the relatives, who are now my family too, and no progress is being made. In fact, there is a march scheduled for next Monday, from Sacaba, Cochabamba to the city of La Paz, demanding justice, because no progress is being made, and in Senkata there is no progress either. In El Pedregal there is no progress either. There is no progress whatsoever on the massacres. What can be understood as progress is the intervention of the GIEI, which is a special investigation group ordered by the IACHR to put in order what had emerged during the coup and the dictatorship of Áñez in Bolivia, which presented a while ago a very detailed report on the matter, in which 38 deaths were counted, including Sebastián, and that gave a lot of strength, a lot of impetus. President Arce made a statement on the matter, he said that he would promote all the processes of Truth, Memory and Justice, but well, the truth is that justice is not working and, in my opinion, it would need more of a political push. A state policy like the one we were able to achieve in Argentina after so many years of struggle, too. So, I think it is going to be hard work but we are not going to stop and that is the position we have taken so far with the relatives.

At the very least, it needs the impetus and the auditing or monitoring of the other powers, the Executive and the Legislative, in order for this to move forward. I keep thinking about the situation of Sebastián as an Argentinean, there is the whole issue of the lack of help from the Argentinean Embassy, what was later proven about the smuggling of arms by the Argentinean government in support of the coup d’état, I don’t know if there is also a parallel case.

Look, I tell you, personally, about everything that has been involved in mourning, which has been complicated because mourning requires you, it demands silence, introspection. But at the same time, if you have to fight publicly, there are conflicting processes and that is what we have experienced. And the last big blow we felt was when we discovered that the Argentine embassy had been an accomplice, an active participant, not only the embassy, but also the previous Argentine government had participated in this coup. The truth is that it was a shock, for me and for my family it was very painful to know because in that moment of desperation when we arrived and we tried… we accompanied Sebastián until the last seconds of his life with all the effort and desperation in the world because we knew that there was a horrible coup d’état and everything that was happening here in Bolivia. We trusted the consular authorities and yet they were denying him the attention he deserved, at the very least there was abandonment of person. We have said it many times, the Argentinean ambassador at the time, Normando Álvarez, did not commit himself to my brother’s cause, although he went to the clinic to see him for a few days, when my mother and sister arrived, he promised to take prescriptions that I could not buy because the street was chaotic, I had to walk, we had no mobility and they were far away, and he, having everything, never returned with the purchase of those prescriptions for my brother. He denied us the medical plane to transport Sebastian, before he died and after he died. He claimed that no Argentine plane could go to Bolivian soil because of the political conflict.

Weapons yes, but no humanitarian aid.

And that was the shock, wasn’t it? I have been talking to this human being in the clinic in solitude, waiting for my family to arrive, praying to all the saints that Sebastian would get well. And this man offering me yerba mate for my mate, and then I saw him in the media, on the televisions in the clinic, saying that all the Argentinean journalists were safe because there had been attacks on Argentinean journalists, that’s real, in the streets, in the public thoroughfare, because they had gone there specially to cover the coup. But nevertheless, he knew that there was an Argentinean journalist who was dying in a clinic and he omitted to say so. He omitted to say that, not all journalists were safe, on the contrary. Even I, who am also a journalist, had not gone there as a journalist, I was there as a sister, accompanying my brother, to find out what was happening, I did not receive any kind of help, but rather that in the hostel around the corner from the clinic they could give me a discount, for example. Things like that. So, the role of the embassy was pathetic and I don’t think there are responsibilities….

Unfortunately, you can’t leave a register of all these attitudes, you have your mind set on helping the person who needs it as a priority and you don’t leave a record of all these barbarities that go on around you.

Imagine that Sebastian was dying, I was in a state of desperation telling my mum “Look, it’s dangerous for you to come” (because it was dangerous to come to Bolivia at this time, “but Sebastian is dying, come”). “Come” and also because I couldn’t do it on my own, it was too much for me and they were also desperate to come and help. At first, we thought it was something minor, that’s why I travelled alone, otherwise the three of us would have been together. And then because I could see, although my brother didn’t speak, his body did. I saw bruises on his body, which are the fundamental evidence today, they have been presented to the courts in all areas, in Argentina, in Bolivia and also internationally, which I photographed because I didn’t know if they were the result of the stroke or not, I consulted with doctors and there were doctors who told me that they were the result of torture, others who said “only God knows”. And also, because when I looked out onto the street, I saw what was happening in the streets, the burning of the whipalas in the square on the corner, a Bolivia very different from the one I had known in previous months, under Sebastián’s guidance. A state of shock, of fear, of desperation, the truth is that I don’t even want to remember it, because I am trembling again. I was even afraid for myself, I had to hide in the rooms of the clinic to talk to my family to tell them how I was doing and to tell them about Sebastian’s body. And outside they are burning whipalas, they are beating women in skirts, how do I go on. The advice they gave me was “stay as long as you can, but only report it when you get to Argentina, because if you don’t, you don’t know if you’ll come back”. And that’s how it happened with Facundo Molares, the Argentinean photojournalist who ended up in prison for more than a year, the year that the dictatorship lasted, in a maximum-security prison, tortured… So, if we had denounced in Bolivia what we were going through, we would probably have ended up in prison, we would have been kidnapped for a year in any prison, who knows what would have happened to us.

We need the region to become aware, especially Bolivia to become aware that it has to put an end to impunity, because if not in two, three- or five-years’ time there will be another coup and so on and so on, and we can never allow this to happen again.