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Bolivian legal research organization firebombed

By Chris Hufstader
Elba Flores del Centro de Estudios Jurdicos e Investigacin Social (CEJIS).

The office of the Centre for Legal Studies and Social Research (CEJIS) in Santa Cruz, Bolivia was firebombed on Wednesday, 13 August. According to a statement released by CEJIS the next day, nine firebombs were used to burn their office and a neighboring building at 6:30 pm. The organization did not report any injuries to its staff.

CEJIS went on to say that the attack was similar to others inflicted recently on four other civil society organizations in the area, all of which have been working in the region for many years in defense of the rights of indigenous peoples and peasant communities in Santa Cruz.

Oxfam America's South America regional office expressed concern and sympathy regarding the attack. "CEJIS has been working with Oxfam America in Bolivia for several years now," declared Raul Ho, Oxfam America's coordinator for sustainable livelihoods and environmental programs. "CEJIS has played a key role in obtaining land titling for the Chiquitano indigenous peoples," said Ho.

CEJIS has 30 years of experience working on the deepening of democracy, social justice, human rights, and the democratic freedoms of indigenous people, peasants, and civil society. The organization reaffirmed its commitment to continue working on development of the region and throughout Bolivia despite such attacks and intimidation. This is the second firebomb attack on CEJIS' office since November 2007.

This attack occurred two days before an indigenous peoples' celebration of the historic March for Territory and Dignity held in Beni on August 15, 1990. This march marked an opening of the pathway to justice and equality, as new agrarian reform laws have allowed the Chiquitano people of Santa Cruz and other indigenous groups to claim their right to communal lands in Bolivia.

"Oxfam America expresses its solidarity with CEJIS" added Raul Ho, "and conveys its concern in regards to acts of violence and disrespect for this social organization and its headquarters. We also trust that the authorities will prosecute and punish those responsible as required under Bolivian law," he said.

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