Guardian Documentary on Disability Rights Caravan in Bolivia

This video by the Guardian was recommended by one of the many great commenters on this blog. It’s a 30-minute long film about a caravan of disabled people and their carers in Bolivia. The protesters were marching to claim the £70 a month pension disabled people have been promised by Evo Morales government. The blurb for the video runs

People with disabilities are among the most discriminated against in Bolivia. Fed up with being ignored, a group of them march across the Andes to the seat of the government in La Paz, asking to speak to President Evo Morales. They are met with riot police, barricades, teargas and water cannon

Headed by determined leaders, including Rose Mery, Marcelo, Feliza and Miguel, the protesters camp on the streets a block away from the main plaza near the government palace. For the first time in Bolivia’s history, police erect 3m-high barricades, station tanks and hundreds of riot officers to stop the protesters in wheelchairs from entering the plaza.

Violent confrontations flare up between police and the protesters, with officers using pepper spray and water cannon. The government refuses to discuss their request for a pension of $70 a month and the protesters suspend themselves from the city’s bridges in their wheelchairs.

After following the protesters on the march, film-makers Violeta Ayala, Dan Fallshaw and Fernando Barbosa gain intimate access to their camp, including up-close scenes of regular violent reactions from the police. The film-makers and other journalists are also threatened. For three months the activists with disabilities attempt to speak to the president but face criticism from the state’s official news outlets.

As public pressure grows, can Rose Mery and her fellow protesters win their fight?

There’s also links to a piece, which followed up what happened afterwards, and to where people can share their experiences of being a disability campaigner.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2017/may/05/fighting-for-a-pension-disability-rights-protesters-in-bolivia-face-barricades

This is a deeply moving video. Many of the protesters are in wheelchairs. It states that they spent 30 days in Cochabamba protesting, then 35 days on the road to tackle the government in La Paz. Their sojourn in the country’s capital lasted at least another ten days.

They wanted to entire Murillo Plaza, but find when they get there that the way is blocked by riot police in full body armour, with shields and tear gas. In subsequent confrontations, the rozzers use water cannon on them. The protesters try several times to break through the security cordon. When this fails, they settled down in tents and shelters. At one stage they are so desperate that a woman in a wheelchair, Rose Mery, has herself hoisted into the air from a bridge.

A government spokesman appears on television to denounce them, claiming that they are trying to destabilise the government. One of the men protesting states very clearly that they aren’t politicians. If they were, he says, they’d be better politicians than those in power.

Eventually they managed to get a meeting with the employment minister, who flatly refuses to discuss the pension. The protesters are naturally disgusted. As a reaction to this, they cover themselves with rubbish, chanting that ‘Evo! Evo! Evo treats us as rubbish!’ Later, they strip down to their underpants. Then one night a car smashes through a group of 12 of the protesters, injuring eight and killing two. One of the victims is an eight-year old girl, whose mother is killed and the child herself put into a coma.

Two of the leaders, Marcelo and Feliz, are forced to leave the camp in fear of their lives. Another man, Miguel, is hospitalised with urinary problems.

The protesters are deeply cynical about the lies spread by the government. They are not impressed with the claim that they have access to free healthcare. One of the speakers also chillingly describes how his sister tried to find a doctor to ‘put him out of his misery’. It’s the kind of forced euthanasia that was adopted as state policy in Nazi Germany.

The group includes people of both European and indigenous heritage. Bolivia is a Roman Catholic country, and one of the protesters carries a cross.

Although conditions are clearly much harsher in Bolivia as a developing nation, many disabled people and their carers and friends will recognise similar attitudes. Our government is similarly killing disabled people through denying them the benefits they are owed through the very stringent and fraudulent attitude of the assessors and others setting the Work Capability Tests. Under these, seriously ill people, including those in comas, have been unfairly and ludicrously judged ‘fit for work’. Mike also described in his blog how one disabled person, an amputee, was asked by the DWP when she expected her limbs to grow back. This attitude also extends to people, whose health problems don’t show, like those suffering depression and anxiety. Their condition has been made much worse by the stress of these tests. And just as outrageously, people with depression, who have confessed to thoughts of suicide, have been asked why they haven’t done it.

The Bolivian protesters state they feel powerless against a government that has the media and police on its side.

The feeling is shared by many disabled people and their carers in Britain. The Beeb and the other TV stations have frequently not covered demos here against austerity. And thanks to the government’s campaign of lies, stigmatising all disabled people as fraudsters, hate crime against the disabled has risen by a monstrous 413 per cent.

And just as the Bolivian politicos hide themselves away from protesters, so have the idiots and tyrants running the DWP. Remember Ian Duncan Smith? He repeatedly refused to give evidence before the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee investigating benefit deaths. When he finally did attend, he turned up surrounded with armed police. Just in case he was going to be attacked by all the disabled people on the public balcony.

Other examples of aIDS’ military-style courage, sorry, craven cowardice includes him leaving Tory meetings early so he won’t have to meet any protesters, and hiding in hotel laundry bins.

Bolivia is a poor country, but I don’t think it will be long before the working people of this country are forced into a similar level of poverty. The Tory authors of the book, Britannia Unchained, argued that British working people should also put up with lower wages, poorer working conditions, longer hours and greater job insecurity, in order to compete with the peoples of the Developing World. Who are similarly being made poorer and more desperate by their politicos, following the same neoliberal tosh. Meanwhile, the capitalist class – the financiers and proprietors – get richer.

All over the world working people, the poor and the disabled, are being attacked, demonised and maltreated by their government. We need to stand in solidarity with them, wherever they are, for a better world for all of us.

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5 Responses to “Guardian Documentary on Disability Rights Caravan in Bolivia”

  1. stilloaks Says:

    Reblogged this on SUBSTRATUMS.

  2. The Porcelain Doll Says:

    Reblogged this on Perfectlyfadeddelusions.

  3. Jill Jervis Says:

    Similar to the treatment here but we’re going backwards & they are trying to move forwards.

  4. katythenightowl Says:

    Reblogged this on The Night Owl and commented:
    As a disabled woman in Britain, my heart goes out to those people, in Bolivia, who are fighting their government to make them deliver on their promises of a small pension – something they need,in order to survive.
    The brutality with which they were treated, by their government, made me feel sick – and terribly afraid – as I feel that, if the tories win the general elecetion, it won’t be long before we disabled in Britain face a similar form of treatment, especially with all the evidence that has already been gathered about the thousands of people who have died unnecessarily here in the UK, due to our governments’ fake austerity measures, that have been aimed at the disabled, the ill, the poor, the weak, and anyone else unable to fight back!
    It feels as if the whole world has turned into a playground for the rich, and an ever-increasing nightmare for everybody else.
    I just hope and pray that the protesters in Bolivia are able to change their fellow people’s minds into helping them as they should do!

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