EAAF traveled to Bolivia several times from 2007
to 2009 to work on:
n Investigations regarding the Mausoleum of the
Association of Families of the Disappeared and
Martyrs for National Liberation (ASOFAMD)
n The analysis of remains found in a former
clandestine detention center belonging to the
Bolivian Ministry of the Interior
n The investigation of the Teoponte Guerilla case
from the 1970s
n The Union of South American Nations
(UNASUR) investigation of the 2008 events in
the Pando region, and
n To develop a genetic population database for
Bolivia to assist on identification of remains of
human rights victims, which will be delivered
in early 2010.
etween 1964 and 1982, Bolivia
was primarily led by military
rule.1 During this time, security forces committed grave human
rights violations, including torture,
disappearances, forced exile, illegal
detentions, and arbitrary executions.2
According to ASOFAMD, over 14,000
persons were illegally detained, at
least 6,000 went into exile, and nearly
150 disappeared.3
Also, during the 1970s, Bolivia was
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
involved in Operation Condor, the
covert exchange of intelligence
and political prisoners among Latin
American governments.4 Reportedly,
of the 76 Bolivians who disappeared
during General Hugo Banzer’s regime
(1971-1978), 35 disappeared in
Argentina and 8 in Chile.5
Upon the return of democracy in 1982,
the National Commission of Inquiry
into Disappearances,6 appointed by
President Hernán Siles Zuazo, investigated cases of disappearances.7
However, judicial cases related to the
commission did not progress and
those indicted were released.8 As part
of a separate proceeding, a Supreme
Court trial for crimes allegedly committed during General Luis García
El Porvenir, department of Pando, Bolivia. A burned-out car with numerous bullet holes, among evidence left from several days of
confrontations in September 2008. The conflict occurred between supporters of President Morales and those of his political opponent
Leopoldo Fernández, former Governor of the department of Pando. Photo: EAAF.
Meza’s regime (1980-1981) concluded
in 1993 with the convictions of García
Meza and close supporters.9
In 2000, the Inter-American Court of
Human Rights of the Organization
of American States held the Bolivian
State accountable for the disappearance of the university student José
Carlos Trujillo Oroza, which occurred
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
in 1971. The court ordered the state
to pay reparations to the family, locate
and return the remains, and prosecute
those responsible.10 The decision was
an important step towards ending
impunity in Bolivia.11
In 2003, the Bolivian government formed the Inter-institutional
Council to Solve Cases of Forced
Disappearances (CIEDEF) to investigate around 150 cases of state-sponsored disappearances that took place
between 1964 and 1982. In 2006,
the Inter-American Court declared
that progress in this regard had been
slow.12 A verdict was reached by local
courts in the José Carlos Trujillo Oroza
case in 2008, where three former
members of the security forces were
sentenced to two years and eight
months of prison for deprivation of
liberty, but not for forced disappearance or torture. This sentence was
protested by victims’ families associations and human rights groups.13
In 2009, the UN Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights identified impunity and general inefficiencies of the judicial system as areas still
needing improvement in Bolivia.14
EAAF Participation15
EAAF has worked in Bolivia on several
occasions since 1991.16 From 2007 to
2009, EAAF traveled to Bolivia twelve
times, for preliminary investigation
activities, exhumations, and training.
EAAF worked in collaboration with
several local organizations, includ-
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
La Paz, Bolivia, 2008. Photos (this page and next) show the before and after of EAAF’s
recovery of remains from the ASOFAMD Mausoleum. On hand were government
officials and families of the victims believed to be in the burial niches. Photos: EAAF.
ing CIEDEF, ASOFAMD, the Institute
of Forensic Investigations (IDIF), and
ASOFAMD Mausoleum
In 2007, at the request of CIEDEF and
ASOFAMD, EAAF started to investigate
the presumed burial site of Ranier Ibsen
Cárdenas in the General Cemetery
of La Paz. Rainer Ibsen Cárdenas, a
22-year-old university student, was
reportedly detained by state agents
in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in October
1971 and executed by state agents in
a staged escape on June 21, 1972.17 A
year before, in 2006, EAAF advised the
Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office on
the search for the remains of José Luis
persons, and to resolve Ranier
Ibsen Cárdenas’ case, the team was
asked to excavate the location in
the Mausoleum where Ibsen was
presumably buried, with the agreement of ASOFAMD.19 As part of its
investigation, the team had agreed
to conduct anthropological and
genetic analysis of the remains, to
confirm that they belonged to Ranier
Ibsen Cárdenas. In the area of the
ASOFAMD Mausoleum where Ibsen
had been reburied, according to
plaques on site and witness testimonies, the team recovered two skeletons. DNA from these skeletons were
compared by EAAF to blood samples
collected from the Ibsen family. The
results were negative, casting doubts
on the identifications of the other
individuals who were listed as reburied in the ASOFAMD Mausoleum.
Ibsen Peña, the father of Ranier, who
disappeared in 1973 while inquiring
into the disappearance of his son.18
In 1983, the National Commission of
Inquiry into Forced Disappearances
located burial sites for unidentified
persons that it believed contained the
remains of 14 victims of forced disappearance, in the General Cemetery
in La Paz. Ranier Ibsen Cárdenas was
among those listed. At the time, the
National Commission ordered these
burial sites to be exhumed and reinterred at the site of the ASOFAMD
Mausoleum, a memorial site for disappeared persons from Bolivia, also in the
General Cemetery. None of the identifications were validated scientifically.
In 2007, as part of CIEDEF’s efforts
to clarify the fates of disappeared
As a result, in 2008, EAAF returned
to complete exhumations in 15 more
burial niches, which together with the
previous two exhumed, represented
all of the 17 burial niches in Sector B
of the ASOFAMD Mausoleum.20 EAAF
recovered 13 skeletons, six partial skeletal assemblages, and other isolated
skeletal remains, representing a minimum number of 17 individuals. The
National Commission of Inquiry into
Forced Disappearances had originally
reported in 1983 that only 14 individuals were being reburied in the mausoleum.21 EAAF signed an agreement with
the Institute of Forensic Investigations
(IDIF) in La Paz to conduct anthropological and genetic analysis on the remains
recovered and to compare the genetic
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
Teoponte, department of La Paz, Bolivia, 2008. A local, at a potential burial site for remains of members of the Teoponte guerilla
group, active in a remote area of the Bolivian Andes during the 1970s. Photo: EAAF.
profiles from the skeletons with blood
samples collected from family members
of the disappeared persons thought to
be buried at the ASOFAMD Mausoleum.
EAAF’s anthropological analysis found
that all the remains were masculine,
and that nine had signs of peri-mortem
trauma, of which three included gunshot wounds.
EAAF conducted genetic analysis and in November 2008, EAAF
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
delivered four identifications from
the Mausoleum to Bolivian officials and families of victims. Among
these were: Bolivian citizens Ranier
Ibsen Cárdenas and Jaime Virrueta,
the Chilean citizen Agustin Carrillo
Carrasco, and Argentine citizens
Oscar Pérez Bentancurt and Rodolfo
Abel Elguero Suarez, who were all
disappeared in Bolivia in 1972 as
suspected members of the Ejército
de Liberación Nacional (National
Liberation Army, ELN). EAAF has also
issued 12 reports excluding potential
identifications, and 10 re-association
reports reuniting partial skeletons.
The 12 unidentified remains were
returned to ASOFAMD, and are being
kept at the Cemetery of La Paz until
a new mausoleum is built. ASOFAMD
and CIEDEF will continue working to
establish new hypothesis for these 12
remains, in order to collect new blood
samples and resume testing.
Bolivian Ministry of the Interior
Detention Center
EAAF22 returned to La Paz in March
2009 to consult on the investigation of a former clandestine detention center in operation at least from
1970 to 1982, in facilities belonging
to the Bolivian Ministry of the Interior
(Ministerio de Gobierno), and to examine bones discovered at the site. The
Bolivian Ministry of the Interior and
the prosecutor in charge of the investigation requested EAAF’s presence at
the site. EAAF met with investigators
to help plan the next phases of the
excavation and to develop a strategy
for the collection of testimonies and
historical documents. The team analyzed remains that had already been
found at the site, using National Police
Academy (ANAPOL) laboratory space,
and found that they did not correspond to human remains. The former
clandestine detention center will be
converted into a museum after the
During July 2008, EAAF returned to
Bolivia, under a cooperative agreement
between the Argentine and Bolivian
governments, supported by FO-AR.
The team was requested by CIEDEF
and ASOFAMD to provide technical
assistance in the preliminary investigation of the Teoponte Guerrilla case.
In July 1970, a guerrilla group known
as the Ejército de Liberación Nacional
(National Liberation Army, ELN) began
operations in the northern section of
the department of La Paz. Some of
the leaders of this group had been
involved with Che Guevara’s unsuccessful efforts to form a revolutionary
movement, also known as the ELN, in
southern Bolivia three years earlier.23
The Teoponte group was composed
of approximately 42 guerrillas, including Bolivians, Chileans, Argentines,
Colombians, Brazilians, and an
American. After over three months of
conflict with Bolivian security forces,
the group was wiped out, with most of
the guerrillas killed. According to testimonies, some of the guerrillas were
extrajudicially executed after surrendering to the armed forces.
While at the time, some of the remains
of the Teoponte group were recovered
by families, at least 28 are still allegedly
buried in unmarked graves dug by the
armed forces in remote forest locations
around the conflict zone. CIEDEF and
ASOFAMD asked that EAAF recover the
remains, try to identify them, provide
information on peri-mortem trauma
(occurring around time of death), and
return them to their families. The team
interviewed witnesses to the events in
northern La Paz. The team also visited
a total of eleven sites in seven localities
in the Province of Larecaja, department
of La Paz. The sites included places
where 19 persons were believed to be
buried. Information was also collected
about five more sites that were not visited due to time constraints, believed
to contain the remains of nine additional guerrillas.
EAAF24 returned to the area from July
14 to August 14, 2009 and excavated ten sites. EAAF recovered five
individuals from three burial sites:
three from a common grave and two
from individual graves. The team was
unable to locate the graves at four
sites, while in three others, EAAF
located the graves, but there was
evidence that the remains had been
removed.25 EAAF26 resumed its investigations from September 3 to 27,
2009, expanding excavations in four
sites visited in the previous trip, and
excavating three new sites. At one
of the new sites, EAAF recovered the
remains of four individuals, exhuming
two graves containing two skeletons
each. EAAF analyzed the remains at
the IDIF laboratory in La Paz from
October 28 to November 2, 2009.27
The recovered skeletons were very
poorly preserved by the soil, making
anthropological analysis difficult. All
the remains recovered were male and
adult, with the exception of one subadult. Three skeletons exihibited signs
of peri-mortem wounds, and the
team also recovered associated ballistic fragments and personal effects.
Throughout the process, EAAF has
maintained contact with families
of the victims through ASOFAMD,
informing them of the investigation’s
progress and results to date.
EAAF took bone samples from the
nine skeletons recovered, and blood
samples from 16 family members.
These samples were compared at the
EAAF genetics laboratory in Córdoba,
Argentina, where five of the remains
have been identified so far. EAAF delivered the official identifications of the
five Bolivians in early 2010 to their
families and the government. There
is potential for another identification,
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
Teoponte, department of La Paz, Bolivia, 2009. Bolivian Minister of Justice Celima Torrico watches EAAF’s recovery of remains. The first
identifitications from the Teoponte case were made in early 2010. Photo: EAAF.
but EAAF needs additional blood samples to confirm it. For the other three
cases, EAAF has been unable to recover
genetic material due to degradation of
the bone, and will process new bone
samples from the skeletons in an effort
to improve results.
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
Pando Incidents
On September 11, 2008, supporters
of President Evo Morales marching
to Cobija, the capital of the northern
department of Pando, were met and
confronted by pro-local government
forces. These latter forces supported
Leopoldo Fernández, the governor of
the Pando region at the time, and politi-
cal opponent of President Evo Morales.
The protesters backing Morales were
mostly peasants concerned about land
control policy in the area, and the threatened rollback of reforms locally.28 After
the initial confrontation, violence continued in the nearby town of El Porvenir,
and for several days thereafter.
Several inquiries were immediately
conducted by parliamentary officials and the local office of the
United Nations Office of the
High Commissioner for Human
Rights, among others. The Bolivian
Government requested an investigation from UNASUR—an intergovernmental organization of South
American states founded in May
2008, meant to increase regional integration—on September 15, shortly
after the events in Pando. Meeting in
Santiago de Chile, UNASUR agreed
to create a panel to conduct an
impartial investigation. According
to the UNASUR final report, at least
20 Bolivians were killed, the majority of whom were allegedly proMorales peasants or students. The
report also included information on
potential victims of forced disappearances, but was unable to confirm or
deny these cases based on the information collected. A report by the
UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights places the figures at 11 people
killed, and also listed approximately
50 wounded.29 President Morales
removed the governor, Leopoldo
Fernandez—a leader in the opposition party—and declared martial law
in the region.
UNASUR convened the 12 member
panel shortly after the violence, in
preparation to investigate the events
in Pando. Two EAAF members30 were
asked to participate in the investigation and to evaluate the collection of
testimonies regarding potential burial
sites for disappeared persons. To this
end, the team members visited the
investigation sites in Pando in October
2008, and interviewed relevant medical and legal authorities involved with
the search for disappeared persons in
Cobija and El Porvenir in Pando, and
in La Paz. As a result of its investigation and as part of the final UNASUR
report, EAAF made recommendations
in the following areas:
n Ensure the maintenance of a chain
of custody for all remains and associated evidence collected as part of
the investigation.
n Merging and cleaning the list of disappeared persons being collected from
the events in Pando. This requires
the review of official documents and
other sources of information about
the events, as well as contacting families of reported victims.
n Consider DNA analysis only after
other means of identifying the victims have been exhausted, and
represent realistically to families
the possibilities of an identification
being reached.
n Begin collecting ante-mortem information from families of the disappeared victims and medical personnel for identifications. Also collect
DNA samples from families of victims for possible testing to make
n Collect testimonial or documentary
information related to the possible
burial sites. Once potential burial
sites are located, ensure that they are
preserved undisturbed until a plan of
excavation can be put into place.
n Investigations should be multidisciplinary, and involve experts from
fields such as pathology, ballistics,
anthropology, and odontology,
among others.
n Centralize information collected
from all phases of investigation in a
n Consult families of the missing persons during all phases of the investigation, and make psycho-social support available for them.
In early December 2008, the
UNASUR commission declared that
the events of Pando constituted a
massacre under the UN definition, 31
and placed the blame with antifederal government forces in the
area. The commission also faulted
the local judiciary for its inability to
bring perpetrators of the massacre
to trial in Pando. The UN report recommended “independent, impartial
and timely justice” for the victims,
as well as the necessary reparations.
The report also urged adherence to
due process of law in investigating
and/or prosecuting the case. 32
Bolivian DNA Population
IDIF requested that EAAF evaluate
the IDIF genetics laboratory’s technical capacity in the area of identifications involving bone samples. Two
EAAF members traveled to Bolivia
for this purpose, including one EAAF
geneticist,33 and submitted their find-
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
Tahuamanu River, department of Pando, Bolivia, 2008. Video recorded at the time of the confrontation allegedly showed supportors
of President Morales attempting to escape into the Tahuamanu River, and being shot at from the river banks. Photo: EAAF.
ings and recommendations to IDIF in
December 2008, suggesting improvements in equipment and protocols.
EAAF also agreed to construct a reference population database from
200 blood samples from Bolivian citizens. The database was requested
by Institute of Forensic Investigations
(IDIF) for use in the Bolivian context.
These databases help establish the
frequency of a genetic profile (how
statistically common or uncommon a
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report
profile is) in a given population. This
database focuses on the frequency
of genetic profiles in mitochondrial
DNA, which is DNA taken from the
mitochondria in a cell. Establishing
these frequencies is an important tool when trying to establish
the level of certitude for a genetic
match. The 200 blood samples were
collected by IDIF and delivered to
EAAF by December 2008, 100 each
from the cities La Paz and Sucre.
EAAF sent the samples to the Legal-
Medical Institute at the University of
Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The database will be presented to
IDIF in 2011.
Bolivians Disappeared in
As part of EAAF’s activities for the Latin
America Initiative for the Identification
of the Disappeared (LIID), the team has
been contacting human rights organizations and families of victims associa-
tions from neighboring countries. Due
to Operation Condor, these countries
had citizens disappeared in Argentina
during the military dictatorship. An
estimated 40 Bolivians disappeared in
Argentina during Argentina’s last military dictatorship.
During its visits for other activities,
EAAF has coordinated with CIEDEF and
ASOFAMD to locate Bolivian families
whose relatives are believed to have been
disappeared in Argentina. The team has
been able to collect eleven samples for
inclusion in the LIID project. m
1. Bolivia’s military rulers included General René Barrientos Ortuño, 1964-1969; General Alfredo Ovando Candía, 1969-1970; General Juan José Torres 1970; Coronel Hugo Bánzer Suárez, 19711978; Coronel Alberto Natusch Busch, 1979; and General Luis García Meza, 1980-1981.
2. Cuya, Esteban. 1996. “Las comisiones de la verdad en América Latina: Bolivia.” Ko’aga Rone’eta.
3. Ibid. See also, ASOFAMD. “Lista de Asesinados – Desaparecidos. Gobiernos dictatoriales en Bolivia: Coronel Hugo Bánzer Suárez (1971-1978).”
4. Albarracín, Waldo. “La impunidad en Bolivia: Los regímenes democráticos en Latinoamérica y la impunidad”Impunity and Its Impact on Democratic Processes. Santiago, Chile. December 14.
1996. Presentation.
5. ASOFAMD. “Lista de Asesinados – Desaparecidos.”
6. Comisión Nacional de Investigación de Desaparecidos Forzados.
7. Hayner, Priscilla B. 2001. Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity. New York: Routledge. 52-53.
8. Llorenti, Sacha. No date. Bolivian Movement against Impunity. “Impunity in Democracy.”
9. Cuya, Esteban. 1996. “Las comisiones de la verdad en América Latina: Bolivia.” Ko’aga Rone’eta.
10. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. IACHR 2006 Annual Report: Bolivia: Trujillo Oroza Case.
11. The Trujillo family is a case in point: they initiated the legal process related to José Carlos’ disappearance in 1972. Twenty years later, they filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights, which elevated it to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 1999. See, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Trujillo Oroza Case, Judgment of January 26,
2000, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Ser. C) No. 64 (2000).
12. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. IACHR 2006 Annual Report: Bolivia: Trujillo Oroza Case.
13. CEJIL. 2009. “Poder judicial de Bolivia deniega el derecho a la verdad y el acceso a la justicia en el caso Trujillo Oroza.” October 29.
14. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2009. OHCHR in Bolivia (2008-2009): Human Rights Context.
15. This mission was supported by the Argentine for Bilateral Cooperaton of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FO-AR), the Danish Embassy in Bolivia, and the Swedish International Development
Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
16. 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2004, and 2006.
17. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 2005. Report No. 46/05, Petition 786/03, Admissibility, Rainer Ibsen Cárdenas and José Luis Ibsen Peña, Bolivia. October 12.
18. José Luis Ibsen Peña’s case was grouped with José Carlos Trujillo Oroza, with whom he was detained at the El Parí state prison in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. In 2005, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights declared the José Luis Ibsen Peña case admissible, and investigations into the fates of Ibsen Peña and Trujillo are being carried out in the 7th District Court of
Santa Cruz.
19. EAAF member Silvana Turner and EAAF consultant Mariana Segura
20. EAAF member Silvana Turner and EAAF consultants Celeste Perosino, Analia Simonetto, and Selva Varela Istueta, along with EAAF-LIDMO director Carlos Vullo.
21. Presencia. 1983. “Fueron identificadas tumbas de catorce personas...” Espectáculos. February 19.
22. EAAF member Silvana Turner and EAAF consultant María Celeste Perosino
23. Open Society Archives. 1971. “How Guevara’s Successors Failed.” March 31.
EAAF also participated in the exhumation and identification of Che Guevara in 1997. For more information please see the EAAF Annual Report 1996-1997.
24. EAAF member Silvana Turner and EAAF consultants Diego Fochi and Rodrigo Molina participated in this trip.
25. EAAF discovered rectangular-shaped depressions where testimonies had indicated burials might be located. Upon excavating, EAAF encountered soft soil surrounded by compact soil, indicating
that the soft soil was more recent. In one burial, EAAF also recovered a shoe. This evidence was consistent with local testimonies about the presence of soldiers in the burial area, which may
have exhumed the bodies.
26. EAAF member Silvana Turner and EAAF consultants Luciano Rodrigo Molina, Diego Fochi, Viviana D’Amelia, Analia Gonzalez Simonetto and Gabriela Ghidini participated in this trip.
27. EAAF member Silvana Turner and EAAF consultant Viviana D’Amelia participated in this trip.
28. Amnesty International. 2009. “Bolivia: Victims of the Pando massacre still await justice.” September 9.
29. UNASUR. 2008. Informe de la Comisión de UNASUR sobre los sucesos de Pando: Hacia un alba de justicia para Bolivia. Pg. 58; and: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2009.
Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the Office of the High Commisssioner and the Secretary-General. March 9. Pg. 7.
30. EAAF members Miguel Nieva and Silvana Turner
31. According to the report, the events in Pando constituted a massacre, “as an extremely serious and flagrant violation of the right to the life and integrity of a person, the enjoyment and exercise
of which is condicion of all the human rights.” UNASUR. 2008. Informe de la Comisión de UNASUR sobre los sucesos de Pando: Hacia un alba de justicia para Bolivia. Pg. 58
32. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2009. Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the Office of the High Commisssioner and the
Secretary-General. March 9. Pg. 20.
33. EAAF members Silvana Turner and geneticist Carlos Vullo.
EAAF 2007-2009 Triannual Report