Back to top

Nelson La Madrid continues to receive death threats

Status: 
Facing intimidation
About the situation

On 15 May 2018, two policemen tried to detain human rights defender and lawyer Nelson La Madrid at a bus station in Cochabamba. He was about to travel from Cochabamba City to Lagunillas to be party to a litigation on the Rositas Hydroelectric Project case. The following day, a judge declared the indigenous communities’ popular action against the Rositas Hydroelectric Project  inadmissible.

On 15 May 2018, two policemen tried to detain human rights defender and lawyer Nelson La Madrid at a bus station in Cochabamba. He was about to travel from Cochabamba City to Lagunillas to be party to a litigation on the Rositas Hydroelectric Project case. The following day, a judge declared the indigenous communities’ petition against the Rositas Hydroelectric Project  inadmissible.

Human rights defender and lawyer Nelson La Madrid has been receiving threatening calls and messages since he filed a lawsuit against Bolivia’s National Electricity Company (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad de Bolivia) on 28 March 2018. The lawsuit is aimed at preventing the construction of the Rositas Hydroelectric Project on the basis that it has not received free, prior and informed consent by the affected indigenous communities.

About the HRD

hrd_nelson_la_madrid.pngNelson La Madrid is a lawyer and human rights defender in Cochambamba, Bolivia, who is legally representing the Guaraní indigenous communities of Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao in the trial, which is expected to begin on 4 April 2018. The human rights defender is assisting these indigenous communities, which reside in Santa Cruz Province, to challenge the construction of the Rositas Hydroelectric Project (Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Rositas) before the courts.

24 May 2018
Intimidation of lawyer Nelson La Madrid as judge rules popular action against Rositas Hydroelectric Project inadmissible

On 15 May 2018, two policemen tried to detain human rights defender and lawyer Nelson La Madrid at a bus station in Cochabamba. He was about to travel from Cochabamba City to Lagunillas to be party to a litigation on the Rositas Hydroelectric Project case. The following day, a judge declared the indigenous communities’ popular action against the Rositas Hydroelectric Project  inadmissible.

Human rights defender Nelson La Madrid is providing legal representation to Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao indigenous communities in their case against Bolivia’s Electric National Company (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad de Bolivia ENDE) to stop Rositas Hydroelectric Project. The human rights defender believes that pressure and intimidation by ENDE’s legal team and the Attorney General’s Office led two judges to step down from the case and the third to  rule against the popular action, which would have ensured the protection the indigenous communities whose livelihoods will be seriously affected by Rositas Hydroelectric Project.

On 15 May 2018 Nelson La Madrid was approached by two police men as he waited for a bus in Cochabamba bus station. The two policemen refused to give their identification numbers or show the human rights defender an arrest warrant, but insisted that he accompany them to the police station, due to an alleged complaint against him. Nelson La Madrid refused to go without an arrest warrant and, after debating with the policemen, they let him go on the condition that he would report to the police station in Cochabamba upon his return from Lagunillas. The human rights defender was later informed that there was no complaint against him. He believes the incident was an effort to intimidate him and prevent him for attending the litigation hearing on the Rositas Hydroelectric Project case.

On 16 May 2018, a hearing on the case was held and Judge Guido Castellón declared the popular action submitted by Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao indigenous communities inadmissible. According to the judge, the plaintiffs must challenge Law 940 of 1987, which allows the project to be carried out. He also stated in his ruling that the right to previous, informed and free consent of the indigenous communities was never violated, because the contract between the Bolivian government and the Chinese company responsible for the Rositas Hydroelectric Project is just a proposal for a future contract and is not yet valid. Nelson La Madrid has said they will appeal this decision before the Constitutional Court.

Front Line Defenders is concerned with the increasing level of intimidation faced by those involved in the case surrounding the Rositas Hydroelectric Project. The intimidation of judges undermines the right of the affected communities to an independent and impartial trial, while the intimidation of Nelson La Madrid undermines the communities’ right to have their human rights defended. Front Line Defenders believe the intimidation of Nelson La Madrid is solely related to his legitimate work in defence of human rights.

23 May 2018
Intimidation of lawyer Nelson La Madrid as judge rules popular action against Rositas Hydroelectric Project inadmissible

On 15 May 2018, two policemen tried to detain human rights defender and lawyer Nelson La Madrid at a bus station in Cochabamba. He was about to travel from Cochabamba City to Lagunillas to be party to a litigation on the Rositas Hydroelectric Project case. The following day, a judge declared the indigenous communities’ petition against the Rositas Hydroelectric Project  inadmissible.

Human rights defender Nelson La Madrid is providing legal representation to Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao indigenous communities in their case against Bolivia’s Electric National Company (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad de Bolivia ENDE) to stop Rositas Hydroelectric Project. The human rights defender believes that pressure and intimidation by ENDE’s legal team and the Attorney General’s Office led two judges to step down from the case and the third to  rule against the popular action, which would have ensured the protection the indigenous communities whose livelihoods will be seriously affected by Rositas Hydroelectric Project.

On 15 May 2018 Nelson La Madrid was approached by two police men as he waited for a bus in Cochabamba bus station. The two policemen refused to give their identification numbers or show the human rights defender an arrest warrant, but insisted that he accompany them to the police station, due to an alleged complaint against him. Nelson La Madrid refused to go without an arrest warrant and, after debating with the policemen, they let him go on the condition that he would report to the police station in Cochabamba upon his return from Lagunillas. The human rights defender was later informed that there was no complaint against him. He believes the incident was an effort to intimidate him and prevent him for attending the litigation hearing on the Rositas Hydroelectric Project case.

On 16 May 2018, a hearing on the case was held and Judge Guido Castellón declared the petition submitted by Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao indigenous communities inadmissible. According to the judge, the plaintiffs must challenge Law 940 of 1987, which allows the project to be carried out. He also stated in his ruling that the right to previous, informed and free consent of the indigenous communities was never violated, because the contract between the Bolivian government and the Chinese company responsible for the Rositas Hydroelectric Project is just a proposal for a future contract and is not yet valid. Nelson La Madrid has said they will appeal this decision before the Constitutional Court.

Front Line Defenders is concerned with the increasing level of intimidation faced by those involved in the case surrounding the Rositas Hydroelectric Project. The intimidation of judges undermines the right of the affected communities to an independent and impartial trial, while the intimidation of Nelson La Madrid undermines the communities’ right to have their human rights defended. Front Line Defenders believes the intimidation of Nelson La Madrid is solely related to his legitimate work in defence of human rights.

27 April 2018
New hearing on Rositas Hydroelectric Project case, after two different judges recuse themselves from the case

On Monday 30 April 2018, the new judge assigned to review the Rositas Hydroelectric Project case will hold a hearing to decide the merits of the popular action submitted by the Guaraní indigenous communities of Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao.

Download the Update (PDF)

Human rights defender, Nelson La Madrid, is providing legal representation for both communities in their case against Bolivia’s Electric National Company (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad de Bolivia ENDE) to stop Rositas Hydroelectric Project. The human rights defender has highlighted that now two judges have recused themselves from the case in the last month, claiming that it is outside their jurisdictions. Nelson La Madrid believes that pressure and intimidation by ENDE’s legal team and the Attorney General’s Office, led to both judges decision to step down from the case.

On 4 April 2018 in the city of Cochabamba, Judge Óscar Ortiz recused himself and ordered that the action be reviewed by the presiding court in the department of Santa Cruz. The case was sent to the a Court in Camiri (Juzgado Mixto de Camiri) in the department of Santa Cruz. However on 13 April 2018, Judge Ernesto Valverde, who was assigned to the case in Camiri, also recused himself on the grounds of territorial jurisdiction, and ordered the action be reviewed by another judge in Lagunillas municipality, also located in the department of Santa Cruz.

The new judge will hold a hearing on the case on 30 April 2018. Nelson La Madrid fears the new judge will also recuse himself from the case, denying the communities of Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao the right to justice by further delaying the process and exhausting the resources of the claimants.

On 25 April 2018, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, asked the courts in Santa Cruz to resolve the Rositas Project’s case, stating that “he cannot understand how some families and communities can be against the dreams of the whole department”. He also said that he has not received any proposals to better protect the interest of those who are opposing the hydroelectric project.

The statement of President Morales is in line with Bolivia’s Minister of Energy and the president of ENDE. During a joint press conference on 3 April 2018, the Minister of Energy labelled those involved in the popular action “bad people”, who were only seeking financial compensation for the development in their department. He asked the people of Santa Cruz to defend the hydroelectric project.

Front Line Defenders is concerned with the increasing level of intimidation facing judges hearing this case, which effectively undermines the right of the affected communities to an independent and impartial hearing. Front Line Defenders expresses further concern about the increasing persecution and intimidation of indigenous and environmental rights defenders in Bolivia, including repeated public statements by high level authorities, which place them at risk of physical attacks or further campaigns of intimidation and harassment.

6 April 2018
Judge recuses himself from Rositas Hydroelectric Project case following intimidation

On 4 April 2018, the judge reviewing the popular action challenging the activities of Rositas Hydroelectric Project recused himself from deciding the case during a hearing in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Human rights defenders involved in the case reported that the judge had been subjected to intimidation

Download the Update (PDF)

Human rights defender Nelson La Madrid is providing legal representation for the Guaraní indigenous communities of Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao, located in Santa Cruz province, Bolivia. The defender is supporting these indigenous communities, who challenged before the domestic courts the execution of “Rositas Hydroelectric Project” (Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Rositas), promoted by Bolivia’s Electric National Company (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad de Bolivia ENDE) in their territories without their free, prior and informed consent. The communities have opposed the project because it will flood approximately 45,000 hectares of land, leaving the territory of twelve Guaraní communities (approximately 500 families) under water. Nelson La Madrid has been subjected to a series of threatening phone calls as a result of his work on behalf of the communities.

On 29 March, a civil court admitted the popular action and resolved that ENDE suspend all administrative or legal activity in the framework of the construction of the Rositas hydroelectric plant until there is a decision on the merits of the claim. However, during the case hearing on 4 April 2018, Judge Óscar Ortiz recused himself from deciding the case on the grounds of territorial jurisdiction, and ordered the action must be reviewed by the courts in Santa Cruz, because of proximity to Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao indigenous communities. Nelson La Madrid believes that Judge Ortiz was subjected to pressure and intimidation from ENDE’s legal team and the Attorney General’s Office, which led to his decision to step down from the case.

Furthermore, on 3 April 2018, at a press conference, Bolivia’s Minister of Energy, Rafael Alarcón, and the president of ENDE , Joaquín Rodríguez, labelled those involved in the popular action opposing the project as “bad people” who were only seeking financial compensation.

Front Line Defenders expresses concern about the increasing persecution and intimidation of indigenous and environmental rights defenders in Bolivia and the risks they face because of their work protecting the land and livelihood of indigenous communities from the negative impact of extractive projects.

3 April 2018
Nelson La Madrid continues to receive death threats ahead of trial surrounding Rositas Hydroelectric Project

Human rights defender and lawyer Nelson La Madrid has been receiving threatening calls and messages since he filed a lawsuit against Bolivia’s National Electricity Company (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad de Bolivia) on 28 March 2018. The lawsuit is aimed at preventing the construction of the Rositas Hydroelectric Project on the basis that it has not received free, prior and informed consent by the affected indigenous communities.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

The Rositas Hydroelectric Project threatens to flood approximately 45,000 hectares of land, which is home to twelve Guaraní communities (approximately 500 families). Bolivia’s National Electricity Company is attempting to go ahead with the project without seeking the free, prior and informed consent of the affected Guaraní communities, as required by international law and article 30 of the Bolivian Constitution.

On 28 March 2018, Nelson La Madrid received an anonymous phone call in which a distorted voice warned him that he will regret pursuing the lawsuit. On 31 March 2018, he received a message saying “if you insist, your Holy Week will be very holy”. On 2 April, he received another anonymous call warning him that he will not make it to the trial.

Nelson La Madrid had received death threats related to his work with the Guaraní communities prior to filing the lawsuit. In November 2017, while preparing the lawsuit, the human rights defender received a message as he returned from a visit to the Tatarenda Nuevo community. It said: “happy bus trip, darling, you may not reach Cochabamba”.

On 29 March 2018, a civil court acknowledged the lawsuit and ordered that the National Electricity Company suspend all administrative and legal activity related to the construction of the Rositas Hydroelectric Project, until there is a ruling.

The court hearing is scheduled to begin on 4 April, and human rights lawyer Nelson La Madrid and the complainants from the Tatarenda Nuevo and Yumao communities fear threats and reprisals will escalate once the court case begins.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the safety of human rights defender Nelson La Madrid. Front Line Defenders expresses further concern about the increasing persecution and intimidation of indigenous and environmental rights defenders in Bolivia and the risks they face everyday to protect the land and livelihood of indigenous communities from the adverse human rights impact of extractive projects.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Bolivia to:

1. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Nelson La Madrid, in coordination with the human rights defender;

2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the death threats against Nelson La Madrid with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bolivia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.