LA PAZ – Amparo Carvajal, the Spanish president of the Permanent Human Rights Assembly of Bolivia, or APDHB, at her 77 years of age leads an incessant fight for human rights in this country where she has lived for the past 45 years.
Carvajal, born in Riano in the northeastern Spanish province of Leon, told EFE in an interview that her political life began in Bolivia, where she has directed schools, denounced injustice, demanded respect for human rights and where she continues to defend the most vulnerable of its citizens.
Last month she was elected president of the private APDHB for the purpose of maintaining the independence of this organization dedicated to defending human rights against the government of President Evo Morales.
Carvajal criticized the government’s recent reaction to complaints by disabled people demanding their monthly $72 compensation, which has not been forthcoming despite months of fruitless protests.
She said that if Morales had listened to the people’s demands, “this problem that has gone on for three months would have been cut short and the government would have looked brilliant, instead of looking defeated as it does now.”
At various times, police have repressed the disabled protesters with tear gas and water cannons, while the government ordered high fences installed to keep the disabled away from the seat of government.
Carvajal also regrets the continuing problems of access to education and health care in Bolivia, two of her struggles that have achieved no results, she said.
“I’ve always tried, as an educator, to promote this country’s right to better education, and that’s where I feel like a failure,” she said.
She recalls how impressed she was that under the government of Hernan Siles Suazo (1982-1985), the first constitutional democracy after a period of military dictatorships, children preferred to work to help their parents rather than go to school to get an education.
At present, Bolivia not only allows child labor but legalized it 10 years ago.
“I so admire the reforms and the teachers’ humanity, but the country has yet to become aware of how much education and the teachers are really worth,” she said
She also noted that state education “needs to take a qualitative leap forward.”
Carvajal also spoke about the situation in the jails here, where many people are jailed preventively without being sentenced for any crime and where inmates are illegally charged to live in a cell.
“All the jails are businesses, plus they are villages where people get used to living...So who are we going to blame? Only the justice system, which is totally subject to the government,” said this veteran in the battle for human rights.
She also accused the ruling Movement to Socialism, or MAS, party for naming “its people” to run many of the country’s institutions, and to prevent that from becoming the fate of the APDHB, she accepted the presidency of that organization founded in 1976, which has a rich tradition in Bolivia for defending human rights.