CAFOD donates £22,000 to survivors of Bolivian massacres

 CAFOD has donated £22,151 to people affected by last month's massacre in northern Bolivia in which 16 people where killed and more than 50 people disappeared.

The aid agency's partner, UNITAS, is using the money to provide food, shelter and healthcare to an estimated 4,000 people who have fled their homes and are currently in hiding for fear of further attacks. Among them are staff from CAFOD partner-organisations who were threatened during the violence.

UNITAS is also using the money to provide legal support to the families of those who were killed or who are still missing.

The Pando massacre was the culmination of an escalation of violence throughout the Bolivian lowlands over the past month because of a dispute over land ownership and the control of natural resources.

The Bolivian government ­ led by Evo Morales, Latin America's first indigenous president ­ is currently redistributing land and gas revenues to benefit the nearly 40 per cent of Bolivians who live in extreme poverty.

These reforms received the backing of 67 per cent of Bolivian voters in a referendum in July, but elite groups in the east of the country who are used to wielding absolute power over local indigenous communities have used violence to try and suppress support for the reforms.

CAFOD recently met the British ambassador in Bolivia to stress the need for the international community to denounce all human rights abuses in the county in order to ensure that development work continues there.

CAFOD's programme officer in Bolivia, Karen Luyckx, said: "CAFOD applauds the recent efforts of the Bolivian government and opposition groups to enter into dialogue. We hope that the agreement reached last week about the text and referendum for a new constitution will lead to a more just, equal and inclusive Bolivia."

"We are doing all we can to support Bolivia's most excluded communities in their quest for justice. This is crucial not only for the families of the bereaved, but in order to avoid further violent attacks on indigenous communities and small farmers. "

CAFOD is the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development which works with communities in over 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, supporting people to find their own solutions to poverty. The agency works with all people regardless of race, gender, religion or nationality.

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