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Political prisoner Facundo Molares wins freedom!

By Mark Burton

Facundo Molares

Political prisoner Facundo Molares, an Argentinian photojournalist who was incarcerated by the Bolivian Añez regime, is now safely home in his native Argentina.

Molares was arrested during a violent incident between armed forces backing the coup d’etat and protests for democracy in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia on November 19, 2019, two days after the unelected Añez government took over. Molares was documenting the confrontation for the magazine Centenario, but during this incident he had a health crisis and was rushed to the hospital.

The Añez coup regime arrested Facundo in his hospital bed. It is widely believed that Molares was arrested because he is a left-wing activist who was documenting crimes of the Bolivian far-right regime through his photojournalism. Facundo Molares’s father later arrived from Argentina to visit his son in the hospital, but was allowed to see him for only ten minutes, being forced to flee to Argentina because of death threats.

Molares remained in custody in critical condition due to kidney failure and other ailments. The photojournalist and activist was transferred to the Chonchorro prison near La Paz, Bolivia where he received inadequate medical attention and infrequent visits with attorneys.

The family of Molares along with activists associated with the magazine Centenario began a campaign to pressure the Bolivian authorities to release him. The campaign was then joined by international organizations, most notably by COSI (Comite de Solidaridad Internacional) of Venezuela, the Communist Party of Paraguay, and the Committee to Free Facundo Molares in the United States. Molares’s case was reported on by Fight Back! in the U.S. Also, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization called for “the de facto government of Bolivia to immediately release and repatriate Facundo Molares Schoenfeld.” Reaching thousands of U.S. solidarity activists, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression promoted a very effective, “Call-in to save the life of Facundo Molares” to the Bolivian Embassy in Washington DC.

The Bolivian coup government held elections on October 18, 2020. Many election observers were skeptical that the Añez regime, backed by the United States, would allow the progressive opposition, the MAS party, to win the elections that was taken from them a year earlier by force. Many believed the United States, with its infamous ‘color revolution’ plots, would somehow block the MAS party of former president Evo Morales in the elections.

The popular movements in Bolivia mobilized in the mines, among peasants, in indigenous communities and in working class neighborhoods and Morales’ MAS party (Movimiento a Socialismo) won a convincing and unassailable victory in the first round and their candidate Luis Arce was elected with some 55% of the vote on October 18, 2020.

Spurred by popular pressure, the Argentinian foreign ministry advocated for Facundo Molares with the new MAS-led government. This diplomacy led to a Bolivian court granting Facundo home arrest instead of prison. He was shortly thereafter allowed to reside in Argentina and arrived home on December 3, 2020.

Hugo Molares, the father of Facundo, made a statement upon his son’s return to Argentina: “Thank you to those who were together with us, popular militants, alternative media, journalists, people from the most diverse political, social and religious backgrounds, human rights organizations, good hearted people from Argentina, Bolivia and from around the world, exiles, refugees and political prisoners, friends and family.”

Molares is still under the jurisdiction of the Bolivian court, but due to the struggle for his release, he is now in Argentina with his family. American anti-slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglas is famously quoted, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress!” This is certainly true in the international solidarity victory for Facundo Molares.

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