The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
In mid-2003, news began to filter out about a state plan to allow foreign corporations to extract natural gas from recently discovered and valuable reserves and to transport it through Chile, Bolivia’s historic adversary, to consumers in California. A broad range of social movements began to stage protests in response. During a military operation to clear road blockades in the historic town of Warisata, on the altiplano of La Paz, an errant bullet took the life of an eight-year-old girl, Marlene Nancy Rojas Ramos, on 20 September.
The repression in Warisata generated popular fury and indignation and contributed to the escalating conflict that became known as the Gas War. By the time President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada had resigned and fled to the United States, on 17 October, some fifty-seven civilians had been killed and four hundred wounded. In the aftermath of Black October, as the episode came to be known, the Bolivian attorney general and the family members of the dead and wounded brought charges against Sánchez de Lozada, Defense Minister Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, and other political and military authorities. The trial ended in 2011 with a historic condemnation of the massacre, the first time democratically elected offcials and military offcers were convicted of using lethal force to put down a social protest. The trial generated a great body of testimony by prominent public figures, those wounded, and family members of the deceased. The offcial report of Etelvina Ramos Mamani’s testimony contains tender traces of her story about the tragic death of her daughter Marlene in Warisata.