Letter of March 1st 1997
Back from Bolivia
Past letters :
Back from Bolivia
I was invited in Bolivia at the request of the St Vincent de Paul Fathersandthe Partenia groups in that country. I spent ten days at El Alto, atownof 500,000 inhabitants, very poor and classified as such by the UnitedNations.El Alto is situated near La Paz, Bolivia's capital and lies 12,000feet abovesea level.Of of all my encounters I mostly cherish three memories:
That of a Sunday congregation in a very poor district.
There was joy at being together convinced of God's love for us. The GoodNews was listenedto attentively, the people welcomed it as it answered theirexpectations.It fell like seed into good soil. Jesus heals all diseasesand wounds.Like an echo to this healing word, a blind woman started speaking,followedby a handicaped person in a wheelchair, and finally by a youngsterwithoutwork ...Like an echo travelling from one to another, the Word spreadto everybody'sheart. The congregation shared the word before sharing thebread of life. that of a prison:
a high security jail, remote from everything. Here I amface to face withAlain Messili, the only French prisoner throughout LatinAmerica. He hasbeen jailed for nearly two years without any judgment whichcould bring hiscondemnation. Support groups have been created in Franceand in Bolivia.Alain was thrilled by our visit. To him it seemed liketremendous help.Imet Victor in his cell. On the previous day I went to his home and spokewithhis son of 17, a drug addict.A jail right at the heart of La Paz. Behindhigh walls, here are 1,300prisoners crowding a place built for 300!In atiny and stuffy cell, I am welcomed by Juan Carlos . He has justobtainedhis university degree, is married, and has a family. After 5 yearsin prisonhe has not yet been tried. He is not the only one in this case.This is whyeach wednesday noon, in front of the La Paz cathedral, peoplegather, demonstratingwith boards, protesting against this practice, anddemanding that the lawbe applied.
That of an encounter
at the Human Rights Committee whose chairman is Dr Waldo Albaracin.
Ten miners on strike and a police officer were killed. Theofficial releaseis that the police officer would have been killed byminers. After an inquiry,Waldo had proof of the contrary: the officer hadbeen killed by police force.Waldo was arrested and tortured. Feelings runhigh. The Government has summoneda Parliamentary Committee. I have broughtmy support to Waldo in front ofthe journalists. He told me, as all theBolivian people I met: "don'tforget about me".