On the afternoon of December 28, Luis Fernando Camacho was riding in his car and was a half block from his home when an unmarked white van pulled in front of him. Armed men dressed in black jumped out. They rushed Camacho’s car, smashing his windows and demanding he get out.
Camacho calmly replied, “I’m here. You don’t need to do any more.”
The men responded with violence, throwing Camacho to the ground. They handcuffed his arms behind his back and drove him away.
Not having any more information, one would be forgiven for thinking that Camacho must be a drug kingpin or some other nefarious actor. But no, he is the current governor of the department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Bolivia has nine ‘departments,’ their version of states, and Santa Cruz is the largest and most populous of the departments. Not only that, but it is also the richest and most productive department in Bolivia. In 2021, Camacho won his election with 55% of the vote and became governor of the department.
Camacho came to prominence politically in 2019. Protests had erupted throughout the nation in response to alleged overt electoral fraud. The common refrain in Santa Cruz during the protests was, “We will not be Venezuela!” Camacho took on a leadership role in the opposition to then-President, Evo Morales.
With the country roiled in protests, Camacho traveled to La Paz, the capital, and went to the Government Palace with a Bible and a letter of resignation for the president to sign, but Morales had already fled.
Many high-ranking officials resigned, including the president and the vice president. The Bolivian constitution was followed to find the line of succession and Jeanine Añez, the second vice president of the Senate, became interim president.
But even though most of the leadership resigned and fled, their socialist party remained in control of many of the systems of power in Bolivia.
In 2020, elections were held, and the socialist party won back the presidency. A few months after regaining power, they arrested the interim president Añez, and she remains incarcerated to this day. She has been accused of inciting the supposed coup d’état of Evo Morales with additional counts of terrorism and sedition.
And now, they have taken Camacho prisoner as well. They have sequestered the opposition leader to the socialist government. The men dressed in black with assault rifles driving an unmarked van were actually police officers sent by the federal government to arrest Camacho. Allegedly, no arrest warrant was presented at the time of his sudden arrest, but an arrest warrant was drafted back in October. The civic leaders in the city of Santa Cruz, however, do not like to call it an arrest since he is the rightfully elected governor of the department of Santa Cruz. Instead, they call it a political kidnapping.
In response to the arrest, the people of Santa Cruz immediately started protesting and demanding the release of the governor they elected. They have said that the federal government is politically persecuting the entire department of Santa Cruz by this arrest and they are willing to defend democracy no matter the cost.
As the protests continued, there were increasing claims of abuse and violence from the police against the protesters. Videos have surfaced of police lighting cars on fire, destroying street lights, and even lighting their own motorcycles on fire. The claim is that if the police can demonstrate violence on the part of the people of Santa Cruz, then they can bring in the military to turn Santa Cruz into a police state.
Burned out cars now litter the streets, and the city looks as though a war has already started. Tear gas is used so often that neighborhoods have started putting out barrels with water, ready to extinguish the grenades.
And yet, in the face of this oppression and violence, the people of Santa Cruz continue to protest and march, saying that they will not stop until the political prisoners are released. At this point, though, it does not seem like the federal government is budging, either. The government is attempting to intimidate and terrorize the people so that nobody would dare to stand up to them.
This creates a very dangerous situation for the people of Bolivia. When tensions are high, any little mistake can cause an incredible amount of loss of life. Governor Camacho has a blood disorder for which he requires medical treatment. If, by accident, Camacho were to die, the Bolivian people would not believe that it was an accident. They would believe he was murdered by the government. This could quickly devolve into an actual civil war.
That is the tight-rope that the civic leaders in Santa Cruz are attempting to traverse. They are attempting to balance peacefully protesting to obtain the release of the governor that they elected. While at the same time, if they push too hard and can be blamed for some violence, then the government will have a pretext for sending the military in to oppress the population.
But the Bolivian people have done it before, and they can do it again. They joined together with one voice to protest socialist leader and dictator Evo Morales, and he had to resign. The people of Santa Cruz need the rest of Bolivia to join them, and they have started to do just that. More and more cities and departments are protesting and marching in solidarity with Santa Cruz, but more importantly, against oppression. Even as the government tries to scare the population into submission, the Bolivian people are coming together once again to fight against this socialist tyranny.
Michael Warren lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for five years and continues to have close contact with family and friends there. He recently released a new book titled Live Deliberately. A professional land surveyor, he lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, Esther, and their two kids, Daniel and Zoey.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.