Linked with Developments on the Road to ‘Division Day’.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
A prestigious journalist, Bolivian Ana Maria de Campero (1943) was a Public Defender, from 1998 to 2003. With her, this position was born. Her goal was to defend the human rights of prisoners, coke growers, prostitutes, children, homosexuals and sick people without resources.
She has not lost her determination. Today, from the Unite Bolivia Foundation, over which she presides, she promotes non-violent management and dialogue.
She says: “I know that I can fight power without letting it seduce me or scare me”.
Ana Maria Romero de Campero – Bolivia
She works for the Unite Bolivia Foundation.
“The best thing that could ever happen in the country, at that time, was her appointment to become Public Defender. We verified this every day. There is nothing like time to show us our successes or mistakes. And time plays in her favor, because she works in favor of the people. Human rights: she is right and human. Ethics: to her, it is not just a word, it is her backbone. Solidarity: open hand, given heart. Simplicity and grace: they are hers.” This is how journalist Caesar Rojas Ríos, of La Prensa, Bolivia, defined Ana Maria Romero de Campero (born in La Paz in 1943).
Ana Maria did not gain these praises without encountering difficulties. She started her career as a journalist after she was already a wife and a mother. She was a journalist for 30 years. She became Director of the daily newspaper, Presencia. From there, she opposed the dictatorship of General Hugo Bánzer (1971-1978).
In 1979, there was an opening for democracy. She was named the Minister of Information. But after only a few days, a state coup sent her into exile. But she returned and continued her work in journalism.
In 1998, Ana Maria was named Public Defender – a position that is known in other countries as the Prosecutor for the Defense of Human Rights. In order to fulfill her goal, she had to confront the rich and powerful. Her mission, she says, “is to watch over the people on foot” (the poor people, those who have to walk by foot).
She also had to fight against her own prejudices against this class of people. Her career as a journalist smoothed the path for her. She is well known for her impartiality, her reasonable tone, and her spirit of service. Many were happy with her arrival. Later, some came to regret it.
She had not occupied her new position for much time, when she received the National Journalism Prize, one of the many prizes she earned during her career. “A journalist is a natural born defender of the people,” she declared.
General Bánzer, former dictator and leader of a state coup, returned to the national political scene. They say that nobody knows how many times he repeated that he was no more nor less than other leaders; on the contrary, he was a very democratic citizen. It seems that more than one person believed him because on the sixth of August, 1997 he returned to the presidential chair, this time through the process of a democratic election.
At the same time, Chapare, a center for the cultivation of coke, exploded. Although coke can be processed as cocaine, there are other legal, industrial and home uses for coke. Coke has always been very essential in the life and traditions of the region. The major consumer of processed coke, cocaine, is the United States, yet Washington, D.C., pressures Bolivia to destroy fields of coke crops. Bánzer acquiesced.
Like many times before, the army and the police entered Chapare. The coke farmers defended themselves, and the army and police took over completely. They burned houses, ransacked stores and destroyed even the legal crops. The Public Defender protested against the abuse of the human rights of the coke growers.
The Minister of Government reacted bitterly: “This Campero lady does not worry about the rights of the dead policemen, their orphans nor their widows. Perhaps, she has links with the drug traffickers?”
La Prensa came out in defense of the Public Defender.
“Perhaps, the conversion of certain public officials to democracy is not that sincere? She is trying to fight against crime without allowing the government to become a criminal, at the same time. These functions are clear.
The police are supposed to catch the criminals. The judicial system is supposed to judge them. The Public Defender intervenes if, at any point during the process, its citizens are mistreated by the State.”
“There is the stick (for the coke growers) without the carrot (development)”, demands Ana Maria de Campero. Minister Guido Náyar lowers his tone and invites her to participate in a commission that will travel to Chapare.
“I do not need the invitation,” she responds. “I will go to Chapare when and as many times as I want to go. I am interested in real information, not information fabricated by the government.” And, while the government celebrates its five-year anti-drug plan, she collects proof of the abuses. “The omnipresent power with which I had the most run-ins was with the United States Embassy,” she remembers afterwards.
The job of the Public Defender is to denounce, not to correct. Through denunciations some of the problems are fixed, others are not. At the very least, they gain gestures of good will.
The police put in jail an imprudent driver who caused two deaths. The prisoner was 60 years old and had a fractured foot, but it did not matter. He needed an x-ray, but he did not have money or relatives. The only thing he could do was to cope with the pain, and to accept that he would be prosecuted. She opened an immense record of human misery, where prisoners were deprived not only of their freedom, but of everything.
Medical treatment is minimal, and prisoners are given outdated medicines. 19 penitentiaries and three jails do not have any medical treatment for the prisoners. Contrary to the Constitution, the police kept suspects in custody for more than 24 hours, without seeing a judge. Ana Maria requests a daily list of prisoners. The police have changed this practice.
The National Health Fund limits the amount of dialysis that people with kidney problems can receive. The Defender protests and speaks of institutional euthanasia. Economics are considered more important than human rights. The Court ruled against the National Health Fund. Those affected by kidney problems will be able to receive their hem dialysis.
By the force of a law, there has a minimum number of female representatives in the Parliament, but there are no quotas for indigenous peoples or for rural farmers.
It is ironic because, politically, they were born together – in 1952 both women and indigenous people won the right to vote. There is only one indigenous representative in the government. The Public Defender protests.
The newspapers are packed with news from the institution that Ana Maria directed. A drug trafficking gang robbed Bolivian children and took them to Spain. She went to get them. The police mistreated prostitutes. Ana Maria came to their aid. There is discrimination against homosexuals. She raises her voice. It is not that she looks for notoriety; it is just that the injustices are too many.
She finished her term as Public Defender in 2003, but she has not finished confronting the powerful ones. In October 2004, 80 strikers were killed and 400 were injured. She, a simple citizen, initiated a hunger strike in sympathy to them. The demonstrations grew and the military threatened to start shooting. She spoke with the Commander of the Armed Forces, citing the country’s commitment to international conventions. She spoke of professionalism. The Commander became involved and stated that the military would not shoot defenseless civilians.
Years back, a poor indigenous person, Domitila Chungara forced the resignation of Dictator Bánzer by staging a hunger strike. Ana Maria repeated the act, and soon afterward, President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada submitted his resignation.
From the Foundation “Unite Bolivia,” over which she presides, Ana Maria de Campero promotes non-violent management and dialogue.
When she left the position of Defender, somebody said to her: “They had a reason for not reappointing you. What you did, you did too well.” It does not matter that they did not reappoint her to the position. She continues anyways. (1000peacewomen).
Ana María Romero de Campero, periodista y ex titular del Defensor del Pueblo de Bolivia, presenta hoy su primera novela “Cables cruzados”, a las 10:30 horas, en el Salón Principal del Centro Simón I. Patiño.
Nació en La Paz, un día en que la ciudad se cubrió de blanco. Se enganchó en la lectura desde muy pequeña y en su adolescencia soñó con ser escritora. La vida la llevó por caminos distintos aunque afines. Fue reportera, cronista, redactora, columnista, corresponsal y finalmente directora del diario Presencia. En esa tarea invirtió 30 años de su vida. (full text).
Carta de Ana Maria de Campero a los medios que informan lo que les conviene.
Más de un centenar de cartas de distintas instituciones de la sociedad civil, así como de algunos partidos políticos, llegaron hasta la comisión mixta de Constitución del Parlamento Nacional, pidiendo que Ana María Romero de Campero sea reelecta en el cargo del Defensor del Pueblo. (full text).
Ana Maria Romro de Campero / ex Defensora de Pueblo y periodista?
El 11 de septiembre de 2001, luego del ataque terrorista de dos aviones que se estrellaron contra las Dos Torres de Nueva York, la televisión realizó una cobertura extensa del suceso, con boletines ininterrumpidos durante varios días, pero el público sentía con que algo le faltaba. Una vez que se activaron los reflejos de Pavlov a los que lo acostumbró la televisión, la gente empezó a preguntarse ¿y los muertos? ¿dónde están los muertos?
El hecho mostrado asépticamente no convenció a un público acostumbrado al espectáculo de la muerte. Al día siguiente la pregunta se reiteró en varias columnas de prensa hasta que se conoció que la televisión norteamericana había decidido no lucrar con los cuadros de horror que había provocado el siniestro donde se calcula que murieron más de 3.000 personas. Las únicas escenas espeluznantes que los canales alcanzaron a proyectar mostraban a personas desesperadas que saltaban al vacío para huir del infierno instalado en los rascacielos. La decisión era la que correspondía, pero si la mencionamos es precisamente por su carácter excepcional. (full text).
Despiste en el MAS: Ana María Romero no quiere y no puede ser candidata.
“El mandato que me dieron mis representados este fin de semana, en la primera consulta popular realizada en Bolivia, es votar por Ana María Romero de Campero en la elección del Defensor del Pueblo, encargo que considero inapelable porque es el resultado de la aproximación directa de un diputado uninominal a su circunscripción. Mi obligación es respetar la decisión de los vecinos, incluso esta difiera de la opinión partidaria”, afirmó San Martín. (full text).