Special Focus: Aquí (La Paz, Bolivia)

The 1970s and 80s were a dark period for human rights in much of Latin America. During these years, Bolivia, like neighboring Argentina and Chile, endured a period of ferocious military rule. Coups and counter-coups installed a series of regimes, each intent on stifling political dissent, eliminating opposition leaders, and suppressing workers' organizations. As they took power, the military immediately impounded television and radio broadcasting, and, gradually—using force and intimidation—effectively eliminated journalistic criticism, as well. By the end of 1979 only one source, the weekly newspaper, Aquí, provided reliable information on Bolivia’s rapidly deteriorating human rights climate.

Aquí was the creation of Luis Espinal, a Catalan Jesuit who emigrated to Bolivia as a missionary in 1969. Espinal came of age in Franco's Spain and was no stranger to political repression or to the ways of resisting it. In addition to his religious education, he was a trained journalist and film critic, and soon after arriving in Bolivia, he began to write for the La Paz daily, Presencia. But unable to tolerate the increasing restraints that military regimes placed on the mainstream press, Espinal and a small group of young journalists—including René Bascopé and Lupe Cajías—launched Aquí in March of 1979.

From its beginning, Aquí reported the arbitrary arrests and acts of torture conducted by the military; published interviews with Bolivian church officials, highly critical of these actions; and gave details of active opposition to the generals, especially in the tin mines. In addition, Aquí's articles exposed the corruption of top-ranking military officials, most notably their involvement in the burgeoning cocaine trade. The editors added zest to their publication by savagely lampooning the generals with caricatures that spoke clearly to Bolivia’s many illiterates.

On February 8, 1980, the newspaper's offices were bombed and heavily damaged, and a month later, Espinal’s brutally-disfigured body was discovered on the outskirts of La Paz. Though Aquí would go underground later in the year, it continued to publish, under the editorship of René Boscopé. With the fall of General Luis García Meza in August of 1981 and the coming to power of a military junta that pledged itself to enabling democratic elections, Aquí resumed normal operations, but it never lost its vision of demanding human rights and human dignity for all of Bolivian society, especially for those citizens unable neither to resist oppression nor to escape it.

The Latin America Microform Project (LAMP) collection of Aquí contains 615 issues (March 17, 1979, to December 17, 1993), the periodical’s full run, including the "ediciones clandestinas," published underground in 1980. The paper originals are part of the Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinato (CIPCA) Library in La Paz, Bolivia.