117. Editorial Note

In early 1977, between 30 and 40 U.S. citizens were imprisoned in Bolivia on charges of drug possession or trafficking. (National Archives, RG 59, ARA Assistant Secretary Subject File, 1975–78, Lot 81D183, Todman Trip: May 8–16, 1977) On March 31, U.S. Ambassador William Perry Stedman discussed the prisoners with Bolivian President Hugo Banzer Suárez: “I used the material furnished by the Dept for my conversations with the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Interior to describe U.S. concern about prolonged legal processes in the Bolivian courts. I spelled out the categories of cases which warranted prompt consideration for speedier decisions by the judges. President Banzer was well informed about the situation and said that he would immediately contact the Minister of Interior along the lines of my presentation to see what further action could be taken to accelerate the judicial process.” (Telegram 2417 from La Paz, April 1, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770114-0470) (C)

A committee comprised of the prisoners’ parents and relatives, referred to as the Parents Committee, met with Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs A. Denis Clift on February 9 and with Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher on May 13. The Parents Committee expressed its concerns about conditions in Bolivian jails and delays in the Bolivian justice system, and asked the Department of State to increase its efforts to advocate on the prisoners’ behalf. (Carter Library, Donated Historical Materials, Mondale Papers, Box 44, Foreign Countries: Bolivia, 1977; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 18, Evening Reports (State), 5/77) On May 11, a group of 11 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, writing that the prisoners had been denied due process and “that some of the prisoners have been subjected to physical abuse, including beatings, and have been denied medical treatment, even when clearly needed.” The Senators wrote of their “particular concern” regarding “the apparent failure of our embassy personnel to take action—or display much sympathy—on behalf of these prisoners.” They requested “that this situation be given your personal attention and that contact at the highest level of the Bolivian government be initiated.” (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 12, Bolivian Prisoners) (no classification marking)