On May 24, 2018, Bolivian police reportedly shot and killed Jonathan Quispe, a student at the Public University of El Alto, during a student protest over university funding.
Students had gathered in El Alto, near the capital, La Paz, in a protest to demand increased funding of their university. Anti-riot police were deployed on the scene and clashed violently with student protesters. Mr. Quispe was reportedly shot during the clashes and fled to an alley where he was later found dead. Mr. Quispe’s death sparked further, widespread protests and demands for accountability. Police reports initially suggested that Mr. Quispe was killed by a marble fired from a projectile by other protesters; however, authorities later announced that the initial reports were mistaken, and that a police officer was responsible for Mr. Quispe’s shooting. The officer was taken into custody shortly thereafter.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the killing of a student by police during a student protest. SAR offers its condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and the university community, and respectfully urges the authorities to ensure a thorough investigation into the student’s death. While authorities have a legitimate responsibility to maintain security and order, their response must be proportional to the situation and must not restrict the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and democratic society generally.