The government has begun to use a law against racism and all forms of discrimination to control the work of the press or seek to fine or shut down media. The Agencia de Noticias Fides (ANF) news agency and the newspapers El Diario and Página Siete were the first media to be prosecuted under Article 281 of the Penal Code which makes “dissemination and incitement to racism and discrimination” a criminal offense. In a public speech President Evo Morales said, “In the Bolivian east throughout the year (foodstuffs) are produced; merely due to a lack of will can we be so poor and not have food. In the altiplano (high plateau) it is different – if there is snowfall, rain or hailstorms there are no foodstuffs, but in the east no, only because of lazy people do we go hungry.” According to the government’s interpretation the ANF distorted the president’s speech, made on August 15 in Tihuanacu, by substituting the “lazy people” with “laziness” in its report’s headline. The headline that led to the official charge said, “Evo says that if one goes hungry in the east it is because of ‘laziness.’” The other media reproduced the ANF news item. But the government holds that “the reports published in the news media, Agencia de Fides – ANF, Página Siete and El Diario, incur in the possible commission of the offense referred to (Dissemination and incitement to racism or discrimination), because in a public, tendentious and repetitive manner they publish in a distorted form the speech of the Head of the Multinational State, basing it on ideas of racial hatred.” The three media outlets have rejected the government denunciation of having committed an error or distorted the information. The National Press Association (ANP), opinion leaders and analysts specializing in news media all agree that the proceedings, despite there being no offense at all, should be carried out in the light of the Press Law and of the Ethical Self-Regulation Tribunals, as mandated by the Constitution, but not in criminal courts as the government interprets. The government strategy, according to its top representatives, is for the total assumption of power, replacing the Republic with the State, under a communal regime of social control. Under the direct control of the Executive branch already are the Legislative, Judicial and Electoral branches, which were independent powers under the old constitutional order. Through the nationalization of the major organs of production the government already controls a large part of the economic power. Control of the news media is also a government priority. On September 26 Catholic priest Eduardo Pérez Iribam, director of the Radio Fides radio station, was charged with broadcasting “seditious criteria with the intent of destabilizing the government and creating a feeling of insecurity and uncertainty, requesting exemplary punishment, as freedom of expression in a democracy cannot violate people’s rights and guarantees,” according to the charge that arose from an opinion of the Radio Fides director concerning the illegality of the assumption of Senate President Gabriela Montaño of the role of interim president of Bolivia during five days due to the travels abroad of the president and vice president. The Radio Fides director limited himself to reading the Constitution and recalling that the only body that can interpret it is the Constitutional Court, and not the government. In Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the city’s mayor, Percy Fernández, engaged in repeated verbal attacks on journalists and media and on September 1 issued a death threat to journalists and executives of the daily newspaper El Deber. “We will bump you (El Deber and journalists) off one of these days, I give you my word as mayor of Santa Cruz. I don’t know if they are going right away six feet under the earth or if they are just going to their homes, but something is going to happen to them. No? Don’t cry, this is not a threat, it’s just a chat,” Fernández declared. The National Press Association’s Center for Monitoring and Overseeing of Freedom of the Press and of Expression in Bolivia has reported thirteen physical attacks on journalists and fourteen verbal attacks and threats this year. Three formal accusations of verbal attacks were submitted to courts by journalists concerned, but none has prospered and none of the cases of physical attacks in the last five years has been resolved or punished.