How Croats transformed the Andes

Much has been written about the Christian-fundamentalist fanaticism of the outstanding young leader of the coup in Bolivia, Luis Fernando Camacho, but hardly about the origins of this fanaticism and Camacho’s relations with the Croatian immigrant scene in Oriente, eastern Bolivia.

Retronarrativ erzählt is the first to notice that the Camachos is a much-quoted family, because several times involved in the Panama Papers scandal. Luis Fernando’s ancestors made a fortune with Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, but lost part of it when President Evo Morales nationalized the oil and gas reserves.

Camacho’s cultural and political education at the Unión de la Juventud Cruceña (Youth League of Santa Cruz – UJC) makes him very perceptive. The fascist-oriented group already made headlines decades ago because of the Hitler salute of its members. But the UJC was never merely an extemporaneous right-wing spinner, but above all a paramilitary fighting group, with proven involvement in several conspiracies to assassinate Evo Morales as well as attacks on left-wing activists, indigenous farmers and journalists.

Just twenty-three years old, Camacho was elected vice-chairman of the UJC in 2002. Two years later, he left the organization to devote himself to building a family Center and rising to the Pro-Santa Cruz Civic Committee. The harmless-sounding committee, however, was a far-right separatist organization that, with the pretext of greater regional autonomy, threatened Evo Morales with the secession of the entire Media Luna, the center and east of Bolivia known as the crescent moon. One of the leaders of the separatists was the Bolivian of Croatian descent, Branko Marinkovic, Camacho’s predecessor in the Citizens ' Committee Pro Santa Cruz.

In December 2010, the Bolivian Attorney General’s office charged 39 people, including Marinkovic, now the former mayor of Santa Cruz, with conspiracy to murder Evo Morales and planning terrorist attacks. The illustrious defendant denied his involvement and initially settled in the United States, but soon settled in neighboring Brazil, whose judiciary closed both eyes to the serious accusations. In addition to the accusations of sedition, separatism, the formation and financing of a terrorist association, there was also a charge of serious tax offences by opening Offshore accounts with the aim of money laundering.

Marinkovic lives in Brazil, but is still closely associated with his “camarada” from the fascist scene, Luis Fernando Camacho. He recently campaigned for an amendment to the law, which requires a two-year residence in Bolivia as a prerequisite for the establishment of a candidacy, so that Marinkovic can engage in electoral politics.

From saltpeter to Ustaša: two waves of Croatian immigration

The approximately 5,000 descendants of Croatian emigrants are represented in the Bolivian East by a numerically small but very powerful group of family Clans. They dominate the dairy industry, breweries and are intertwined with banking capital. Among the leading figures are the former president of the Citizens ' Committee for Santa Cruz, Branko Marinkovic, the entrepreneur and former vice-presidential candidate Ivo Kuljis, the entrepreneur and owner of the daily newspaper Pagina Siete, Raul Garafulic, as well as the owner of the company Atocha, Pablo Ivanovic, and the entrepreneur Zvonko Matkovic; all millionaires.

The first wave of Croatian immigrants to Bolivia began between the end of the 19th century and the first World War. Attracted by the saltpetre Boom in the Atacama Desert and equipped with Austrian passports, around 25,000 Croats, mostly from impoverished rural backgrounds, disembarked in the former Bolivian port city of Antofagasta. After the collapse of the saltpetre mine, only a minority remained in the Atacama Desert on the Pacific Coast, which had belonged to Chile since 1883, and founded families whose descendants include Chile’s richest Luksic Clan, with an estimated fortune of nearly 15 billion euros, and are the subject of the second part of this chronicle. However, many Croats tried a new beginning in the Bolivian East and almost 50 years later, after the end of the Second World War, acted as a pole of attraction for the second wave of immigration.


The second wave had other reasons. “Even before the ship, that is, Nazi Germany, sank and its allies surrendered to the anti-fascist bloc, the rats left their countries. Not only Germany, but also Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and above all Croatia were home to thousands of collaborators, opportunists and convinced fascists who had acted as torturers of their own peoples during the war. All this scum had to flee and he did it like the rats that escape through the sewers at night”, the publicist Markus Besser described in an Essay the post-war settlement of the Bolivian East.

In the years following the end of the Second World War, the United States pressured the Bolivian government to give refuge to the members of the fascist Croatian Ustaša who were persecuted in the Soviet-occupied territories, but also by the Western European judiciary. For example, the CIA, along with the German Klaus Barbie – alias “Altmann” – led hundreds of Croatian fascists to Bolivia, who had pleaded guilty to genocide as a helper of the Wehrmacht and the SS; Crimes exemplified in the historical documentary “The Last Bullet for the last Serb": the Ustaša Genocide by Michele Frucht Levy.

The Croatian priest Krunoslav Draganovic acted at the starting point of the rat lines – the escape routes, called rat lines by the US Secret Services. He organized the flight of deserters from Germany under Russian occupation, who settled in Salzburg, Austria, and from there to Italy at the price of $ 1,000 to $ 1,500 per refugee. With the help of the US intelligence services and the blessing of the Catholic Church hierarchy, Draganovic furnished the “rats” with false papers, especially with transit permits, Red Cross passports and visas from Latin American countries.

Croatian fascism in Santa Cruz

These were the grandparents of those who now hold the reins in the Bolivian East and are currently overseeing the relevant development projects in the prosperous oil, agricultural, livestock and industrial region. Branko Marinkovic is one of them and Luis Fernando Camacho was his novice.

“The grandchildren of these famous genocides are people who have been educated and educated with harsh racist and anti-communist ideologies, and they feel that they are the guarantors of the rapid and considerable economic progress of their provinces. They have made an effort to keep their members away from the drug and money laundering business and are proud to be recognized as a legitimate group by the United States. They are in direct contact with the CIA and have worked with the DEA to control Coca planting and cocaine trafficking. They were the great allies of (dictator) General Hugo Banzer throughout his political career and were supported by him with generous subsidies for their infrastructure during his two governments,” commented Chilean historian and publicist Antonio Gil in a chronicle from 2008.

But Gil’s Text contains a key passage in understanding the simultaneously sinister and ridiculous religious fundamentalism of the current putschists in La Paz; not only Camacho, but also Jeanine Añez, who declared herself Evo Morales ‘successor. “Symptomatically, following the Croatian Crescent – which in 1482 was the last stronghold of Europe against the expansion of the Ottoman Empire – they gave their region the symbol of the crescent, which also made it known geographically,” recalls Gil.

This time, however, the Crescent was used as a” symbol of civilization " against the enemies of globalization and progress, namely the indigenous Collas and their President Evo Morales. It was known that for the Croatian fascists the overthrow of the – racially emphasized-Indian Evo after their defeat in 2008 was not a priority, but the Plan was never abandoned. For the Croats and their white compatriots of Spanish descent, it has always been clear: they want to create a white, “efficient”, “enlightened” Nation that has nothing in common with the Colla Plateau in the West-with the capital La Paz – for which they have to “pay taxes daily”.

“There are people in the White House and the Pentagon who see the creation of a new country in the Region with joyful eyes … It is to be expected that the Croats will not hesitate to resort to the old practices of their grandparents, if Morales violently contradicts the strategic, regional claims they have designed. General Custer’s motto applies to the Croats of the Bolivian East: the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” concluded Gil with bitter irony. And he was right. At the end of November, 50,000 dollars had been put on Evo Morales ' bounty. He could not help himself, he had to flee to Mexico.