Award-winning Bolivian journalist Harold Olmos, whose gentlemanly method belied a outstanding reportorial tenacity and who led Related Press operations in Venezuela and Brazil after fleeing his coup-convulsed homeland greater than 4 a long time in the past, has died at age 78.
Olmos died Wednesday within the jap lowlands metropolis of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, of a coronary heart assault after a protracted sickness, stated his son, José Olmos. He stated his father had struggled with diabetes.
The journalist, a job mannequin for youthful colleagues with deep expertise protecting army challenges to democracy, had returned to his native nation in 2006 after retiring from the AP. He launched a second profession as a columnist, educator and creator when Evo Morales, a leftist coca-growers’ union chief embraced by the nation’s indigenous majority, started to dominate Bolivian politics.
“He had very robust and public opinions,” his son stated, notably about what he thought-about to be an assault on press freedom by Morales’ governing MAS motion.
Olmos joined the AP in 1969 in La Paz, Bolivia, at age 25, after working as a weekend editor on the Presencia day by day. An inner firm memo the subsequent yr described the younger reporter working three blocks to the presidential palace throughout Bolivian coup try No. 187 to report on the strafing of the presidential palace for a narrative that “had no competitors” on U.S. entrance pages.
Olmos was bureau chief in Venezuela for greater than a decade till 1993 — years of tumult that noticed Hugo Chavez rise to prominence — then in Brazil till his retirement in 2006.
Claude Erbsen, retired former director of World Providers for the AP, stated Olmos excelled in serving to make clear Brazil’s transition from army dictatorship to vibrant democracy. However he and others had been most impressed by each Olmos’ disarming gentility and fearlessness.
“I feel crucial attribute in him was that he was actually a mild soul, however as soon as he sank his enamel into one thing you couldn’t beat him off with a two-by-four,” stated Erbsen.
Olmos would show that tenacity in his later years as a blogger and columnist for El Deber, one in every of Bolivia’s main newspapers. In a four-year undertaking that ended with the 2017 publication of a e-book, “Etched in Reminiscence: Notes of a Reporter,” Olmos examined a lethal 2009 authorities raid that claimed the lives of three foreigners allegedly concerned in a terrorist plot towards then-President Morales. Ten folks spent between six and 10 years in jail for alleged participation, solely to regain liberty when fees had been dropped in 2020. Olmos attended each court docket listening to.
Olmos was “a journalist like few others,” stated Nestor Ikeda, a former AP author and editor who labored with him in Ikeda’s native Peru. Olmos was compelled to flee there after one of many a number of coups that then made Bolivia synonymous with political instability.
“He was at all times on the main information occasions, as a journalist and typically a protagonist,” Ikeda stated.
Olmos’ friendship with Lidia Guelier, Bolivia’s first feminine president, had compelled him to clandestinely flee the wrath of Gen. Luis Garcia Meza, the chief of a 1980 coup, Ikeda stated.
In Lima, Olmos invited Ikeda to a secret assembly with Bolivian opposition activist Jaime Paz Zamora, whose face and head had been wrapped in bandages from a aircraft crash, later decided to have been plotted by Garcia Meza’s authorities. Paz Zamora had been the only real survivor.
“Harold and Paz Zamora embraced with the depth of a reunion of two brothers immersed in the identical tragedy,” Ikeda stated. In 1989, Paz Zamora could be elected Bolivia’s president.
Olmos grew to become bureau chief in Caracas in 1982. AP reporter Jorge Rueda remembered him as “a maestro for numerous generations” of AP journalists and “the rock that supported us all in tough coverages together with the 1989 road protests and rioting that got here to be generally known as ‘The Caracazo.’” Greater than 300 folks died within the violence triggered largely by gasoline and transport worth will increase. Olmos additionally anchored protection of the failed 1992 coup led by then-Lt. Col. Chavez, whom Venezuelans would later elect president.
Olmos, “understanding South American political actuality and the area’s militarism, was among the many first to warn that Venezuela had opened a Pandora’s field through the use of troopers to repress protests throughout the Caracazo,” stated Rueda. “After that it could be tough to make them return to their barracks.”
Born within the Amazonian metropolis of Riberalta, Olmos was educated on the College of San Andres in La Paz and the College of Social Research in Rome.
An AP inner publication on the time of his hiring, picturing him with a mop of black hair, stated “English remains to be a battle for him, however he is coming alongside.”
Olmos’ English was practically impeccable.
In 2007, he was awarded Bolivia’s Nationwide Journalism Prize.
Upon receiving it, Olmos stated that “I left a rustic enchained by an implacable dictatorship and returned to 1 gripped by opposing views. On this realm the place journalism is trapped within the crossfire of political and ideological disputes it appears the journalist could be thought-about the enemy.”
Olmos is survived by his spouse Cristina, daughter Paula and son José.
Bajak was the AP’s Chief of Andean Information from 2006-2016.
Related Press reporters Carlos Valdez and Paola Flores in La Paz, Bolivia, contributed to this report.