February 17, 2005

Bolivian Crisis: The Second Wave

MABB is a registered TM.

It seems the second wave of attacks against Bolivian Democracy are on the horizon. One can already smell the dissent.

On the one side stand the Evo/Fejuve (El Alto) and their allies and on the other side we can see the Comite Civico de Santa Cruz (CCSC). Both sides are starting to get impatient with the government.

In the Evo/Fejuve camp, all is not in harmony. Evo and his followers are trying to be very careful on voicing their opinions. The priorities of Evo's party, MAS and his electoral base, the coca growers, are getting in the way of excellent relations between the Fejuve and Evo. Additionally, there are some factions in MAS (i.e. Filemon Escobar) which are coming out with their own priorities and not necessarily following party line. But in the end, there is good concertation between Evo and the Fejuve.

The Fejuve El Alto has apparently "studied" the enemy's demands and it doesn't see anything it likes. The powerful civic organization has already voiced its discomfort with the government's allowances to the CCSC's demands. The Fejuve will try to force, what they call the October Agenda (the passing of the hydrocarbons law, the case Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and the Constituent Assembly) in to the government's priority list. They accused the Comite Civico of relegating the October Agenda for their own agenda.

On the other hand, the CCSC continues to work on its own February Agenda (autonomy, election of prefects and referendum). However, confirming their fears, the government is dragging its feet on the issues. The debates in congress are becoming partisan bickering and there is already indications that both agendas are in conflict. The CCSC, in the mean time, is working diligently in collecting firms for the citizens initiative and it is getting ready to unilaterally launch a referendum on autonomies if the government does not deliver on its promises.

In the mean time, the Mesa administration has practically washed its hands from the referendum on autonomies and is trying instead of delay the issues as much as it can.

On the side of the congress, aside from trying to tackle the hydrocarbons law, the Constituent Assembly, modifying the law to allow the Electoral Court to hold the referendum, appropriating funds for the Electoral Court, debating the convocation to a referendum law, the election of prefects, etc., etc., etc., it seems a consensus is coming to life. The Patriotic faction, which is a group of congressmen in support of President Mesa, want the election of constituents and the referendum on autonomies to take place on October 10. Recently, the government and the congress have agreed to work together on a four point agenda: passing the hydrocarbons law, prefect elections, referendum on autonomies and the Constituent Assembly.

As all the parties in the conflict try to asses their situations, one thing is sure. Major conflicts are approaching in the near future. The Fejuve El Alto has already voiced the beginning of a series of meetings to coordinate pressure measures to force the October Agenda to the top of the list. At the same time, the CCSC is getting ready to implements its own pressures if it doesn't get what it wants. While all this is happening, the two rival camps are already starting to come into close conflict and confrontation. As we all know, the city of Santa Cruz is circled by supporters of Evo Morales/MAS. Some of these small towns, while applying political pressure, i.e. road blocking, are engaging in severe physical confrontations with the followers of the CCSC. All this, without any police present to guarantee security.

So hold on to your seats!