April 05, 2005

El Alto

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The city of El Alto used to be a northern suburb of the city of La Paz. Now it has become the capital of the indigenous Altiplano people. This city is in a particularly strategic position, not only politically but also geographically. It is located literally on top of La Paz and its habitants are mainly the poor. Its location gives this city an advantage over other regions around Bolivia. Activists can organize themselves in one place and actually march to the center of Bolivian power, El Palacio Quemado (The Burned Palace).

In more than one ocasion, in my opinion, this city and its citizens has held the government of Bolivia under tremendous pressure. They did this, not only because they can block the entire city of La Paz, but they can also block the Altiplano and when they really want, the entire city.

I say this, because, I think, this kind of power has turn them into some kind of spoiled "kids", judging from some demands I read they have.

According to the El Alto press agency (APA), the people of El Alto, organized under the umbrella entity FEJUVE-El Alto, are beginning to organize their next demands. Some of those demands will be for the government to intall publich bathrooms so the citizens won't have to pay 30 cents for the use of private bathrooms. Another demand, according to the APA, is to demand the government to lift an order which outlines punishments for the people who stoped paying their water and telephone bills, about three months ago. In fact, the leader of FEJUVE, Abel Mamani, said he is saving that money to pay to the new state owned water company.

Lastly, the regional workers' union is already planning what measures it will implement and what its demands will be. They want to demand from the government more work and better education and health services. They add, only infrastructure is not enough, the government must do more.

Some of these demands are starting to sound very strage to me, to say the least. I mean, one thing is to fight for education and health care, but what is the government to do when the protestors don't give it time to do all they demand.

Of course, on the other hand, the Bolivian government is NOT known for its efficiency.