May 10, 2005

Bolivia Prepares for the Worst

MABB © ®

While President Mesa is taking his time deciding on whether to sign or to veto the new Hydrocarbons law, the country is, once again, preparing for the worst.

First, the Santa Cruz assembly, an event bringing together a variety of representatives of different sectors of society (business associations, indigenous organizations, civic organizations, among others), has decided to give Congress 48 hours to call for a referendum on autonomies. If Congress does not do that on May 12, 2005, the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz and all the organizations belonging to it will start their own unilateral process to make autonomy a reality.

Second, over in the department of Tarija (south east of La Paz), the Civic Committee of Tarija has been overseeing a general strike and road blockades. These measures are taken to pressure the government and the legislature to make the city of Tarija the seat of the new Bolivian oil company, YPFB. In addition they are asking the government to build roads communicating the department to Paraguay and the rest of the country. In the last few days, the activists have become more frustrated by the apparent lack of interest on the part of the government. They have been radicalizing their activities by symbolically occupying government buildings.

Third, for his part, Evo and his MAS has decided to call for a national march against the new Hydrocarbons law. Evo and his supporters, among them civic organizations like FEJUVE-El Alto, worker's unions and indigenous groups, denounce the new law for not charging 50% royalties and legalizing the contracts between the Bolivian government and the energy companies operating in the country. These contracts were declared invalid by the Constitutional Tribunal last week. On may 16, the march is supposed to end in Congress when the activists want to close it and punish the congressmen who are on the side of the companies.

Fourth, on their part, the radicals in El Alto, in coordination with Evo and his party, have decided to march on Monday 16 to close the national Congress and ask President Mesa to resign. In addition to take over government buildings like YPFB and the national Congress, they plan to block the International Airport.

A storm is rapidly approaching!