May 17, 2005

Bolivia's Ever Growing Problems

MABB © ®

What a difference a weekend makes. The situation in Bolivian politics can deteriorate in a matter of days. Although, aren't those types of conflicts in the norm fast and furious? Oh, well!

Here is an attempt to recap what's been going on in Bolivia in recent days.

As the government, shall I say Mr Mesa, has been "analyzing" to either veto or sign the new Hydrocarbons law sent his way by Congress, the social movements have started their version of "nationalize everything" revolution.

The latest news (thanks to Barrio Flores and Bolivia.com) confirm that Mr Mesa has decided to (continuing with the analogy) pass the ball back to Congress. But, this time it looks like it was the last pass and the last party left with the ball will have to shoot. That is, after Mr Mesa waited out the 10 days the Constitution gave him to sign or veto the law, now the unsigned law goes back to Congress to be promulgated. I am anxious to see if Congress has a last card in its sleeve.

However, yesterday the social movements have started their measures to push the government to: 1) Nationalize the natural gas reserves and 2) Fire Mr Mesa.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people, mainly from El Alto, marched down to La Paz with the aim of taking over Congress, expel members of Congress, perhaps punish some of them (with justicia comunitaria), demand nationalization of all resources and ask Mesa to step down. Among the people marching were, unemployed, part-time workers, rural (campesino) people, etc. These events paralyzed, once again, the city of La Paz. As a result, people were stacking their supplies already a week ago. What I don't understand is why did the La Paz authorities decided to go ahead with classes. According to new reports, there was at least one child hit by the explosion of small sticks of dynamite called cachorros.

Talking about dynamite, there were two people taken into custody because they were found carrying bags with explosives (dynamite), maps of where those explosives were to be used and political propaganda.

Keeping with the topic of violence, it looks like Bolivia has its very own terrorist group or groups?

This weekend, two groups emerge as possible terrorist groups made in Bolivia. The Bolivian Revolusionary Commando (Comando Revolucionario Bolivianista) was the organization connected with at least one of the two people taken into custody during the confrontations between demonstrators and security forces. As we mentioned above, they were carrying explosives. Also, the Anti-corruption Ample Front (Frente Amplio Anticorrupcion) was behind the explosion of a bomb placed in front of the headquarters of Petrobras. After the fact, there was a message from the FAA which said that the group demanded the nationalization of resources. If the government did not comply, the group would continue with its tactics.

Now, this is not the first time this happens in Bolivia, but it is a very troubling sign that, perhaps, there are some people who are getting very impatient and the government is losing more and more the grip of authority.

To this I have to add that this is exactly one of my most fears about what is going on in Bolivia. The way I see it, Bolivia is ripe for the beginning of violence. The culture, that is the example, is already there. We have the experience in Peru, with the Shining Path, we have the experience of the Zapatista movement and Comandante Marcos, and we have the experience of Colombia.

I think there is a very real threat that things can turn violent all of the sudden in Bolivia. Already we've had some people trying to get arms in the Altiplano (see here).
The Plan Colombia is pushing Colombia's problems down Bolivia's way. Bolivia's borders are not patrolled well. The people are really angry. The only thing that's missing is an entrepreneurial arms dealer who can deliver weapons. Or, it may not even be that. I am sure there are several dealers who are ready, what is missing is money. If these groups can get a hold of money to buy arms, this could end up bad (keep an eye on Hugo). But, let's hope it doesn't.

As we have become accustomed, there is still not a resolution to the hydrocarbons problem. Is far as I can see, there won't be one for some time to come. But, I'll be keeping an eye on it for you. ;-)

Notice I haven't said much about Evo in this post. He must be disappointed. But, one must say at least some words. Evo and his followers decided to march for the nationalization of resources as well. It turns out that a road block by miners did not let Evo's people through. We'll see what is he cooking next.

Here is a link on a post I wrote about the possibilities on natural gas in Bolivia.