May 25, 2005

Mesa's Gamble with Pacifism: Will it Pay Off?

MABB © ®

President Mesa is taking a big gamble by pursuing a policy of peace and non-violence to confront the disturbances in La Paz and other cities.

In a speech given in the city of Sucre (Bolivia's Judicial capital), Mr Mesa expressed his preference: "Prefiero pagar el costo de que se mire al Gobierno como sin autoridad (...) a que estemos rápidamente en una espiral de violencia de la que hemos salido a duras penas" (I prefer that my government be seen as one without authority, rather than rapidly go down the spiral of violence, from which we have just come out).

He is refusing to use repression to take control of Bolivia and prevent the rise in violence, which potentially could cost him his job and his liberty.

This is precisely my observation. I think he is taking a big gamble which may or may not pay off.

The best case scenario, will look like this: The protestors get impatient and grow increasingly violent. This is a tactic which worked before. Force the police to act and see them shed some blood. This serves to infuriate and bring even more people to the streets. However, in this case if the police does not act and does not shed blood, the protestors are the ones vilified. This is already happening to some extent in the newspapers. Support for the protests tends to gradually die down with time and at some point be exhausted. This way, Mr Mesa says violence doesn't work and forces the activists to communicate.

Now, the worst case scenario is one where protests grow bold and increase not just in magnitude but also in degree of violence. This might be seen as the government not having any authority and thus a change migh be imminent. The population might turn its back on Mesa's pacifism and force a change in government. After all, there are still people in Bolivia who think that the only way to rule Bolivia is with a dictatorship.

Let's hope democracy wins, regardless of who comes out on top!