May 30, 2005

Round Up of News

MABB © ®

This round up of news starts with the announcement that four groups in the city of El Alto will continue and, in fact, increase their protests in favor of the nationalization of Bolivian natural gas resources. The groups are: a union of public transport drivers, miners, rural campesinos and gremiales, which are a union of street vendors, outdoor market vendors, small traders, etc. All four of these groups are under the umbrella organization of FEJUVE (Federation of Neighborhoods Juntas) and COR-El Alto (Regional Workers Central - El Alto). Their objective is to force the government and Congress to nationalize all the natural resources in Bolivia. Among the things they want to undertake this week are the closing of Congress, resignation of Mr Mesa, roadblocks, national and general strike, among other things.

In other bits of news, the national government has started to apply the law to somewhat diminish the severity of protests. In this fashion, the Minister of Government, Saul Lara, has asked the La Paz State Attorney to file charges against Jaime Solares, leader of COB (Bolivian Workers Union) and Roberto de la Cruz, member of El Alto's Assembly. The charges should be for conspiring, sedition, threatening against the lives of the President, Ministers and Congressmen, inciting to brake the law and terrorism. (some more coverage of this in Barrio Flores)

This move might or might not have the desired result. On the one side, if there would be a general sense of law and order in Bolivia, the bringing of charges against these two "agitators" would result in a decrease of radical actions amongst protestors. In other words, protestos would stop threatening to apply "communal justice" to the members of congress or they would stop detonating dynamite on the streets. However, the most likely effect of these indictments is for the further radicalization of the protestor's actions. As de la Cruz has already expressed, the people would not see this as legal and acceptable and if any of them would be thrown into jail, things would get pretty bad very fast.

In other news, once again the Bolivian Congress is in a tight spot at the center of controversy. Tomorrow (Tuesday), in a session due to start at 3 pm, the legislature has to debate and determine the date of the election of the Constituent Assembly members as well as the date of the referendum on autonomy. The divisions in this case are regional with Santa Cruz wanting the referendum on autonomy to happen first. The reasons I explore in this post. On the other hand, most of the regional forces (including Tarija) in parliament are somewhat agreeing with having both, the referendum and the election of assembly members, in the same day. In the meantime, Congress is asking for assurances from the protesting groups to let them meet in peace. For their part, the protest groups are threatening again to march to Congress and close it.

A previous attempt, on May 19, at passing a law setting an earlier date for the autonomic referendum was stopped by Solares and his supporters (thugs). They tried to force their way into the session and threatened to bring miners with dynamite to help them close Congress. This is a delicate situation that may or may not explode into something worst. In any case, the Congress is between the sword and the wall.