November 27, 2006

Morales Traveled Without Permission, While Bolivia Sinks Deeper into Potential Violence

MABB © ®
Second Update (Nov. 29)
The Bolivian government approved early today (after 24:00) the land reform law. The opposition is crying foul, due to what it considers the betrayal of three opposition Senators from Beni and Pando. Abraham Araujo Cuéllar (Unidad Nacional), Andrés Fermín Heredia Guzmán (Podemos), and Héctor Mario Vargas Rivera (Podemos) completed the quorum needed to pass the land reform bill. Some civic leaders are saying there was a bribe in play.

The bill sets the stage for the state to confiscate without any compensation "unproductive land", with unproductive being defined by the government.

The radicalizaiton of actions is to be expected.

First Update (Nov. 29):
Opposition forces have given the government 72 hours to make amends on the three issues in dispute - land reform, controll over Prefects and the 2/3 voting system in the CA. If the government does not, in the words of the opposition, 'pacify' the country, there will be a 24 hours general strike, starting Friday. Were the government not to make concessions, the strike can become indefinite.

Among the opposition forces are: Podemos, UN and MNR, the civic committees of 8 departments (La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Pando, Beni, Tarija, Oruro y Sucre) and the Prefects of the opposition six (La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Pando, Beni, Tarija).

Evo Morales is in Holland. This is his first stop on this latest trip which will take him to Nigeria and, of course, Cuba. In Holland he'll meet with Bolivian residents, the Queen, government officials and Shell executives. Moments before boarding the airplane told VP Garcia Linera that he trusted Garcia would solve the problems Morales was leaving behind. After making a short stop in Bolivia on Tuesday, Morales cannot stay outside Bolivia more than 5 days, since he does not have permission of Parliament to travel, he'll go on to the South America - Africa Summit in Nigeria. His final stop will be Cuba to celebrate Fidel's birthday.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Bolivia takes a turn for the worst. The ingredients for violence start to slowly come together. The march to La Paz is nearing its end. There are around 5000 campesinos on their way to La Paz to pressure a favorable vote on the land reform bill. Around 360 indigenous people from the north of La Paz will march today, Monday. The 1835 campesinos of the Indigenous Confederation of the Bolivian East is expected to reach La Paz on Tuesday. Additionally, the 1200 members of the National Council of the Qullasuyo (the Andes region) and the 1500 members of the Unique Worker's Union (CSUTCB) will wait to march on Tuesday. Within the leaders of this march the rhetoric has turned violent. There were many comments made by some leaders as to wanting to force some elite Senators to make the right decision. The emphasis is here on the word force.

At the same time opposition forces have convened a meeting in Cochabamba to form a more cohesive block to pressure the government to make its position on the 2/3 voting system more flexible. Civic representatives of 8 departments (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Cochabamba, Tarija, La Paz, Oruro and Chuquisaca) and the 6 opposition Prefects have confirmed attendance. This meeting has triggered a government forces response. MAS supporters have announced demonstrations and marches to stop this opposition forces meeting. Once again, the rhetoric is radical with some of these leaders threatening with physical violence.

Lastly, the number of people in hunger strike, started by UN leader, Samuel Doria Medina, 12 days ago, has reached 273. People from the Santa Cruz department are the most engaged. This protest has started in direct response to the 2/3 vs. simple majority conflict in the Constituent Assembly. The protest is in favor of the 2/3 model.

The ingredients for violence are slowly comming together with thousands of people from opposite sides meeting in one place. The threat is highest in Cochabamba where the tempers are already high. In the mean time, Morales is outside Bolivia and has left the job to the VP, the person with most radical ideas in the government.