December 09, 2006

While Morales Gets to Play Host, Garcia Gets to Fix or Brake the Conflict

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It's been a busy week in Bolivia. The President of Bolivia is hosting the II South American Summit in the city of Cochabamba. Morales started the event, to which 7 of the 12 invited presidents are attending, by calling for regional integration. In his opinion, "integration will solve many demands, the historical conflicts (he calls it damage), and the regional energy problems. On his part, President Lula Da Silva, as acting President of the event, also called for regional integration taking the European example of using coal and steel, but in the Southamerican case it would be energy and infrastructure.

The list of attendants looks like this:

Presidents - Lula da Silva (Brasil), Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Bharrat Jagdeo (Guyana), Alan García (Perú), Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay), Hugo Chávez (Venezuela) y Evo Morales

Vicepresidents - Ecuador, Carlos Serrano Aguilar, and Argentina, Daniel Oswaldo Scioli

Representatives - Panamá's Social Minister, María Roque Borth; Colombia's International Relations Minister, María Consuelo Araujo; Cancillor (Sec. of State) of Paraguay, Rubén Ramírez, and México's Viceminister for Latinamerican Issues, Jorge Chein.

Guests - Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Rafael Correa (Newly elected President of Ecuador).

Note: Daniel Ortega and newly elected President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, arrived in Venezuelan planes. Correa arrived with Chavez.

Those who shine for their absense: Alvaro Uribe (Colombia), Alfredo Palacio (Ecuador), Néstor Kirchner (Argentina), Nicanor Duarte (Paraguay), and Ronald Venetiaan (Suriname).

While the Latin American Presidents are meeting in Chochabamba and talking about regional integration, the country is once again on the verge of collapse. At the very least, that is how I see it. Very dramatic developments. Four departments, Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, have decided to hold a townhall meeting to start procedures for the implementation of regional autonomy. In Santa Cruz, in particular, it could be heard, from thousands of people, the "independence" call. The decision conveyed the desire to act unified and thus negotiate with the central government. In the words of the civic leaders, the agreeing of the government to the 2/3 voting method in the Constituent Assembly was not enough anymore. From now on, autonomy would be the goal. Furthermore, there was a new regiona created, the Autonomic Region of Bolivia.

These events come on the back of more violence taken place last week. As a result of the government's decision to impose the simple majority vote in the assembly, the opposition block started a series of hunger strikes. The government responded with indiference. Its supporters responded with violence. In La Paz, several striking groups were attacked by government supporters to try to stop them. By the same token, the opposition in Santa Cruz also responded with violence when large groups of university students violently attacked and took over several governmental offices. This promted the executive to close all the public buildings in the city and prohibiting all public employees to participate in any act of provocation.

The MAS government has been forced to negotiate. The person in charge of the negotiations is Vicepresident, Alvaro Garcia. Through Garcia the government has made several calls for dialogue and negotiation. In the last two days it has signaled the acquiecense of the government to revise the voting method in the assembly and to respect the aunonomic referendum.

The situation seems critical at this point in time. While playing host to South American countries, the government has to first keep the crisis to a low level; try to keep it in some kind of control; carefully avoid trouble; and lastly, keep negotiating with the opposition. I am surprised the opposition is not trying to take advantage of this situation. I mean, to try to preassure the government even more by organizing more public disruptions to the summit.

Sources: Bolivian press (please see the links on the side bar if you want to revise the sources for this post.)
II Cumbre de Naciones Sudamericanas