January 09, 2007

Cochabamba State Building in Flames

MABB © ®

The Bolivian government has repeatedly asked MAS supporters to "defend" its "revolution". Yesterday, in Cochabamba, the answer could be observed. MAS supporters burned part of the state government (prefectural) building in Cochabamba during a violent demonstration to demand the democratically elected Prefect, Manfred Reyes Villa, to resign from his office. Reyes Villa had been critical of Morales' efforts to consolidate his power in office.

The results of that demonstration were 31 wounded, 10 MAS supporters, 11 policeman and 10 journalists, who were trying to cover the story. According to accounts in Los Tiempos, some demonstrators threw stones against the police using hondas (long leather strings used by the indigenous population to propel stones). This attack was then answered by police guarding the Prefecture building with anti-riot gas. Immediately thereafter, Government Minister, Alicia Munoz, destituted police Chief, Wilge Obleas Espinoza and ordered the retreat of police forces, leaving Prefect Reyes Villa without any protection and in danger of being caught by the protesting mass. The Prefect then escaped wearing a police uniform (interview with Reyes Villa in Spanish).

Opposition forces are deeply concerned. Citing violations to the democratic process, the opposition in Santa Cruz with the voice of the State Government, expressed its alarm and warned the government that if such acts would want to be promoted in Santa Cruz, the state government would act against them. Jose Luis Paredes, Prefect of La Paz, also condemned with the same alarm the events in Cochabamba.

The opposition severely criticized Minoz's decision to fire Obleas literally minutes after he swore-in. Munoz said Obleas order military action and that no one could order any kind of repression against the social movements (MAS), while Obleas said he did not have time to do so. He was just informed police forces acted according to their mandate of defending government buildings against any aggression. People in the opposition did not hesitate to highlight Munoz's contradiction when during the July 2006 disturbances in Santa Cruz, she accused and also fired the Santa Cruz Police Chief of not acting against the protesters.

For more infor, please check the Bolivian newspapers listed on the right bar.