The outspoken Cochabamba Prefect (Governor), Manfred Reyes Villa, has become a real thorn on Morales' foot. In the last weeks, Reyes Villa has spoken against the government unleashing a wave of protests which ended with the death of two people. Reyes Villa, who for a while was aligned with MAS, sharply criticized the government's attempts to remove the democratically elected Prefects from office by inciting its supporters to rise and "fight" for their "revolution". In response, he said he would call for a referendum to remove not only the Prefects, but also the President.
These words agitated the President, his government and through them, MAS supporters. Particularly upset were the Coca Growers' Union (Morales' own organization). These people staged a take over of grounds surrounding the state government building. The aim was to stay there until Reyes Villa resigned from office. The demonstrations turned violent to the point where part of the state government building was burned by these people.
In response, the city's civic organizations called to a demonstration for peace and in support of the Prefect. This demonstration was going to take place in the same square the other demonstrators held their meeting. The event organized by the civic organizations could not take place because the MAS supporters did not let the square free. This brought them into a brief confrontation which was defused by the police. However, the civic organizations promised to come back the next day and do something about it.
The next day, as reported by the media and I wrote in previous posts, was a day of violence and death. Reportedly, the MAS supporter died from a bullet shot by a supporter of the civic organizations. And, contrary to what the media reported, the so called civic supporter who died beaten up, was not taking part of the demonstration or the conflict. He was visiting someone in a hospital close where he died. Apparently, he went outside to smoke and see what was going on.
Currently, things have calmed down and the two groups have backed down. However, it seems like Reyes Villa is not done yet. After forcing the government to accept his legitimacy as an elected official, and the government going so far as to guaranteeing his safety to return to his office, he has started to speak again. He has said he will ask international organizations, like the OAS and the EU to come to Bolivia to evaluate the state of the democratic process. Additionally, he still wants to force the government to submit itself, as well as all the Prefectural offices, to a revocatory referendum, which would put the legitimacy of these offices in question. Reyes Villa commented, to the government's proposal to carry out such referendum, but excluding those offices who won with more that 50% of the vote, that the President was searching for excuses not to submit himself to such a vote because he knew he would lose. Reyes Villa argued that the government lost much support due to its efforts to consolidate power by inciting to violence.
Manfred's speech to the nation:
Here some news links:
Mensaje a la nación de Manfred Reyes Villa, prefecto de CochabambaUna semana de asedio a la democracia ha terminado en muerte y Cochabamba ha pagado con la sangre de sus hijos la radicalidad de un gobierno nacional, que siendo el único que pudo resolver la crisis, prefirió esperar la tragedia.
Es el presidente de la república quién tiene el monopolio de la fuerza; él dispone de los aparatos de seguridad del Estado y es el máximo líder de los cocaleros. Del él depende y dependerá, en todo momento, restituir las garantías constitucionales a los cochabambinos y restaurar la paz en el país. Quiero asegurarle a Bolivia que como Prefecto de Cochabamba he asistido a todo escenario de diálogo y el día miércoles 10 de enero, – en mi linea de respeto a la Ley – he puesto en manos del Ministro Quintana postergar el referéndum departamental sobre autonomías o someterlo a juicio del Poder Judicial y, en caso de que la justicia determine su improcendencia, postergarlo hasta cuando corresponda. Hasta hoy no hemos recibido respuesta. El cabildo de la cochabambinidad del 14 de diciembre último, emitió el mandato de convocar a un referéndum departamental sobre autonomías y la reacción de los sectores cocaleros del gobierno fue tomar por asedio Cochabamba destruyendo su patrimonio, agrediendo a los ciudadanos, cortando el suministro de agua y suprimiendo la libre expresión al ultrajar a los periodistas y asediar a los medios de comunicación. La violencia en Cochabamba es el punto de quiebre de un proceso de desgobierno que arrasó Huanuni y San Julián. Fue por eso que fui a la ciudad de La Paz, no a conspirar contra el gobierno, sino a defender la democracia. Porque Cochabamba es hoy día la última línea de defensa de la democracia y defenderla impone el compromiso del país en su integridad y una acción conjunta de todos los prefectos electos. Como Prefecto Constitucional y Comandante General del Departamento, les pido, imploro a los cochabambinos estar más unidos que nunca en la defensa de la paz y la tranquilidad de todas nuestras familias, velando por el valor supremo, la vida humana, por encima de cualquier cosa. Que esta profunda crisis sirva para reconciliarnos entre bolivianos; no queremos más sangre, más dolor ni más luto. Le pido al Presidente Morales devolvernos la paz.
Manfred Reyes Villa Bacigalupi
PREFECTO CONSTITUCIONAL Y COMANDANTEGENERAL DEL DEPARTAMENTO DE COCHABAMBA
- Bolivia: The national authorities must maintain order and protect inhabitants Amnesty International - 1 hour, 13 minutes agoPublishedThe national authorities in Bolivia must provide viable solutions under the rule of law to avoid more bloodshed, Amnesty International said today.
- Bolivia's request to become Mercosur member raises concern - Regional Business News Americas - 19 minutes agoBolivia's request to join Mercosur has raised concern among some of the bloc's members, an official from Uruguay's foreign ministry told BNamericas.
- Bolivia sends Cuban dissident to Colombia Miami Herald - Jan 18 3:57 AM(AP) -- A Cuban dissident arrested last month in Bolivia for criticizing President Evo Morales' close ties to Havana was deported Tuesday to Colombia rather than to Cuba, as he had feared.
- Tensions mount in Bolivian region BBC News - Jan 17 4:38 PMBolivia's central government refuses to accept a parallel government set up by protesters in Cochabamba.
- A year of Evo in Bolivia - The controversial president marks his first anniversary in office. Angus Reid - Jan 16 9:26 AMGabriela Perdomo - It has been 12 months since Evo Morales, the first indigenous person to ever be elected to the presidency of a country in the Americas, took his oath in Bolivia.
- Protesters take on the right in Cochabamba, Bolivia Socialist Worker - Jan 16 10:31 AMCochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, has become the focus of the growing battle between supporters of left wing president Evo Morales and right wing governors who are demanding autonomy for key oil and gas producing regions.
- Bolivia: The national authorities must maintain order and protect inhabitants Amnesty International - 1 hour, 15 minutes agoPublishedThe national authorities in Bolivia must provide viable solutions under the rule of law to avoid more bloodshed, Amnesty International said today.
- Bolivia: Tensions Reach a Head in Cochabamba La Nueva Cuba - Jan 15 7:48 AMStratfor Breaking Intelligence Geopolitical Intelligence Report Infosearch: José Cadenas Analista Bureau Chief USA Research Dept. La Nueva Cuba January 15, 2007
- Bolivian governor calls off autonomy plans AlertNet - Jan 15 3:51 PMSource: Reuters LA PAZ, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The governor of Cochabamba in central Bolivia said on Monday he will stop pressing for a referendum on regional autonomy, the issue that sparked deadly street clashes last ...
- Morales allies vow to step up protests in Bolivia Reuters via Yahoo! India News - Jan 12 8:30 PMCOCHABAMBA, Bolivia (Reuters) - At least 20,000 coca farmers allied with Bolivian President Evo Morales vowed on Friday to keep up protests against a provincial governor, a day after two people were killed in street battles.
- Morales allies vow to step up protests in Bolivia AlertNet - Jan 12 7:51 PMSource: Reuters (Updates with new Morales comments) By David Mercado COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Jan 12 (Reuters) - At least 20,000 coca farmers allied with Bolivian President Evo Morales vowed on Friday to keep up ...
- Bolivia protesters pressure governor AP via Yahoo! News - Jan 14 7:14 PMDemonstrators loyal to President Evo Morales continued their weeklong vigil in this central Bolivian city on Sunday, calling for the opposition-aligned state governor to resign for backing a movement to give the country's nine states greater autonomy.
- Morales allies vow to step up protests in Bolivia AlertNet - Jan 12 2:21 PMSource: Reuters (Recasts, adds quotes, previous LA PAZ) By David Mercado COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Thousands of coca farmers allied with Bolivian President Evo Morales vowed on Friday to keep up ...