June 20, 2007

Bolivia Update: Things Are Heating Up

MABB © ®

Update 1: Under this link you'll find the source of discord. This is the text the commission on vision of a country came up with. It's in Spanish.

This is the Bolivian Democratic Autonomic Junta, the group leading the autonomic effort in Bolivia. It is made up of the Prefects (departmental heads of governments) Ernesto Suárez (Beni), Leopoldo Fernández (Pando), Mario Cossío (Tarija) and Rubén Costas (Santa Cruz), as well as the civic committees from each department, other civic organizations and some indigenous groups. At the center is Rubén Costas.

The Junta decided, yesterday, June 19, to move from a 'state of emergency' to a 'state of mobilization', whereby it called on to all their supporters to start acting "in defense of democracy". The Junta is vehemently against the government's proposal to bring autonomy to the indigenous territories. According to the Junta, Bolivia will end up with 36 territories and 42 regions. This would lead to a brake up of Bolivian territory. Leaders also accuse the government of implementing its policy to cope power and become authoritarian (as with Venezuela or Cuba, for example).

The decisions taken in this occasion do not bode well, neither with the government nor with the military. For the first time in a long time, the military voiced its concern with such calls. The commander in chief, General Wilfrido Vargas, stopped short of condemning these acts, and said that the military WILL defend the UNITY of the country.

The Junta wants to start its mobilization next July 7, and on July 2 it wants to put forward its proposal for autonomy.


galloglass said...

Miguel: Do you mean this July? Of 2007?

miguel said...

Yes, this coming July. They are already up in arms. It doesn't look good.

Frank_IBC said...

I hope Cochabamba doesn't become a flash point, given that if there was any substantial movement of troops from the western part of the country towards Santa Cruz, most of them would have to pass through the city.

miguel said...

I don't think it'll get that far, given that Bolivia always seems to manage to come out of the mud at the last minute.

galloglass said...

Miguel: I hope I don´t offend you by asking, some people are sensitive about the subject,but is Bolivia a viable country? If you look at a map of Africa or the Middle East, many of the countries were constructed out of whole cloth by imperial powers. It seems that the Camba-Colla, Oriente-Occidente divide keeps getting worse. When I was in SC in 2005, the tricolor was a rare sight, but the green and white flag was omnipresent. Many Cambas think of themselves as Cambas first and Bolivians second. I know that the situation is more complex than that, but those who support autonomy, by and large, are supporters of polities and economies based on US and European models. MAS on the other hand, is a hodge-podge of indigenism, socialism, populism,communalism, etc. The two regions have views that seem mutually exclusive. I think that Santa Cruz will declare autonomy in July, which could lead to a seccessionist movement.

Frank_IBC said...

Yes, I noticed the predominance of the "camba" flag on my recent visit to Santa Cruz. At one point, there was a ceremony at the statue in the Plaza, and the national anthem was played - my friend, who is from Cochabamba, was surprised at the seeming indifference of the locals as the anthem was played.

miguel said...

Not at all, I don't take those things personally, as many other Bolivians do. Besides, it is a legitimate question.

Is Bolivia viable? I think in the very end yes, it will be.

Bolivia is, and has been, a distinctive region even in colonial times. You might be surprised (or not) that Bolivia, at some point in time, was a military and political powerhouse in South America. Already in colonial times was known to be a very rich and also powerful audiencia or region. At the center of this was the Audiencia de Charcas (today Sucre) and the mining industry in Potosi. In early republican times Bolivia had a lot to say in Peruvian, Chilean and Argentinean domestic politics. Peru had one Bolivian president (Andres de Santa Cruz) and Argentina had another (sorry I don't remember the name). It was known as the Alto Peru (high Peru). With this I want to highlight the common history of this particular region known as Alto Peru and afterwards as Bolivia. It was a country even before Bolivar got there.

So in this sense, it is very difficult for me to see a divided Bolivia.

However, that was then and this is now, right?

Aside from the common history, it is more than evident now that there might be two Bolivias at present time. Yes, the regional, and to some extent racial cleavages (people don't want to say it but I think it is part of the problem) have deepened to the extent that right now we are asking ourselves whether it will be possible that Bolivia divides itself into East and West Bolivia.

And I think you put your finger right on the spot by pointing to the different systems at play. On the one side, Morales, MAS and its supporters are trying to significantly change the rules of the game. This game looks pretty weird to all of us who grew up in the 'western' system. On the other side, the people in the media luna have come to use the western system to their advantage and are trying to preserve it.

This looks as though the differences are irreconcilable. Will there be? I just don't know. My take is that as usual, Bolivians will wait until the last minute to come up with a compromise.

I think what is going on in Santa Cruz is the product of the moment. Tempers are flaring. Cambas are as much Bolivians as Cochalas or Collas.