July 22, 2007

The La Paz Town Hall Meeting

MABB © ®

Back in January 2005, Santa Cruz organized a mega demonstration, which they called a cabildo (town hall meeting). There they claimed that around one million citizens decided to push forward with the demands for more regional autonomy. Fast forward to July 20, 2007, the 'other Bolivia' has raised its voice in another mega demonstration, which they also called cabildo.
The people from La Paz and El Alto gathered in El Alto to demonstrate their rejection to the proposed move of the government seat back to Sucre, Bolivia's official capital and once seat of government

There are no official numbers of how many people attended. The Bolivian Information Agency, ABI, says there were close to two million people there. No way to confirm that.

The pictures below show the gathering on Friday, July 20, 2007. More pictures can be accessed at Bolivia's national information agency, ABI.

In my opinion, this latest cabildo only reinforces the idea that the country is deeply divided along regional lines. Clearly we can observe the two regions being able to get over a million people together. Considering that Bolivia has 9 million inhabitants, these two demonstrations have been able to gather almost a quarter of the population. That, in support of two different causes. What I am wondering at this moment is that the middle region is not saying anything so far. Right in the middle of the conflict lies Cochabamba, the third largest city (formerly second) in the country. The question is: which side will they pick?

Talking about the paceno cabildo, it decided to give the Constitutional Assembly (CA) 17 days to erase from the debate agenda the issue of moving the seat of government to Sucre. And, in a very Bolivian manner, they said if the CA did not comply, they would start mobilizations, which I assume would mean more demonstrations, marches, and more political pressure. At the very same time, in Sucre, the commission in charge of pushing for the move of the seat of government met to plan out their strategy to continue. Of all things, they are planning to hold, yes, a gathering of people. Perhaps it will be next week.

On its part, the government welcomed this gathering. Its argument is that the issue is prone to divide Bolivia. I am not sure if they are blind, but don't they see that Bolivia is already divided? Or perhaps they mean geographically?

This issue promises to continue to be a leading headliner in the next weeks. What would be the answers of Santa Cruz, and of all places, Cochabamba?

Finally, I think it is a good idea to move the capital back to Sucre. As my friend Miguel Centellas says: "...I doubt Sucre wants to become the new marchodromo (I suspect its experience w/ protesters & the Constituent Assembly may have soured many sucrenses from their desire to reclaim the capital)." I suspect pacenos should be more than happy to cease to be the official marchodromo (referring to the almost daily marches and demonstrations in the streets) of Bolivia.