August 16, 2007

The Constitutional Assembly Reaches Critical Level

MABB © ®

New Developments: The fight over the possible move of the seat of government to Sucre is Elmo hot. The situation is reaching meltdown levels. Yesterday, the entire city of Sucre was practically paralyzed due to the general strike. Even though the organization leading the efforts to bring back the government to Sucre did not organize any marches or demonstrations, spontaneous marches and massive demonstrations did gather on the streets. In addition, they blocked the city and laid siege to the place where the CA meets. Many assembly members, specially those from La Paz and the ones making up the presidency, had to remain there because of security reasons. Other members of the La Paz faction had to go underground, again because of security reasons.

During the marches, Sucre showed its hostility towards the government, the President and MAS. Some protesters burned Morales' photos and Whiphalas (the indigenous flags). Moreover, this will have a backlash on MAS support in the next elections. Sucre was one of the five departments where MAS won in 2005.

So far the consequences have been: the 24 hour general strike (which was successful), the withdrawal of the entire Sucre faction from the CA (23 members), the withdrawal of the entire opposition faction from the CA (54 members), the total paralyzation of the CA, seven assembly members are in hunger strike at the CA, 31 other people have started hunger strike in five other places, at least three more hunger strikes are planned to start in the next days, in Santa Cruz 20 Sucre citizens have started hunger strike, the Santa Cruz civic committee sent a group of people to Sucre to bring support, and the autonomic movement gained Sucre as new member.

The situation is critical. The paralyzation of the CA is a fact for the time being. There is a demand from Santa Cruz to postpone it until these problematic issues are solved. There are even calls to suspend altogether the CA. One thing is clear though, the way the CA presidency is handling these problems is not appropriate. The division is even deeper.

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The Constitutional Assembly (CA) has reached the Elmo level of alarm. Yes, it's Elmo alright!

In yesterday's long session, and at the very end, the President, Silvia Lazarte, took up the voting of a resolution removing from the CA's agenda the issue of moving the seat of government to Sucre. There were 234 assembly members present; 134 voted to remove the controversial item and 73 voted to keep it. In what it seemed to be a coordinated maneuver, MAS along with the La Paz faction, successfully voted to remove the item from the table.

Already in the afternoon assembly members from Sucre had publicly warned of the maneuver on the works. After the vote, the protest was loud and clear. People of all walks of life gathered around the building where the CA assembles to protest. The group coordinating Sucre's demand to move the seat of government back to Sucre announced a halt to negotiations and an immediate state of alert.

The measures to follow are a total cease of activities for 24 hours and several assembly members from the Sucre faction have started a hunger strike. Several more are to join them in the next days.

With this, Bolivia has, in effect, divided into two parts. On the one side are La Paz, Cochabamba, Potosi and Oruro. On the other side are Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz, Tarija and now Sucre (the complete media luna).