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).

7 comments:

mcentellas said...

Yes, it's amazing that Sucre has been successfully pushed or pulled into the media luna orbit. I'm not sure what a compromise solution to this issue can be. Unlike autonomy, it's not something that can be met halfway—you either move the capital or you don't.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Cochabamba also split between pro-Morales and pro-Santa Cruz factions?

My Bolivian geography isn't very good but does Cochabamba border the media luna?

miguel said...

The only compromise is to move the seat of government back to Sucre. :-)

I have been arguing (here and there) that it would be an advantage to move it to Sucre. I think, La Paz has too much of a hold on Bolivian politics and is too vulnerable to pressures.

La Paz has dominated decision making for the best part of Bolivia's republican life. Precisely because it is the seat of government. I ask myself, what are the advantages to have the seat of government in La Paz? Nothing comes to mind that other cities around the country would not have. In fact, I can think a couple of things that are not advantages, let me put it that way.

Second, La Paz is too vulnerable to protests. Some times it even borders coercion. The social movements from El Alto and La Paz and the mines in El Altiplano have too much of an influence on La Paz. That is because La Pas is easy to siege. The city lies in a hole between the mountains and has but a couple of roads connecting it to the world. Most of these roads go through the Altiplano. So when the social movements want to apply pressure, the only thing they have to do is block the roads, and voila.

And yes, I do know that as a result tens of thousands of people would lose their jobs. However, La Paz has many more possibilities that just living off of the government. It has industry and has the potential to become a financial center. La Paz would certainly not slip into oblivion were the seat of government be moved to Sucre.

On the next point, Cochabamba has not expressed support for Sucre nor for the autonomous movement. In that sense, it can be said that it is not split between one and the other. Now, that there are many people who support Sucre and autonomy within the city, there is no question. But, it is my impression, those are few.

Cochabamba is the hear of Bolivia. It borders every department except Tarija and Pando. With Cochabamba it wouldn't be half moon anymore, it would be waxing gibbous or waning crescent moon (whichever you like).

Frank_IBC said...

From what I've heard, the residents of the city of Cochabamba are sympathetic to the Media Luna - particularly since the events of January, but the rest of the province supports the central government.

Tambopaxi said...

Miguel,

Great post. Looks like things are getting grimmer down there, and it sounds like the CA concept is on the ropes (decir, in grave danger).

On a lighter note, I love the Oscar to Elmo rating system! You've invented a new shorthand system for discussing and communicating political situations wherever we are.

For instance, the situation here in Ecuador right now is Bert, bordering on Ernie because of Correa's threats to dissolve the Congress here. This could go to a high level of Ernie as we move towards our own CA later this year, but I'm sure that most political analysts here would agree we're still just circling in the Bert area. Sure would be nice to see Bolivia down at the Bert level as well..... regards, T

miguel (mabb) said...

Not quite. The city of Cochabamba is also divided, particularly since January. Neighborhoods like Cala Cala and so on are the dominion of civic groups such as Juventud por Democracia. On the other side is the COD, which supports MAS. This is also divided by skin color and social classes. That is why there was a huge fight January 11th.

The crisis alert system, I found it useful too. Thanks to the Department of Homeland Security. I have to say, it cracks me up, specially if the crisis comes to Coockie Monster or Elmo. :))) Yes, I didn't want to trivialize what is going on in Bolivia, but a bit of humor I thought, was not bad.

I hope Ecuador does not reach the Elmo level. It wouldn't surprise me though. It often has. And as for Bolivia, Elmo is about to melt.

I hope that we all dont't end up in Sesame Street.

Frank_IBC said...

You're right, Miguel - I guess I'm thinking mainly of the folks in the center, north and west of town.