November 22, 2007

The Bolivian Government Raises Its Rhetoric

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Update: It seems the Bolivian government has stepped up its efforts. Today, at 7 p.m. the Constitutional Assembly has been able to restart its sessions, but in a military building 7 kms from the city of Sucre. The quorum was easily reached with MAS' 145 supporters. At the same time, it has started legal proceedings against the Prefects of the opposition, accusing them of treason. Also, it has stopped money transfers to fund prefectural projects and has reduced the amount of money these governments are supposed to receive. On another front, the government has been accused of financing and inciting social groups to go to Sucre thus raising the stakes of violence.

This latest 'push' is having varied reactions from the opposition. The Cochabamba Prefect has called for the Military to intervene to stop these Government's efforts. The civic leaders and departamental governments of Beni and Pando have called for opposition. They have fixed a date in which they'll declare autonomy (short of independence). The Santa Cruz people are yet to say something. Tarija has also denounced the government's efforts to force a new Constitution.

Meanwhile, the situation in Sucre is deteriorating further. There are protests and confrontations in the city. It is suspected that if the assembly runs its sessions longer, the people in the city will have time to organize and will head to the military building, where they are meeting. The problem is that around the building there is a strong presence of military forces (well armed) and, around them, there are several thousand MAS supporters also taking care that the assembly meets in peace.

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In recent weeks Bolivia has been dangerously spiraling down through a path of continued confrontation and social convulsion. Not that that is something new. What is new however, is the government's rhetoric substantially raising the level of conflict.

According to press reports, the government has started, what they call, "their last push for change". Within this 'push', the government has and is calling its social bases to put pressure on the Senate (which is controlled by the opposition) and the Constituent Assembly. In the last few days, an all out offensive has been taking place with several government ministers, MAS parliamentarians and MAS leaders initiating marches, demonstrations and blockades.

At the same time, the rhetoric has hardened, this time led by the Vice-president, who has expressed the significance of the latest struggles in terms of 'either we lose or we win'. Also, the Presidency Minister talked about a 'battle' to be won or lost. As a result of this black or white good or evil logic, several of the most radical leaders within MAS have started talking about the possibility of a civil war. The leader of the Ponchos Rojos militia said they were already training for such a possibility. The leader of the worker's federation also talked about a civil war.

The government is trying to apply pressure to the opposition by raising its rhetoric. If this strategy will work, it remains to be seen. The worst case scenario in this case, would be a real nightmare.

9 comments:

galloglass said...

Miguel:
Unfortunately, I agree that a civil war is a real possibility. Whether it's true or not, the Oriente thinks Evo and MAS want to create a country along Venezuelan lines. By the way, did you see that the government has just stated that US citizens will now need a visa Dec.1?

galloglass said...

Here's the link:
http://correodelsur.com/2007/1122/reader.shtml?visa.htm
I've got a flight the 2nd week of December...I better get moving!

Norman said...

You should be able to obtain a 5-year tourist visa at the Bolivian consulate. It runs $100 now. It's valid for up to 90 days per year and up to three entries into the country. Bolivians who have obtained US citizenship are exempt with proper documentation. Check the embassy web site. http://bolivia.usembassy.gov/wm11152007.html
I had heard that the visa could be obtained at the port of entry, but the above message doesn't mention it. Perhaps American Airlines has more info.

Anonymous said...

Norm:
Thanks for the info...I checked a about 2 weeks ago and I was told they were going to introduce a $135tourist card because tourist businesses complained that the requirements were onerous. Then I read that about a week ago the government changed their mind. I'd hate to be flying Dec.1 and scrambling to get a visa.

galloglass said...

Miguel:
The PRs have already declared war. Check out the front page of La Estrella del Oriente. It appears that they decapitated two dogs as a "señal de mal augurio para los prefectos de la denominada “media luna” que expresan su apoyo a Chuquisaca. "Declaramos la guerra en defensa de la sede de Gobierno", advirtió el dirigente de los “ponchos rojos”, Ruberto Quispe."

miguel (mabb) said...

Dear all, thank you for the tips and the commentary.

First, thank you for the tips on entry visas. I also have to get me one for next year. I am planning to give it a try to a double citizenship. At the moment I have no idea how, but I have a meeting in the Bolivian embassy in a few weeks. If there is anything to report I will be posting something. In the mean time, I will surely read the embassy's site cited above.

Galloglas: Yes, I agree too that the possibility is there. It's just I did not think it was significant. However, I am alarmed by the recent developments.

Yes, I've seen what the PRs have said. I would have expected it though, just because they belong, for me, to the most radical groups around.

What I'll be looking for is for some kind of violence braking out in Sucre, between MAS supporters and the Interinstitucional group. Also, for reports about arms being or having been brought into the country. I mean, in the form of cargo or so. Another thing would be to start seeing reports on militias training.

Those are some of the things I would be looking for.

I sure hope it doesn't get that far. In fact, I remain optimist in this point. I think Bolivians (the majority) will want to avoid violence and will come to grips with problems. So far, Bolivians have shown themselves to be averse to armed conflict, in recent history.

mcentellas said...

Things certainly don't look good. I'm not so much worried by the PR (they've made radical rhetoric their staple for years, which is why AGL is more dangerous than Evo).

But what's really troubling is the government's use of the CA, particularly now that it's holed up in La Glorieta. This is not a good sign.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly Evo said that they'll have a new constitution by the end of the day. MAS members have a quorum and are going to rubberstamp it today.

ana said...

Es muy importante entender la manipulación que sufren los Ponchs Rojos, el asunto no es como lo muestra la prensa. Les sugiero entrar al siguiente link:
http://www.periodicopukara.com/articulo-del-mes.php
O si entran después del 7 de enero el siguiente:
http://www.periodicopukara.com/pasados/pukara-26-articulo-del-mes.php
que dan elementos de debate y reflexión muy novedosos