November 28, 2007

Evo's Gamble, Will It Pay Off?

MABB © ®

Source: La Razon

By now it is pretty much clear what is the government's strategy to push its agenda. It seems that Morales has decided to just leave the opposition out of the decision process. First, we simply have to look at the way the MAS Constitutional Assembly approved their Constitution. According to various reports and personal accounts, the MAS decided to take the assembly sessions to La Glorieta (the military academy in Sucre). The directory argued that in the city of Sucre there was not enough security. Which was true, due to the demonstrators or citizens who were gathered around the building where the assembly was meeting. So president Lazarte and her MAS colleagues, took the sessions to the military academy because it was secure and it laid within the boundaries of the city, thus meeting the technical problems raised by the law. At the same time, the opposition was not informed and (according to some news reports) was not even allowed to go to the place. It was in that manner, that MAS, with around 130 assembly members, could rush through the passing of the new constitution.

A second example, depicted by the photo above, is the way in which Congress approved the Renta Dignidad (Dignity Rent for retired people). Apparently, during the day (Tuesday, November 27) several thousand campesinos (indigenous people from Altiplano) closed up the streets and access roads to Congress. They organized a system of tight control points to regulate who was allowed to go into the building and, most importantly, who was allowed to attend the session called by the congressional leaders. As you can imagine, none of the opposition congressmen could enter the building, unless they swore to pass the law to be debated and voted on. Some congressmen were even warned by the police that their personal security was not guaranteed. So, it was that way that the MAS, which has no problems in getting the necessary quorum, made the Renta Dignidad into law. In addition, taking advantage of the situation, it modified the Constitutional Assembly law to allow the directors to change the meeting place.

This is a great gamble MAS is taking. It seems it did not see any other alternative and the reasoning is, we pass the laws first and then we see how we manage. It could pay off, big time or it could backfire terribly. If it pays off, the consolidation of MAS' (or rather Morales') power is well under way. Using the same tactics, the next obvious steps are the appointment of the Supreme Court Justices and Constitutional Court Justices. This will allow MAS to do every thing within the law. Subsequently, MAS or Morales would have to sack the people in the Electoral Court, to have ample leeway to manage the elections. Until now, the Electoral Court has been rather independent and has carried out its mandate efficiently. But, MAS and Morales need a friendly Electoral Court.

However, if the gamble does not pay off, it would be a disaster. Predictions are not useful because the sky is the limit. Here we have to start talking about best and worst case scenarios. The best scenario would be that somehow the opposition and MAS find some type of consensus. This, under the current circumstances, is difficult to foresee. The worst case scenario would be armed conflict. Lets not forget that firearms were taken from the arsenal of the looted police precinct in Sucre last weekend. Also, that there were reports which indicated the delivery of Venezuelan arms to the Army post in Trinidad, Beni. In the same manner, there were reports that there are armed militias training in Beni or Santa Cruz.

Whether the gamble pays off, it remains to be seen. The hope is that the worst scenarios do not become reality.