February 29, 2008

In Bolivia, Canaval is Over. Now, Business as Usual.

MABB © ®

Now that Christmas, Alasaitas and Carnaval are over, it is business as usual in Bolivian Politics. It seems that the crisis is hitting back with vengeance.

What's going on?

Well, the government has apparently gotten tired of talking and has decided to "push" through its will. Yesterday, the government faction in Congress "approved" three laws, with the help of a ring of security supporters outside the parliament building. Opposition parliamentarians could not enter the building. So, the government approved the referendum law which will ratify the new constitution, the referendum law which will ask people on how large the property of land can be and modified a law which was being interpreted by the departmental governments giving them power to call for referendums. The modification of the last law, of course, is giving the central government the exclusive power to call on such referendums.

As you might expect, the opposition is going ahead with their own autonomic referenda. All of these are supposed to happen on May 4th. The opposition has also said, in unison, that they will resist the government to the last consequences. Here comes the question: violence too?

In Cochabamba, the police force is on strike. They want better wages and work conditions. Usually, when the police strikes, is when Bolivia enters dark periods. The security is just not there, and many people have no scruples on taking advantage of that.

Also, there is shortage of food, especially in La Paz. The government is trying import basic foods, such as flower, but smugglers and hoarders are making the government's plans to fail. The government is trying to crack down on smugglers, but without much success. It is also trying to control prices. Now, the bakers are in a strike and are refusing to make the basic bread in La Paz, the Marraqueta. This has been a very effective way of pressure because Marraquetas are the very basic food in La Paz and the rest of the country.

Slowly but surely, marches, demonstrations and strikes are returning to be the order of the day. hard times are coming. We'll just have to stay alert.