June 19, 2008

Update on Bolivia

MABB © ®

The temperature in Bolivia seems to be rising, even though the thermometer is showing single digits. This rise in temperature is due to the political climate, which seems to come in waves.

At present time, there is a high-tide of new and old problems, which seem to be making life in the government more difficult. To start, the Tarija autonomic referendum is fast approaching. This sunday, the 22nd., Tarija will vote on whether to approve or reject their autonomic statutes. The expectations is that the approval for the statutes will not be as overwhelming as in Santa Cruz, but they'll be clear enough, in and around the 70s percentage points. Perhaps the participation factor will be a bit better than in Santa Cruz.

This situation is very uncomfortable for the government. For that reason, the government has been trying to go to Tarija to show presence. Morales was due to visit the city of Tarija to meet with his supporters, so he can give them ambulances and one of those checks donated, generously, by the Venezuelan government. However, diverse groups have called on the government not to show itself in Tarija, especially right before the 22nd. So, as Morales announced his visit, these groups gathered around the airport and literally prevented the president to land there, forcing him to cancel his trip. This is not the first time nor the first place where Morales is banned from visiting. He has been prevented to visit places like Santa Cruz, Sucre, Villa Montes, Pailon, etc., and he has been declared persona non grata in Pando and Beni, as well. So much is the impact of these events, that the government itself has started to talk about using other "measures" to guarantee the president's free mobility within the country.

Aside from that, there is a problem brewing in Potosi. As you might have already read in my prior post, miners and transport workers in Potosi have been protesting calling on the government to stop an attempt to make these two groups to pay more taxes. As you may know, they were staging road blocks and demonstrating in the main square in Potosi. Now, this problem has spread to Cochabamba, where the heavy wight transport workers have started a road block with the same aims at their counterparts in Potosi. The government, up to now, has been adamant on making these two groups contribute to the budget.

In addition, there is a 24 hour strike declared in Pando to force the government to reconsider the cut on province transfers. Pando argues that many investment projects cannot be continued because the money is just not there.

These are hard times for the government. Hardest of all, will be this coming 22nd of June.