August 06, 2008

Sometimes August Can Get Hot in Bolivia

MABB © ®

As I wrote on my July 30 post, August was marked to be a hot month in Bolivia. Well, now I can say, Bolivia is burning.

The wave of protests I called attention to have intensified to the point where there are two dead and more than 40 injured.

The worst happened on the road La Paz-Oruro-Cochabamba. The miners there decided to block the connecting road. The government decided to try an open the road. I am guessing there were two reasons, because lately it did not trust itself setting neither police nor military forces against these groups. The first reason could have been due to a large contingent of military personnel going to La Paz and Sucre to take part in the August 6 (Bolivia's independence day) celebrations. The second reason could be due to the need to have open roads for the official yes campaign to get through without delay.

In any case, things turned out really sour for Morales and his government because as a result of the clash between police forces and demonstrators, there were two dead and over 40 civilians injured. This is really bad for the government.

At the same time, a group of handicapped demonstrators was repressed on the streets of La Paz. Many tv cameras were present. The scenes of police officers pushing down handicapped people will not fare well for the government. In Cochabamba, there were confrontations between school teachers and MAS supporters. At times, there were physical.

Meanwhile, a group of bus drivers, who are demonstrating to be able to raise tariffs, also had some contact with police.

Lastly, the civic committees, along with the departmental governments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija and Sucre, have started a hunger strike asking the government to reinstate the natural gas taxes which flowed into their coffers.

So the government has the most conflicting week its ever had, and that five days before the recall referendum. All these puts the referendum into question. However, the government seems strong and determined to go through with the referendum.