September 05, 2008

Bolivian Politics and Latest Developments: Violence, Threats and Actions

MABB © ®

I guess I don't need to introduce this post by saying (once again) that things are getting hot in Bolivia; because they are! I will attempt here to lay out the latest developments.

The first thing to consider is the escalation of violence in the Western and Southern regions of Bolivia. Over the last 11 days, el Chaco region was suffering under road blockades isolating the region from the rest of the country and even neighboring countries such as Argentina and Paraguay. These blockades were, and are still, being staged by the civic organizations opposing the government. Their demand is for the government to give back the taxes imposed on the production of liquefied natural gas. On September 3, Democratic National Council (Conalde), organization made up by the opposing Prefects and various regional civic organizations, decided to back the protesting organizations in el Chaco by reinforcing the blockades and setting up blockades and staging demonstrations in their respective regions. Since this decision was taken, a range of conflicts have erupted all across the lowlands. In el Chaco, the protesting organizations have started to take over various governmental agencies. The same has happened in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija. At the same time, government supporters have also started the forceful occupation of government buildings. In Pando, the Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA), the Bolivian Roads Administration Agency (ABC) and the local customs office have been occupied by government sympathizers, to cite a few.

Added to the road blockades and the occupation of government buildings, some buildings and private houses have been bombed. In Trinidad, capital of Beni, a bomb exploded in the local offices of the civic committee (the opposition). In Santa Cruz, the homes of two political leaders, critics of the autonomic movement, were bombed. Earlier this week, there was a serious confrontation between opposition forces and military forces, which prevented the forceful take over of government buildings. Finally, in Tarija, a mob of students forced the retreat of the police and took over the local customs office.

In response to this, and perhaps adding to the radicalization of the protests by the two groups, the government has sent military troops to prevent these occupations. But, this measure is proving insufficient since the buildings are being taken over nevertheless.

The effects of this road blockade is not only being felt by the government but, more directly, by the inhabitants of the affected regions. The city of Tarija, for example, is running out of gasoline, diesel and cooking gas. With time, there are shortages of food and as a result prices are soaring. In el Chaco region, towns such as Villamontes and Camiri, in Santa Cruz, are equally suffering.

For its part, the government has denounced a 'civil coup' which tries to overthrow the Morales government. The reaction, as noted earlier, has been to prop up military presence in these regions. It has also dug its heels deeper and has decided to comply with the request of the National Electoral Court (CNE) and pass a law allowing the referendum to approve its own constitution. For this it has the following strategy. It will draw up the bill complying with the electoral court. It will negotiate with Senators and Deputies from the opposition so they support the bill and it will 'suggest' supporters to put pressure on Congress to pass the bill.

The first step is already underway, and as far as some reports, the second is as well. A La Razon article cites a MAS leader expressing the government's strategy. A second Erbol article talks about the possibility of 23 opposition members of congress, 4 Senators and 19 Deputies, will support the new law. The article talks about the internal divisions within Podemos and how these senators lean more towards MAS, now, than the other Podemos wing.

5 comments:

BOLIVIA LIBRE said...

Oh boy, you are also denouncing violence in Bolivia, with little luck you won’t get the pro Evo henchmen insulting you in your blog; since for the regime’s adepts there is only minor violence in the country.

I must tell do, you are exaggerating with the bombing issue, the attacks on the government offices were made by Molotov cocktails, a bottle full of gasoline doesn’t make a bomb my friend; they are even less dangerous than the dynamite typically used by the pro Morales regime forces. Finally, I also read about the MAS supporters private houses being attack, but so far is their word against nothing; in other reports the same people said they were attacked physically, no their houses. Most probably lies, but they can sadly become a reality in the near future.

I thing we have reached a point were we will see more action than treats; I am sadden for my Country but all major leaders, starting from the president down are seeking violence and that is what they are going to get, a real shame we got to get so low but that is our reality.

Kevin said...

Good post - and we do need to avert violence. My solution is a negotiated settlement led by an international organization - OAS? - with Brasil probably taking the lead as the Brasileros have a lot to lose with the current situation and a lot to gain by solving it.
Anyone out there can get this idea to President Morales?.... use external negotiations and the establishment of an autonomous region of Eastern Bolivia. This will calm the violence and get Bolivia back on a path to development and international credibility.
Evo has already won empowering the indigenous groups.. but if he goes further he destroys Bolivia.

Anonymous said...

Was it not Evo himself that led strikes and blockades ... some of his own tactics being used against him

If he got such a legit majority (2/3)... why is the country in such upheaval... may the central isuue is like in Venezuela... even Simon bolivar said power should not be given to i=one person for so long.

will all the venezuelan loyalty payoffs to military leaders in order to avoid a coup work?

What vever happen to that Lt Navas guy who blew up the tv station

Lastly... will the military leadership comply if given orders by evo to crush their own people

mabb said...

Bolivia libre, I take it you are living in Bolivia at the moment. If you think a molotov (bomb) is not dangerous, then the situation is really precarious in Bolivia.

I would say, anyone would agree with me when I say a molotov bomb is not to be under estimated. They can cause damage and burn somebody, right? In my opinion, it is a serious think!

Kevin: I think the OAS has shown itself not to be the right organization to mediate. Insulza has been too complacent with the government. For instance, not to recognize there were serious irregularities in the voter registratio list. I think there is an interest to pacify Morales and give him what he wants.

Anon: That is just the thing, Morales won with 54% and got a 67% (according to official results) support on the latest recall referendum. However, there is an undeniable number of people (at the very least 46% or even 33%) who do not agree with him. The opinion of these people must also count and thus be heard. Otherwise it would come to the old de Tocqueville concept, the tyranny of the majority.

Nava is being processed.

And yes, the military has to obey because Morales is the supreme commander of the military!

kevin said...

come to power by the 'bloqueo' leave via the 'bloqueo'... this is a taste of their own strategy for the MAS and the cocaleros. Let's see if they react like Goni - if they do - they'll be gone just like Goni.