December 04, 2008

The Power Struggle in Bolivia Retreats to the Legal Arena

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The power struggle between the current government and the opposition has left, for now, the political arena to move on to the legal arena. Now that there is a new deal regarding the constitution and all the parts are waiting for next year's approval referendum, the battle has been continuing on the courts.

On the one side, the government has continued with its "witch hunt". The strategy is to remove the opposition or to weaken it as much as possible with any means. First, the government tried the ballot boxes at the recall referendum, where it did remove two thorns, Jose Luis Paredes, former Prefect of La Paz and Manfred Reyes Villa, former Prefect of Cochabamba. It seems that the next step is to try the law. One Prefect is already removed. Leopoldo Fernandez, former Prefect of Pando, has been taken to La Paz and has been incarcerated. In addition, the government has also "taken" many civic activists from Pando to La Paz to face charges against them. Now, it seems that Tarija is next and therefore the government has been also "taking" some civic activists to La Paz to process them.

The actions of the government has alarmed the opposition. It is currently in the process of re-organizing itself to respond to these attacks. In addition, it has initiated its own legal process to counter these attacks. The Santa Cruz Prefect, Ruben Costas, together with the people left in the Conalde (Natinal Council for Democracy), which groups the opposition, has initiated paperwork to accuse the Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana and the Ministry of Government, Alfredo Rada for having staged the Porvenir killings and conspire to remove elected authorities, such as Leopoldo Fernandez, by fabricating and manipulating evidence.

All these are indictions that the power struggle in Bolivia is far from over and the battle goes on.

At the same time, there is an important piece of news coming out fron the Judicial branch of government itself. All the organisms in this branch (the Supreme Court, Constitutional Tribunal, the Judicative Council, and the Agrarian Court) got together in the city of Trinidad, Beni for the 6th Judicial Power Summit. In this meeting, the branch presented a resolution where they express their worries and critiques to the governmet arguing that the current government is contributing to the collapse of the rule of law and the state itself.

In its attempts to dismember the opposition, the government is trampling over other powerful actors such as the Judicial branch. These actors are less likely to stay put if they see danger in their futures. One indication is this recent resolution which heavily criticizes the actions of the Morales government. Other actors, such as the Catholic Church, are also becoming bolder and raising their voices against the government.

What seemed to be over with the agreement on the new constitution is continuing in other arenas outside the political one.