August 22, 2007

The Level of Tension is Reaching New Heights

MABB © ®


What happened yesterday in Sucre you ask?

The headline summary is: Confrontation, Repression, Violence and Paralyzation.

Almost the whole city was mobilized. There were several marches through the streets, which in the end came together in front of the Gran Mariscal Theater. The people actually tried to stop the session, which after weeks of recess was taking place. At one point, the police barricade was broken and chaos reigned.

In consequence, the President of the conclave declared it in recess due to lack of security. She was right, because several assembly members were physically assaulted. Specially in danger were people from La Paz and, of course, some Sucrences who were not supporting Sucre. There was also a violent confrontation between police forces and protesters, which left 10 wounded (one of them seriously). Among that crowd were Sucre's Mayoress and the president of the committee for the campaign to move the seat of government. During the afternoon and into the night, several offices of MAS were damaged and at least one house, where an assembly member was hiding in, was vandalized.

Surprising, to me, was the decision of the Cochabamba Civic Committee to support Sucre. I think it was coordinated with the Media Luna civic committees.

The tension is certainly not off. First because the MAS is still trying to make the resolution which strikes the moving of the seat of government to Sucre off of the agenda. And second, because the MAS and the government have used their majority in Congress to impose an impeachment procedure for some judges in the Constitutional Court. This move is seen as too authoritarian from the part of the government.

If you've been reading MABB, you know I was alarmed at the rising of tensions in the Constitutional Assembly lately. After evaluating the year's work of the CA, I was worried to see the level of alarm reach the 'Elmo' level. Well, not it seems that alarm level is reaching a new height.

As I write this post, the citizens in Sucre are getting ready to assemble in front of the place where the CA meets, the Gran Mariscal Theater. They want to loudly protest against the seemingly unorthodox and arbitrary methods of the majority group, MAS.

It seems as though, MAS, in addition to having angered the Sucre citizens by arbitrarily removing the motion to debate the move of the seat of government, are getting ready to go ahead an approve their proposed constitution using their majority votes. An action which is widely repudiated, not only by the opposition, but also by the citizens of Sucre.

The move is supposed to come late in the afternoon, after having considered two additional commission reports, in an item described only with the word, 'various'. The opposition fears that MAS will attempt to pass its proposal, which then would have to be considered by the CA in detail.

Meanwhile, the situation in Sucre has also gone up a notch. As of yesterday, there were 32 hunger strike groups with around 269 people fasting. A 200 member strong anti-riot police group arrived to the city, inspiring deep distrust and skepticism among the people. The Ponchos Rojos militia group sent 50 of their men to 'defend the assembly' and a group of the Santa Cruz civic committee is also due to arrive in the City.

The fear of violent confrontation is always there, when you have antagonist groups coming together. However, if we consider what happen recently in Santa Cruz, it could be argued that the tensions will just be only that, tensions. Although, it is important to keep in mind, these types of things are very volatile, specially in Bolivia.