Friday, November 23, 2007

Bolivia: What Up Willca? Siege In Sucre, Dog Days

By last Thursday (the 22nd) supporters of the government: ocaleros, rural unions, and members of El Alto's neighborhood federation were congregating around Sucre to "shut down" the City, and blockading routes into it. They demanded that the Senate be shut down and the Contitutional Assembly get to work, and forget about the Sucre demands for capital.

The claim against the Senate, is over Evo's cynical ploy re-naming the existing old-age pension, and funding it by cuts to the budgets of (opposition governed) departments. MAS for the record, was vehemently opposed to the original BONOSOL program. After coming to power Morales unilaterally stripping the pension of its most valuable assets: the stock in the oil companies. The government claimed it would have no problems funding it, despite not counting on the dividends. Now at the very end of the current year, Evo again by decree, orders a drastic reduction of the departmental governments share of a hydrocarbon tax to cover the reduction in the pension plan he himself was responsible for. So some people in places like Santa Cruz are understandably upset about this, which places large and well-populated departments in disadvantage to those with less population given the current formula.

The capital argument, or Sucre's pretensions, looks silly in many ways. But the governments arrogance was exposed when the officialist side blocked attempts to even discuss it within the constitutional assembly. It seemed to confirm this governments Chavista-like mania for centralizing power in the capital at the expense of the departments. And re-writing the constitution to institutionalize MAS positions, including Evo re-election, seems like a very bad idea to many of these people.

Dog Day Afternoon

In order to show their dissaproval with the positions of the opposition and Sucre, and doing their best Sendero Luminoso imitation, pro-MAS activists, killed 2 dogs and hung them up as a warning to Bolivia's " oligarchs." No threats to China's current leadership or Michael Vick haters went on the unfortunate canines, but the slit throats implied pretty much what they wanted to do to the opposition leaders.

Students Vs. Cocaleros

Many marchers stayed at the University, and students battled the pro-MAS crowd -
Might be a bit of historical memories, since the last time La Paz and Sucre got into a beef over the capital, the 19th century version of the "indigenous movements" ended up slaughtering many of Sucre's university students.

But even the students at the "Pedagogica" were not quite unified. A minority of the teaching students wanted to allow the strikers to stay at the school, but were voted down and accused of being "Troskyists". Anywhere else, that kind of accusation would draw blank stares. But in Bolivia, since from the 40's, there has been a continuing "Trosko" influence in the teachers and mining unions. Many of the cocaleros and El Alto residents are former miners and come out of that syndicalist tradition; the teachers union has a presence in the teaching university.

And that bit of trivia in many ways symbolizes the whole problem. MAS-istas are mobilizing, arguing, and threatening civil war to press for a new constitution drafted by fools whose point of reference is 60 year old Troskyist arguments. This document is not going to magically "empower" Bolivia's poor and indigenous peoples and make the misery of the past 500 years go away.

Foreign admirers of Morales can repeat his worn mantra of acting on behalf of an 'exploited majority' who voted 'for change', blocked by 'the oligarchs who lost power.' But in its most benevolent interpreation, this "change" is a backwards step to recreating the 1952 model, whose painful collapse led the country to hit rock-bottom 32 years later. To make it worse, they are mobilizing their most radical supporters to try to ram this agenda through by intimidation of the opposition. Playing to inter-ethnic resentment and class warfare is dangerous, and once that genie is out of the bottle it can really get ugly.

Tip Of The Hat to


Norman said...

Thanks B-N, though I'm not sure why I should merit the hat tip. Right now I find myself at a loss for words at all that is going on. If nothing else, Morales is consistent. He has never shown respect for the law, whether as a dirigente or now as he pulls the strings on the constitutional process. Amazing, moving the assembly to a military post, surrounded by police who are surrounded by MAS supporters - the same kind who hours before had demonstrated a bloodlust that defies reason, to include animal cruelty and death threats to elected officials. Instead of arresting these criminals, the Morales' government gives tacit approval through their silence. Now you expect the opposition constitutional representatives to walk through those lines into that assembly?!? Of course they boycotted. There was a very real danger to them, which, by law, required suspension of the assembly. Instead, the 145 - 155 present MASistas voted and illegally approved their racist agenda. The law calls for 2/3 approval - not 2/3 of those present. 255 x 2/3 = 170, therefore the measure legally failed. The law however has never been an impediment for Morales. If it does not suit your needs, change it, circumvent it, or ignore it. Well, still keeping an eye on things. Quiet day today with the paros, although I just heard the first sirens down the street. We'll see where it goes from here.

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