A Convulsed Bolivia Inaugurates the Summit of South American Nations

Pablo Stefanoni, Cochabamba, December 9

A strong downpour of hail unleashed last night in Cochabamba was the scenario that greeted the hundreds of participants to the 2nd South American Summit and its social couterpart. The inclemency of the time appeared to be a representation of the political agitation in the country. This year, the real “counter summit” is not that of the social movements – who support the nationalist and leftist presidents that govern a great part of the continent – but rather that of the Bolivian right, who denounced the transit towards a “Chavez-style” dictatorship and has in its conclave a base to project its discourse outside of Bolivia.

Because of this, in the Quemado Palace [Presidential Palace], they dedicated themselves to putting at ease the foreign presidents, and Evo Morales travelled to this city of half a million inhabitant to make sure that this window display of his “democratic and cultural revolution” would not be fogged up by opposition groups.

For a few weeks, the fight over the type of voting in the Constituent Assembly – the government wants an absolute majority and the opposition two thirds – moved out from within the walls of the Gran Mariscal de Sucre Theater, but in the last few days the battle has resulted in an escalation of accusations that threatened to end in clear and simple violence. Whilst the “front for the two thirds” increased its hunger strike of more than 800 participants, groups of youth – leaded by the Crucenista Youth Union – violently occupied the offices of Internal Taxes in
Santa Cruz and called for the same to be done at a number of other public institutions. The headquarters of the NGO Alas, belonging to the current Minister of Rural Development Hugo Salvatierra, was fired upon and offices of senators and union leaders were left seriously damaged. Leaders of the UJC threaten yesterday with violent protests against local legislators of the governing Movement Towards Socialism until they “asked Santa Cruz for forgiveness”

On Wednesday, in La Paz, sectors supporting the government gathered in front of opposition television station offices – such as the Santa Cruz aligned Unitel, and PAT which belongs to ex-president Carlos Mesa – to protest against the campaign of “disinformation”. And the writer Juan Claudio Lechin – son of the legendary trade unionist Juan Lechin Oquendo – had to abandon the headquarters of his hunger strike picket at the
San Francisco Church after scuffles with militants from MAS. The governor of La Paz was held up for 12 hours by campesinos to force him “to accept the absolute majority”.

The four governors of the denominated pro-autonomy “half moon” – with 43% of the GDP – already find themselves on fast and the governor of
Cochabamba is threatening to do the same. Bolivian history recalls the leftist president Hernan Siles Suazo as the longest lasting faster, who in 1984 stopped eating in opposition to the “boycott of the right” against his government. This week sectors of the moderate middle class became part of the measures being taken, having occupied some plazas with candles in order to “defend democracy”, forming a heterogeneous front articulated around one single point: the rejection of Evo Morales’ “authoritarianism”. “They lied yesterday and they lie now, they continue to eat at the cost of the people”, they said responding to a government advertisement that showed images of supposed boxes of chicken and soft drinks taken from long distance amongst the hunger strike pickets outside the senate. The current political crisis threatens with dividing in two the upper house: yesterday both the opposition and government supporters – including two supplement delegates from the right - held their own session of the senate. Both had quorum and approved laws.

In the midst of the pro-autonomy discourses that border on threats of separatism and terrorised a great part of the population – including in the east of the country – the governor of Santa Cruz, Ruben Cosatas, asked the Armed Forces to not respond to attempts by the government to militarise this agro industrial region in rebellion against La Paz.

Today in Cochabamba some attempted to agitate the waters and show a country in chaos, whilst others tried to calm it down and explain this “irreversible” process of change.

Translated from Clarin

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