Crisis in Cochabamba Continues

Pablo Stefanoni, Cochabamba, January 17

A mass popular open town meeting yesterday decided to not recognize the governor of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa, who went to Santa Cruz de la Sierra to seek refuge after days of clashes, which resulting in 2 deaths. They were unable to find a legal mechanism to sack him and the attempts to impose a new governor clashed with the resistance of Evo Morales, who is promoting a recall referendum in order to create a legal channel to resolve these types of conflicts. Last night, whilst it was being announced that Reyes Villa would be returning to Cochabamba, the vice minister of coordination with the social movements, Alfredo Rada, was saying that the MAS government would not recognize any de facto popular government.

”There are a number of democratic norms which need to be respected” was how vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera had summarized the situation earlier, as thousands of protestors occupied the principal plaza. The conflict was sparked off more than 10 days ago by the support given by the governor to regional autonomy being promoted by Santa Cruz, and his proposal to organize a new referendum to validate these demand, which had been rejected in the July 2 referendum by 64% of the voters of Cochabamba. Throughout the day, a multitude of campesinos traveled through the city, firecrackers echoed through the central avenues and the same slogan was repeated: “Died murderer and vendepatria prefect”. In the afternoon, the protestors gathered in the plaza 14 de Septiembre, where the open town meeting was convened. Despite the fact that the social leaders declared it as the “supreme organ”, it was visible that they were uncomfortable faced with the determination of the campesinos. They were facing pressure from both sides: the calls from the presidential palace and from their base, each time more radicalized after various days of sleeping in plazas and precarious trade union headquarters.

Yesterday, the governor of Cochabamba traveled to La Paz to reach consensus with the central government on a formula for his return. Various functionaries declared that the law should be respected, fearing a domino effect against other opposition governors. In La Paz, social organization gave an ultimatum of 48 hours to governor Jose Luis Paredes for him to step down.

Amongst the resolutions voted on were “to impede the return of Captain Reyes Villa” and push forward a trial against him for “his role in the dictatorship of Luis Garcia Meza [1980] and in the repression during the Water War of 2000, when he was mayor of Cochabamba”. After the speeches, the organizers proposed giving the departmental council – an organism of control – the mandate to look for a legal exit with which to replace the governor. But persistent whistling blocked out the voice of the speaker and the threats forced the council to meet “in order to name a new prefect”. But the pressure coming from the government had its effect. Bit by bit the leaders who respond to Evo Morales – especially the cocaleros – began disappearing and the massive presence in the plaza began contracting.

The council “washed its hands” by proposing that the town meeting choose a replacement for Reyes Villa. From there came the idea of a “government of the social organizations”. But by then the leaders were no longer there and the meeting was taken over by the “radicals” who represent little, including Trotskyist students from the Local University Federation.

Translated from Clarin

Resolution from the Cochabamba open town meeting, January 16

The mandate coming from the 2nd open town meeting of the social movements is:

*Faced with the abandonment by Manfred Reyes Villa of his functions as prefect, the 16 provincial centrals, the Six Federations of the Tropics, the Departmental Workers Central and all the social organization, give the departmental council the mandate to continue meeting to the benefit of the department of
Cochabamba, whilst the social organizations maintain themselves in a state of emergency.

* The social movements back the Departmental Council in its overseeing of the prefecture management and ask that audits be carried out via the General Ombudsman of the Republic, with the aim of establishing penal and civil responsibilities and that the Public Ministry act immediately to punish these crimes.

* The Public Ministry should investigate the massacre of January 11 by Manfred Reyes Villa and his bullies headed by Oscar Zurita, who also brought paid criminals in from Santa Cruz.

*Royalties should be reverted directly in a proportion of 40% to the municipalities and 30% to the prefectures.

* The corporations should be subordinated to the prefecture structure and their property taken over by the social organizations.

* The social organization of the 16 provinces and 45 municipalities will not allow the return of Manfred to

* The prefect should resign for the following reasons: for confronting and dividing Cochabamban brothers, blackmailed with the resources that cost the organizations blood and mourning; for supporting the position of independence of Santa Cruz which would mean dividing and confronting Bolivians; and for his anti-democratic actions in not complying with the result of the July 2006 referendum.

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