La Paz joins the calls for autonomies, Santa Cruz declares 24-hour civic stoppage

La Gaceta, Argentina, and Los Tiempos, January 11, 2007

The governor of La Paz, Jose Luis Paredes has converted himself into the sixth governor to demand the incorporation of regional economic, political and administrative autonomies into Bolivian legislation.

“Autonomies are the only alternatives in order to avoid confrontation between Bolivians’, said Paredes. At the same time, he asked president Evo Morales to convoke a new referendum so that the citizens could be the ones who define the mode of government.

By doing so, Paredes joined the calls from his peers Ruben Costas from Santa Cruz, Ernesto Suarez from Beni, Leopoldo Fernandez from Pando, Mario Cossio from Tarija and Manfred Reyes Villa from Cochabamba, who have turned this demand into a banner for the opposition’s struggle against the government of Morales.

The departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, convoked by their governors and by the civic committees, held large popular town meetings in December to demand that the government and the constituent assembly incorporate autonomies into the new constitution.

The latest request by the governor of Cochabamba – to convoke a referendum on autonomy – provoke protest rallies by cocalero campesinos, followers of the president, and road blocks that isolated this city, located in the heart of Bolivia.

In this sense, the situation in Cochabamba continues being tense, two days after violent clashes between police loyal to the governor and protestors aligned with Morales left a tally of 31 injured and the headquarters of the governorship in flames.

Yesterday, the Bolivian department remained isolated by the road blocks. Sectors that were carrying out the blockades were demanded the resignation of the governor.

Meanwhile, the directorate of the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee has declared a state of emergency in the region and a 24-hour civic stoppage for Tuesday January 16 in defence of the democratic system and in solidarity with the people of Cochabamba. The decision was made in the early afternoon of today.

The radical determination is the result of an analysis carried out by the civic directorate, due to the difficult situation that Cochabamba had been living through in the last few days, where violent acts have been registered, lead - according to the committee - by MAS parliamentarians, functionaries of the executive power and the grassroots of the cocalero federations align with President Evo Morales. It is inadmissible, they say, to watch the destruction of public buildings, aggression against citizens which is an attempt on the democratic system, with the only purpose being to impose a totalitarian regime that does not respect dissent or the fundamental rights of a person.

In this sense and under the principal of defence of institutionality and democracy, the civic entity released a pronouncement in which it expressed its support and solidarity with the people of Cochabamba who have faced violent actions by politicised sectors belonging to the government. At the same time they rejected the authoritarian attitude of the president Evo Morales and his government who they accuse of systematically attacking institutionality in order to impose a totalitarian regime. They have declared a state of emergency and citizen mobilisations in resistance to any action which aims to break with the state of law and democracy. This response comes as voices affirm that this reaction against the prefecture authority could translate itself to other departments who do not go along with the policies of the government.

Finally, they declared a 24-hour civic stoppage for Tuesday January 16 in solidarity with the people of Cochabamba and in defence of the democratic system in the country. And they invited the Democratic Autonomous Junta of Bolivia to meet again as soon as possible in defence of liberty and the rights that democracy brings with it. The civic stoppage counts with the support of private companies, trade union organisations and neighbourhood committees, as well as all the institutions affiliated to the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee.

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