Both sides are using tested models.
The opposition is also using tested models. In
The latter might lead to armed action by government supporters in self-defense or in reprisal, or to repression by military forces still loyal to the government. In either case, further pretexts are provided for the government's claimed perfidy and violence, which could then lead to calls from the
At this point in Bolivia, the international media campaign against the government is on in full force, the U.S. has helped to organize the opposition, and since September 10 the requisite massacres have been produced, by the opposition itself, its victims the government's supporters. If the regional governments support the Bolivian government and the armed forces remain loyal, as they are likely to, the Bolivian government will survive this crisis. But lives have been lost senselessly in this attempt to stop Bolivians from claiming their rights.
Although the path to the current crisis has been longer than a few weeks (for some background see our previous "
The elite's main strategic goal is to avoid the constitutional referendum by pressuring the government to postpone the constitutional referendum. This would cost Evo his popular support and destroy any capacity or momentum for popular reform. The Morales government is extremely popular, and the elite knows it. Their strategy has been, rather than to claim that they are representative of the country as a whole, that they are seeking autonomy for their own regions, which are controlled through old networks of patronage (and, more recently, violence as well). In May 2008 they held their own autonomy plebiscites, organized by the five provincial governments under their control, with no international oversight and no legal basis. Morales's government dismissed these as illegitimate and when a recall referendum was held on August 16, 2008 (this time with international observers and a legal basis), Morales won with 67% of the vote.
Two weeks later on August 28, Morales issued a presidential decree setting the December 7 date for the constitutional referendum. On September 2, the electoral court announced its opposition to the referendum on technical grounds (the court claimed the referendum couldn't be announced by decree but had to be passed by Congress, including by the opposition-controlled Senate). The opposition governors of the five provinces demanded the referendum be called off. Opposition demonstrators began to block roads. They seized an airport in Cobija on September 5 and blocked the highway between
In the first week, these opposition protests failed. They generated neither the desired reprisals nor hoped-for of popular support against the government, though they had caused economic damage. Opposition leaders, like wealthy governor Ruben Costas who met with
The victims of these killings were popular and indigenous movements and organizations, supporters of the government, in the opposition-controlled areas. These organizations helped bring out the popular vote for Evo in the recall referendum and have been targeted for revenge by the elite. Among the attacks in Pando province were the land reform institute, human rights NGOs supporting peasants, and the local indigenous confederation. Among the victims of the Pando massacre was Bernadino Racua, a well-known indigenous leader.
On September 13 and 14 Evo's government declared a state of emergency in Pando. It used the military to take back the airport and the government offices that had been taken by the opposition. Orders for the arrest of Fernandez and others were issued. Patience had reached its limits, both with opposition violence and with
The U.S. responded in kind, expelling the Venezuelan and Bolivian ambassadors, threatening “grave consequences,” and announcing sanctions against Venezuelan ministers on the usual drug war grounds (dispelling these drug war accusations requires another article and can't be done here). Economic and political consequences will run in both directions if the economic relationships between the
Within Bolivia Evo has acted to try to deny the opposition a strategic victory and prevent the conflict from derailing the popular agenda. On September
Latin American leaders, including those of
The movements that brought Evo to power will not go quietly, as the opposition should know. Without the capacity for a national coup, the opposition lacks the popular support to even sow "ungovernability" in their own provinces for very long. Their desperate need is to use the media to amplify their limited actions as larger than they are, to generate external political pressure to force Evo to make concessions and defeat the popular movement for them. As a result, the success of
Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer. His blog is www.killingtrain.com.
Republished from Socialist Project