The right wing fights for an agreement and to not disarm the paramilitaries with Lula’s help

Rolando Carvajal

The mercenaries continue dispersed in the east, together with the criminal groups aligned to the prefectures. Branco Marinkovic did not show up for the pre-agreement meeting; he was replaced by the Cardinal.

The dialogue and agreement proposed by the prefects and criminal groups opposed to the government of the social movements contain various negotiation points, but do not include the disarming of the hired assassins and other henchmen employed by the large landowning and agribusiness elite, warned some parliamentarians in the last hours.

A week ago, groups of Brazilian and Peruvian paramilitaries, as well as snipers concealed by functionaries of the prefect, Leopoldo Fernandez, now under arrest, ambushed and fired upon community leaders in Pando, leaving 14 dead and 37 injured, while 104 people are missing, according to various media reports.

The hired assassins sowed terror amongst the peasants and it is presumed that they are now deployed in the different regions taken over by the oligarchy and hiding within the shock troops that, influenced by the prefects and large landowners like Ruben Costas and Branco Marinkovic, raided state offices and attacked migrants from the west in the cities and towns of the low lands.

Previous deaths in Chuquisaca, during the disturbances that occurred around the time of the approving of the new Political Constitution of the State, were blames on snipers, as well as those in Huanuni in 2006, when cooperative miners clashed with waged miners.

Curiously, Marinkovic lost protagonism in the latest scene when the adversaries of the constitutional regime met with Cardinal Julio Terrazas to sign a pre-agreement. The head of the Catholic Church in Bolivia, in whose hands the insurgent prefects left the fate of their colleague Fernandez, seems to have occupied Marinkovic’s seat, who is generally seen to be close to prefect Ruben Costas.

Mercenaries and entertainment

Following the recent Unasur summit in Santiago – which saw the rebirth of Brazilian hegemony in South America, generally known as “Brazilian subimperialism” – President Evo Morales announced that confronted with the inaction of the prefects, he would rely on his colleague Lula da Silva to counteract the mercenaries, many of whom, together with relatives of Fernandez, fled to neighbouring Brazil.

“Lula promised to send his Minister of Defence (soon to La Paz) to carry out this joint action” revealed Morales during a conversation with his Venezuelan colleague, Hugo Chavez. The report in the international media recalled that the president had accused Fernandez and Tuto Quiroga, leader of the right wing Podemos party, of “organising” the paramilitary “Expeditionary Forces” group that since 2002 has carried out violent actions.

Fernandez, who maintained himself as a virtual dictator in the Bolivian Amazonian region during the last quarter of the century, is accused of diverting weapons with unknown destinations during his time as former Minister of Government of Quiroga, and the first Minister of the Government under Morales accused him in 2006 of training paramilitaries with public funds in Cobjia, near the border with Brazil.

The paramilitaries are backed by the criminal groups of the civic committees linked to the prefects, insisted leaders of the social movements who have surrounded Santa Cruz, the eastern capital, where the agribusiness owners are having difficulties to inaugurate their Expo Fair on Friday.

Amongst prized cattle, hostesses and entertainment, the traditional Fexpo brings together thousands of visitors over two weeks, including migrant collas that pay part of the $117 million that the agribusiness owners say are made during their most important event.

Indiscipline High Command?

Meanwhile, in La Paz, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, General Luis Trigo pitifully complained about the comments from Caracas made by President Chavez regarding the slowness with which the High Command moved to implement the state of siege in Pando, which allowed, he said, the massacre to occur 15 hours before, and where even afterward the declaration of state of siege, the mayor’s office in Filadelfia, another scene of the massacre, was burnt down.

General Trigo held a type of “crossed arms strike” and “rather that implementing the decree of state of siege, he ordered the troops to return to their barracks and abandon the airport” of Pando, a situation reversed according to Chavez “fortunately by officials of other rankings and soldiers loyal to the government” that “are complying with the order of President Morales.”

The plaintive demand of Trigo to Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca however did not include any explanation over the presumed act of indiscipline and the supposed altercation of this Commander with the president, who instead limiting himself to asking that the government “express the indignation of the Armed Forces in the face of such unfortunate declarations that profoundly injure our dignity and integrity.”

Six days after the beginning of the state of siege, the soldiers could not impede the burning down of other government buildings and in Riberalta (the most important city of the Bolivian Amazonian region alter Cobija), following moves by people tied to prefect Ernesto Suarez, another relative of Fernandez, representatives of half of the population were forced to abandon the town because of their presumed affinity to President Morales.

And the elite troops?

With the state of siege in place and with recruits out in front, the soldiers recuperated state control over sectors of the capital of Pando, but did not go into the jungle, where the mercenaries had gone to hunt down injured peasants, although the authorities now suppose that they form part of the dozens of Fernandez’s henchmen, that alleging political persecution, went to seek refuge in the border town of Brasilea.

The Presidential Delegate in Pando, Nancy Texeira told La Prensa that the barracks in Cobija hold 1500 soldiers, spread out in three units. For their part, the recruits, who mostly came from the altiplano highlands, did not know the area.

“They don’t know the mountains, they don’t know how to move around, where to step, where to go, what roads to take, they need us to guide them. The peasant leaders are afraid they will be shot” said Gladys Fariña, leader of the indigenous women of the Amazonian region.

The descriptions highlight the almost complete absence of elite army troops, especially trained to confront irregular groups in the jungle and snipers, who benefit, along with their employers and sponsors, in the absence of a specific point in the negotiations mentioning the disarmament of these groups from the extreme right.

At the same time, the pressures for dialogue and agreements are increasing from diverse spokespeople offering international cooperation in Bolivia, while the opposition celebrates the intervention of Lula in his contacts with the government as part of trying to reach an agreement with the government.

Brazil is a guarantee to finding a solution for the conflict. We hope that President Lula can mediate” said prefect Costas, as the civic leaders called upon Brazil to play its role of regional leader.

According to Lula, the solution to the crisis in Bolivia is to be found in the recognising the validity of the democratic government of Morales and tolerating the opposition prefects, although without the possibility of accepting their violent practises.

Translated from La Epoca

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