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news | by Eduardo Avila | April 28, 2004 at 07:04 PM | comments (5) | trackback (0)

Perhaps there is not the huge split between Eastern and Western Bolivia with regards to the touchy gas exportation issue. Many elite business “leaders” in Santa Cruz and Tarija have claimed that the departments of the “media luna” (half moon, because their location forms that shape in the eastern part of the country: Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, Pando), were overwhelmingly in favor of exporting Bolivia’s huge natural gas reserves. They also claimed that the departments in the Andean-Western region were adamantly opposed to any such exportation. For those reasons, many of these groups wanted to continue to draw a wedge within the country.

A recent study by the research group APOYO Opinion y Mercado Bolivia found that these regional splits are not as pronounced. Citizens in 8 of the 9 Departments were in favor of exporting the natural gas. Only the Department of La Paz, which includes the volatile city of El Alto is against exportation. Cochabamba and Potosi were only 3-5% points behind Santa Cruz, which often leads charges of a deeply divided Bolivia.

Tarija -- 94% in favor
Santa Cruz -- 72% in favor
Cochabamba -- 69% in favor
Potosi -- 67% in favor
Oruro -- 64% in favor
Beni -- 63% in favor
Chuquisaca -- 63% in favor
La Paz -- 46% in favor

The survey also found that there is broad popular support for the referendum process. Approximately 89% said they were in favor of the referendum for this issue.

So what does this mean? It means that many of the members of business community and radical civic groups are trying to divide the country for their benefit. Regionalistic propaganda that tries to divide regions and their threat of secession can only hurt the country in the long run.


I agree. The real "regional" problem, I think, is that La Paz no longer dominates national politics. I think this insults many paceños to their very core. Remember the tiff when parliament considered holding session in Sucre, the official capital?

But. La Paz has the same population of voters as the entire "media luna" put together. I think you're right that differences in percentages are slight. But those percentages don't reflect even populations. And "media luna" leaders fear a gas referendum could come down to the wire, perhaps w/ a slight majority opposing exports (La Paz makes up 1/3 of the nation's voting popular voting block). The demand for a by-department vote makes sense, considering those fears.

Posted by Miguel Centellas | May 5, 2004 01:44 PM

I think it's too early to tell how this vote will go. Like you mentioned before, the wording is very important. The propaganda inevitably get out of hand, hopefully there will be a source for independent information. Looking forward to see how this will play out.

Posted by eduardo | May 5, 2004 03:08 PM

I agree. But my point's just that "media luna" fears aren't so unfounded, since the number of voters in La Paz (where support for gas exports is lowest) will over-determine the outcome.

Posted by Miguel Centellas | May 7, 2004 11:49 AM

Looking at your numbers again, they don't fully support your claims (in my opinion). The difference in support between La Paz & Santa Cruz is about 30%; it's about 40% between La Paz & Tarija. These are, actually, rather large differences. Even the 20% gap between La Paz and other altiplano/cordillera departments is significant.

Posted by Miguel Centellas | May 19, 2004 07:04 PM

Yes, La Paz was the exception. I was referring especially to Cochabamba, Oruro and Potosi, which are thrown into the Andean side of things. Potosi, which has a high concentration of indigenous, was only 5% behind Santa Cruz.

Posted by eduardo | May 19, 2004 07:45 PM

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