9 days & counting
bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 08 Jan, 2004 at 05:06 AM | comments (1) | trackback (0)

Mesa's situation is about to get desperate. Everyone knows this; everyone sees it coming. On 17 January, the 90-day truce agreed upon by the leaders of October populist coup (Jaime Solares, Felipe Quispe, Evo Morales, and Roberto de la Cruz) ends. Quispe & de la Cruz have already threatened to overthrow Mesa.

So. The US & Mexico are hosting an international summit, inviting 15 countries and various international NGOs to a special conference just on Bolivia. The idea's to give Mesa lots of international support before there's a repeat of October (when international support for Goni came after violence already erupted).

Mesa's problems stem from his inability to submit to all of the syndicalist leaders' demands. Not to mention, of course, that some of these demands (such as Quispe's demand for the abolition & expulsion of the Catholic Church) are simple impossible & undemocratic demands. But some of the demands are even more complex.

The October uprising was called la guerra del gas since it was supposedly instigated to protest the government's gas policy The reality, of course, is that there were various protesters involved — not all of them interested in the gas issue. The real issue behind the gas polemic was that it would be sold through Chile, Bolivia's historical archenemy (all socioeconomic problems are blamed on the evil Chileans) — and especially the enemy of the ultra-nationalist left.

But the guerra del gas only accomplished to push Tarija & Santa Cruz into a hair's breath from secession. This problem resurfaced after it was discovered that Sempra, the company interested in purchasing the gas has gone shopping elsewhere. Now Tarija & Santa Cruz (the gas & oil producing departments) are furious. The upcoming so-called "referndum on gas" (which seems more and more to be just a popular rubber stamp for the government's decision to export gas if another buyer appears) now just lingers in the background.

Meanwhile, the Constituent Assembly is postponed for at least another year. This is actually a smart move on the part of Mesa and the political parties. After all, the attempt to "re-create" the country could turn into a disaster. Regional tensions are the highest ever. The October protest was centered on the city of El Alto and the kolla altiplano in general — it had virtually no effect in the eastern half of the country (other than expressing solid pro-Goni sympathies). Added to the kolla demands for a more plebiscitary democracy are now added strong oriental demands (from Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija, and Sucre) for regional autonomy and a virtual federalization of the country (which would essentially mean the riches of the orient would stay in the orient). Faced w/ the very possible disintegration of the country, Mesa & co. have opted to do nothing.

In the meantime, the national agenda is focused on a drive to the sea. After international support from a mixed bag of foreigners (Lula, Hugo Chavez, Castro, Koffi Annan, Carter), Mesa's pressing his foreign service to try negotiating a Chilean territorial concession. Hopes that the US would press Chile into negotiating w/ Bolivia ended when the White House announced that the issue was a bilateral one between Chile & Bolivia. This infuriated many Bolivians. How dare the US not act imperialistic and force Chile to its knees on our behalf?

While Bolivia's drive to the sea will always be, essentially, a fruitless & hopeless exercise. It serves a clever purpose. Mesa's a historian most famous for a book on Bolivian presidents (Entre urnas y fusiles). He knows that using Chile as a scapegoat does wonders. Give the people a foreign enemy to hate and they might leave you alone. After all, it worked for all the right-wing military regimes that drilled a hatred for Chile into our heads in grade school.

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Let's begin a HOT discussion :))))

Posted by ïðîäàæà àâòîìîáèëåé | April 7, 2004 12:08 PM

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"President Mesa finally announced the questions for the gas referendum. And although there are five of them, they seem rather vague & almost destined to win a "yes" vote by their very wording (which, I'm sure, was the point). But. Despite that, the questions are unclear as to what they..."
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