The COB out of sync w/ Bolivia
bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 26 Mar, 2004 at 12:14 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0)

The COB (Central Obrera Boliviana) marched last night, as they said the would. This time, the police showed up to secure peace & order — unlike Wednesday where their total absence led to violence between protesters & pedestrians after the few cobistas assaulted anyone who jeered them.

I estimated maybe 2,000 marchers; Sergio guessed about 1,000. Either way, they were almost dwarfed by the rows of police lining the Prado all the way to Plaza San Francisco. We watched as the marchers began entering Plaza San Francisco (for a rally & speeches) and w/in 5-10 minutes the last marchers had reached the plaza. The line of marchers extended maybe 5-6 blocks.

I tried taking pictures, but my digital camera's not designed for outdoor night photography. Here's the best image I managed.

Though this was a supposedly a COB march, I think a good 500 (or more) of the marchers were actually university students, chanting: "We want a second semester!" Not sure what that meant. Of course, Bolivia's known for piggyback protests — groups w/ vastly different agendas join together in marches — not for solidarity per se — to inflate their numbers (the COB will claim all the marchers were theirs, ditto university students).

The first implication of this march, intended as a massive demonstration, is (clearly) that the COB has lost the support it gained in October. In short, turnout was low — quite low for a "major" demonstration. Especially for an organization that supposedly coordinates most of Bolivia's workers' unions.

Second, the COB demonstrates little strategic thinking. After October, the COB was a major player in Bolivian politics for the first time since 1985. Having spearheaded the overthrow of a democratically elected president, they had significant political capital. They've not known how to use it.

President Mesa made significant overtures to Jaime Solares & Roberto de la Cruz his first month in office. These were quickly & rudely rebuffed (including threats to topple him before Carnaval). The COB is once more a radical, marginalized political actor — and it's primarily it's own fault. Unable (or unwilling?) to read popular sentiment — the desire to end protests, return to normality, and give Mesa a chance — puts the COB as out of sync w/ the Bolivian people as pre-October.

Mesa's popularity is almost 80% & the general population (in La Paz & El Alto) seem tired of protests. Some of the COB's regional branches (in Tarija, for example) officially broke off & no longer recognize the central leadership. If this continues, the COB will march itself into the grave.

" comments

That's an incredible picture!

Posted by eduardo | March 26, 2004 05:10 PM

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