Mesa in a tight corner
bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 07 Apr, 2004 at 12:46 PM | comments (1) | trackback (1)

Mesa's being hit from all sides. Current protests include: cocaleros & handicapped. Threatening to protest are: public universities, cobistas, teachers, and public transportation. The embassy pressures on coca erradication, MIR is upset because two miristas were removed from their appointments.

The government estimates 20 conflicts — per day. It's set up two agencies — Unidad de Sequimiento y Negociación (Usen) & Sistema de Prevención de Conflictos (Siprecos) — to manage the situation. They're stretched thin. I met a member of the government ministry the other day who told me he didn't know how to respond to Mesa's criticism that they didn't do anything to prevent the COB march two weeks ago. Well, he answered, we can't deal w/ upcoming problems since we have a dozen or more in progress every day.

The biggest national problem is simple lack of money. Trying desperately to reduce a mounting fiscal deficit, Mesa's government can't attend to all the myriad demands — no matter how just. Meanwhile, no one wants to pay more taxes (considering tax evasion is around 80%, that's even sadder).

The gremialistas threaten a march if the government starts taxing their businesses. Most entered the market under the "simplified regimen" — meaning they pay no taxes. But the "simplified regimen" was designed as a temporary measure, to help cut business overheads in the early term. Now, many gremialistas make considerable profits & handle large market shares. But they still refuse to pay taxes. Most complain about the Bs.1 the pay a month for maintenance of public markets.

Meanwhile, Jaime Solares is loosing control over the COB. And that's not a good thing. After months of radical discourse, some regional branches of the COB (like Tarija's) broke away from the central committee. Meanwhile, other groups have become more radical & independent from Solares. Roberto de al Cruz' COR & Felipe Quispe's CSUTCB no longer support Solares; they plan to pressure Mesa alone. BTW. Solares was never fully popular because of his history — he was a henchman for Garcia Mesa (other henchmen for the 1980s dictator included Klaus Barbie). Nevertheless, the COB congress is taking place today in Huanuni, a center of Solares support.

Quispe's radicalism is taking hold in the altiplano. The government discovered an armed movement centered in Warisata — the place where police & military were ambushed when trying to rescue 1,000 hostages in September (an event that led to radicalization of anti-Goni protests in October). The group's called Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indigena "Juan Cosme Apaza" (in honor of one of the Warisata dead). Despite Quispe's assurance that no such groups exist, newspapers published pictures of armed groups in the altiplano as early as September (some marched into El Alto in October). BTW. Quispe spent time in prison several years ago for his participation in the terrorist/guerrilla group EGTK (Ejercito Guerrillero Tupak Katari).

All in all, things are looking pretty tough for Mesa. For all his intelligence, suave voice, and good intentions. Governing this country rationally is extremely difficult — some might say impossible.

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