The current situation
bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 04 Jun, 2004 at 03:39 PM | comments (2) | trackback (0)

Not sure if things are spiralling out of control for Mesa or not. He's stood on the edge of the abyss for a while now. The question is whether he knows how to turn around & walk back, build a bridge — or will he just fall.

Miners & their families have been sleeping on the Prado for almost a week now. The conflict happened after another set of miners (co-op miners) took over the corporate mines. After several dynamite-fueled clashes, the co-op miners won; now the corporate miners are in La Paz, demanding the government do something.

Meanwhile, the road bloqueos are starting to be felt. The teachers are still on strike, marching most evenings through the Prado, cheered on by the miners. The road from La Paz to Desaguadero is cut. A food shortage is starting in parts of Beni.

The worst is the public teachers' strike, which is highly controversial. While they don't earn much, teachers work fewer days a year & have steady employment (in a country w/ high unemployment). The government's offer of a 3% pay raise was rejected. Now, the government's threatened to fire teachers who don't return to work by 11 June.

Recently, parents have started taking their kids to class & teaching them. Since most education here involves rote memorization from textbooks students have to purchase themselves, many think teachers are unnecessary. Some teachers also returned to their classrooms; an estimated 30 percent of urban La Paz schools are functioning.

But the strike's lost its national momentum. The first department to quit the strike entirely was Tarija. Rural education is 100% operational in Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando. Only in La Paz & Oruro are rural public teachers still on strike, refusing to respect an agreement w/ the government signed on 28 May.

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I agree, Mesa has rough seas ahead. However, he cannot do everything himself. He has engaged in sincere dialog with many groups and has reached agreements with several of them. Yet, some groups refuse to compromise.

His administration is often placed in no-win situations. He has the responsibility to all citizens, which also means applying the law and ending roadblocks so that there is no food shortage. Unfortunately, when the blockaders are armed, the armed forces are placed in a delicate predicament.

The way some people (newspapers) are spinning this recent armed confrontation is disturbing. Sure, Mesa authorized to end the blockades in accordance to laws, but these headlines are creating the impression that Mesa deliberately ordered the killing of civilians.

Posted by eduardo | June 4, 2004 04:27 PM

I agree w/ you completely. Mesa's doing all he can ... but he's afraid of using "mano dura" when necessary. I don't mean unecessary force; I mean enforcing no-blockade laws, etc. Now, when he tries to it, it's almost too little, too late.

Posted by miguel | June 5, 2004 01:37 PM

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