This weblog was created to provide a fuller and more accurate picture of the current situation in Bolivia. Our principal effort to try to pull things together and place them in proper perspective is the penultimate post below, titled "Main Story."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Peace At Hand?

Morales, Autonomistas
Ink an Agreement

Remember that picture that seemed to be taking form of Bolivia sinking rapidly into the flames and chaos of outright civil war?
Well, forget it. At least for the moment. Or so it would seem.
This morning's papers say that President Evo Morales and Tarija Prefect Mario Cossio signed an agreement Tuesday evening in La Paz.
Under the agreement the national government will resume sharing oil and gas revenues with the regional governments, and in return the four provinces that have declared for "autonomia" will give the national government back the various national government offices they have siezed during the last 10 days. Cossio negotiated in behalf of the autonomous provinces.
The national government also agreed to a short one-month postponement of the referendum on its proposed new constitution, originally slated for December, and now apparently to take place in January.
The two sides pledged to find some way to guarantee in the process the somewhat autonomous status that the provinces of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando have ratified for themselves through referendums.
Not all of the ends have been tied up by any means. A march of campesinos was still headed toward Santa Cruz at last report, with over 5,000 people carrying machetes, bats, and firearms. Their declared goal was to retake the siezed offices, and depose the elected prefect of Santa Cruz, Ruben Costas.
Police had pledged to keep the marchers from committing mayhem, but many in Santa Cruz were bracing themselves for what could have been (and might still be) a drenching blood bath.
In addition, the pro-autonomy prefect of Pando, Leopold Fernandez, has been arrested by the national government and is being held at an undisclosed location in La Paz charged with violating the martial law imposed by the government on Pando. The government will also probably try to charge him with having been complicit in some way with the massacre of perhaps as many as 30 persons in a pro-MAS contingent that got into a gun battle with anti-MAS citizens in the tiny town of Porvenir. However, the press accounts of that altercation have clearly indicated that the pro-MAS group was the aggressor, and had killed two people before anyone started shooting back. They killed one man, an employee of the prefectural government, while he sat in his car, with a bullet from under the chin, and another through the temple.
After that a vigilante group formed, and chased the MAS adherents through the woods until they were trapped beside a river, and massacred them as they attempted to cross.
The details, however, are still sketchy. Military and other government officials have been in the area. Depending on one's point of view, they are thought to be either gathering evidence concerning the episode, or destroying it.
More details as we get them . . . ,

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