Talks continue, fears build
of looming confrontation
Not much of major importance has occurred over the past week, but there seems to have been a marked rise in concern over what may happen in the middle of October.
The negotiations in Cochbamba are continuing, with both sides saying they need more time, but hopes for a successful conclusion seem to be dimming.
Part of the reason has been the harsh rhetoric of President Evo Morales, who earlier this week declared that he would put into effect his proposed constitution "por las buenas o las malas," which translates as something pretty close to "come hell or high water."
The constitution is bitterly opposed by the five eastern departments that have voted for "autonomia" who dislike its increased centralization, its weakening of property rights, and its setting aside of political power for indigenous people, among other things.
But the talk from the would-be autonomous departments has not done much to pour oil on the troubled waters. Many people here noticed that Branko Marinkovic, head of the pro-autonomy Committee for Santa Cruz, was quoted in the International Herald-Tribune as saying that without international arbitration a bloody showdown was likely.
What has been more chilling for us has been the growing acceptance among people we know of the likelihood of a violent clash. People who just a couple of weeks ago were certain that "it won't happen here," reassuring us that Bolivians always go to the brink and then back off, now seem resigned to violence arising from another campesino march.
The stage has certainly been set. Leaders of the campesino groups allied with President Morales have said that if the talks in Cochabamba don't come to an agreement by October 13, campesinos will encircle and cut off that city.
If no agreement is forthcoming after that, they will march on Santa Cruz the 15th.
There are still no overt preparations for battle in the city, but many people say that they are underway covertly. We are thinking of going to Brazil or Peru for that mid-month period.
Meantime, Cruceños are discussing with great gusto three recent news stories that we cannot verify personally, but are definitely the talk of the town.
* Numerous news stories report that the two sisters of the highest ranking woman in President Morales Party, the Movement Toward Socialism, were arrested near Cochabama by police when 147 kilos of cocaine paste was found in their luxury SUV during a traffic stop. One of the sisters had a large wad of cash hidden in her underwear. The husband of one of the sisters was also arrested.
* One Caracas daily reports that six Venezuelan military personnel in civilian clothes were killed in the recent armed clash in Pando known as the Porvenir Massacre. The bodies of the Venezuelans, the paper said, had been airlifted back to a military base in Venezuela.
* The buzz on the Internet is an unsourced story, with pictures, reporting that President Morales' representative in Santa Cruz drives her kids to Collegio Aleman, one of the city's tonier prep schools, in a canary yellow Humvee, the most expensive SUV sold in Bolivia.
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."