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."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Watchful waiting" at week's end

A returning calm --
or eye of the storm?

Santa Cruz was quiet this weekend, with most people hoping that some sort of "modus vivendi" will be worked out between the national government and the autonomous departments in the talks that began Friday between the prefect of Tarija, Mario Cossio, and Vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera. Cossio was in Santa Cruz Saturday conferring with the other "media luna" governors and will return Sunday evening to La Paz to continue talks with the Vice-President.

However, even with negotiations between the government and the opposition in full-swing, the President still stokes the fires of conflict with his rhetoric. As Reuters reports, "Morales defied them (the Prefects of the autonomous departments) on Saturday by vowing to introduce divisive reforms just hours after signs of a compromise had emerged from a first round of talks." In Cochabama today speaking to a group of coca farmers, Morales called the governors of the five departments who oppose the proposed socialist constitution enemies of Bolivia. Just imagine, Morales said, how unpatriotic they are. "They are the enemies of all Bolivians."

The tensest part of the country right now is the small, rural department of Pando at the northwestern limit of the media luna. The first deaths in the current flare-up occurred there with around 25 and counting people reportedly being killed in an altercation Friday between agricultural workers who some say were armed by President Morales' party, MAS, and pro-autonomy residents of the tiny town of Porvenir. The group affiliated with MAS reportedly suffered the majority of the casualties after they had initiated a gunfight. In addition, two more deaths were blamed on the military who opened fire when they landed in Cobija to take the airport back from opposition groups. The armed forces earlier had stated that they would not open fire on Bolivian civilians.

Martial law is still in effect in Pando and Evo Morales has said that he would not hesitate to extend the "estado en sitio" to the other autonomous departments. However, we have no first-hand knowledge of the situation in Pando, and will leave the details to other news organizations, which are gradually arriving in Bolivia.

Santa Cruz itself has returned to a state of near-normalcy, though there is apparently some fighting with sticks, fists and rocks going on out at the blockades that pro-Morales campesinos have set up on the principal routes leading into the city. The principal effect of the blockades surrounding the city is a lack of gasoline in the city. Most stations are out of gas most of the time, and when they have it long lines form immediately.

Generally the mood is to wait and see what comes of the talks between Cossio and Garcia Linera. People in Santa Cruz to whom we spoke believe that the national government is in a weakened position, and will have to make some accommodation with the autonomous departments regarding the sharing of gas and oil revenues, which the departments had been receiving a fixed part of since 1939, and which President Morales had cut off by decree earlier this year. The autonomous departments also want a cancellation of the proposed December referendum on Morales' controversial proposed constitution.

The events of last week seemed to show that the national government is not able to project effectively its authority into the "autonomous" departments. The army and police retreated to their quarters in the face of popular protests in several cities in which offices of the national government, airports, and other facilities were taken over. In addition, one gas pipeline was blown up, and the flow through others curtailed, at least temporarily, by anti-government groups. Bolivia currently is not producing enough gas to meet domestic demand, and is way behind on its contracted shipments to Argentina.

In conversations with Cruceños, they seem to feel that a remarkable turnabout occurred last week. Until then Morales seemed to be in the driver's seat as a result of is two-thirds majority in the recent recall referendum. (However, he lost in all four departments -- out of nine -- that have voted for "autonomia.") Now, the President is forced into dealing with the opposition.

This point of view was reflected repeatedly at a Friday night party attended by relatively well-to-do Cruceños who cheerfully accepted the epithet "oligarchs," that President Morales throws at the entrepreneurs of Santa Cruz. ("It's time for all the oligarchs here to get up and dance," shouted the acting master of ceremonies early on in the evening.) Many expressed confidence that Santa Cruz and the other autonomous departments were united, and well prepared to thwart a wide variety of central government plans to curb exports, centralize government control, and implement various socialistic economic policies President Morales' government wishes to impose. One "oligarch," in summing up his optimistic assessment, concluded: "Remember, Che died here."


porkfilledbullets said...

Hi guys:
I am from Santa Cruz, live in Waynesboro, VA.
It is difficult for me to get information on what is going on and how things are developing due to government constant lies on the media.
Please keep up the informative posting on your blog it is a very interesting perspective from people with real sense of neutrality and capable of evaluating this situation with the right perspective.

Emily Barlow said...

I want to echo the previous praise :) Thanks for keeping us informed since we can't be eyewitnesses. Keep it up, please!

The Neither Party said...

Not that this will ever make it through your censorship, but your claim that "However, we have no first-hand knowledge of the situation in Pando, and will leave the details to other news organizations, which are gradually arriving in Bolivia', where you imply that you provide 'news' is only one of the many lies or biases you propagandize in your above article.
A real news organization at least tries for balance and accuracy, something not in evidence in your above article. I have never seen a more biased article about Bolivia in my life--you take the prize, hands down--congratulations!

Anonymous said...

I am going to reiterate support. I have been trying to get information from bloggers on the net, but it seems like all I can find is propaganda.

Keep up the good work putting out fair and balanced news. said...

Hi David and Kelly,

Thanks for your info.
Your page is great.

I happen to be passing thru Santa Cruz and have a couple of comments:

Its interesting to hear the South American support of President Morales. I think they have serious objections of Mr Morales and will not publicly disclose them due to state interest.
They met for over 8 hours and hopefully pressured Mr Morales to stop acting like a violent dictator.

Its impossible to believe that the South American leaders are not aware of the anti-democratic methods used by Mr. Morales. Such as the pre-approval of his socialist constitution (basically gives the president totalitarium power) in a military base which excluded opposition delegates. With these delegates, Mr Morales would have never passed his constitution proposal which is scheduled in December or January to be voted on by the public.

Unfortunatelty, there is overwhelming proof that the electoral organism of Bolivia is corrupt. It was proven that many deceased people (+100 years old) cast there votes in favor of Mr Morales term. There are many other examples of fraud.

It would appear that Bolivia has a bleak future if no one stops this person and his socialist political party.

The retired military generals of Bolivia comment on their disbelief that the current military leaders are completing anti-constitution orders. A strong theory is that the current military leaders are "paid off" and have threats against there families. Chavez recently replied publicly to a current Bolivia military general to shut up or else.

One final point that CNN doesn't comment on very much. The entire government offices (ministers, senators, delegates and so forth) are from the same political party MAS.
I've met many and its easy to say that more than 90% do not have the qualifications to run there areas. One example, the justice minister is an ex-housecleaner and only finished high school.
These people have no idea of organization, schedules, budget balances, international relations, or any type of business management.

These are the leaders that want to impose their plan without any opposition. Ouch.

They are coming into Santa Cruz and the other "media luna" cities to take over. I'm sure they believe they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

If and when civil war breaks out. God be with those who can't get out.

David and Kelly. Take your pictures off for your safety.


Barbara Pence said...

I agree. I check your blog every day for the latest news and know that you are going to present a measured perspective. Thank goodness there is some positive news this morning.