Bolivia on the Brink of Civil War

Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 04:36 pm
The crisis in Bolivia is getting worse day by day.
The number of dead people in recent riots varies from 5 (official) to 26.
The crisis rose from the prostest of left-wing popular groups against the government's decision to export Bolivian gas to the US and Mexico, through a Chilean port.
One of the main opposition parties, MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) argues that the gas sale would leave big profits for foreign gas companies, but nothing to the impoverished country, and has asked for a referendum.
The government has accused MAS of preparing "a climate of social convulsion".
MAS has accused the government of trying to close parliament and to make an "auto-coup d'Etat".

This is link for the NYT version of the story... and things are getting worse by the hour

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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 05:16 pm
Bolivia's never ending troubles just keep multiplying.
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 06:36 pm
Thanks for answering Edgar.
It is strange that, a decade ago, Bolivia seemed to be leaving her terrible story, but now we're back to the bases.
Perhaps, as one Bolivian friend told me years ago, there is too much politicking among too few people.
Perhaps, it's also a racially divided society (I don't know much about it, it just seems so) with very bad income distribution.

And one curious thing, US bred President Sanchez de Losada was once accused of not having Spanish as his mother tongue. His witty reply was: "Spanish is not the mother tongue of the majority of Bolivians".
They speak Quechua; Sanchez de Losada speaks English.
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 06:40 pm
I have always believed America's influence is detrimental to that nation's health.
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 06:41 pm
Correction: "the USA's influence."
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 07:24 pm
Part blessing, part curse, IMO.

One must also note the strange politics of that country. A country in which, not long ago, the Revolutionary Leftist Party was a staunch ally of former dictator and repressor Hugo Banzer.
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 07:29 pm
I confess I am confused by the politics there. I don't know who are the good guys or who are the bad.
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 10:23 pm
More info possible, fbaezer?
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Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 10:27 pm
I'm sorry to hear this. It must be frightening for the people there. I read on the CIA Fact Book website for Bolivia that since 1825 there had been nearly 200 coups and countercoups. Is this more of the same?
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Reply Wed 15 Oct, 2003 01:38 pm
As of yesterday, the death toll had risen to "from 46 to 60".

Now the protestors say gas is not the issue anymore, but to overthrow the government. I always had the feeling that this arising has more to do with the death aniversary of Che Guevara (36 years ago, in Bolivia) than with gas.

One of the four parties in the government coalition has said that if more repression ensues, it will withdraw it's support.

The government of Bush says the US backs the Bolivian government against "subversion".


Some more info about the country.

Bolivia is the poor South American cousin.
It has waged two wars and lost both (against Peru and Chile, where it lost it's shores; and against Paraguay, the Chaco war).
As Piffka noticed, Bolivian history is marked by coups and countercoups.

It is a country also marked by high politization. Strong workers and peasants unions. Politically active military. 24 parties and, as a Bolivian girl I dated some years ago, "it's like a small town, we all know each other".

An important moment in Bolivian history is the general strike of 1949, followed by repression and a "democratic revolution", massive votes in favor of Victor Paz Estenssoro, of the National Revolutionary Movement (Populist). A coup followed, and then a popular revolt who put Paz Estessoro into power. Coups, revolts, elections and countercoups followed.

There are at least four main currents in Bolivian politics: fascists, democratic conservatives, leftwing populists and socialist-communists. Each current is represented by several parties and interest groups.

Oddly enough, 10 years ago, Bolivia seemed to be at the beginning of a new phase in it's political life. Stability and economical growth were the signs of the first Sanchez de Lozada government (1993-1997). But he lost the next election against former military dictator Banzer (in unholy alliance with some leftist groups). And won back last year.


I had two friends living in Bolivia a few years ago.

One is a very close friend, an Argentinian turned Italian. He was the EU representative for food aid to Bolivia. He married a local woman and moved to Thailand a few months ago.
The other is the Bolivian former date -and former student of mine-. She is now in Washington, with a good post at the Bolivian Embassy, but who knows for how long.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 15 Oct, 2003 01:51 pm
A friend of a friend of mine as Caritas International representative in La Paz.
She was asked on Monday to return for security reasons to Germany.
In a phone call yesterday, she told my friend, she wanted to stay there: she feels save, like most non-US foreigners. (She sees a lot of increasing anti-Americnism in all social groups - besides by government supporters).
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Reply Wed 15 Oct, 2003 02:13 pm
State Department alertfor October 14, 2003.
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Reply Thu 16 Oct, 2003 04:10 pm
The death toll has risen to 86, according to independent sources.

Most roads are blocked.
Scarcity begins to be noticed at La Paz, specially bread, fresh food products and powdered milk. Public transportation services have been suspended.
In Oruro, a radio station was exploded with dynamite, while an assembly of miners resolved to start a march to La Paz.
In Sucre, rebellious mobs have ramsacked stores.

The three most important leaders of the rebellion are:
Jaime Solares, leader of COB (Bolivian Workers Central).
Evo Morales, Quechuan leader of 30 thousand families of coca growers, and MAS congressman.
Felipe Quispe, leader of CSUTCB (Union Confederation of Peasant and Workers of Bolivia), and also "Mallku" (supreme authority of Aymaras).
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Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 06:38 pm
President Sanchez de Lozada has resigned

In the midst of the left wing rebellion, Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada resigned, and will seek refuge in either Argentina or the United States.

The main leader of the revolt, Evo Morales, says that Vicepresident Carlos Meza shall replace the ourgoing President.

The Bolivian Constitution stablishes that, in the absence of the President, the Vicepresident should finish the mandate.
Morales says otherwise. Meza should call, in the next few months, for new elections, to vote for an assembly that should draw a new Constitution.
"The social movements shall determine when will Meza finish his mandate", declared Morales.
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Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 07:43 pm
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Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 08:39 pm
I just read that he'd resigned! That is amazing. So, what will the VP do.......?
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Reply Fri 17 Oct, 2003 09:49 pm
Don't forget Aymara. Some native speakers speak more than one language - thus, the percentages are more than 100%.

Bolivia - Spanish (41%); Quechua (Northern and Southern Bolivian dialects) (39%), Aymara (24%), German (2%)

We were in Bolvia several years ago. Absolutely loved it! Except the altitude - though it didn't make us ill. La Paz, 12,500 feet; the airport, 13,500, and one point in our travels was over 15,000 feet. Stepped out of the bus and could not walk more than a couple of paces. No trees; only large "shrubs."

The people - away from the hotel - were marvelous. Around and in the hotel were many, many soldiers. They were scary! Like stormtroopers, jackboots and all!

An interesting experience to hear two-way translations between Spanish and Aymara or Quechua and back to Spanish.

As late as 1979, there were no "democracies" in all of South America. Only dictatorships . . . supported by the U.S. We've not been following them recently. The various situations throughout the world do not seem to be bettering.
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Reply Sat 18 Oct, 2003 03:10 am
Oct 18, 2003

Chronology of Events Leading to the Bolivian President's Resignation
The Associated Press

Major events in the Bolivian crisis over the government's gas export plan, which led to President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada's resignation Friday:

- 2002: Bolivian government reaches agreement with international consortium Pacific LNG to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico. Project calls for $6 billion investment, would earn $4 billion a year.

-Aug. 6, 2002: Wealthy mining businessman Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada is sworn in as Bolivia's president for a five-year term following a tight election victory that required congressional ratification. He calls the gas reserves and the export project "a gift from God" to South America's poorest nation.

-Feb. 12-13, 2003: Bloody riots shake the country as Bolivians protest tax hikes. Violence includes clashes between mutinous police officers and army soldiers. Thirty-one people are killed.

-Sept. 15, 2003: Peasants demonstrate and block roads to protest the gas export plan, saying gas must be processed in Bolivia for the benefit of Bolivians.

-Sept. 19, 2003: Miners, workers and other Bolivians join the protests in the so-called "gas war," holding marches and demonstrations in several cities.

-Sept. 20, 2003: Seven people are killed in a clash between peasants and soldiers in the town of Warisata, 45 miles from La Paz near Titicaca Lake.

-Sept. 25, 2003: The Bolivian Workers Central, the country's largest labor federation, joins the protests and adds a crucial demand - that Sanchez de Lozada must resign.

-Sept. 29, 2003: A nationwide protest starts, with demonstrators demanding the president's resignation.

-Oct. 9-12: Violent protests in El Alto, a city of 750,000 people, near La Paz.

-Oct. 13-14, 2003: Clashes spread to La Paz. Death toll since protests began jumps to more than 60, according to human rights groups. The government does not confirm the figures.

-Oct. 13: Sanchez de Lozada says he will freeze the gas export plan and offers Bolivians a referendum. The opposition refuses to accept his offer, and protests seeking his ouster continue.

-Oct. 17: 2003: Sanchez de Lozada resigns. Vice President Carlos Mesa is quickly sworn in by Congress to replace him.

AP-ES-10-18-03 0355EDT

This story can be found at: http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGARILYCXLD.html
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Reply Sat 18 Oct, 2003 05:28 pm
I have a close friend in La Paz. She described the situation as of this afternoon (Oct 18) as "Bolivian normal". I haven't been in Bolivia in over a year and I am an archaeologist not a cultural anthropologist, but my sense is that the Amyra and the Inka, the two major ethnic groups that made up the Inka Empire, (and 80% of Bolivia's population) want their empire back. This is more than simply a fight over globalization. The crowds in the street on Thursday and Friday according to my friend were chanting "white men go home".
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Reply Mon 20 Oct, 2003 10:06 am
Acquiunk wrote:
my sense is that the Amyra and the Inka, the two major ethnic groups that made up the Inka Empire, (and 80% of Bolivia's population) want their empire back. This is more than simply a fight over globalization. The crowds in the street on Thursday and Friday according to my friend were chanting "white men go home".

The last time some political group wanted "their empire back" it was the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia with terrible human results.

I sincerely doubt this is the case, even if Shining Path in PerĂº had the idea of "white against indian" (the white leaders of the organization being "politically indians").
Probably the fact that Sanchez de Lozada ("el gringo") spoke Spanish with American accent meant that he and his advisors were the "white" people. I don't know.

So far, new President Mesa has been received as a savior, has promised a referendum about gas exports and to call for a new Constitutional Assembly (done what the rebels wanted of him).
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