In Bolivia, Reality Changes Once Again

Good day, kind readers, yesterday morning the landscape changed and there is a new story to tell. The social movements in Bolivia, ALL of them, have united to coordinate their efforts, to organize more demonstrations and fight against the new (or recycled) right wing that just last night gave more power to the administration of President Carlos Mesa. Let’s take a look at this immediate history

It was just after 9 in the morning, and about one hundred social movement representatives and journalists were crammed into the small auditorium of the Central Obrera Boliviana (the legendary COB, Bolivian Workers’ Federation). A dozen people sat up front, full of enthusiasm. Take a look at the attendance list, because this phenomenon is nearly unknown in the country’s recent history:

1. Evo Morales, congressman from the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, and coca-growers’ leader from the Chapare region.

2. Felipe Quispe, el Mallku (the Condor) of the Aymara nation and outgoing executive secretary of the Bolivian Farmworkers’ Federation (CSUTCB).

3. Jaime Solares, executive secretary of the COB.

4. Roberto de la Cruz, El Alto city councilor, Aymara, known for his participation in the uprising of October, 2003.

5. The leaders of the Bolivian Landless Movement (MST).

6. Román Loayza, alternate senator for the MAS and parallell CSUTCB which answers to Evo’s party.

7. Enrique Mariaca, an engineer from the Committee for the Defense of National Patrimony

8. Former police official David Vargas, one of the leaders of the so-called Black Februray (2003) when the people revolted against a tax increase from Sánchez de Lozada (at the request of the IMF).

9. A bit later, Abel Mamani, well-known president of the Federation of Neighborhood Committees, arrived in high spirits.

10. In Cochabamba, Oscar Olivera, of the Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Gas and Water, and Omar Fernández, leader of the Bolivian irrigating peasant-farmers.

And there were more, of all colors, from all over the country, protesting Carlos Mesa, who was ratified as president: the purpose of his blackmailing resignation, in reality, was to pressure the Bolivian people into a step back in what they were demanding and achieving in the streets, above all on hydrocarbons (but also on water, on justice for the massacres of 2003, on everything they are lacking and the justice they deserve).

The new alliance, which revives an entity known as the Estado Mayor del Pueblo (loosely translated as the People’s General Staff, founded in 2001), has begin to guide the people in resistance against the coalition of political parties and the government, which seeks to restrain the social mobilizations.

In his front-line trench, Mesa gave a press conference at 10 am. The event reprised the points from his speech last night before the National Congress: to retake his government agenda, this time together with the traditional political parties, and not to permit any more social mobilizations.

Mesa has asked the people to demonstrate at noon tomorrow, in all the plazas of Bolivia, against the blockades and marches.

But there was something new as well

As some sectors of El Alto have remained firm in their blockades demanding the exit of the multinational Suez corporation from the administration of their water services, as the coca growers continue blockading the main highway in the Chapare, as many people have refused to abandon their demands just because Carlos Mesa demands it in order to govern, President Mesa threatened to bring all the blockaders and marchers to justice. That is, apply the law as always: against the poor and working people of this country.

The apparent defeat of the social movements last night was not conclusive. The political class’ rallying behind President Mesa has provoked the social movements and leaders to rally themselves in response. We still don’t know what dimension this might take on for the people, but we know that, for the moment, this new stage of the conflict as not over yet.

LUIS GOMEZ is editor and publisher of Narconews, where this column originally appeared.

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