Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bolivia: update on Cochabamba

You will have read that all hell has been kicking off in Bolivia (see previous post). I think it's worth recapping on the events now a few days have passed.

The funeral of one of the protesters killed last weekIt's now clear that there were two protesters killed. One from the left and one from the right. Their respective families buried them on Sunday. There are also the many, many injured, some government buildings burned and Prensa Latina reports that the right attacked medical institutions (one of the reforms the new government has been pushing is the broadening of medical care) and this includes attacks on Cuban medics.

Upside Down World has a photo essay of the street battles that have raged over the last couple of days between supporters of the right wing governor and those of the left calling on him to resign.

Jim Shultz says things are getting back to normal with the exception of the central plaza which is still occupied by leftists. However, he describes how many people are flooding into the city from the rural areas in preparation for a monster protest today - so it sounds as if the calm will be short lived. Stay tuned to the comments box for updates on that.

Protesters arriving for today's demonstrationsEvo Morales himself came to Cochabamba at the weekend and met with the protest leaders. Interestingly he not only described their protests as "legitimate" (and he agrees with their political demands) he did not call for them to stop the protests. I think this is difficult to see as anything except giving his blessing for today's mobilisation.

Although Manfred has backed down in his call for a referendum this is clearly not enough for the protesters, particularly now blood has been shed. He has also fled to Santa Cruz (well outside the region) which has not done his local reputation much good and has given the left renewed confidence that they can oust him.

Becktar, who has been cooking food for the leftists camped out in the main plaza, reports one demonstrator saying "They keep on simply calling us MASistas... but we are not just MAS, we are all of the people of Cochabamba" and her eye witness reports are well worth reading for a flavour of what it's like to be on the ground during such a significant mobilisation.

The size of these demonstrations is as significant as those during the water warsThe repercussions of these events have been felt beyond the borders of Bolivia. John Negroponte, Director of American Intelligence, who the Venezuelan Foreign Minister described as "too immoral to talk to" said "The main risk for democracy is in Venezuela and Bolivia.. [that the regimes there are]... Taking advantage of their popularity in order to weaken the polarity and remove any authority control." What ever that means, and President Chavez has "helpfully" offered to send troops if required saying he would not stand by with arms folded if the right try to overthrow Morales.

Whilst I don't think either of these interventions are particularly useful what's clear is that the left are not willing to stand by and watch the right undermine the democratic decisions of the people - but that the right are perfectly capable themselves of taking up arms and resisting the government.

Link: If you'd like to read my assessment of one year of Morales in power in this month's Socialist Resistance click here (it's a pdf so you have to scroll through to, I think, page 14)


Anonymous said...

Love Becktar's story. Thanks Jim.


Renegade Eye said...

I liked the Becktar story unanonymously.

Dave Riley said...

Good resoiurce here
Bolivia Rising

on Bolivia run by Fred Fuentes and usually from Bolivian resources he translates

Jim Jay said...

I'm not keen on Bolivia Rising. Whilst it has good aspects I think people should read it with caution.

It never lets a good ultra left slogan lie - no matter how inappropriate and posts rumours (sometimes quite outlandish ones) as fact.

For insatance he was convinced there was going to be a coup on October 11th here and when it didn't happen said it showed the strength of the movement to prevent it.

Basically it was bollox and part of the rumour mill that the right are using to try to heighten tensions - I think it's a real mistake to play that game.

Also he portrayed the battle of the mine at Huanuni as a spate between workers without mentioning the role that international corporation Grant Thornton had had (directly) in sparking the affair - leaving the impression that Bolivian workers are just hot beds who kill each other for no reason.

I'm not saying the site is all bad - but it isn't a sound source either.