Tensions rising in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Radical Autonomists Don’t Want an “Ignorant Indian” to Govern


Translation: Machetera

The political discourse is becoming more strident and dialogue further away as the May 4th referendum on autonomy in Santa Cruz [Bolivia] approaches. Leaders of the Union Juvenil Cruceñista (Union of Santa Cruzeña Youth) promise to fight for autonomy with their lives and publicly repudiate the idea that an “ignorant Indian” should govern the country. Social leaders in the highlands call for armed confrontation with the separatist bourgeoisie, and the initiation of revolution.

All indications are that neither the Organization of American States (OAS) nor the Catholic church will be able to achieve a political negotiation before the Cruceño referendum within 6 days. Pablo Mamani, Oscar Olivera and Eugenio Rojas, mayor of Achacachi and leader of the “Red Ponchos,” along with other representatives from the Coordinated Social Movements of Cochabamba called for Bolivians to take up arms and begin a social revolution starting on May 4th. These sectors decided not to heed President Evo Morales’ call, when he asked that the social organizations not mobilize against the referendum in Santa Cruz.

The head of the Regional Worker’s Central of El Alto confirmed that a group is already in Santa Cruz and will participate in the demonstrations against the referendum and in the campaign for abstention. Nicanor Muñoz, neighborhood leader in the heavily populated Plan 3000 area of the city invited the social organizations from El Alto, the coca growers from Cochabamba, the CSUTCB (the Unique Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia), settlers and other sectors to a meeting on May 1, to outline a strategy that would bring about an abstention rate of greater than 50%. 243,750 people live in 114 neighborhoods in Plan 3000. There are up to 35 union associations in the area.

A virtual autonomist dictatorship declared in Santa Cruz has silenced democratic debate, accentuated exclusion and is nourishing resentments that could degenerate into violent clashes. The fear campaign waged by the civic groups and their shock troops, and the threat of “ethnic cleansing” after May 4th, not only terrorize dissidents but also multiply the quarrels.

This afternoon the Union Juvenil Cruceñista came out to march in the streets of the eastern capital, in support of the autonomy statute, motivating youth opposing them to organize a caravan against the autonomy of the landowners this Tuesday, beginning at the Students’ Plaza. Critics are ready to respond to any kind of attack by the unionists and hold the Prefect, Ruben Costas, responsible for any bloodshed.

The Permanent Assembly of Human Rights for Cochabamba is worried that Bolivia could enter a violent spiral if a dialogue does not take place between officials and the opposition before May 4th.

Dialogue Stalled

The Executive branch left the decision to set a date, time and place to resume the dialogue recommended by the OAS in the hands of the prefect opposition. The prefects from Beni, Pando, Tarija and Santa Cruz refuse to dialogue before May 4th.

“We will do whatever is necessary in order to set up any kind of conversation before, during or after May 4th,” said the Vice Minister of Decentralization, Fabián Yaksic, who reiterated his request that the opposition review its position and look for a way to bring the new State Political Constitution in harmony with the autonomy statutes.

The OAS Secretary for Political Affairs, Dante Caputo, will meet this Tuesday with President Evo Morales and with the leaders in Santa Cruz to hear their proposals for dialogue.

The national head of the Democratic and Social Power party (Podemos), Jorge Tuto Quiroga, indicated that the establishment of a dialogue between the government and the opposition to overcome the political crisis will only be possible through mediation by the Catholic church and the accompaniment of the European Union and friendly countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

According to Quiroga, the OAS does not deserve to be trusted because of its lack of neutrality and credibility, considering that its report on the political situation in Bolivia makes no mention of the violations in the Constitutional Tribunal, the illegal adoption of the MAS (Movement toward Socialism party) constitutional text, the Constitutional Tribunal’s wholesale revisions, and the parliamentary barriers.

“The Secretary General and the mission entrusted to Señor Enrique Correa, who is the Chilean political operative for Señor Insulza, who redacted the reports, doesn’t deserve any of our confidence; it even lacks tact and sensibility…Señor Insulza disqualified himself through his partiality and lack of neutrality and credibility. We’ve been showered with insults and injuries and the OAS says nothing about the Constitutional Tribunal’s violations, attacks on the media, how deputies were beaten, how the Assembly was locked up, how it has turned to the UTO in Oruro (Oruro Technical University) to instigate acts of violence,” said Quiroga.

Fernando Messmer, Podemos’s deputy, asked the government to stop lying to the international community and to state the real causes of the conflict, such as the illegal approval of the MAS constitutional text, the confiscation of regional IDH (Direct tax to hydrocarbons) revenues, and the congressional barriers.

Messmer insisted that the councilmember David Choquehuanca lied to the hemispheric community “absolutely shamelessly” in order to characterize May 4th as a separatist, divisionist act, looking to topple the regime of President Evo Morales.

What’s certain, said Messmer, is that whether or not a dialogue takes place before May 4th, “the May 4th referendum will be carried out without fail.” Quiroga asked the government to stop inciting violence with its “shock troops.”

The MAS ruled out the possibility of dialogue over the results of the May 4th referendum. The deputies Jorge Silva and Gustavo Torrico warned that an illegal and extra-constitutional act would not be recognized.

In Silva’s view, the opposition has made a political calculation that the referendum’s results will legitimize a political act conceived outside the law, in order to later be used as a negotiating tool in the drafting of a new Constitution. It’s impossible to negotiate after May 4th, because a State Political Constitution will already exist and illegal statutes cannot be made compatible with it, commented Torrico.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

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