The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Bolivia: some topics of interest

One or two points to note for future reference:

The Sendero Luminoso connection
We know that ex-President Sánchez de Lozada thought Sendero were active in Bolivia. And, for plausibility, on a scale from one to ten, a Sendero connection with the recent revolt would rate an 11.

But still no sign yet of any actual evidence - that I've seen, at least [1].

Revolt against the revolt from gas-rich areas
The gas war lacks support in the Department of Tarija, in which lies the vast bulk of gas reserves. Local leader of Tarija City [2], Roberto Ruiz, was apparently dead against the strategy of the national peasant groupings (under Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe): a piece from September 22 has him saying that
el gas "es usado como bandera de lucha para aglutinar demandas sectoriales" y que la gente ha salido a las calles "en pos de sus propias reivindicaciones".

On Morales, he's quoted thus:
A Evo Morales "le interesa muy poco el gas, no lo conoce ni lo entiende", aseguró Ruiz, que añadió que el parlamentario "es sólo uno más de los políticos demagogos y chauvinistas" que hay Bolivia.

Both of the last two words seem to have much the same meaning as their English counterparts; these are not exactly fraternal sentiments!

Little wonder, then, that (El Mundo of Santa Cruz October 23 - and this) Tarifa and Santa Cruz departments [3] - with Roberto Ruiz to the fore - are fighting the proposed binding referendum on the project to export natural gas through Chile to the US (amongst other countries).

The stance seems to be: first have constitutional reform, and then settle the gas question. And there seems to be a veiled threat of something from 'Deputy Mayor' of Santa Cruz, Germán Antelo, talking about the gas-rich areas defending their own resources:
El hecho de que no se lo permita, puede ser peligroso para la unidad de este país. Lo que pasa es que son 178 años de manejo centralista de Bolivia y los resultados de ello son las masas de campesinos que no han tenido hasta la fecha una oportunidad. Aquí hay posiciones racistas, fundamentalistas, donde hasta la bandera boliviana la han cambiado, por ello creemos que estamos con la lectura adecuada.

(The Katanga Option (secession) - which it crossed my mind that he might have been talking about - seems ruled out by geography alone: Tarija and Santa Cruz departments are not contiguous, and how would they get their gas to the outside world, etc, etc. A gas strike would go contrary to their basic demand: let the gas flow now! So what did he mean?)

(There's a background piece on the gas war - in Spanish on a Brazilian site! - which looks as if it might be useful. )

The parties strike back
A Página 12 piece today mentions that the MNR - the party of Sánchez de Lozada and the largest in the lower house of Congress - is meeting to decide whether, since their leader has fled the country, they ought not to elect a new one! Congress is back in session starting tomorrow, and MNR members are split on how to deal with the new apolitical government of Carlos Mesa:
El dirigente de este partido y presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, Oscar Arren, respaldará al nuevo gobierno, pero la diputada del MNR Teresa Paz ha anunciado que no lo apoyará.

(It also mentions that the defensor del Pueblo - chief prosecutor, I assume - Iván Zegada has resigned, under pressure for not having intervened over the government's handling of the revolt.)

El Alto, La Paz's poor neighbour
A piece from June 9 in La Prensa of La Paz with some background: from the description of the conditions, there can be little wonder at the enthusiasm for the revolt there. The piece notable for being engagé - but not with the peasants. The final graf for a flavour [4]:
Los demagogos primero, los condepistas luego y ahora una ensalada de agitadores del Movimiento al Socialismo junto a maoístas, senderistas, etc., han conseguido perpetuar el estado de miseria de ese abigarrado conjunto urbano denominado “El Alto”.

  1. A Google search on "sendero luminoso" "felipe quispe" for instance produces 59 items, excluding dupes.

  2. Presidente del Comité Cívico de la ciudad de Tarija.

  3. I'm hazy on local government in Bolivia - I'm pretty sure it's been changed around a good deal. Ruiz's equivalent in Santa Cruz City is Rubén Costas. What the relation is between these leaders and the political and administrative heads of the departments - is for another time.

  4. Condepistas defeats the RAE dictionary; abigarrado means, in context, motley - with the same sense as in motley crew. Frankly, I suspect the author would prefer for the whole lot to be demolished!


On the Tarija secession question, a Reuters piece from August 15 2002 says that, back then, that was, more or less, what they were threatening:
Sectores cívicos amenazaron declarar "autónomo" a uno de los nueve departamentos de Bolivia si fracasa un millonario proyecto de exportación de gas a mercados de Estados Unidos y México.

Una denominada "asamblea de instituciones" del sureño departamento de Tarija, fronterizo con Argentina, se declaró el jueves en "estado de emergencia".

The flesh may be willing, but the geography still seems to be against them!

A piece from January 31 gives a flavour of relations between the Tarija crowd and the wider peasant movement - and between Roberto Ruiz and Evo Morales. At one point, it says, Ruiz
propuso a los comités cívicos de Potosí, Sucre, Pando, Beni y Santa Cruz conformar un bloque del sur y del oriente que exija al Presidente la erradicación de la hoja de coca del Chapare y destrabar el proyecto de exportación del gas hacia Estados Unidos.

Demanding that the coca fields be blitzed would, I suspect, be high up on the list of things most likely to give Morales conniptions!

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