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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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Bolivia: no coup yet, but the pretext has arrived

The Bolivian military, I think it's fair to say, have not been spoiling for a fight. Previously addicted to the coup, they've been dry now for a couple of decades and more; even the uprising last October wasn't the excuse for a Ben Tre-style destroying democracy to save it deal.

However, it's possible that the civil power has crossed the line. The Tribunal constitucional de Bolivia issued a judgement [1] on May 6 which, cutting a long story short, held that various soldiers tried and acquitted in trials by court martial could be tried again by the civil courts.

The judgement runs to 13,000 words [2], and Mr Google throws up no neat summary. No matter; the upshot seems to have been a sort of pre-coup, with senior officers organising themselves for a confrontation with the civil power, but no actual patent acts of rebellion.

An example: a piece in La Opinión tells of a meeting between President Carlos Mesa and an extraordinary delegation:
El comandante en Jefe de las FFAA, Luis Aranda Granados, junto a los comandantes de las tres fuerzas militares y otros 150 comandantes de grandes y pequeñas unidades que llegaron de todo el país el domingo a la Sede de Gobierno, fueron parte del encuentro que duró más de dos horas.

Now that's what I call sending round the boys!

As a result, the officers agreed to end what the piece calls
el estado de emergencia en sus filas
and return to their posts.

On the other hand, military anonymice were saying that
las FFAA sugirieron participar del futuro negocio del gas natural, del desarrollo nacional y la concesión de obras camineras

Is that a collective demand for a bribe? The People's Liberation Army in China were, I believe, notorious for muscling their way into business ventures...

I'm not clear whether all is just for the tourists - a little crisis for Mesa to use as leverage for increases in aid from the US - or whether a coup is at all likely.

(My commitment to the Bolivia story is along minimalist, Rumsfeldian lines. I'm happy to wait for real tanks on the President's lawn before getting stuck in!)

The good people at Southern Exposure are no such fair weather friends of the Bolivian story. Pieces on the fizzle of the would-be rerun of the October rising, the counter-demonstration, the una concentración por la paz y la dignidad I mentioned on May 2, seems to have gone off rather well; and on the military situation, it says
...the implications of the court's decision, if they stand, will deeply weaken the nation's political stability. Even if there isn't a coup.

Because the military could well hold back in future uprisings, fearing criminal liability.

  1. Referred to variously as fallo, sentencia and resolución.

  2. Closer to the common law norm than the French style of lapidary judicial opinions, which are essentially gibberish without the addition of a note or commentary (names to drop: Dalloz and Sirey.)

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