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Vol. V,    No. 17      June 5 - 11, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Latin America
Bolivia is torn by the sharing of gas and oil

By Paulo A. Paranagua, translation by Siv O’Neall
From AxisofLogic.com

May 29, 2005 -- Since Monday May 23, La Paz has been disrupted by thousands of demonstrators.  Minors explode cachorros, tubes filled with dynamite.  The roads are blocked, the access to the international airport closed.  Buses do not run because they are afraid of being attacked, stores lower their metal curtains, markets are beginning to have shortages of provisions. 


The Bolivian Workers Central (COB) and the Federation of Neighbors of El Alto, the  dormitory suburb of La Paz, request a pure and simple nationalization of oil and gas.  The leader of the COB, Jaime Solares, launched an ultimatum to Evo Morales, the leader of the Movement For Socialism (MAS, left) who is more and more overburdened by work, to make him adhere to the nationalization.  But for the moment, MAS is satisfied with requesting that the State collect 50 % in royalties on the incomes of hydrocarbons.  It is not what the new promulgated law provided on May 17, which institutes 18 % royalties and 32 % taxes.  Seemingly, the taxation is the same, but the MAS fears that the sums that should, in that case, legally be paid out will not be paid, the companies being able to reduce their taxes thanks to various deductions.


In addition to the debate on the underground resources, Bolivia is divided on the degree of autonomy of its areas.  In the east of the country, the "civic committees" of the departments of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando, intended themselves to convene a referendum on regional autonomy on August 12.  This step is seen with suspicion by the other departments.  The separatists "want to appropriate the natural resources and the territories and take over tasks that are usually carried out by the army or by the international relations, thus endangering the unity of Bolivia", claims Oscar Olivera, director of the social movement in Cochabamba.


The demonstrators in La Paz on the other hand, are against the autonomy of the departments and request the convocation of a Constituent Assembly to debate the organization of the country.  While accusing the separatists of being "oligarchs", Evo Morales (MAS) considers it possible to reconcile the Constituent Assembly and the referendum on the autonomy, instead of opposing them.  "Let us unite the two issues on our agenda and let us ask the people, the day of the election of the members of the Constituent Assembly, if they want autonomy or not", advocates Mr. Morales.  However, the leaders of MAS are themselves starting to show signs of division.


A third subject:  Jaime Solares (COB) has requested for several days now the resignation of president Carlos Mesa (center) and the closing of the Congress. "If an honest and patriotic soldier like the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez emerges, we will take it to the presidency, stated the trade unionist.  A democracy like the one that has been in existence for the past few years is not useful to us.  We want a government that is concerned with the plight of the people and that will change the neoliberal model which was imposed on us ".


His appeal was heard, since colonels Julio César Galindo and Julio Herrera proposed on a television channel the departure of Mr. Mesa and the formation of a civilian-military government, before they were discredited and sanctioned by their superior officers.  Evo Morales (MAS), who is however close to Hugo Chavez, rejected "any form of coup d'etat".  "The army and the police force are standing firm, that is essential", underlines a diplomatic source


"We are living moments of uncertainty and of confrontation growing between Bolivians", warned the Catholic Church.  President Carlos Mesa moved to Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia.  "I prefer to pay the price of hearing the government accused of lack of authority, rather than to see us undergoing a spiral of violence”, he declared.  I would continue to do my duty without a moment’s doubt, until the last day of my mandate - on August 6, 2007 -. The idea of leaving my post would not occur to me,” concluded the head of State. 

Argentina and Brazil sent high-level emissaries.  "We are following with Brazil the delicate institutional situation in Bolivia and we hope for an improvement", said the Argentine Minister of foreign affairs, Rafael Bielsa.  "Bolivia has a very good head of State", assured for his part, the Argentine president, Nestor Kirchner, who relies on the supply of Bolivian gas.

May 30, 2005

Reposted by Bulatlat



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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