The Month of Living Dangerously
20,000 angry protesters can't be wrong... Or can they? Photo by AFP.
Ok, we're back from a little break...
I've blogged a whole bunch on Bolivia. Bolivia, that beautiful, but sad country, which for the past few weeks has been inching toward chaos. I'm not knowledgeable enough to explain the cause of Bolivia's troubles other than to say that it's about natural gas. Bolivia has lots of it. And a bunch of folks, mostly indigenous Aymara and Quechua, think it should be nationalized.
Over the past week, some 20,000 protesters (I've also read 40,000 -- it's difficult to verify the numbers) have flooded La Paz and have been marching, throwing stones, breaking windows and tossing sticks of dynamite at police. And throughout the country, they've also set up roadblocks, which have effectively brought the country to a halt.
Where's all this headed? It's anyone's guess. The protesters are in the city and don't appear eager to leave. The President, for his part, refuses to leave office. The military for the moment is not stepping in, as some might expect. And the police and have been reluctant to use excessive force, remembering all too keenly how the deaths of some 60 protesters in 2003 caused the downfall of the previous President. This weekend is a religious holiday, so the protesters are on hiatus. But they're vowing to be back on Monday.
Karl Penhaul has an interesting take on the conflict in his article on CNN.com, in which he describes the conflict as "a fight against the free-market economic policies and globalization...a battle between the haves and the have-nots, between the downtrodden and desperately poor Indian and mestizo majority against the political and economic elites." Pretty strong language, but probably right on the money.
Eduardo at Barrio Flores, himself a Bolivian-American, asks, "Who is repressing who? ...these scenes of war demonstrates that this is not a one-sided affair, where marchers are always the victim...Let us hope that no firearms are thrown into the equation."
You are right to think that the natural gas was not the first grievance. I think Evo Morales was right not on the money when he said that the oil companies should be partners and not owners of the reserves.
I think most would agree that to be the case, but by now no one will listen to that reasonable argument.
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