A Massive No to Evo

The government has tried to play down, so far unsuccessfully, the impact of the 8-27 stoppage involving two thirds of the country.  With some sporadic and limited but unacceptable violence, mainly in Santa Cruz and Trinidad, six departments (states)  out of nine said No to the way President Evo Morales is ruling this land-locked country. Consequences of the stoppage, one of the most extensive national movements since democracy took hold in Bolivia in 1982 after years of military dictatorship, could be far-reaching.  The movement might be followed by other actions soon, with the purpose of  “defending democracy”, which opposition and civic leaders see seriously threatened by the country´s first Indian government. They say Mr. Morales, a close friend of Venezuela´s Hugo Chávez,  has systematically dismissed all non-Altiplano (highlands) ideas regarding a new Constitution. Official and opposition forces have clashed over their antagonistic views of Bolivia. The blend of Marxism, Trotskoysm and anti-Western Indian thought, which represents  the view of Mr. Morales government at the Constitutional Assembly convened in Sucre since August, 2006, proposes to declare Bolivia a “multi-nation” state, comprised of as many as 36 Indian nations.  Besides the mess of establishing such a state,  some of those Indian nations  are so tiny that could be counted with the fingers of two hands. Guasarawe tribe, for instance, is listed with just eight members by the country´s latest national census.  It is not known if those Indians have ever been contacted.( Anthropologists  would surely love to learn more about those tribes.) But white- and semi-white-dominated  Eastern lands, specially in the Amazon departments,  suspect the multiple-nation state is only a trick to prevent these departments, the country´s richest, from setting up autonomous regimes, less dependant from the asphyxiating control  from La Paz. As many as 32 of those Indian nations  live in the Eastern Amazon areas.  This point has been the main bone of contention at the Assembly which, after working for over a year, hasn´t been able to define what Bolivia would be. The six departments became furious as Deputy Chamber okayed a  Mr. Morales demand  to  impeach four magistrates of the Constitutional Tribunal, which oversees  the right appliance of the constitution. The magistrates had opposed Mr. Morales recurrently appointing temporary judges.  Opposition charged the government is trying to control justice and impose a regime a-la-Chavez. To this added a thorny dispute between La Paz and Sucre. Which city should the country´s capital?  Since a federal war by the turn of the 19th century, La Paz became  venue of the Executive and Legislative branches. Sucre remained with just the Supreme Court. When the city tried to debate the question at the Assembly, it was suddenly taken out of the Assembly agenda by the official party MAS´s majority.  The move outraged ”Sucrenses”  who went on to the streets to protest. Currently there are hundreds, probably over a thousand, “Sucrenses” on a hunger strike demanding reversal of the move. Sucre, of course, joined forces with the Amazon states of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, all struggling to win autonomy.  To the group added Cochabamba, whose authorities are also at odds with Mr. Morales  government. In total as many as two thirds of the country´s nine departments are pressing Mr. Morales to change political paths.  The government claims that the six departments are moved by “oligarchs,” but the charge appeared weak against an increasing movement against Mr. Morales.  To make things even worse for Mr. Morales, La Paz has said it will not accept any change of its status of political capital and it will not allow any of the state branches to leave the city. It is, so far, the worst challenge faced by the Indian leader´s 19-month old government.     

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