Friday, June 03, 2005

Mayhem in Bolivia

Although i live in the Netherlands i have to say i am not very knowledgeable about the European consitution debate. My impression is that the victory of the No camp was due to misinformation. More precisely, the arguments used by the No camp did not actually involve the constitution but other issues that should not have been taken into account for this discussion. Take a look at this.

Now let's turn our attention to Bolivia. Although the news are only now emerging in mainstream media such as BBC and CNN, everybody saw it coming. It was a matter of when rather than if. It was precisely the day after i left Bolivia that the problems started. In short, worker unions, poor farmers, teacher organizations, public transport, and many others started protesting against a law approved by the senate chamber. This law increases the taxes that foreign oil companies pay in Bolivia. The protesting groups complain that this law is still not fair, foreign companies, they say, should stop plundering the country's resources.

While this law was being debated the question was how much is a good percentage for the tax. But now that the law has been approved (demanding more than 50% of tax and "regalías"), the protesting groups demand nationalization of the gas reserves. These groups maintain the viewpoint that multinationals will exploit the resources without giving back enough to the people. A consequence of the protest is that La Paz is paralized. The same happens with many roads connecting cities among Bolivia.

All this violence makes me very upset. I think that these leaders are taking advantage of the poorest people to cause a political mayhem which may put them in power. With they in power will things improve? I am very doubtful about their abilities. It is easier to destroy than to create.

Many bloggers have been covering these happenings. Early look at marches in La Paz (some more), some posts about behavior of demonstrations and their organization/financing. I also received an email from a friend who is doing her project of international development in La Paz. Nancy says:
Bolivia could be discribed as a country at the age of civil war!!!!!
The political situation is very very bad, and I have to admit that im a bit scared. There are non stop protest, roadblocks, lots of violant behaviour. Demonstration here is not like the demos in london, there are much bigger and everybody is very violant. They hate seeing people wearing ties, so everytime there is a person wearing a tie they beat them up, 2, 3 and sometimes 4 of them they also attack taxi drivers. they stop the car force them to go out and hit them with a belt.Two or 3 people hold the taxi driver by their feet and hand and one of them hits the poor guy who scared shitless with a belt. Yesturday I saw how an old man was wearing a tie and 2 people were hiting him with a belt and a young man was trying to help him and the protester beat the guy as well and took his bag. there are no buses running and the airport is closed to, so lets see if I can get out of here safely. Everybody is nervous, our boss at the NGO said to us that we can stop with the work if we want. but we feel that being in the office working would be a good distraction. Also the streets is full of gas. The police are not allowed to shut, the president doesnt want any dead people so the police spray the whole city centre with gas, its is horrible you can not breath and your eyes hurt a lot. its all very ugly, most people are very scared, nervous and frustrasted. look on the internet under
is in spanish, but you can see some pictures

I sort of get the idea, the police is very busy protecting the key parts of La Paz while usual citizens of La Paz get no protection for aggression. A cousin of mine told me some scary things that could happen if you were out in the street while the ousting of the previous president happened. The damage caused by social movements is not quantified and their leaders are not held accountable for this damage.

I will end this post with more links, take a look at an article that examines how history repeats itself. It is amazing how many similarities there are with the current situation. It is sad to think that we might lose some more decades of development.

I have been quite critical against these social movements. You can find another perspective from this articulate blogger that has strong simpathy for these movements. Oh, and a link i promised to Metka.

Disculpas a los visitantes que preferirían ver este blog en español. Este blog comenzó para comentar mi vida en Utrecht, y los directos implicados en esas primeras historias no hablan español. En este momento no se si cambiar de idioma, hay una audiencia potencialmente más grande si lo dejo en inglés.


Anonymous eduardo said...

Thanks for the reference. The growth of the Bolivian diaspora is an interesting thing to follow.

8:53 AM  

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