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Bolivia Crisis Briefs

Indy Staff Sep 18

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The crisis in Bolivia hit a fever pitch this past week, as the nation’s right-wing opposition moved in the streets against President Evo Morales’ supporters. Last Thursday, as pro-Morales farmers gathered in the remote Amazon department (state) of Pando they were met by armed right-wing thugs in support of the opposition governor.

Here’s how it was described on www.democracyctr.org:

“The death toll from Thursday’s massacre in Pando, outside the city of Cobija continues to climb. On Saturday the Minister of Government in Bolivia announced that another ten bodies had been founding in the fields surrounding the site of the violence, bringing the total to 30, according to a report from Radio Erbol. The deaths occurred when armed operatives of the local Governor set out to intercept a group of campesinos coming in from the countryside for a meeting. Their weapons included machine guns. The remote department of the country has been under a declared “state of emergency since Friday night, declared by President Morales. Shortly afterwards supporters of the Governor reportedly broke into a local gun store and left with a fresh supply of arms and ammunition.

For those wondering why the Morales Government decided to take the extraordinary action of sending in troops to Pando this weekend, taking control of its capital, the massacre of the campesinos is the answer.”

You can also see images of the violence in Pando here (it includes rural farmers fleeing from gun fire by taking refuge in a river): http://tenpercent.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/pando-massacre-report/

While almost all of South America’s leaders have denounced the racist and violent opposition to President Morales, both the Bush administration and the McCain and Obama campaigns have ignored or downplayed the opposition’s violence. An Obama spokesperson said: “Obama is encouraging President Morales to reconsider his current path for the good of Bolivia, its people, and its future relationship with the United States.”

Pressure from nine South American presidents is at least stemming some reactionary violence and reigning in rightist prefects. This from www.democracyctr.org:

“In La Paz today, President Morales and two key state governors, Rubén Costas of Santa Cruz and Mario Cossío of Tarija, signed an agreement to begin a new round of talks aimed at resolving the country’s deep political crisis. The agreement will launch talks starting on Thursday in Cochabamba, and will focus on four main issues of contention: the division of gas and oil revenue (IDH); the proposed new Constitution; regional autonomy; and pending appointments to the nation’s judicial bodies. The agreement was also signed by Bolivia‘s Catholic Cardinal, Julio Terrazas.

Nothing in the agreement changes the difficulties that Morales and the Governors have had up to now in finding agreement on these issues, but the fact that talks will happen at all indicates that, as in Cochabamba in January 2007, the country’s fall into deep violence has created pressure to back up and try another way, for now. Not participating in the talks will be Pando Governor Leopoldo Fernandez, arrested Tuesday and transported to La Paz where he will be charged with murder in connection with last weeks massacre of campesino supporters of Morales.”

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