Reposted from Narconews, http://narcosphere.narconews.com/
While the Social Movements Stick Together, the Middle Class Takes to the Streets
By Luis Gomez,
Posted on Thu Mar 10th, 2005 at 04:22:40 PM EST
While the middle class pours into the Plaza Murillo, to cheer President Carlos Mesa in his palace, the stalemate between the right wing (with the government leading) and the left (with all the social movements united) continuesâ€¦
This morning there was a second meeting in the Bolivian Workersâ€™ Federation (COB in its Spanish initials) offices. Mesa asked Evo Morales for a dialog, and Morales has invited his peers to come with him, as he had previously announced.
Letâ€™s move on to the factsâ€¦
At this moment, about one hundred meters from where I am standing, the Plaza Murillo is completely filled with people who support President Carlos Mesa. They are the bureaucrats (who got the governmentâ€™s permission to leave work), the housewives who color their hair, the lawyers in fancy suits, the middle-class students, entire companies bussed in by their ownersâ€¦ they are the merchants of La Paz who have an agreement with Mayor Juan del Granado (one of Mesaâ€™s allies)â€¦ more than 10,000 of them, all excited with their white flags and handkerchiefs, calling Evo a â€œshit Indian.â€ They are Mesaâ€™s troops, there for effect, and obviously covered by the Bolivian commercial media.
Last night, as we anticipated, Carlos Mesa called Evo Morales to ask for a meeting and dialogue this morning. â€œI said that first he had to apologize for everything he has said, and then we would talk,â€ said Evo. â€œBut now itâ€™s not just about me or just about the MAS and its proposalsâ€¦ itâ€™s about all of the legitimate representatives of the Bolivian people, united in this great pact of national mobilization.â€
Morales spoke during the second meeting of the social movements, which began this morning at 11, in the COBâ€™s meeting hall. The social leaders today continued moving towards a stronger, more long-term alliance.
The discussions focused in large part on criticisms of Evo Morales, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, and their various positions (such as their desire to dominate all the social movements). However, despite the differences on display, everyone agreed that it was important to attend the dialog with the president, united and clear of purpose, this afternoon (at 4pm).
Jaime Solares, executive secretary of the COB and the man Evo informed last night of his idea to go together with all the leaders, suggested that they only discus the central issue that brings all of them together: that of the nationâ€™s hydrocarbons and the new law that Mesa hopes to change in order to keep benefiting the transnational corporations (to name a few, Repsol from Spain, Total from France, BG and BP from Britain, Enron from the U.S., and others).
â€œWhen the right wing, the government, the oligarchy, and the transnationals unite, we are forced to unite as well,â€ commented Evo to those present, answering the critiques that others â€“ especially the Aymara leaders such as Felipe Quispe, Rufo Calle and recently-elected leader of the peasant farmers of the La Paz department, Gualberto Choque â€“ were making. He invited everyone to fight together, at least for the hydrocarbons law proposal the MAS is pushing in Congress.
â€œAnd if nothing changes, brothers, we are willing to fight and shut down this Parliament,â€ stressed Evo, speaking both in the name of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba (the main peasant farmersâ€™ organization of the Chapare) and as president of the MAS.
The agreement was reached quickly. Criticisms and mistakes were not ignored, but it was decided to leave these for later discussion â€œface to face, with respect and clarity.â€
This afternoon, when the Bolivian social leaders arrive at the meeting with Carlos Mesa, the first condition will be not to arrest or charge any of the people who are currently blockading or marching in the nine departments of Bolivia.
Once the negotiations have begun, the Bolivian social movements will demand that the president govern as he has promised (to satisfy the demands of the Bolivian people), that he not push a hydrocarbons law that is a product of the pressure of international financial organizationsâ€¦ or that there will be war.
The Masses Keep Growing
After this morningâ€™s meeting, Narco News asked a few leaders about the state of the current mobilizations. Donâ€™t forget, kind readers, that at least two districts in El Alto have been blockading their roads without rest since March 2, that there are marches and blockades in the Chapare, in PotosÃ, and in Santa Cruz.
The rural Aymara indigenous, the other big group that could change the countryâ€™s history, have resolved to prepare for mobilization. Gualberto Choque, after the meeting, told us that the 20 provinces of La Paz department have begun to â€œpass along the voice,â€ to spread the messageâ€¦ and they know, because their history tells them so, that they are a key sector. â€œNot since the time of Tupaj Katari (in the 18th century) have they been able to defeat us.â€
In the Chapare and in YapacanÃ, in the north of Santa Cruz department, the blockades remain firm. The people of El Alto have gone back to their blockades today, and in Cochabamba Oscar Olivera and other social leaders are working to shut down their city.
And quick a note to clarify something: in a country with an average yearly per capita income of less than US$3,000, where the poorest people (58 percent of the families) live on less than $1.50 per day, here, in Bolivia, the daily losses for this emergency and conflict are $13.8 million. Do you understand, kind readers? It seems that there is some money in this country, but as always, it is in the wrong hands.
We will keep reportingâ€¦ for Narco News, direct and live from the social epicenter of our AmÃ©ricaâ€¦ donâ€™t miss the next chapter.
Face to Face in Bolivia: The Social Movements Meet with the Government
By Luis Gomez,
Posted on Fri Mar 11th, 2005 at 06:42:27 AM EST
(Posted in Spanish yesterday, March 10, at 6:49 PM)
The social movements have met with the president of the Chamber of Deputies and its leadership, as a kind of warm-up session before the 4 pm meeting with President Carlos Mesa in the Palace of Government. After almost four hours that meeting has not yet endedâ€¦ meanwhile, some news about what happened in the National Congress with the social leaders and an update on the state of the popular forces.
Some made special trips for the meeting with Mesa from Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, and PotosÃ. But there they were together again: Evo Morales, Jaime Solares, Rufo Calle, Gualberto Choque and new faces in the popular alliance, like Silvestre Saisari, from the Landless Movement, Alex Galves, from the National Federation of Factory Workers of Bolivia, and Roberto de la Cruz, who had been unable to come down from El Alto to the meeting this morning at the Bolivian Workersâ€™ Federation (COB). At 2:30 in the afternoon a preliminary meeting to the one in the Palace of Government was confirmed: the leadership of the Chamber of Deputies, lead by Chamber President Mario CosÃo, asked for an exchange of ideas on the social movements on the issue of the new hydrocarbons law.
There were so many people at the meeting that the deputies had to ask the Senate to lend them the â€œPresidential Salon.â€ There, among the red ponchos and semi-bare feet, the elegant government officials and congressional aids scrambled to assemble enough chairs â€“ there were more than 50 social leaders. The debate, which lasted more than an hour, was observed in its entirety only by authentic journalists Noah Friedsky, Reed Lindsay, and this reporter. At the same time as we did our job, we helped the Bolivian social leaders to document this piece of the history of true democracy in Latin America.
Letâ€™s look at some of the factsâ€¦
â€œWhy Are You Violating Our Rights?â€
The Jaime Solares began the meeting, making it clear that the most radical sectors, in supporting the hydrocarbons proposal put forward by the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), â€œwe are not renouncing nationalization. But faced with the moment the country is going through, we are fighting to make a 50 percent royalty (to be paid by the oil companies) a reality.â€ Solares talked of the necessity of creating jobs, capitalizing the Bolivian state, and generally improving the quality of life for the Bolivian people.
In that way, the indigenous and peasant farmer leaders from various parts of the country expressed themselves. In particular, one of the mallkus of the National Council of Allus and Markas of Qollasuyu (CONAMAQ) reminded the members of Congress that this law, and its economic benefits, should have the native peoples in mind, as â€œwe are the legitimate owners of these lands.â€ The indigenous leadersâ€™ concern was obvious, as they accused the members of Congress of not listening to the poorest people in the country (and the indigenous represent a little more than 62 percent of the population). â€œWhy are you violating our rights?â€ asked the mallku of CONAMAQ.
Many people spoke, like Alex Galves, who, representing Boliviaâ€™s factory workers, explained that the whole gas and oil business is a
â€bad dealâ€ for Bolivia, but that, given the circumstances, the best thing was to fight for the 50 percent royalties. For his part, Gualberto Choque, leader of the Aymara farmers of the La Paz department, explained that although he would not stop coordinating with his brothers in the other organizations, his mission, which his people had commanded of him, is to support the total nationalization of the hydrocarbons and the permanent defense of the natural resources. Choque, an affable and well-prepared man, explained that because of their history and culture, the Aymara had to defend the Pachamama, the spirit of the earth, â€œwhich is not just the earth, it is our mother, which has been spoiled, and is still exploited by whites and transnational corporationsâ€¦ we cannot allow that.â€
Mario CosÃo, a deputy from the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) and a man close to the Mesa administration, tried to defend himself from the many accusations of being one of the people responsible for bringing Bolivia to where it is today. He gave a long explanation for the proposal of the traditional parties (which was approved) no to include the 50 percent fees for using hydrocarbons, but rather 32 percent. In his speech, CosÃo showed a copy of one of the famous Shared Risk Contracts, signed by Gonzalo SÃ¡nchez de Lozada in 1997 with the international oil companiesâ€¦ and he said that, among other things, the state is constrained by them. â€œWe donâ€™t want the oil companies, which have benefited so much from Bolivia, to now have the pleasure of suing our country,â€ he concluded.
There were a few short replies, among the more notable given by Jaime Solares. The leader of the Bolivian Workersâ€™ Federation (COB) said to CosÃo: â€œWell if they are going to sue us anyway for the royalties, then letâ€™s go for full nationalization.â€ Evo Morales, realizing that it was getting late, announced that the best thing was for those present to take the words from the Chamber of Deputies leadership back to their people, â€œto discuss and understand them among all,â€ and proposed that the group leave Congress, cross the street, and enter the Palace of Government with Carlos Mesa.
And Interlude with the Bus Drivers of Santa Cruz
Our readers will remember that yesterday, in the city of Santa Cruz (where the white rich elite, who they say even speak English, live), the bus drivers were brutally suppressed by the police, and that last night 800 bus drivers with torches tried to liberate their eighty imprisoned comrades. Well, today the drivers again blockaded several avenues in Santa Cruz, but this time they prepared for the action. So when the police arrived to do their job, they found themselves suddenly surrounded by a crowed that outnumbered them. The striking drivers hit several police officers, burned a police motorcycle, and forced them to flee as they breathed in the tear gas. Thirty more drivers were arrested.
I must point out: this issue does not have much to do with the other mobilizations around the country (although Carlos Mesaâ€™s ordered increase in fuel prices was undoubtedly the reason for the right-wing corporate lock-out in January). But it is still symptomatic of the general situation this country is going through.
In Cochabamba demonstrators have begun to confront the people who support Mesa (they made them flee the cityâ€™s main plaza at noon), and new blockades have appeared. In the Chapare, little by little, in a well-planned manner, the coca growers are beginning to close the highway at various pointsâ€¦ like a storm in the plains, that from a distance looks like a group of black clouds, the mobilization is taking shape and advancing on the centers of power. And the government, though it threatens to do so in comments to the press (and one of the conditions for the dialog with the government was that it stop such threats), has not started legal action against the protesters.
And speaking of the media: the governmentâ€™s manipulation campaign has extended into television advertising spots, in which a bunch of cute kids sing patriotic songs, pick up stones from a blockade and ask for views to â€œgive Bolivia a chanceâ€; the most important detail of these pieces of propaganda, which reveals who is behind them, is that the cute children are all, without exception, white, and look well-fed and high-class.
A Long Meeting with Carlos Mesa
Turning back to La Paz, Evo Morales a few Mesa â€œsupportersâ€ attacked Evo Morales as he was leaving the Plaza Murillo. Nothing serious happened, but as the social leaders tried to enter the Palace of Government, there were a few moments of cries and tensionâ€¦ until a few Evo supporters arrived to repel the aggression. Inside, as all the leaders entered, the large group of journalists took photos of Evo and Jaime Solares, the first ones to enter, chatting in the central hall of the 19th century palace, a beautiful but cold building. This reporter was able to squeeze between the television cameras and reach the hall where MÃ©sa sat along with sixteen leaders, wearing an expression that in my neighborhood we would call â€œtapadoâ€ (constipated)â€¦ ah, yes, the journalists asked if the president and Evo would shake hands (great photo), but Carlos Mesaâ€™s smile was anything but a cordial act.
The meeting has now been going for nearly four hours and has not finishedâ€¦ for the moment, we have no more news. The president has insisted on applying a â€œjust handâ€ to the countryâ€™s problems (believe me, the blockades are the least important part of a dispute for a wealth that keeps getting bigger) rather than a â€œfirmâ€ one, as his followers were shouting for outside at midday. But we can foresee that, as long as the demands of the social sectors are not met, the only justice that Carlos Mesa will hear will be the politics of the streetâ€¦ weâ€™ll catch up later.