A fictitious president in Bolivia

[Translation by Tom Kruse]

Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada is, still, the President of Bolivia.  But viewed from the perspective of popular wrath, he is a president dressed in death and, politically, a President without a Vice-president.  Substantively Sánchez de Lozada is a President who survives, in terms of real power, thanks to the support of the US Embassy and peculiar US military command that has taken over the command of the “Armed Forces of the Nation.”
The US Embassy has not only pulled together “international support” for this fictitious president and called on the press and media “in the name of democracy”.  The Embassy has also “pitches in” with four men who operate in Bolivian, three in the Joint Commnand – the Central Barracks in Miraflores – and one working out the US Embassy on Arce Avenue in La Paz.  In this support of the US Embassy is the real force that keeps Sánchez de Lozada and his vacillating partners, then MIR and NFR parties, in power.
One of the three men operating out of Miraflores is a kind of politico-military coordinator, who concerns himself with pulling together and processing information distributed to the Bolivian military and, fundamentally, the US Embassy.  The second of these military men exercises the general coordination of the three branches of the Bolivian military; it was his idea to mobilize troops form the eastern lowlands to operate in the highland city of El Alto.  The third of these men is occupied with – in military terms – what is called logistics, supply of munitions and food for Bolivian troops that are under their command (US provisions arrive in Hercules planes from Miami).
The fourth of these men, who operates from the US Embassy on Arce Avenue, is the US Defense Department Attaché, and it is he who relates directly with the Minister of Defense of Bolivia, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, the perfect wildcard, the connection between the US Embassy and the Presidential Palace, where the fictitious President lives and “rules”.  On the basis of this very real occupying power that supports Sánchez de Lozada – the Armed Forces – one can explain growing frustration of the Bolivian Military, a frustration of people in uniform who still bear the Bolivian flag in some part of that uniform.  This is the environment of real power with which Sánchez de Lozada still exercises that power that he retains, but he is a President without a Vice-president.
Carlos D. Mesa [the vice president] has definitively played his cards for a probable political solution to the crisis.  The Vice-president, obligated by the infamy of so many nameless dead, has distanced himself from Sánchez de Lozada and has told the country that he is willing to assume the direction of the country, and thus has not resigned from the Vice presidency.  Now, for sure, … another official foto of Sánchez de Lozada and Carlos D. Mesa together watching some military parade, for example, is unimaginable.  The other option – steps backward the current Vice-president – supposes, simply, the political suicide, public and shameful, of an intellectual.  One more, anyway.
One call it what one likes, but what is certain is that Carlos D. Mesa has opened the doors to a transitional government and reaffirmed democracy….  And of course, it has to do with a government where not one of the names or men of the political machinery of the fictitious president could have a role.  That is magnitude of the Vice-president’s challenge.
If Carlos D. Mesa takes over the presidency, we would be dealing with a government and a future president who would take his oath in the National Congress with a clear agenda…. An agenda that arises from the, without fail, from the force of the masses, of popular wrath.  An agenda – and this must be understood by those exercising poltical powers – administered by Congress.  Carlos D. Mesa knows this and there are at least three agenda points on his mind: 1) if gas is to be exported, it will be alter a referendum or plebiscite … that truly consults Bolivian opinion; 2) Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Assembly … as the only mechanism capable of tempering popular wrath and opening national debate on the country that is possible; and 3) elections in a politically prudent time frame.
Illusions? Madness? Perhaps a week ago, but not now.  And as is obvious, the principal impediment to the survival of a democratic politics is called Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, who – after almost 50 dead in just two days – marches with infamy of these dead on his shoulders.

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