Bolivian Dialogue: What Is The Goverment Offering?

Translated by Forrest Hylton

After 13 days of social conflict, a dialogue between the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the People and President Sánchez de Loazada began. Nine are dead, dozens have been wounded and hundreds detained; that is the sum of state violence.

The first offer of dialogue came on January 17, four days after the beginning of the blockades, and it failed because it imposed the lifting of the blockades as a condition. The second effort, led by the facilitating commission, failed because the commission followed the government position and called for an end to blockades and to government repression. The Constitutional Commission of the Senate, surprisingly, appeared in the negotiations and was able to bring the two parties together because it did not impose conditions on the dialogue between the government and the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the People. As yet the results of the negotiations are still uncertain, but it is worth clarifying the fact that the official strategy broke down in spite of its military, media, and parliamentary warfare.

24 hours after Sánchez de Lozada and the Joint Chiefs were slated to meet, the government continues to hold up the dialogue by trying to sectoralize the conflict and it insists on dealing only with the issue of coca production-not the FTAA, privatization, and the export of Bolivian natural gas to the U.S. via Chile. In spite of the fact that it signed an accord that guaranteed the suspension of the mobilization and the repression, the people have no guarantee that the government will attend to the national demands, since at bottom they call for a change in the corrupt neoliberal model in place for 17 years in our country.

The five months of dialogue that Evo Morales has sustained with Sánchez de Lozada as well as the fruitless popular parliamentary presence [of MAS and MIP-tr.] demonstrate that neither the democratic path nor the accords that each government signs provides a solution to the problems of misery that plague Bolivians. In this, the first round, when the Joint Chiefs of Staff was formed, we saw that unified measures of pressure are the only way to impose the interests of the majority in place of the preoccupations of the government.

In the Chapare, a coca grower was killed over the weekend in Eterazama. On Saturday, January 25, Sucre was taken over by 30,000 peasants who came to bury Armando Medrano, 20, shot to death in Kochis on Thursday, January 23. 1,500 troops and 600 police were sent from all over the country to block the burial march, which ended with harsh confrontations. In solidarity, the market women of the peasant market in Sucre shut down the flow of foodstuffs into the city by taking over the bus terminal.

As a result of the repression of Friday and Saturday, blockades on the road from Sucre to Potosí became more massive and warplanes flew overhead. The city is now without gas. In the area of Alegría there were 4,000 peasants, in Guerra Loma 3,000, and in Yamparaéz 5,000, all demanding the resignation of the Departmental Prefect and of President Sánchez de Lozada. All day Saturday there were confrontations in Puente Sacramento, in which ex-peasant leader Roberto Quispe and a policeman died, with another four-including Colonel Peñaloza-disappeared.

In Potosí, 3,000 peasants have blocked Ancacatu and Cruce Ventilla (Qulta) and they demand respect for indigenous authorities and guarantees for Indian community lands, the recuperation of the money squandered in privatizations, a say in debates over the fate of Bolivian natural gas exports, and they reject the FTAA.

In the city of Santa Cruz, a march is planned for today, January 27, in response to the attack the Camba Nation Youth and the Civic Committee committed against a march of the departmental worker’s federation last Friday. In Beni, vigilantes violently attacked squatters in Rurrenabaque, burning their office and equipment. These small groups, under the command of landlords and financed by the government, defend the few families that own the wealth of Beni.

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