Translated by: Latinsol
La Paz, October 17, 2003 (hrs. 21:00).- The new President of Bolivia, Carlos Mesa Gisbert, was until recently, a declared “fan of Goni”, a fervent admirer of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. He admired Goni’s intelligence, his political ability, his capacity to invent and recreate neoliberal policies. Today, he must administer the disaster left by the millionaire, who after attempting to drawn the protest of the poor on blood, has escaped on a helicopter from the fury of the greatest civil up-rising of South America.
It is not a happy day for him, despite being minutes from the Congress of the Republic placing the presidential sash on him. He seems overwhelmed. He is very lonely, has no political party nor a social movement to support him. In the end, nobody trusts him. Nor even the United States Embassy, which only at the last minute and with much reticence has given him the ok to govern or, at least, enough support so that he does not fall right away.
David Greenlee, the Ambassador, had an emergency meeting with him last night, after being convinced that keeping Goni would be to loose it all. With apprehension has accepted Mesa, but it hurts him that Mesa is so weak, so easy to be intimidated, so inexperienced.
Mesa has been a successful journalist and historian. He has made a fortune with his TV channel. He is a millionaire who admirers neoliberalism. Before the Auditor General’s office has declared that he has at 53 years of age a fortune of one and a half million dollars, much too much, in a country where a third of the population goes hungry and another third barely has for the most essential diet.
In popular areas he either has followers nor sympathizers. His unfulfilled promises about effectively fighting the extensive public corruption and his silence before the massacre of so many Bolivians (over 70) has cost him to loose the scarce support he had before the people, especially in the unions and the poorest of the population. Many believe, they are sure, that there is not a great difference between him and Goni.
For now, on political terms, he only has the support of the neoliberal parties fallen in disgrace, who hide and seek refuge behind him so as not to lose everything, as Sanchez de Lozada. It is a very weak support, even uneasy for the new Mandatary who wants them on a second row, invisible, for thus he has began to turn his eyes towards the middle class.
There, within the most accommodated, in the high bureaucracy, among the “personalities” and the business sectors lays his only hope.
There, is where he wants to generate a social base to sustain and preserve him from the popular up-rising, the up-rising of the poor, from the social revolution.
Many of his new friends have already began to get organized. They have contributed to the hunger strike of the middle classes that isolated Goni even more and now want to harvest the triumph fertilized with the blood of others, in search for the institutional continuity, with a few reforms but that it would not look any where near a social revolution, nothing that would inconvenience Mr. Ambassador.
Mesa and his friends, many of them in the big media, want to form a “government of national unity”, to unite the middle classes and to convince the workers and the most poor residents that Mesa is very different than Goni. A failed attempt, for now.
The popular assembly of the Bolivian Workers Central (COB), the power of the street, the other power, has already spoken and has ordered the new President what he has to do: “Stop the exporting of gas nor from Chile, or Peru, to industrialize it in Bolivia and recover the gas and oil for Bolivians”. Huge task for a lonely man, prisoner of the up- raised masses.
If he does not comply with these demands, a popular Assembly, auto- convoked and conformed by workers, unions and popular representatives will assume the task of taking the gas and oil away from transnational hands, says the leader of COB, the miner Jaime Solares. The yelling and wooden sticks of the loud multitude confirm the warning.
The certainty within the rebels is that the popular up-rising has brought down Sanchez de Lozada with stones and wooden sticks, but it still has not accomplished anything about the gas, the oil, the land and territory, the coca and other social demands oriented to destroy neoliberalism.
And that is also known by the parliamentarians who have chosen today the new President with a mandate until August of 2007, even though, in reality, very few believe he will last that long. Even the Congress is cornered, prisoner, in the middle of a mortal combat between the up- raised and organized people, who have in front of them the other real power sustained by the huge interests of the transnationals of gas and oil, the North American interests, defended up to now by machine guns and army tanks.
In Bolivia, a month from the beginning of the gas war, the civil up- rising, the gigantic rebellion of the poor and excluded, has only written the first page of their history