Separatism in Bolivia


“The homeland can not be sold off, it can not be touched, nor divided”

- Fernando M. López, Agencia Prensa de Mercosur, December 11

 

The Bolivian president called on the Armed Forces and the people to counteract separatist attempts by those who “are committing a betrayal against the homeland”. Prefects and civic leaders from the “half moon” will protest this Friday.

Bolivia is a facing a new offensive on the part of the eastern conspirators of the ultra right who, for months now, have been looking to finish off the democratic government of Evo Morales in complicity with the US embassy and transnational interests. The recent separatist threats and the convocation for an “open town meeting” for next Friday in Santa Cruz, where “de facto autonomy” will be declared in the richest zone of the country, forced the president to warn in harsh terms that he would not allow any type of territorial fracture.

“Dividing the homeland is a betrayal of the Bolivian people” assured Evo Morales as he headed a graduation ceremony of officials in the Military College of La Paz, where he also exhorted the Armed Forces and people to defend national integrity “with all democratic instruments and the law”.

The head of state recognized that autonomy is a reality and that, in fact, is being applied through the direct elections of the prefects and the administration of 50% of the national budget by the departments. But autonomy with separatist aims, such as that proposed by the prefects and the so-called civic committees of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, is unacceptable for the government and great part of the population, because it responses to the interests of minority sectors that historically hoarded wealth from the Bolivian people.

“Some of those who can no longer continue accumulating capital like they use to are utilizing any pretext to destabilize the government and foment division”, sustained Morales, adding afterwards that, faced with this panorama, it is necessary to “identify the internal enemies, the sectarians, regionalists, dividers who want to rip apart our mother, Bolivia”.

Out of the four departments which make up the “half moon”, Santa Cruz is the wealthiest because it holds the principal gas and petroleum fields, as well as the most fertile lands in the country. Its prefect, Ruben Costas, the president of the Civic Committee Pro Santa Cruz, German Antelo, and the head of Social Democratic Power (Podemos), ex-president Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, are the visible heads of successive conspiracies against the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government, ever since Evo Morales announced the nationalization of hydrocarbons last May 1.

Costas, Antelo and Quiroga constantly come out to spread their divisive, reactionary, and at times, racist discourse, that characterizes the Andean right.

“Bolivia, like never before in our history, confronts the danger of division, a product of the authoritarianism, illegality and radicalism in which the Constituent Assembly is being conducted; the risk of fragmentation is more evident each day”, said Quiroga on Sunday, after announcing the lifting of the hunger strike that was asking of a two thirds voting system in the Constituent Assembly.

Two days before, whilst the 2nd Summit of the Community of South American Nations was being inaugurated, Costas was calling on his follows to attend an “open town meeting” on December 15, during a speech where he classified Evo Morales as a “disgrace and ignorant” and rejected the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly.

“At this meeting, we will mark out the path of the ‘Nation of the Lowlands’ and Bolivia. We will all be there, and together we will sing, as always, our shout of freedom, our shout of independence”, affirmed Costas, adding afterwards, in a threatening tone, that “the time of the East, North and South of this homeland has come, and if [the government] does not understand this last message, beware of the consequences”.

The eastern separatists count with the support of the US government in this venture. George W Bush currently find himself very preoccupied with problems in the Middle East, but his direct representative in Bolivia, ambassador Philip Goldberg, entrusted himself with exercising pressure within the framework of tensions with the eastern region, and the recent extension by the US Congress of the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Agreement (ATPDEA) for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

“The country and the [Bolivian] government have to decided if they not only want to be a strategic partner of the United States, but also friends”, adverted Goldberg on Monday. Washington has found in the eastern separatist leaders its best receptors for its proposal of free trade and a division would assure it a new Free Trade Agreement in the region, after the failure of the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA).

The relationship is nothing new. The functionaries, business owners and large landowners from Santa Cruz have maintain excellent contacts with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) since 2004, when it put into place the Project Competitive Bolivia in Trade and Business (BCCN). Together with academics from the International University of Florida, USAID carried out a number of intensive courses for state and private sectors in capacitating in methods of negotiations and strategies with a view towards the FTAA.

Translated from APM
 

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