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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’oligarchie bolivienne exacerbe les tensions

by Cathy Ceïbe

Bolivia’s Oligarchy Heightens Tensions

Translated Wednesday 20 September 2006, by Emily Plank

La Paz. The Evo Morales government continues to confront right-wing separatist actions against its reforms, and has denounced a conspiracy to topple the Bolivian president.

Bolivia’s dominant oligarchy is violently opposed to the Evo Morales government. Last Friday, the civic committees of natural gas and agriculture-rich departments Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Panda, along with oil baron-landowners, or “petrolatifundists”, and right-wing parties, including Podemos, announced a 24 hour strike, which turned violent: assaults with racist undertones against indigenous populations and attacks on the headquarters of state television. According to several witnesses, a child was killed in Tarija following a fire started by groups associated with the local civic committee. This demonstration of force was acknowledged, though played down, by right-wing members including the President of the civic committee Pro Santa Cruz (CPSCZ), German Antelo, who admitted there were “a few problems caused by some people’s excessive alcohol consumption”.

While the strike may not have been entirely successful, despite the backing of employers’ organisations and various town councils, it did expose the clear division between the Morales government and the departments pushing for right-wing independence. The Constituent Assembly, whose main task is to create a new, fundamental law by next year, is once again at the centre of the dispute. The Right, which considers itself exploited, to the advantage of the socialist “MAS dictatorship”, rejects the Assembly’s voting system, which allows a simple majority for the passing of preliminary decisions and two thirds of votes for the final passing of a law, followed by a referendum.

THE STRIKE IS A PRETEXT

Interior Minister, Alicia Muñoz, has no doubt that the call for strike action to enforce a two thirds majority system for all Assembly decisions is only a pretext. She believes it is part of a “conspiracy movement by those who refuse to be governed by an Indian president and lose their privileges and power”.

This had been apparent since Evo Morales’ victory, but escalated last May, after the government announced its plan to nationalise hydrocarbons, such as gas (the continent’s second reserves). Bolpress reported that, according to statements issued by Defence Minister Walker, the Pro Santa Cruz committee, led by German Antelo, would benefit from the financial support of foreign petroleum companies, Petrobas and Repsol YPF, and be subjected to an investigation. The Bolivian news agency also stated that American diplomats had authorised a meeting between the directors from these companies and CPSCZ representatives in Buenos Aires the previous week to finalise last Friday’s day of action – an operation dubbed “Camba”, whose name derives from the rebel groups of the civic committees.

Operation “Camba”

The civic committees have promised to maintain a strong stance against the nationalisations or agricultural reform which, they believe, are stripping them of their departments yet suppressing the fact that local oligarchies and foreign enterprises have appropriated the country’s wealth, often illegally, to the detriment of the vast majority of Bolivians. Operation “Camba” is purely aimed at destroying Evo Morales’ control of national patrimony - an act of sovereignty.


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