Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Governors Want Autonomy, Morales Calls for Dialogue

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) Bolivia’s new constitution gained the approval of the Constituent Assembly on Sunday, but four provincial governors continue with their plans to force their agenda of regional autonomy in protest.

The prefects of Cochabamba, Beni, Pando, and Santa Cruz announced their intention to adopt de facto regional autonomy on December 15, one day after the Constituent Assembly’s official deadline.

According to reports, civic committees and regional governments in each of the five provinces are drawing up the documentation for signatures to advance autonomy, and in some cases even install interim governmental agencies.

Deputy Minister Ruben Gamarra called them “acts of sedition and separatism in our country," stating that the administration will not accept any violation of the unity of the country.

Last week Commander Wilfredo Vargas, indicated that Morales has the "full support" of the Armed Forces. However, both President Morales and members of his Cabinet have expressed a desire for dialogue.

Presidential spokesperson, Alex Contreras, has said that the parties can discuss a joint agenda to draft language to recognize autonomy. However Beni’s governor, Ernesto Suarez, announced that the prefects distrust President Morales and will engage in dialogue only with the participation of international organizations, the Catholic Church and the media.

Meanwhile, inflammatory language and actions have increased among the opposition. According to one national paper, a thousand protestors have joined in hunger strikes in Santa Cruz, Beni and Tarija, with some now in their eighth day.

The president of the Civic Committee for Santa Cruz, Branko Marinkovic, claimed that there was a plan to intervene in the department, and warned that President Morales and MAS were making plans to militarily occupy Santa Cruz.

In disturbing news, MAS supporters are being targeted for violence in Santa Cruz. On Monday a retired miner, Rene Vargas, was attacked by a group of youths, allegedly members of the so-called Union Juvenil Cruceñista (Santa Cruz Youth Union). The victim was accused of being a spy for the government, chased and beaten as the youths yelled racist slurs.

Reports indicate that in the city of Santa Cruz, “black lists” are being posted with the names of MAS supporters, calling them traitors and inciting individuals to commit violence against persons considered friendly to the Morales government.

Pamphlets are being distributed and in parts of the city, vehicles with loudspeakers announce messages adverse to President Morales.

"I want to [state] clearly that those who were shouting [from] loudspeakers that there will be a state of siege, [it] is false, completely false,” Morales stated from the Governmental Palace on Tuesday. “I want to tell those groups, which only meet in order to intimidate and frighten people, that Bolivia does not need a state of siege.”

The president indicated that “dialogue is the most important thing” and that people’s votes can decide differences among the new Constitution.

In an autonomy referendum that was held in 2006, "yes" won in four departments, but "no" won in La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca.

The new constitution approved departmental autonomies as well as adding provincial, municipal and indigenous ones.

The form that these autonomies will take is what must still be decided between the national government, and the power structures that continue to challenge the authority of the Morales administration.

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