Monday, September 01, 2008

Ongoing Opposition & A New Decree

Sept 2 - (digitalwarriormedia) As President Morales travels to Libya and Iran to shore up foreign relations, the scene in Bolivia is increasingly polarized following a presidential decree on Friday that Bolivians will vote on a new constitution this December.

Regional leaders, civic and political opposition rejected the measure that calls for a multiple referendum on December 7 and announced tough resistance, civil disobedience and a commitment to step up road blockades already being carried out.

Within 24 hours of Morales issuing Decree 29691, violent conflicts occurred in several cities throughout the country.

The measure calls for votes on the nation’s constitution as well as the prefects (governors) of Cochabamba and La Paz, sub-prefects and departmental councilors.

Violence Escalates

Incidents against government supporters - initiated by ultra right wing opposition groups - have left several injured. These incidents are just the latest in a series of skirmishes between opposition groups and pro-Morales supporters in August.

One clash, occurred a block from the main square in the city of Santa Cruz, when a group of MAS members marching in celebration of the government decree, tried to enter the city square.

More than 500 MAS members were overtaken by approximately 100 autonomy supporters, some armed with sticks and other weapons.

According to Cochabamba paper, Los Tiempos, several women were beaten, even many who were not involved with the march, but were attacked because they were identified as peasants by their skirts.

In retaliation, a group of MASistas attacked the vehicle of Carlos Dabdoub, Secretary of Autonomy and Decentralization of the Santa Cruz Prefecture, breaking the car’s windows and beating the official.

And in Villamontes, a group of citizens affiliated with MAS, participated in a march demanding an end to the blockades in that city and were assaulted by blockers armed with stones, sticks and other blunt objects. The assault resulted in a clash between both sides that left five people injured.

Blockades called by the National Democratic Council (CONALDE) went into effect on August 19, with the aim of forcing the central government to return local hydrocarbon revenues to the regional departments.

Return of $166 million in revenues from the Direct Hydrocarbon Tax (IDH) remains one of the opposition’s strongest demands. Meanwhile the central government is using the funds to finance social programs such as the Renta Dignidad - a pension for all Bolivians over the age of 60.

Hundreds of trucks were left stranded on the Argentine side of the border, many of them with diesel destined for southern and eastern Bolivia.

According to Enrique Martinez, Chairman of the Bolivian Transportation Chamber, blockades in the regions of Villamontes, Yacuiba and Camiri have halted more than 1,200 trucks, causing shortages of diesel in the Santa Cruz department and as well as disrupted trade between Bolivia and neighboring Argentina and Paraguay.

Last weekend, President Morales ordered troops to secure oil and gas facilities in the eastern regions of Bolivia.

Regional Rejection

Ruben Costas, prefect of Santa Cruz, said that the five autonomous regions (Santa Cruz, Tarija, Pando, Beni and Chuquisaca) will launch civil resistance to the government decree and will not hold the referendum and will continue to take action that will deepen their autonomy.

The opposition calls the government’s latest actions unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic.

And in Cochabamba, the civic committee also rejected the decree and the appointment of the new interim prefect, Rafael Puente. A departmental mobilization is planned for September 4 to demonstrate opposition to the central government.

For & Against the Decree

Faced with the violent events that occurred yesterday, there are some voices other than the opposition governors that are calling for a repeal of the decree.

The Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) warned that the national referendum decree and approval of draft the new Constitution of the State, was premature and created more clashes in the country.

And on Sunday, Waldo Albarracin, Public Ombudsman, condemned the attacks by both opposition and government supporters.

The human rights activist urged the Morales administration to rescind the decree to stop the violence and called for establishing a dialogue and consensus on both sides in order to avert deaths in the country.

Meanwhile social organizations in support of the decree designated September 13 for commencing a campaign to familiarize the draft constitution and win support for its passage in the December 7 referendum.

According to Fidel Furrow, Executive Secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Bolivia (CSCB), the campaign will begin in Cochabamba with union leaders educating their members throughout the country.



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