Bolivian nationalism is being whipped up ahead of the national ‘Day for the Sea’ this Thursday, led by the hashtags #ElMarNosUne & #MarParaBolivia and slogans such as ‘Bolivia Nacio Con El Mar’ (Bolivia was born with the sea) and ‘Los Bolivianos Tenemos Derecho Al Mar’ (Bolivians have a right to the sea). They want back the coastline they lost in 1879-83 to Chile in the War of the Pacific, and the reasons are many. But will they get it?
Back in 1879, 54years after Bolivia achieved Independence on 6 August 1825 from the Spanish Empire, the Chilean army & navy launched a landgrab to the north, taking Bolivia’s sole stretch of coastline and a chunk of southern Peru as well. Victory was easy for the much better prepared & armed Chileans (supported by the British Empire!), while the performance of the Bolivian army & navy was typically useless and led by military idots and self-interested politicians….although some later became ‘national heroes’!?Continue reading →
What a strange day! Awaking in the morning in #Cochabamba Bolivia, to the sound of almost silence? No roar of traffic nor murmur of voices. What is going on? Out on the streets, in the city’s central district, it is eerily quiet. A quick hunt for coffee & wifi access, and a scan of a morning paper, reveals that…today, Thursday 16 March, is a 1-day #ParoCivico or Civic Strike. Organised by the Civic Committee of Cochabamba & supported by the local mayor, it´s specifically against a complicated legal section of a certain law, but more generally against narco-trafficking, and also the sense that the ‘Cocaleros’ (coca growers) receive preferential treatment (ie in relation to taxes).
This is a complicated issue! But we find the city, and probably the whole region, has been shut down by civic action since the very early hours, primarily by the simple tactic of blockading the roads – the key bridges into the city, the key intersections – and therefore ensuring there is no transportation. The blockades are a mix of ‘public transport’ vehicles (busses, taxis/trufis), bins & rubbish, and of course people in the middle of the road. Simple, and very effective. The streets are eerily quiet here in the city centre, and for as far as we are able to walk. Others are walking too, or moving by bike & motorcycle, and a few vehicles circulate within the blockaded areas. (See local media reports here and here in Spanish). Continue reading →
A key to visiting & travelling through a country is to try to understand at least some of it´s culture and history, and a one great way to do so is to read a book about it. Finding by chance a copy of ´Bolivia – between a rock and a hard place´, was just what was needed! Written by an English author, Pete Good (a long term resident in Bolivia), and published in 2006 (426 pages, published by Plural Editons, La Paz, ISBN 99905-839-5-1), this history of Bolivia, and it´s politics, was a fine read. (info & review). It´s also got a great bibliography of referenced Spanish & English books.
After a brief into to pre-colonialism in south America, author Good goes on to cover Bolivia up to the end of 2005, when Evo Morales & his MAS movements were elected. Having read various books & other resources prior to visiting south America, and especially ´Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent / Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina´ (Eduardo Galeano, 1971), finding Good´s book specifically on Bolivia was a bonus.Continue reading →
Plenty of events in #La Paz #Bolivia for #IWD2017 and #8MParo and across the country. As this poster shows, many take a slightly more antagonistic approach to IWD than, say, the liberal reformists of the UN, or the party politicians who pay lip service to ‘womens issues’ and ‘womens rights’ – but spend most of the year enacting policies & practices that only serve the interests of patriarchy & capitalism! See brief report here on La Paz midday event; plus here report & video from an action by Mujeres Creando who interrrupted Bolivian TV this morning in protest at a manager accused of sexual harassment. Continue reading →
Tuesday 21 February, #21F, or ‘#21FDia de la Mentira’ (Day of the Lies), in La Paz, showed clearly the massive problems faced by President Evo Morales & his MAS movement if they continue to deny that they lost last years Referendum on the Constitution, when they tried to amend Article 168 to enable Morales to run for a further Presidential term in 2019. This is now a massive constitutional & political crisis for Morales & MAS. Whilst MAS & supporters held a large midday march & rally, it was ultimately dwarfed in the evening by the size of the protests by those demanding last years NO vote be respected. These protests were replicated around the country – reports & pics national, pics La Paz marches, report MAS march La Paz, report NO march La Paz (all in Spanish). And see our pics below.
In La Paz on the #21F this issue was just a part of the problems facing Morales & MAS. The protesting Cocaleros (Coca farmers) from the Yungas, who’d surrounded Plaza Morillo for several nights, were needlessly and violently dispersed by riot police on Monday night. But they returned with a vengeance on Tuesday morning with a series of actions/protests, that included an attack on the stage of the MAS rally whilst it was being prepared (several hours before the marchers arrived), and lasted for much of the day. Some 188 Cocaleros were arrested, with over 70 still help overnight – see early report/pics and detailed report in Spanish. Meanwhile other Cocaleros from other coca-producing areas have also initiated protests, including a blockade of the main El Alto to La Paz road, and a vigil outside the La Paz main bus terminal – see report in Spanish. Unsurprisingly, the Govt has reopened negotiations with the Cocaleros…direct action gets the goods! Continue reading →
The deepening constitutional crisis in Bolivia may just get worse this week, as both sides of the argument take to the streets on the 21 February, or #21F (or #21FDia de la mentira), exactly one year after the Referendum result that initiated the crisis. At the same time, President Evo Morales, arguably Bolivia’s finest President, seems to have lost his magic touch, becoming increasingly known as ‘Ego’ Morales.
On 21 February 2016, in a Referendum organised by Morales & his MAS controlled Govt (MAS – Moviemento al Socialismo, or Movement towards Socialism – history or in brief). People were asked to vote Si (Yes) or No to a proposal that would allow any President a 3rd five year term of office. And MAS made it clear that Morales, elected President in late 2005 & already elected twice more, would be their candidate in 2019 (Morales first term in office has already been discounted under a previous constitutional change, so technically he’s only on his 2nd term now!). To the surprise of many, the NO votes won, by a vote of approx 51.3% to 48.7%, on a turn out of approx 85%.Continue reading →
A major dispute has broken out in Bolivia between the Coca farmers, or ‘cocaleros’, of the Yungas region, and the Government of President Evo Morales. On Friday 17 February Cocaleros from this region arrived in La Paz and have occupied the streets surrounding Plaza Morillo where key Governmenta buildings & the Presidential palace are located. When we visited yesterday at least 5000 farmers were sleeping out in the streets, whilst Bolivian riot police blockaded the entrances to the Plaza. See Bolivian media reports here and here and here (in Spanish).Continue reading →