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Political tensions rage in Bolivia
ON 27 NOVEMBER, several hundred protesters surrounded the entrance to Cochabamba's municipal building in what turned out to be a sharp clash with right-wing thugs and provocateurs and the Cochabamba police.
By late afternoon, Cochabamba's central plaza and all of its surrounding streets were filled with tear gas as heavily armed police moved in to disperse the crowd by force.
The protest was organised to disrupt meetings between five right-wing regional state governors (whose administrations recently broke relations with Evo Morales' government) and 'civic committees' representing Bolivia's large-landowning elite.
As a result of their meetings, the right-wing civic committee representatives issued an ultimatum to the Morales-controlled national government to reconsider its position on the agrarian reform modifications and Constituent Assembly voting procedures or else face a 24-hour national boycott on 1 December and an expansion of the hunger strike currently being carried out by a handful of constitutional assembly-persons, amongst other actions.
The prefects made the same demands but did not specify what consequences Morales' government would face. The prefects are also insisting that Morales abandon his plans to give Congress the power to audit each prefect's use of department funds.
As the right issued its ultimatums, the number of indigenous people marching from Santa Cruz to La Paz (851 km/528 miles) to demand the approval of the modifications to the agrarian reform law expanded to over 4,000 and the MAS-controlled Constituent Assembly ratified the vote to allow each article of the new constitution to be written and approved by a simple majority, though the final draft will still require two-thirds support.
'Pick a side'
The Morales government has made considerable efforts in the last week to reach a compromise with the right-wing opposition but all attempts have failed miserably. Likewise, it is difficult to see how Morales will be able to convince the social movements to further compromise on reforms that were themselves the result of moderated demands and promises for more far-reaching change in the future.
If neither side backs down, Morales may soon be forced to do something that he has so far refused to do - pick a side.
If he sides with the social movements, he will be forced to confront the Bolivian elite and transnationals, both of whom still control the Bolivian economy and will not hesitate to resort to economic sabotage, or worse, if they think their interests are being threatened.
If Morales chooses to side with the Bolivian elite, he will face the wrath of the social movements and trade unions, and risk being overthrown by a mass movement just like Presidents Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and Carlos Mesa before him.
The capitalist class in Bolivia is openly gearing up for a 'hard battle'. The social movements and trade unions need to answer this aggression by organising themselves into democratic defense committees on a local, regional, and national basis so they can overcome the attacks, economic and/or military, which are sure to come.
It is also an important step in laying the groundwork for the eventual takeover and democratic control of Bolivia's large farms, mines, and factories, which is essential if Bolivia is truly going to create the 'movement towards socialism' which Morales purports to lead.
Adam Ziemkowski, CWI, Cochabamba, Bolivia
Full article and background material, see www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 7 December 2006:
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis