Showing posts with label El Alto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label El Alto. Show all posts

May 04, 2008

Mid-day Update on the Santa Cruz Referendum

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It is already past mid-day here in Bolivia and the Santa Cruz referendum is going ahead as its organizers predicted. As many of you already know, the people are able to vote but there are some regions in and outside the city of Santa Cruz which could not vote or have started voting with a substantial delay.

There are two kinds of reporting coming out of the media (mainly TV and radio). On the one side, the media critical of the referendum, more specifically Television Boliviana (control by the government), RTP and others, are concentrating their coverage on the various incidents of violence around the region. Especially, Television Boliviana is making sure to reflect a fraudulent referendum in Santa Cruz. The reporters have launched all kinds of accusations, such as ballot boxes being already filled with votes for the being delivered to the problematic areas of Plan Tres Mil and Yapacani. They are also showing how the grupos de choque (clash groups) sent by MAS have gone to different voting places, taken the ballot boxes and ballots (with violence or just showing their numbers, sticks and stones) and burned them. In essence, this channel is making every effort to show how illegal and fraudulent the referendum is.

On the contrary, the other side, is going out of their way to show how normal and festive the vote is going on. Channels such as Univision, PAT and Unitel are reporting the voting process taking place in the areas supporting the . For instance, the showed how Ruben Costas, Branco Marinkovic, Carlos Dabdoub and the Cardinal voted. They showed images of happy crucenos in line waiting their turn to vote. They are making sure to show how the delegates on the voting tables are showing the blank ballot before they give it to the voter. However, I have to say that these channels are also showing some of the disturbances taking place in the trouble zones like Yapacani, Montero and Plan Tres Mil.

From all this reporting, I can gather that the referendum is going on, but not without sporadic confrontations. As I mentioned earlier, the trouble spots are Yapacani, Montero, San Julian and Plan Tres Mil. What is clear now is that the voting completely stopped in the town of Yapacani. The MAS supporters, also called colonizadores (colonizers), went around in trucks to make sure the voting precincts or places were closed and nobody could vote. There was some municipal police present, but these were in the loosing side and greatly outnumbered by the colonizadores.

There were incidents in the town of Montero where MAS supporters tried to close voting places but encountered resistance from autonomistas (people who are in favor of autonomy). This situation is more unclear because the reports are not clear either. Ballot boxes were also burnt in the town of San Julian. As of right now, there are some places in that town where voting hasn't taken place yet. In one report, the delegates and jurors had no idea whether they were going to get new ballot boxes. However, the situation is not as definite as in Yapacani. There are some open voting places in San Julian where people are getting to vote.

The situation in Plan Tres Mil is more complicated. In that neighborhood, the two grupos de choque (masistas and autonomistas) are going around clashing against each other trying to close or maintain open the different voting places. However, there is voting taking place where the autonomistas have the upper hand.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the country there are two important cabildos (townhall meetings) to report on. The cabildo taking place in Cochabamba, which has brought together thousands of mainly coca growers to the city of Cochabamba. These people have just finished their meeting and have decided to start a nationwide mobilization to ask the government to, once and for all, go ahead with the referendum to approve the government's proposed constitution. In addition, they want to stop the efforts of a group of citizens who want to gather signatures to start the process to write autonomy statutes for the Cochabamba department.

The other cabildo took place in El Alto. These people repudiated the referendum for autonomy as well and decided to ask the government to hurry up with the referendum to approve the proposed constitution. There were also thousands of people gathered in El Alto.

In the Rest of the Country

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While voting gets on in Santa Cruz, the rest of the country is also active. In Cochabamba, for example, there will be a large gathering of coca growers in the main square. These people are meeting to repudiate the referendum taking place in Santa Cruz. In this sense, there is also a danger of disturbances in the city. Especially, if sympathizers of Santa Cruz decide to make an spontaneous demonstration.

In La Paz and El Alto, people are gathering as well. Different sectors of society, such as the worker's union (COB) and mainly MAS supporters will gather to demonstrate their opposition to the Santa Cruz referendum. The gatherings in these two cities are expected to be peaceful, because there are not many supporters of the Santa Cruz referendum who would trust himself to go out and show his or her support. However, there is a group of young pacenos who will gather in Abaroa square showing their support for Santa Cruz. This is, of course, a potential for violence.

January 17, 2008

One Side of a Complicated Situation

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The dilemma in which many altenos (citizens of El Alto) find themselves is the following:

"EL ALTO, Bolivia (Reuters) - Damiana Katari, who knits clothes for a living and wears long black braids, a bowler hat and layers of colored skirts, proudly voted to elect fellow Aymara Indian Evo Morales to the presidency of Bolivia.

But when the subject turns to Morales' trade policies, she tenses up, worried that her workshop for knitting wool in the Andean highlands will be hurt by his trade policies."
Currently, there is a growing small textile industry in El Alto, the city where Morales enjoys the highest support (upwards of 80%). This industry supplies many markets with its products, including the very important US market.

All the people who work in this industry are torn between supporting Morales all the way or supporting his rise to power only.

More in the article. Enjoy!

July 22, 2007

The La Paz Town Hall Meeting

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Back in January 2005, Santa Cruz organized a mega demonstration, which they called a cabildo (town hall meeting). There they claimed that around one million citizens decided to push forward with the demands for more regional autonomy. Fast forward to July 20, 2007, the 'other Bolivia' has raised its voice in another mega demonstration, which they also called cabildo.
The people from La Paz and El Alto gathered in El Alto to demonstrate their rejection to the proposed move of the government seat back to Sucre, Bolivia's official capital and once seat of government

There are no official numbers of how many people attended. The Bolivian Information Agency, ABI, says there were close to two million people there. No way to confirm that.

The pictures below show the gathering on Friday, July 20, 2007. More pictures can be accessed at Bolivia's national information agency, ABI.






In my opinion, this latest cabildo only reinforces the idea that the country is deeply divided along regional lines. Clearly we can observe the two regions being able to get over a million people together. Considering that Bolivia has 9 million inhabitants, these two demonstrations have been able to gather almost a quarter of the population. That, in support of two different causes. What I am wondering at this moment is that the middle region is not saying anything so far. Right in the middle of the conflict lies Cochabamba, the third largest city (formerly second) in the country. The question is: which side will they pick?

Talking about the paceno cabildo, it decided to give the Constitutional Assembly (CA) 17 days to erase from the debate agenda the issue of moving the seat of government to Sucre. And, in a very Bolivian manner, they said if the CA did not comply, they would start mobilizations, which I assume would mean more demonstrations, marches, and more political pressure. At the very same time, in Sucre, the commission in charge of pushing for the move of the seat of government met to plan out their strategy to continue. Of all things, they are planning to hold, yes, a gathering of people. Perhaps it will be next week.

On its part, the government welcomed this gathering. Its argument is that the issue is prone to divide Bolivia. I am not sure if they are blind, but don't they see that Bolivia is already divided? Or perhaps they mean geographically?

This issue promises to continue to be a leading headliner in the next weeks. What would be the answers of Santa Cruz, and of all places, Cochabamba?

Finally, I think it is a good idea to move the capital back to Sucre. As my friend Miguel Centellas says: "...I doubt Sucre wants to become the new marchodromo (I suspect its experience w/ protesters & the Constituent Assembly may have soured many sucrenses from their desire to reclaim the capital)." I suspect pacenos should be more than happy to cease to be the official marchodromo (referring to the almost daily marches and demonstrations in the streets) of Bolivia.