Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Bolivia's vice president says the leaders of Venezuela and Argentina have canceled a visit because of security concerns amid opposition protests. The three presidents were coming together to discuss energy concerns among other issues.

Just yesterday two miners were killed and many more injured in clashes between police and workers at the country's largest tin mine, Huanuni, where miners are striking over pensions, local radio reported. Violence erupted when police clashed with groups of striking miners who had blocked the road that links the administrative capital La Paz with the city of Oruro, Interior Minister Alfredo Rada told reporters in La Paz.

The head of Bolivia's largest labor federation, Bolivian Workers Central or COB, blamed the killings on President Evo Morales. "This is a massacre and the only one to blame is (President) Evo Morales," Felipe Machaca, the COB leader told radio Erbol.

World Socialist Web reports miners at the Huanuni tin mine, Bolivia’s largest, walked off their jobs on August 1 to protest what they called the government’s “lack of will” to pass a new pension law. Guido Mitma, Executive Secretary of the Union Federation of Bolivian Mine Workers (FSTMB), said at the time the strike was of indefinite duration and that miners across Bolivia were poised to join the Huanuni miners’ strike and block roads.

The Huanuni strike is part of a general strike called by the COB to press for pension reform. The unions are demanding congress approve legislation drafted by the COB that would pool private pension funds into a government fund, a measure opposed by President Morales.

The leftist government of President Morales has presented a pension reform proposal to Congress. Of it President Morales said, “The government is guaranteeing a new pension law which will be universal, for all Bolivian men and women, a law which will eliminate the AFPs (Administrators of Pension Funds). We are going to improve the COB’s proposal."

The COB, however, says the bill is not generous enough and has called it "pro-business."

The COB has staged several protests including a series of major road blockades and the takeover of the national communications building in La Paz by workers armed with dynamite in recent days to demand a more far-reaching measure (the photo above comes from the protests in La Paz). The COB is also threatening a “punishment vote” against President Morales in the upcoming recall referendum scheduled for August 10.

Morales, meanwhile, stated that the government had never opposed the modification of the pension law, and even supported some of the demands of the COB such as the elimination of the Administrators of Pension Funds (AFP).

And then he went a step further.

“I know that some sectors of the COB are the best instruments of the empire, of North American imperialism” Morales said not long ago following the announcement by the leadership of the workers of a strike in defence of its proposed law.

However, its a stretch to link the COB and the miners to the attacks from the right or to US interests.

The COB, it should be noted, has a long history of opposing leftist regimes for not being leftist enough.

The COB is not alone in the turmoil racking the country. Other sectors, including the federation of disabled people demanding a US$375-a-week payment, the confederation of bus drivers in favour of an increase in bus fares, and civic organisations in the gas rich area of Camiri demanding the refoundation of the state gas company, YPFB, and an increase in the price of gas exported to Brazil and Argentina have been active.

And, of course, there has been all the secessionist actions being pushed by conservative and business forces in the more wealthy areas of the country. These are found in the eastern “half moon” — the resource-rich departments (states) of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija that have long been the spearhead of the opposition to "Evo" and the MAS government. CounterPunch has reported that since May 4, autonomy referendums have been approved by voters in the departments of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, Pando and Chuquisaca. "These votes were organized by the country’s right-wing politicians and business elite to perpetuate neoliberal policies, resist the redistribution of land and natural gas wealth, and weaken the Morales government. Though the right points to these victories at the ballot box as proof of their mandate, the referendums are not legally recognized by the Bolivian Electoral Court, the Organization of American States, the European Union, President Morales, or other major leaders throughout the region."

Morales supporters say much of the recent violence throughout Bolivia is obviously related to the upcoming referendum on power. Minister of government, Alfredo Rada, says that right-wing interests are behind the troubles throughout the country. The right originally called for the referendum to which the president and vice president of Bolivia and the country’s departmental governors are basically up for recall. The government said "okay." But now the right wing forces are are sensing that their maneuver might boomerang on them as polls have shown strong support for Morales.

So now the right-wing opposition have set into motion all types of tricks to prevent the people from voting on August 10 and expressing their will at the ballot box — which, according to all the polls, is support for their president and for the process of change. A new poll published in the Sunday edition of the La Paz daily La Razon reports that President Evo Morales’ public popularity has risen in the last month to 59%.

Jim Schultz reports on his well respected Blog from Boliva:

"A Morales victory that beats his 2005 election would have a huge political impact, reinvigorating his political momentum after a year in which it has been almost completely stalled by demands for regional autonomy and open conflict over a new Constitution and demands by Sucre to have it declared Bolivia’s capital. It would also likely jump start a new effort to bring the embattled MAS-drafted constitution to a national vote, a move bitterly opposed by MAS opponents. The proposed constitution would allow Morales to stand for re-election in 2010, something he is currently unable to do."

However, if the poll (reported above) is wrong and Morales’ vote slips below the 47% needed to keep him in office – under the odd and complex voting formula approved by Congress – that will set off a new round of Presidential elections within 3-6 months, with Morales the far and away front runner."

I have this prediction…"

I will make no predictions about the outcome on Sunday. And anyone who does is really just guessing in the dark."

Stay tuned!

The following is from RTT News.

Presidents' meeting canceled in Bolivia following violence

A scheduled meeting between the Presidents of Venezuela, Argentina, and Bolivia in the Bolivian city of Tarija was canceled Tuesday following violence in the city ahead of the leaders' arrival.

Police used tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters, who tried to storm the main airport in Tarija, reports said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, and their Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales were planning to discuss energy projects in Tarija, Tuesday.

The Latin American leaders' visit was also aimed at expressing solidarity to the Morales government, ahead of a recall vote in Bolivia.

Earlier in the day, two miners were killed and many others were wounded when they clashed with police at the country's largest tin mine, Huanuni, where miners have been on strike over pensions since Thursday.

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