Re: red alert as at least 4 bolivian depts renew threats to secede
- second opinion but same diagnosis
Bolivia: brink of a crisis
"Stand up cruceños, let's make history!" reads the motto of Santa Cruz, the largest and
richest of Bolivia's nine departments. This week, an autonomy referendum in the province
could add a bloody chapter to that book.
The referendum in Santa Cruz, a lowland province that borders Brazil, with vast reserves of
gas and iron ore, is unprecedented in Bolivian history. If the resolution wins landslide
approval this Sunday -- as is likely -- it may encourage autonomy movements in three
other departments in Bolivia as the richer eastern lowlands move away from what they see
as excessive centralisation in highland La Paz. This would make it ever more difficult for
President Evo Morales to govern the country.
Illegal and racist?
Morales claims the vote, which would allow Santa Cruz to choose its own governor, run its
own police force and create a separate tax system, is illegal and motivated by racism and
greed among wealthy landholders who feel threatened by the indigenous head of state's
plans to redistribute land.
In some ways, Morales is right. There are two Bolivias: one is that of poor indigenous
highlanders; the other is that of a light-skinned elite descended from Spaniards. The
election of a left-wing government in December 2005 threatens the way of life of the
eastern Bolivia elite, which is generally right wing, favours a less interventionist state, and
would rather not have to share its wealth.
Morales's first major reform, a sweeping energy nationalisation to bring the country more
profits from its natural gas fields, was popular.
Yet his attempt to revise the constitution to promote land reform and give greater power
to indigenous communities, ran into opposition from elite groups, whose views have long
been tinged by racist attitudes towards indigenous Bolivians.
Their rejection may also have been motivated by the discovery of large gas reserves in the
country, which sparked controversy over how revenues should be distributed. La Paz
argues that these reserves are national assets, and taxes should be used to finance
national, as well as local, spending.
Prospects of violence
Both sides have recently ratcheted up the rhetoric. One leader in Santa Cruz has been
quoted as saying that a "new republic" will be born on Sunday. Morales has support from
the usual suspects: the leftist presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua -- Hugo Chavez and
Daniel Ortega respectively -- along with Cuban Vice-President Carlos Lage, have said they
will refuse to recognise Santa Cruz as an autonomous entity. Lage has warned of a
'Kosovo' in the heart of Latin America.
Yet there are important restrainers to violence. The vision of 'autonomy' is not entirely
clear. At one end of the spectrum are those who want full independence for Santa Cruz
and other departments. However, only a small militant minority in Santa Cruz advocate
secession. Moreover, Santa Cruz in recent years has become increasingly ethnically
diverse. Migration from the highlands means that Morales's support in the department is
actually relatively solid. Bolivia's neighbours, Brazil and Argentina, would not countenance
a break-up of the country, a major provider of gas to the region, which should deter more
radical autonomy supporters from seeking outright independence.
The ultimate aim of the referendum may be to reopen negotiations with Morales from a
position of strength, especially as another referendum is also planned on a new
constitution, which makes its own, vague though less radical, provisions for regional
autonomy. Morales has not halted plans for the Santa Cruz vote, partly out of fear of
provoking violence but also because the forum for legal challenges is the Constitutional
Court, which is no longer functional due to political turmoil and uncertainty. However, the
government is unlikely to accept a 'yes' vote on May 4, which means some violence may be
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "aletheiak" <aletheiak@...> wrote:
> the breakaway trypointing could begin hitting the fan here on sunday
> Bolivia on the edge of 'explosion'
> Published Date: 29 April 2008
> By Alfonso Daniels
> in Santa Cruz
> ENTERING the tiny sun-drenched two-storey Spanish colonial building in the capital of
> energy-rich Bolivian province of Santa Cruz, it is difficult to imagine that this is the
> epicentre of preparations for armed struggle and possible civil war ahead of the
> region's forthcoming and hugely controversial autonomy referendum on Sunday.
> "We are ready to respond to any provocation. The government wants to implement a
> of Cuban socialism and is encouraging violence through its social groups, but we'll not
> tolerate this," David Sejas, 34, the president of Santa Cruz's Juvenile Union, told The
> Scotsman, claiming that his organisation, whose headquarters is located in this quaint
> building, has 85,000 well-trained, mostly former military, members.
> War rhetoric is growing in the final countdown to Santa Cruz's unilateral autonomy
> referendum, which is expected to be approved by a huge margin, the first of four in the
> regions that make up the better off and ethnically European eastern half of the country.
> An autonomy leader of this region rich in farmland and gas reserves went as far as
> that a "new republic" will be born on Sunday further angering Evo Morales, the
> first-ever indigenous Indian president, who denounces the referendum as an illegal
> attempt by a rich minority of European descent to hold on to their privileges and
> undermine the rights of the majority poor Indians mostly living in La Paz and the central
> Indians make up about 60 per cent of the population and Mr Morales has won support
> with his drive to nationalise Bolivia's natural resources and rewrite the constitution,
> greater power to indigenous groups.
> "It is discrimination. If they call me animal, stupid, what would they be calling the
> population?" Mr Morales said recently in New York, adding that the Santa Cruz
> is illegal and will change nothing.
> "I feel there will be fraud as there will be no observers. They can manipulate it as they
> wish, but for us it is a survey, an opinion poll, so it's non-binding," he said.
> A close ally of the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, who leads an anti-US bloc in
> America, Mr Morales also repeated claims that Washington was actively trying to force
> from power.
> "The United States is leading the conspiracy against my government," he said. "They do
> not agree with Bolivia's direction and they plan to weaken, to topple Evo."
> But he ruled out using the armed forces to keep the country united. "There will be no
> of emergency, there will be no militarisation, I believe in the people's conscience."
> But fear is already noticeable in the streets of the "rebel" province where it is
> commonplace to find provincial green and white flags hanging from cars and balconies,
> with some people beginning to lock up houses located in the countryside amid
> reports of isolated incidents. Violent clashes now seem inevitable between Morales
> supporters, especially coca growers, and Santa Cruz's militant pro-autonomy Juvenile
> "Bolivia is about to explode," Mr Chavez warned last week in Caracas during an urgent
> summit with Bolivia.
> The Cuban vice-president Carlos Lage, also present in the summit, accused the United
> States of trying to create a "Kosovo" in the hydrocarbon-rich eastern provinces of
> And Dante Caputo, the political affairs chief of the Organisation of American States, said
> that the possibility of violence taking place is real before engaging in last-ditch and, for
> now, failed attempts to bring both sides together.
> "The key issue is not autonomy but land, the government made the fatal error of
> the amount of land in the hands of one person to 10,000 hectares which, for Santa
> powerful livestock and soya farmers, is nothing," Raul Prada, congressman of the ruling
> MAS party, told The Scotsman in an unusually open self-criticism despite emphasising
> land reform is desperately needed.
> "I don't think the government will fall, but we're in a very dangerous situation: Evo wants
> to avoid bloodshed, but social movements are pushing him over the edge."
> Many observers, however, still believe that both sides will step back from the brink of
> war, as they have repeatedly done in the recent past, even though they admit that the
> situation may get out of hand, with the military too weak to intervene.
> Their optimism is rooted in the belief that the government wants to avoid further
> incensing pro-autonomy protesters, while the opposition would be reluctant to topple
> government since that could create chronic instability in the country.
> After all, the reasoning goes, there are only two years left before the next elections and
> Morales's popularity is dropping fast due to rising inflation which is especially affecting
> own constituency near La Paz, allegations of corruption and a recent spate of internal
> squabbles within his government.
> Also, sources close to the Brazilian and Argentine foreign ministries confirmed to The
> Scotsman on condition of anonymity that their countries would never accept a break-up
> Bolivia, the poorest South American country but a major provider of gas to the region,
> defusing any temptation of autonomy supporters who still lack a strong leader and the
> military's backing from seeking outright independence.
> When pressed, senior Santa Cruz autonomy officials admit that the ultimate aim of the
> referendum is to reopen negotiations with Mr Morales from a position of strength.
> were broken late last year after government supporters approved a controversial draft
> constitution despite a boycott from the opposition forcing an abrupt transfer of the
> constitutional assembly to Oruro, a Morales bastion in the western highlands.
> "Circumstances forced us to radicalise our proposals. Of course we'll have to sit down to
> negotiate after the referendum, we're open to changes, but the government is more
> interested in exacting vengeance than building a country," said Juan Carlos Urenda, the
> main drafter of the autonomy statute.
> "Our campaign boss is actually Evo Morales, he's played to our hands by provoking us
> trying to ignore our legitimate autonomy demands," he added.
> "I hope Bolivia won't be shattered, but if the government doesn't change its stance a
> break-up will be inevitable."
> KEY PLAYER IN STRUGGLE
> EVO Morales cuts a remarkable figure as Bolivia's first Indian leader in the 470 years
> the Spanish Conquest.
> The 47-year-old former coca farmer is known for his love of football he plays for a
> second division club.
> Mr Morales is the leader of Bolivia's cocalero movement a loose federation of coca
> growing campesinos who are resisting the efforts of the United States to eradicate coca
> central Bolivia.
> His Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement Towards Socialism) party describes itself as "an
> indigenous-based political party that calls for the nationalisation of industry,
> of the coca leaf and fairer distribution of national resources."
> Mr Morales has said: "The worst enemy of humanity is US capitalism. That is what
> provokes uprisings like ours. If the entire world doesn't acknowledge that nation states
> not providing even minimally for health, education and nourishment, then fundamental
> human rights are being violated."
> --- In email@example.com, aletheia kallos <aletheiak@> wrote:
> > http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/158673.html
> > http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/13/
> > locator map
> > http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/americas/bolivia_admin_2006.jpg
> > where it is noteworthy for trypointing purposes that
> > the mentioned
> > pando & beni & santa cruz are contiguous or continuous
> > but tarija is separated from them by chuquisaca
> > which however other reports indicate is also
> > threatening again to break away along with the above 4
> > as it has in the past
> > http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/12/14/
> > thus as many as 4 or 5 separate secessions & various
> > recombinations are possible
> > with the most likely result being perhaps a single
> > cleavage into the east bolivian 5 & the west bolivian
> > 4
> > in which case only 2 new world class tripoints would
> > be created
> > where the pando la paz boundary meets peru in the
> > north
> > &
> > where the potosi tarija boundary meets argentina in
> > the south
> > the following analysis is from
> > http://www.stratfor.com/products/premium/read_article.php?id=299976
> > Bolivia: Sliding Toward Breakup?
> > December 13, 2007 22 23 GMT
> > The government of Bolivian President Evo Morales
> > declared Dec. 13 that the country's military is now on
> > "red alert" in response to separatist moves by four of
> > Bolivia's nine provinces. Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and
> > Pando have announced they will declare autonomy Dec.
> > 15.
> > These four eastern lowland provinces, populated mostly
> > by people of European descent, possess the majority of
> > Bolivia's natural gas fields and export-oriented
> > agricultural operations. Under the terms of the
> > constitution Morales is drafting, most of the income
> > from the natural gas would flow to the poorer and
> > ethnically indigenous highlanders in the country's
> > West, while large farms -- nearly all owned by
> > lowlanders -- would be broken up and redistributed to
> > those of indigenous descent.
> > For the lowlanders, Morales' new constitution will not
> > be a document they can tolerate, since it would
> > impoverish and disenfranchise them. It also would gut
> > the country's energy export income. At the same time,
> > indigenous populations are in the country's majority
> > and strongly support Morales.
> > With room for compromise thin and time running out,
> > the country could be sliding toward breakup. Should
> > the lowland departments successfully adopt their
> > autonomy laws, it would be the beginning of the end of
> > Bolivia as a unified state. And should Morales' forces
> > succeed in quelling the lowlanders, it very well could
> > be the beginning of civil war.
> > The one bright spot, if it can be called that, is that
> > the anti-Morales forces in the lowland cities do not
> > enjoy strong support in the countryside. That might
> > allow Morales to divide-and-conquer the lowlanders on
> > their own turf. This would be horrible for Bolivia's
> > political and economic stability, but it could succeed
> > in at least holding the country together.
> > as continued from
> > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BoundaryPoint/message/17855
> > Be a better friend, newshound, and
> > know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now. http://mobile.yahoo.com/;
- last year
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Aidan Stradling <hq1sickbag@...> wrote:
> I don't think autonomy equals secession.
& so far it looks like you are very right aidan
this more recent intel & analysis tho
suggests a sharper turn may lie just ahead
US backs eastern secession in Bolivia
Minority landholders vote for independence
Friday May 9th, 2008
Bolivia's landowning eastern elite voted on Sunday for autonomy from President Evo
Morales' central government. According to author Forrest Hylton the US government has
spent up to $125 million dollars supporting the secession movement, a movement which
has been disregarded by a large percentage of the Bolivian population as well as
governments from Bolivia's neighboring countries.
Forrest Hylton is the the author of Evil Hour in Colombia (Verso, 2006), and with Sinclair
Thomson, co-author of Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics
(Verso, 2007). He is a regular contributor to New Left Review and NACLA Report on the
PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Bolivia is at a crossroads. To better
understand what's happening in the gas-rich South American country, we're joined by
Forrest Hylton, the author of Evil Hour in Colombia and Revolutionary Horizons: Past and
Present in Bolivian Politics. Forrest is also a frequent contributor to The New Left Review.
Forrest Hylton, welcome to The Real News.
FORREST HYLTON, AUTHOR, "REVOLUTIONARY HORIZONS": Thanks very much for having
ESCOBAR: What is the white oligarchy in Bolivia up to, considering this last referendum in
Santa Cruz, which they won by a margin of 84 to 85 percent? What does that mean for
HYLTON: Well, it's not entirely clear what it means yet, and you can't be sure that it means
what the international media would have us believe that it means. So far it appears that
abstention rates were fairly higharound one-third of people did not actually vote in this
referendum that was not sanctioned by the National Electoral Court or the Bolivian
Congress. There were no outside international observers there, so there's absolutely no
way that this process could be called transparent in any way, shape, or form. It's really an
attempt on the part of the small minority of large landholders in Bolivia, who happen to
live in the place where close to 97 percent of all the gas reserves are located. So what they
want to do is hold on to their large landed estates and use the revenues from gas
exploitation in order to maintain the status quo in their regions, rather than in order to
redistribute the wealth to the western highlands, which has historically provided Bolivia
with mining taxes that were never plowed back into the departments from which they
came. So there's a sort of historical injustice that's been done to the western highlands,
and the secessionists in the eastern lowlands really don't want to deal with that at all. What
they want to do is keep the wealth for themselvesand the land.
ESCOBAR: Forrest, can you tell us about the involvement of the US embassy in La Paz in
this whole process?
HYLTON: Well, Ambassador Philip Goldberg comes to Bolivia from Kosovo. And he is
clearly a supporter of the secessionist agenda of the eastern lowlands, which is known as
the Half Moon because it forms a half-moon arc running from north to south in the
eastern lowlands. The figures that I've read in terms of US Agency for International
Development, as well as the National Endowment for Democracy, the figures I've read
suggest that the United States has invested some $125 million to back this secessionist
autonomy movement. But what's interesting, Pepe, is that unlike earlier periods, this right-
wing secessionist agenda in Bolivia today does not count on any support from any of the
major regional powers, such as Brazil, such as Argentina, such as Chile, who all back the
Evo Morales government. And this is the same with the Bolivian armed forces, which is
another major difference between now and the past, when right-wing reactionaries in the
eastern lowlands were able to count on the support of both military dictatorships in
neighboring countries as well as coup plotters within the Bolivian armed forces. This is not
the case today, and therefore we can say that Evo Morales as the president of Bolivia is
unlikely to be overthrown or even challenged by such a maneuver.
ESCOBAR: So it's under this framework that we should understand the--in fact, no reaction
of Brazil and Argentina. They totally downplayed the results of the referendum this past
weekend, and also all the Mercosur countries for that matter, right?
HYLTON: This is correct, and this is the thing to keep in mind, that in contrast to English-
language media, the press in neighboring countries really doesn't see this autonomy
referendum as a significant development within the region. So in that sense it is very much
about the fight to control internally the revenues from the exploitation of Bolivian-
petroleum resources. And Santa Cruz, as a department where this referendum was held,
Santa Cruz is home to 11 percent of estimated gas reserves, and it has, ever since the
1930s, benefited from central government largess in the form of sharing of petroleum
revenues with the department of Santa Cruz. Now, in the mining regions where tin and
silver was exploited, the departments that had tin and silver never received any percentage
of those royalties, which stayed with the national treasury. So Santa Cruz in fact has been
a beneficiary of a welfare state for a very small landed class in the eastern region ever
since the 1930s, and particularly after the national revolution of 1952. All through the
1950s, '60s, and '70s, the region of Santa Cruz received something like 60 percent of all
credits that were dispersed through the Banco Agricola in the entire country. So every
move that the Santa Cruz elite has ever made has been subsidized and supported by the
federal government. Now that they have lost control of the federal government, they want
to secede from it.