Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Nightly Protests More Smoke Than Fire

In the buildup to the Aug. 10 referenda that will decide the fate of President Evo Morales and eight of Bolivia's nine state governors, downtown La Paz is seeing nightly protests by interest groups eager to grab national attention while pressure on the government is fierce. For the past week, the Cochabamba Federation of People with Disabilities has been staging roadblocks in central La Paz demanding more weekly payments. (The Huanuni tin mine, in the Oruro region, 160 miles south of La Paz, has been shut down by a strike since Thursday, while workers demand steeper pension reforms than the Morales administration has proposed.)

The protests have largely been peaceful in La Paz. An overwhelming police presence effectively cordons off the roadblocks each night, and traffic is minimally affected. The protests are centered around the business sector of La Paz, at the intersection of calles Ayacucho and Potosí, near Plaza Murillo, where the National Palace sits. To the right, a disabled woman holds a sign that says, "We want to be incorporated into the change with a bond of fairness and solidarity."

Last week the government accused the right-wing opposition of manipulating the demands of the disabled groups and the miners' union to destabilize the country in the face of the crucial referenda this coming Sunday. If so, it would be a curious alliance, as the miners' union has denounce the proposed pension reform as "pro-business." The opposition to President Morales is headed by the Pro–Santa Cruz Committee, a powerful business group from the break-away state.

No comments: