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Evo Morales: Padlocked in the Palace

  • Paul Mason
  • 5 Apr 06, 09:08 AM

An exclusive interview with Bolivian president Evo Morales. Watch tonight on BBC2, 2230 GMT.

Shortly before 5am the military police huddled in the doorways of the Plaza Murillo begin to stir beneath their capes. The door of the presidential palace creaks open and the guards, in scarlet tunics and white webbing, begin a rigmarole of shuffling, stamping and saluting that is the changing of the guard. The police are muscular white guys in camo; the guards are willowy young indigenous kids – the regiment has always recruited from the ‘indios’ for ethnic novelty value. Now, as the MPs strut away, the guards smile nervously at each other from beneath their kepis: then they giggle. It’s still surreal to be guarding one of their own..
“Look,” Evo tells me, after striding into the palace shortly after, “sixty years ago, our grandparents didn’t even have the right to walk into the main square – not even in the gutter. And then we got into parliament – and now we’re here.”

He looks around apologetically at the long Rococo state room we’re meeting in at the ormolu chairs we’re sitting on. He’s installed a portrait of Che Guevara in the presidential suite but, apart from that, the palace remains as it was under his neo-liberal predecessors.
“ It’s been a great victory – now this is a stronghold for the indigenous people. And we’re not going to stop. The most important thing is the indigenous people are not vindictive by nature. We are not here to oppress anybody – but to join together and build Bolivia, with justice and equality.”
In truth, the Morales presidency is fast getting beyond the “peace, love and understanding” phase. The first indigenous leader to run a country in the Americas has been two months in office, but he does not feel like he’s in power – yet.
“How does it work now? I’ll tell you. You want to issue a decree to help the poor, the indigenous people, the popular movements, the workers… but there’s another law. Another padlock. It’s full of padlocks that mean you can’t transform things from the Palace…This is the problem I face, and it’s serious. I feel like a prisoner of the neo-liberal laws.”
For a man who rose to prominence as a union leader, and to office on the back economic grievances, economic policy has hardly figured in the first sixty days: instead, he’s used the parliamentary majority that came with his 54% landslide to push through a law calling a Constituent Assembly, and allowing regional referendums on autonomy.
“In last year’s election we only captured government – with the Constituent Assembly we want to capture political power. Who makes the decisions here – the poor and indigenous people or those families who’ve done so much damage to our country in the past? They discriminated against, marginalised, oppressed, hated and totally disregarded the indigenous people. It’s a political fight: it’s a fight for power”
If the economic conditions he’s inherited are relatively benign – “lucky” is the word he uses – that is because of Bolivia’s newfound hydrocarbon wealth. The trillion cubic foot gas field was discovered in the late-1990s and, originally, leased at what Morales sees as knock-down prices to the oil and gas corporations. He’s got a judge beavering a way to declare the original contracts illegal. In the meantime – during the uprising that eventually destroyed his predecessor Carlos Mesa – Morales forced through a law upping the tax on the gas companies from 18% to 50% (it’s nearer 70% once you’ve paid tax on the tax, says a gas industry insider). Within a year Bolivia’s current account has gone from the red to the black.
But here’s the problem. Most of the gas is in the Chaco region, administered from Bolivia’s second city, Santa Cruz. Since Santa Cruz does not have llamas, tourists and gap-year students in woolly hats, most outsiders don’t realise what a major chunk of the Bolivian economy it represents: 33% of GDP with 25% of the population. Santa Cruz is the traditional base of the right-wing parties; it’s the centre from which the US anti-drug operation is run; it’s where Repsol, Petrobras and British Gas are headquartered. Now Santa Cruz wants autonomy – and the right to all but 10% of the hydrocarbon revenues. Evo has called the Constituent Assembly to make sure it gets somewhat less: the wilder fringes of the political elite in Santa Cruz have recently threatened to “take up arms”. So can he engineer a compromise?
“I don’t know,” he sighs, “but we have achieved a huge step with the law convoking the Constituent Assembly. We have launched a parallel consultation on regional autonomy, which is also important. And it is progress. And we will carry on like this: the next thing being to nationalise the oil and gas.”
Evo’s administration is playing softly-softly with Washington, figuring President Bush wants a free trade deal more than he wants a confrontation over a part of Bolivia few outside have ever heard of. And Santa Cruz has its back against a wall: literally. It borders Argentina and Brazil – both with centre-left governments sympathetic to Morales.
But for all Morales’ emollient words, the situation has its own dynamic. In the week I talked to Morales he had been back and forth twice to Santa Cruz, to organise his own supporters. There’s a tussle over who controls the local trade union office; there’s the ongoing judicial investigation that has seen the bosses of Repsol arrested (and bailed) in connection with $9m oil smuggling allegations. Morales is unfazed by veiled threats of disinvestment:
“Of course, there could still be sabotage – we’ve just heard the news that some trans-national companies are putting two million dollars into a campaign to boycott my government: it doesn’t matter. We’re monitoring the problem.”
Meanwhile, Evo’s own mass base is restive. The miners of Huanuni, militancy buoyed by the rising international price of tin, had paralysed the southern quarter of the country with a series of roadblocks, enforced with dynamite. Their demand? Fifty-five extra teachers in their local schools. Morales’ response – to announce he would provide 3,000 extra teaching posts nationally, paid for by closing embassies and scrapping “decorative” civil service posts. He seems to sense there is only so long you can go on like this, but as the first indigenous leader in the continent, he has some unique cards to play, the first one being himself:
“Unity is important; so is organisation – and above all it’s important to be honest. I am here because of honesty. I have a lot of trouble understanding all the detail of finance and administration – but if you combine intellectual and professional capacity with a social conscience, you can change things: countries, structures, economic models, colonial states.”

That position that has visceral support in a place like El Alto, the shanty-city of a million Aymara people, which dominates the high plain above La Paz. There the talking point is not whether Evo should nationalise the gas and neutralise the opposition – but what they will do to him if he fails. Stern “revolutionary indianist” youths there give street meetings about the “great Pachakuti (liberation) that is yet to come” – and call for the replacement of both capitalism and socialism with the “Ayllu economy”, based on communal property and clan loyalty. They will tolerate Evo, one tells me, for a year or two – though they will never move against him if it weakens the united front against “the whites”.

Morales, for now, is more than capable of meeting the wave of rising indigenous cultural consciousness with concrete reforms. He tells me:

“Yesterday in Camiri we launched a literacy campaign, to promote better living standards. The first Aymara, the first Quechuas who wanted to learn to read and write were punished brutally: those who learned to read, they put their eyes out; those who learned to write, they chopped their hands off, so they would never learn again. The first people who taught literacy were imprisoned, expelled, placed in isolation – some even by the Catholic Church. This is the history of the literacy campaign.”

But soon the crunch will come: the form, and costs, of nationalisation for the hydrocarbon industry must be concretised. Santa Cruz must be allowed to emit its cry of pain when its autonomy project is neutered. Trade deals must be signed with a wider world than left-wing Venezuela and Cuba. Above all the Constitution will be altered fundamentally, and no-one knows how the middle class will react to that.

When you see the Morales regime up close, its weakness in statecraft looms as the most pressing problem. Many of Evo’s ministers are social movement leaders with little experience running a bureaucracy. Behind the cabinet stands a smaller camarilla, including Marxist vice-president Alvaro Garcia-Linera, the prime minister Juan Ramon Quintana plus, it is said, one or two journalists with links to the anti-globalisation movement. They meet, ponder, and then Evo decides.

When I ask him how he plans to avoid the fate of Salvador Allende, the left-wing Chilean president overthrown by General Pinochet in 1973, he rocks back in his chair and asks my translator to repeat the question. “How can you use all this, the palace, the existing machinery of state, that was put in place under the neo-liberal regimes that came before?”

“But that’s just it,” he says. The Constituent Assembly is the key. It’s the crucial factor in designing the new structure of the state, so as to do away with the old colonial state, and with the old neo-liberal model – and above all to engage the effective participation of the people.”

For now he’s opted to co-exist with the Bolivian military who have, in the past, intervened to terminate civilian. On the big national day of mourning for Bolivia’s loss of its Pacific littoral, he made a speech flanked by braid-encrusted generals. For good measure, he made sure ten thousand Aymara activists marched down from El Alto to join in the parade: army sharpshooters on the roofs glanced nervously as street-sellers and tin-miners let off firecrackers within yards of their hero.

But the message when the military are out of earshot is different. I see him meet and greet indigenist leaders in Santa Cruz; he is handed a ceremonial bow and arrow and tells them:

“I still don’t feel like the President yet, perhaps my problem is that I feel more a union leader than a president. When they talk to me about protocol, I don’t understand what that is. You have to walk like this, you have to talk like this, they tell me. Well maybe I will need to learn that in order to behave properly in other countries but we don’t need all that here.

Relations with the IMF and World Bank are seen by many outside the country as symbolic. Bolivia is due for big debt write-offs under the process started at Gleneagles – and some advisers are urging Morales to hasten the end of financial dependence on the Bank by taking out a credit line with cash-rich Venezuela. But the president is ready for rapprochement with the Washington-based institutions, if the terms are right, and is certainly not using the fire-breathing language of the anti-globalisers:

“I’ve been impressed with the World Bank people who’ve visited us so far – when they’ve shown their solidarity and support. But I say to them: if you impose projects that are alien and foreign to us, there is no way we’ll co-operate. They should back our own initiatives, the ones put forward by local people. The same goes for the IMF.”

How it all pans out now depends on whether he can keep the younger, liberal sections of the middle class onside. Those who backed him last December did so more as a rejection of the failure of their fathers’ generation than an positive endorsement of his Movement Towards Socialism. And talk of replacing democracy with “consensus” has some of them wondering nervously if Evo could go the way of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

“We hope the delegates to the Constituent Assembly will represent not only the indigenous people and popular movements but patriotic professionals, intellectuals and business people. If these patriotic sections take part we’ll succeed,” he tells me.

If he does not succeed, the frictions apparent in that early morning changeover at the palace gate – between the new regime and remnants of the old - could develop into an uglier conflict.


Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:17 PM on 05 Apr 2006,
  • Ivan wrote:

Paul - great blog, and what a lot of it. With regards to Morales' main complaint - free market economists may well argue that his long-term aims (such as nationalising the energy industry) may ultimately result in holding Bolivia back. Nationalised industries are notoriously undynamic and less efficient than their unfettered counterparts. Do you know whether the he plans to completely nationalise the industries or just to redraw terms of leases?

  • 2.
  • At 06:59 PM on 05 Apr 2006,
  • Fiona wrote:

Really interesting reading - gave me the feeling that I was right there walking with Evo. It's going to be interesting to see where this goes and if he stays true to his beliefs. And how long he can hang on if he does...

  • 3.
  • At 02:58 AM on 06 Apr 2006,
  • Lynn wrote:

"Pachakuti" is a compound of "Pacha", which is 'earth' (Pachamama) or as here 'time'; kuti is return. The renturning of time.

Ronald Wrignt, in "Time Among the Maya", counts off the Mayan tuns and katuns. They counted a double katun for the evil that they foresaw in 1492. So 520 years later, in 2012, the 13th katun will begin - and Wright reports "13 is a GOOD number for the Maya". (Wright also wrote "Cut Stones and Crossroads", about Peru.)

I take "the great Pachakuti that is yet to come" as meaning the returning of the time when the people of the Andes again take prosession of their heritage and homeland.

(It is probably not a co-incidence that the white population of Europe and the US is becoming less numerous.)

  • 4.
  • At 02:53 PM on 10 Apr 2006,
  • Maria wrote:

Dear Mr Mason,
I was quite interested and pleased that the programme on Bolivia portrayed a balanced view of the country. Considering that Bolivia only features internationally when there are social explosions or extreme events, I welcomed the fact that there was an effort to provide a bit more information about the situation of my country. Obviously in such a complex and diverse country, as you may have perceived during your stay there, everything is possible and things may change from one moment to the other. Life there is a constant challenge but people are resilient and will continue moving ahead.

To state my credibility- I have lived in Bolivia for the last 17 years, which is most of my life. That happy stage of my life ended in January 2006.

I have to say I am offended with the references to "whites" which paints a picture that has more racial tension than is necessary- than what is actually there. Bolivians are really just a mix of the Indigenous peoples and Spanish/European immigrants. The upper class are not "white" and they would not class themselves as that. They are just a mix, with more European mixed in than other Bolivians.

With a name like Morales, Evo isn't pure Indian either.

Please don't portray the situation as worse than it really is.
However, it's nice to have someone actually covering these stories.

  • 6.
  • At 09:00 PM on 13 Dec 2006,
  • Tommy Saxelby wrote:

Great blog.

  • 7.
  • At 02:27 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Raul wrote:

I am a Bolivian citizen. I live in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Probably you know my country among the poorest in Central and South America. It is also possible you are acquainted with the democratic election of Mr. Evo Morales as president of Bolivia. Evo Morales won the 2005 elections with a 54% of valid votes. This result was not heard long time ago in my country where the most common situation after presidential elections was parliament agreements to nominate the next president. Anyway, everybody was waiting that sooner or later a president with peasant roots would be chosen. Evo Morales initially emerged as the leader of coca leave producers and it is important to mention that after being appointed as head of state he continues to exercise also as the main leader of the coca leave producers association in Chapare. By his decision, permitted area plantation of coca bushes (supposed to be for the traditional use of coca leave chewing) have increased from about 15.000 Ha to 20.000 Ha, despite international agreements signed by Bolivia. Former Bolivian governments fought to reduce coca leave crops and as a result total measured area was constantly reduced up to now. Evo Morales leadership emerged as defender of those peasants in Chapare and later his aim was also to fight against the so called neoliberal model of state. By this he also gain support of left side parties, up to mid classes mainly in the western side of Bolivia.

Since 2000, step by step, he gained national and international attention by his support to the defense of movements against the prevailing economical model and globalization. In 2003 he was a main actor promoting riots in El Alto and blockades in the Bolivian main roads, social unrest which concludes in the resignation of the president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. Following administrations of Carlos Mesa (who also resigned) and Eduardo Rodriguez were only transitory and had to face similar opposition as Gonzalo Sanchez. National elections in December 2005 were won by Evo Morales heading his own party MAS (standing for Movement toward Socialism). By then there already were evident signs of approach of Evo Morales to the governments of Castro in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela. The flagship campaign was fighting against corruption, nationalization of oil and natural gas companies, and changing the Bolivian economical model adopted 20 years ago to survive a economical crises and the word's second largest hyperinflation process, model which allegedly brought more poverty to Bolivia. Another characteristic of his campaign was his unwillingness to publicly debate with his contenders accusing them not having moral authority to face him. Apparently this campaign style convinced the majority of people to vote for him.

It is not unknown in Bolivia the leadership style that Morales imposed in Chapare. As members of coca leave producers association, families are obliged to attend all meetings, movements and blockades summoned by the union, facing otherwise economic fines or land property confiscation. In my opinion, in terms of human rights violation, actions taken by unions in Chapare against those who do not agree with their form of life or ideas can be compared with repression exerted by anti drug army branch against coca leave producers. Those who live in the area and are not coca leave producers, for example banana or palmito producers most of them beneficiating from economical incentives from international foundations aiming to replace coca leave production, face constant harassment by the union. Morales was able to impose this way of leadership in the Chapare area because most of coca leave producers are people from the western side of the country, where peasants have ancestral originary authorities and not written laws and the community property and interests are considered somehow more important than individual rights or interests. In these villages, formal authorities appointed by the central government and Bolivian laws have played a secondary role in daily activities. However, since formal authorities in local communities are now elected and with the implantation of the denominated Participación Popular, which implies the Bolivian State distributing relatively significant amounts of economic resources proportionally to the number of the inhabitants living in each community, local authority positions are fiercely disputed between community groups (most of them now related to national parties) trying to gain control by simple imposition, even against democratic rules. Years before Morales won the national elections, his union took control of all formal and originary authority positions in Chapare communities. Immersed in this almost absolute and indisputable control, the 2 or 3 last national elections results in the Chapare area rounded 90% or more in favor of Morales party. The leadership style imposed by Morales party pervaded the poorest areas in main cities where a majority of its inhabitants came from the country side. By cleverly choosing local personalities, Morales also convinced to vote for his party a significant percentage of the mid-class in the Bolivian cities and gained control of the lower chamber of the legislative State power (more than 50% of deputies belong to MAS) . Nevertheless he was not able to gain control of the upper chamber of the legislative State power nor the local governors of the three main Bolivian departments (La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba).

Simultaneously to December 2005 general elections, for the first time, governors (prefectos) were also chosen and a referendum for regional autonomies took place. The MAS party did not support autonomies. The eastern side and the department of Tarija of the country voted for governors not representing the MAS party and also the idea of autonomies was supported. In La Paz, and Cochabamba, although governors not representing the MAS were chosen, autonomies were rejected. The rest western side of the country (Oruro, Chuquisaca and Potosí) supported MAS governors and rejected autonomies.

Morales leadership style peculiarity is to always base his decisions, at least as he publicly declare, in consult with the "social movements". Social movements are supposed to congregate the coca leave producer associations, the formerly powerful Central Obrera Boliviana COB (Bolivian Worker Union) , all mine workers unions, all peasants unions and so on.. , but, since some of these organizations occasionally do not agree with the government, or not agree at all, it can be assumed that so far only coca leave producers associations are the "social movements" completely loyal to Morales. In this scenario, it is no surprise that Morales sometimes has cancelled formal meetings with departmental governors (prefectos) to participate meetings with the coca leave producer associations in Chapare.

Morales thinking about Bolivian natural resources administration, globalization and neoliberal economic model have been known before its election. His unwillingness to debate with other candidates was only considered an electoral strategy. Once election results were published, even other candidates declared that its 54% and back up of the social movements were a magnificent opportunity to establish a legitimate government without the problems of former administrations, which were unable to govern because of the strong political opposition from MAS and its social movements. Even mid classes commented that Morales administration had everything to perform the necessary changes to reduce economical and social differences and achieve a faster integration between the western and eastern sides of Bolivia ("collas" in the west side and "cambas" in the east side). Despite a mild racism exist in Bolivia between whites and mestizos, many upper and mid class people living in cities proudly admit having mestizo ancestors. Folkloric dances and mestizo cultural manifestations are gradually embraced by upper and mid white classes. Similarly, country communities organize regularly cultural events where people from the cities would assist leaving economic benefits to the organizers and reducing barriers and old prejudices.

Yet the first public discourse of Evo Morales as elected president showed another side of Morales and MAS ideology. He compared Bolivian society with the South African apartheid. He claimed peasants were prohibited to learn to read or write with penalties as grave as hand cutting. He complained peasants have suffered genocide in the republican age. And he proclaimed from now on a dawn of a new era, with all these people now having the power. It is true that peasants suffered segregation and discrimination until the first half of the past century, but after the 1952 revolution segregation degree was reduced and have not formed part of the vision of any administration. All governments at least officially, were against segregation or discrimination, being the principle that all citizens must be equally treated by law. It must also be recognized that deeply rooted cultural traditions or prejudices can only change slowly through generations, and States should act very cautiously in applying the social contract equally for all people to avoid social unrest or revenges amongst groups of citizens. In this sense, Bolivia cannot be compared with the South African apartheid where segregation was a law principle systematically applied against a group of people. For a progressive administration it is completely inadequate keep bringing to the present 50 or 500 year old ghosts. All advances to achieve social equality and peace can be endangered; resentments almost forgotten in the past could be revived putting in risk the country territorial unity, as in the case of Bolivia. Penalties imposed to people just by learning to read or write, if happened, were isolated cases even before 1952, and for sure could have being treated as criminal behavior in the recent past. Hearing that from an elected president in his first speech is at least disturbing. But if we relate these claims with the intention of starting a new era, yes, of course they can be the foundation bricks of a era of hate.

The main fear of mid and upper classes in Bolivia related to the MAS administration was loosing economical stability, and direct intervention on private accounts in banks. Most recent reference was the 80’s period of hyperinflation when a weak left government conceded almost all union demands. At that time all main companies were owned by the state. On the other hand, the main hope of the same mid and upper classes was that, since the main promoting group of social unrest so far would have the administration, riots and road blockades, a recurrent scenario since 2000 would finally stop. Paradoxically the inverse happened. Macroeconomic stability is stronger than ever. Import - export balance figures show the most favorable condition to Bolivia since the 70’s. But social unrest against the government and mainly against the local authorities (majors and governors) not belonging to the ruling party are everyday news.

A constitutional assembly is developing in Sucre the historical capital of Bolivia. The law approving the election of members and general guidelines for the assembly was sanctioned by the Bolivian parliament, as something necessary to face the changes required in Bolivia. The general agreement between MAS and the other opposition parties stated that the new Bolivian Constitution should be approved by 2/3 of the constitutional assembly representatives. More than 50% of this assembly elected members represent MAS, but MAS by itself cannot achieve the 2/3 fraction necessary to approve the Bolivian Constitution. MAS representatives are now trying to change the 2/3 guideline to a simple majority, or some kind of mixed proposal depending on the stage of analysis. This position is being opposed by non MAS representatives. Against MAS imposition attempts, representatives of opposition parties declared themselves in hunger strike, and were followed by groups of people around Bolivia. This action was not enough to change MAS mind. As a result, after six months and resting other six months of the total expected duration, the constitutional assembly is gridlocked and very few advances has been made. It is notorious the subordination of MAS representatives to the central government. National media and public opinion in general have criticized that basic agreements between constitutional assembly representatives were later unauthorized by the Vice-president Alvaro Garcia or Evo Morales himself.

Even though Morales administration obliged oil companies to sign new contracts, (former contracts, signed mainly by Gonzalo Sanchez were catalogued as illegal by Morales administration because not having being approved by the congress) it is not clear how much of benefits to Bolivia after these new agreements come from high international oil prices. However, investment in new reserves exploration dropped almost to zero and in the long range, new contracts may not benefit Bolivia. What is clear is that the announcement of the decree of the so called Bolivian gas nationalization, with military policemen taking over refineries, clearly had the intention of showing the governmental position and demonstration of power towards Bolivian population.

Favorable import – export balance to Bolivia can also be explained (about 50%) by an increase in exports of soy bean, minerals and manufactured products due to Asian countries booming economies. Morales government did nothing and just received the political benefits of private initiative and foreign economical conditions. Bolivian figures, although showing positive figures notoriously lag the growth showed by other countries in the region, countries where their governments have really taken actions favoring local economic activities.

Few months after Morales took over the government, social unrest resumed in the country and cities. In the country it was caused by local demands and in the cities by teachers and workers unions.

MAS position has been to cope all executive positions in local and national public institutions. The few local elected authorities in the western country side who do not represent the MAS have been subject of riots and menaces claiming resignation by the so called social movements whose leaders mostly belong to MAS. Those who resisted social movement pressure, have to face a fierce opposition from this groups.

Situation is different in the eastern side of Bolivia (Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando) and Tarija where MAS representations are minorities. Nevertheless, constant attempts are made by these minorities to destabilize local governments. On the other side, governors and civic institutions have reinforced their support to local autonomies. The national government position is to reject autonomies identifying this idea as secessionist.

More recently La Paz and Cochabamba governors who do not belong to the MAS party are facing force actions to oblige them to resign, or even throw them out of their positions. These actions, even started by the social movements can only be categorized as attempts of coup d´état, at the local level. Central government official position to this anti- democratic position was to expect the developing situation and eventually criticize governor reactions, ordering local police to avoid help the local authority.

In an action against Cochabamba governor Manfred Reyes, the local governmental building was partially burned. because local police, following orders from the minister of government Alicia Muñoz, stopped protecting the building. In this occasion, peasants and coca leave producers from Chapare were brought by Morales union and stayed almost 2 weeks blocking the historic central area of Cochabamba and the main roads connecting the city to La Paz and Santa Cruz. The main declared reason for the actions against the Cochabamba governor was his initial intention to organize a local referendum for autonomy. Manfred Reyes assumed this position after a pro- autonomy public meeting result in Cochabamba, attended by about 100,000 people. Many MAS senators and deputies appeared organizing and giving speeches to the blockaders. Those days, people from the city were harassed apparently just by their appearance, worse if white or eastern speaking accented. As a result, people from the affluent neighborhoods of the city self organized and confronted the peasants and coca leave producers. Face to face fights in streets with stones and sticks near the historic central area resulted in 2 death casualties and 100 injured. Riots ended with the intervention of the army because police had already been over passed. The social movement tried later to design new authorities and summoned an extended popular meeting (cabildo). By then, central government noticed that the situation was completely out of control, and apparently ordered MAS leaders to stop the madness, and leave. The cabildo dispersed and a few minority composed by left extremists appointed a new popular governor. Afterwards the government had to recognize Manfred Reyes as the local governor and proposed instead a new legal figure to organize a referendum to revoke elected authorities.

Almost at the same time, La Paz governor has also been subject of intimidations to resign, mainly because of his declared support to Manfred Reyes in Cochabamba.

Asked whether the government promoted these movements, the central government headed by MAS always denied that version. It is clear, however the aim of MAS for coping all national and local institutions.

Central government discourse explaining Cochabamba street fights have never showed impartiality. According to declarations of Vice President Alvaro García, affluent neighborhood people reaction was instigated by people brought from San Cruz by Manfred Reyes. We know and government knows this is not true but it stirred even more the spirits of confrontation. Government position has been only to investigate one of the two death casualties, a peasant who died victim of a gun shot, the other being a 16 year old youngster in the rows of the self organized reaction against peasant occupation of the city who appeared dead hanged. Nobody can now deny that people from Cochabamba is more divided than before. Alicia Muñoz, minister of government has not been questioned so far for its responsibility of the developing situation in Cochabamba.

Almost at the same time, La Paz governor has also been subject of intimidations to resign, mainly because of his declared support to Manfred Reyes in Cochabamba. By the time of writing this article the official government position was that the situation in La Paz was different from what happened in Cochabamba, and by this reason the government had no intention to intervene, although shared the critics of the El Alto social movements against La Paz governor.

Ironically when street fights were developing in Cochabamba, Evo Morales was abroad in the taking up ceremony of a foreign president and listening how peasants from another Andean country promoted him as candidate to the Peace Nobel Price. As Bolivian president and leader of the coca leave producers union, he did nothing to avoid the confrontation or peace the scenario in Cochabamba and preferred instead to leave the country. I wonder what kind of peace award can they talk about for Mr. Evo Morales.


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