Bolivian military threatens military intervention after new President is named
Late Thursday Bolivia named its new President after two leading
political figures turned down the post. The new President, high court chief
Eduardo Rodriguez, came to the position when previous President Mesa was forced
to resign amidst massive protests (see
previous report) Mesa himself had only come to power in 2003 after the
previous President had been ousted by mass protests.
Earlier in the day there was massive civil disobedience as
peasant farmers, teachers, indigenous women and miners in hard hats clashed with riot police outside
government buildings. This week has seen tremendous mobilisations and action on
the part of Bolivia's poorest workers and others. The air of La Paz has been
thick with tear gas and smoke belching from burning tyres. Demonstrations,
looting and road blockades have begun to spread across the country. Several oil
field installations have also been occupied.
of these protests had focused on ensuring that Vaca Diez,
who was formally next in line for the Presidency did not take up this position.
Diaz is aligned with the pro-American business and energy industry elite and,
understandalby, very unpopular among the population, polls indicating that only
16% of the country's population could support him. In fact all of the airports
closed as employees went on hunger strike against the possibility
of Diez taking the Presidency.
The military has again threatened to intervene against
protesters, but interestingly the head of the armed forces also called upon the
government to "respect the will of the people." Despite this
reassuring statement a miners' leader was shot dead on his way to the protests
as his truck approached a group of soldiers. Unfortunately, much of the Western
press seem to be reporting the death as a response to the 'demonstrations
These actions make a mockery of all the calls that protests
should take place peacefully and democratically. It is the state forces that are
doing the shooting and cracking of heads, and without their ferocious attempts
to defend the crumbling regime there would be no violence and democracy would
triumph. As the government looks more and more powerless in Bolivia there appear
to be only two sources of power the protesters and the army, in these
circumstances it is even more imperative that it is the protesters' call for
democracy and redistribution of wealth that win through.
The protesters are calling for a 'caretaker government' to call
new elections as soon as possible. CNN reports one protester,
Segundo Oviedo, a 45-year-old
farmer from Cochabamba wearing a tattered farm cap, who said the poor were fed
up after decades of rule by members of the country's elite failed to improve