Βολιβια Στα Προθυρα της Εκρηξης...

Aπ τη χθεσινη Γκαρντιαν η Βολιβια ξανα στα προθυρα εκρηξης... Κατα ομολογια του συντακτη η χειροτερη περιοδος τα τελευταια 50 χρονια...

Street protests by poor push Bolivia to the brink President under attack over free-market ideals and exploitation of resources Jo Tuckman in La Paz Tuesday March 15, 2005 The Guardian Scratching her swollen and shoeless feet after digging up her potato field, Roberta Centeño looks exhausted but says she has plenty of energy for the struggle ahead. "We blocked roads before and we will do it again," says the Aymara Indian mother of 12. "It is the only way the government ever listens, they want to just think about the rich." Sitting on the kerb with his family, their feet in sewage, unemployed mechanic Estanislao Mamani says he, too, believes it is the right time to demand more. "We will paralyse the country when the order comes," he says. Ms Centeño lives in a hamlet on Bolivia's vast highland plain, 4,000 metres (13,000ft) above sea level, which also houses the sprawling working-class city of El Alto. From the potato fields to the slums, South America's poorest country is a political time bomb which, analysts say, could explode at any moment. In recent weeks, a wave of street protests by indigenous and labour groups opposing the government's economic policies have almost crippled the country. Trade unions have called a 48-hour strike starting today. Roadblocks of stones and tree trunks have cut off one region in the centre of the country for weeks, with long lines of trucks filled with rotting produce unable to move and reports of shortages in some towns. Meanwhile, the political leaders of Bolivia's poor, primarily indigenous majority are poised to extend the protests nationwide from tomorrow unless the government gives in to their demands. Their central demand is 50% royalty payments on exports of Bolivia's natural gas, which are bought by foreign companies, most notably Petrobras in Brazil, Repsol in Spain and BP. The government and the private sector say this would turn the country into a no-go area for foreign investment. "Fifty per cent is like saying to foreign investors in so many words, don't come here," says Eduardo Bracamonte, head of the national exporters' association. "The image of Bolivia has seriously deteriorated already. The perception of the risk of doing business has gone up enormously and we all suffer because of that." There are other tensions between the people and the government, ranging from pressure to kick out the French water company which is running the services in El Alto to the prices of bus tickets. Today, human rights officials had been expected to bring together the major players to seek a compromise on the royalties issue, but plans for the meeting fell apart when the president, Carlos Mesa, decided not to attend. Last week, the centrist President Mesa seemed to strengthen his chances of bringing the situation under control when his offer to resign was unanimously rejected by parliament. But pressure on the president from the middle and upper classes to crack down on the protests is growing, prompting rumours that he will declare a state of siege. Since Bolivia's revolution of 1952 petered out, the country has suffered bloody dictatorships and corrupt democratic governments interspersed by political turmoil which one analyst, Alvaro Garcia, describes as power struggles between those at the top. What is different now, he says, is that groups representing the poor indigenous majority have begun to challenge the traditional elite, mostly of European origin and US-educated. "This is the most serious crisis in Bolivia for 50 years," says Mr Garcia. "A new excluded group is demanding a seat at the table, and there isn't much room." The world first noted Bolivia's current crisis in October 2003, when President Gonzálo Sánchez de Lozada resigned after protests against gas export policies ended in confrontations that left dozens of people dead. His vice-president, Mr Mesa, took over and cobbled together alliances that allowed him to win a referendum in July 2004 over what to do with the country's wealth of oil and gas. But serious disagreements resurfaced immediately the government revealed its proposal for a new gas law. Other poverty-related conflicts fed into this one, leading to renewed tension. President Mesa's resignation offer was a gamble that paid off in the short term, but it compromised his centrist position and further polarised the situation. Significantly, it pushed Evo Morales, the charismatic leader of the opposition Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), to dig in on his demand that the state gets 50% royalties on gas exports. "The 50% is not negotiable," he told the Guardian. He said the blockades would be extended this week to increase the pressure. The passions over gas in Bolivia go far beyond the undisputed importance of the energy sector to the economy. "First, they took our silver, then they took our tin, they took everything," says Carmelo Colque, standing outside his mud-brick home. "The oil and gas is all we've got left. We Bolivians have woken up, we won't let them have it." Bolivia's radicalisation is part of a Latin America-wide shift to the left, partly prompted by frustration with free-market dictates from the international community. Mr Morales's appeal spans the indigenous movement and the strong tradition of leftist unions in Bolivia. "My struggle is based in my [indigenous] identity, my principles are anti-free market and anti-imperialist," he says. Meanwhile, uncertainty hangs over the country. Ricardo Calla, a leftwing academic and former minister in the Mesa government, believes a state of siege or military coup are unlikely. A negotiated solution is possible, he says, but less so than pressure leading to President Mesa's resignation and perhaps early elections. But, he says, "there have always been crazies who claim that a popular insurrection is just around the corner. Well this time, they might just be right."

από ΡΙΖΟΣΠΑΣΤΗΣ 18/03/2005 10:34 πμ.


ΛΑ ΠΑΣ.- «Προσωρινή ανακωχή» δίνουν στην κυβέρνηση τα συνδικάτα, οι ιθαγενείς αγρότες και τα κόμματα Κίνημα για το Σοσιαλισμό (MAS) και το Κόμμα των Ιθαγενών (MIP), μετά την ψήφιση από το Κογκρέσο της επιβολής φόρων για το φυσικό αέριο στις πολυεθνικές κατά 32%, έναντι του 18% που είχε προτείνει η κυβέρνηση Μέσα. «Είναι μία προσωρινή μέση λύση», δήλωσε ο ηγέτης του MAS, Εβο Μοράλες, που τόνισε, όμως, ότι τίποτα δεν έχει λυθεί αναφορικά με το επίμαχο ζήτημα των υδρογονανθράκων. Ετσι, τα οδοφράγματα και οι αποκλεισμοί δρόμων σταματούν προς το παρόν.

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