Several thousand marched in the Bolivian capital La Paz on May Day, in a militant display that incessantly shattered the air with hurled firecrackers—and some much louder explosives that might have been dynamite. While the main Workers Central of Bolivia (COB) led at the front of the march, contingents ranged from indigenists to Trotskyists to anarchists, with varying degrees of support for (or dissent from) the left-nationalist Evo Morales government. (World War 4 Report on the scene in La Paz)
The march came this year amid mounting social conflicts across Bolivia—with protesters on both the left and the right launching road blockades, hunger strikes and other direct action.
In Cochabamba, factory workers are on hunger strike in protest of the 5% raise offered by the government. (Erbol, May 3) National police officers are also staging public hunger strikes in a salary dispute with the government—and have been joined in the action by some of their wives. (EFE, May 3)
In Sucre, the 13th national congress of the country’s main campesino organization, the Unitary Sindical Federation of the Peasant Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB), briefly exploded into factional violence April 30, with dissidents accusing the ruling Movement to Socialism (MAS) of trying to seize control of the organization. (La Prensa, La Paz, April 30)
In El Alto, the sprawling working-class city on the plateau above La Paz, local residents have erected barricades on major thoroughfares to demand better services and the creation of a new administrative district for the fast-growing municipality. (La Razon, La Paz, April 30)
In Las Yungas region of La Paz department, campesinos shut down the highway at Caranavi village with roadblocks, paralyzing all traffic for days, to demand the government build a citrus processing plant for their communities. Talks are ongoing, but the blockades remain in place. (Erbol, May 3)
In eastern Santa Cruz department, the “Sin Lote” squatter movement occupied a predio (private collective land-holding) controlled by sugar interests at San Aurelio. On the heels of violent repression of Santa Cruz squatters that sparked outrage several days earlier, this time police did not interfere. (El Deber, Santa Cruz, April 29)
Also in Santa Cruz department, pro-development residents at Puerto Suárez blocked the border with Brazil to demand that the government resolve its dispute withe India’s Jindal Steel and allow the controversial iron mining project at El Mutún to go ahead. (EFE, April 23)
On the right, opposition party supporters held hunger strikes, mock “crucifixions,” and a sustained public protest campaign over the assigning of seats in the new departmental assemblies following April elections, claiming that electoral authorities had unfairly favored MAS in the departments of La Paz, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, Oruro, Potosí and Pando. In La Paz, opposition protesters repeatedly clashed with police, who responded with tear gas. (EFE, May 4, El Diario, La Paz, April 30; La Prensa, April 25)
See our last post on Bolivia.