Opposition leaders in Bolivia pledge further protests against a new draft constitution, after a one-day strike Nov. 28 closed banks, schools and public transportation in six of Bolivia’s nine departments. The strike was most successful in Santa Cruz, where opposition leader Branko Marinkovic has announced an indefinite hunger strike to protest what he calls the “breakdown in democracy.” President Evo Morales accused: “The strike… is against this process of change, the new economic model, against the nationalization of natural resources. At heart, it’s about defending the neoliberal model that has done so much harm to the country.” The Cuban agency Prensa Latina said the strike was enforced by violent and often drunken mobs who attacked those who defied it, with such scenes reported in Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, and Trinidad (capital of Beni department). In Riberalta, Beni, offices of the ruling Movement towards Socialism (MAS) were destroyed. (BBC, Prensa Latina, Nov. 29)
Beni’s Gov. Ernesto Suárez upped the ante by accusing the Morales government of secretly importing weapons from Venezuela. Charging that planes landing from Venezulea were filled with “heavy boxes” with “unknown contents,” Suárez announced he is closing Beni’s airports to Venezulean flights—and warned of new “clashes” if the central government tries to force his hand.
Morales’ government denied the claims. Spokesman Alex Contreras told EFE that the government “is officially ruling out” the entry of Venezuelan weapons. He branded Suárez’s claims as a “smear campaign” and “demonization” of Venezuela. (El Universal, Venezuela, Nov. 29)
Our last post on Bolivia.
BBC’s annoying geographical error
Contrary to the wording of the BBC report cited above, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Beni are departments, not “provinces.” Provinces are actually sub-divisions of departments, more or less akin to counties. Bolivia has 112 provinces, not nine. (See the “Departments of Bolivia” page at Statoids: Administrative Divisions of Countries)
At least they didn’t refer to the departments as “states”—an even more serious error routinely committed by the gringo media (including, demoralizingly, the New York Times). This isn’t hairsplitting—it is precisely what the conflict is all about. “States” only exist in federal systems, such as the USA. States have their own constitutions, legislatures, courts and police. “Departments” in traditionally centralized systems such as Bolivia’s have none of those things—something the parvenu petro-elites of the country’s Amazon east want to change.