from Weekly News Update on the Americas
In the early hours of Sept. 1, a fight broke out in Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly in the Gran Mariscal theater in the city of Sucre. The Assembly was elected on July 2 and inaugurated on Aug. 6 to write Bolivia’s new Constitution. Witnesses say Assembly member Ignacio Mendoza, the body’s secretary, was reading proposed internal debate rules when Assembly member Gamal Serhan of the right-wing Democratic and Social Power (Podemos) party planted himself in front of Mendoza and tried to block him from continuing. Assembly members from the ruling left-wing Movement to Socialism (MAS) tried to pull Serhan away, and more Podemos delegates jumped into the fray. A shoving match ensued, and Roman Loayza, leader of the MAS bloc in the Assembly, fell from the stage and suffered a severe head injury. Loayza, longtime leader of the Only Union Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB), was treated at a nearby hospital in Sucre, and later transported to a hospital in Santa Cruz, where as of Sept. 3 his condition had improved slightly but was still considered critical. (Argenpress, Sept. 1 from Agencia Boliviana de Informacion; El Mundo, Santa Cruz, Sept. 3)
The proposed internal rules that sparked the controversy allow assembly decisions to be adopted by simple majority. The rules were approved on Sept. 1 by a vote of 139-1 with 10 abstentions after most of the opposition stormed out of the session. The MAS holds a simple majority in the 255-seat Assembly, but less than two thirds. The rules must still be ratified in a second vote. The rules require the final Constitution to be approved by a two-thirds vote, as laid out in the law convening the Assembly, but also provide that if in three votes the Constitution is not approved, it is to be put to a popular referendum. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 2; EconoticiasBolivia, Sept. 1)
A series of strikes and protests swept Bolivia during the week of Aug. 28. On Aug. 29, President Evo Morales Ayma managed to negotiate an agreement with bus drivers, putting an early end to a 48-hour transport strike that shut down the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Sucre that day. On Aug. 30, Morales tried to defuse a protest by the Civic Committee of Chuquisaca department, where protesters shut down the Sucre airport and civic leaders began a hunger strike on Aug. 29. Morales responded to their demands with decrees to build a new airport in Sucre and provide potable water for campesinos in the department’s rural areas.
Alfredo Rada, Vice Minister of Coordination with Social Movements, said an agreement was signed to appease residents of border towns in southern Tarija department, whose protests were supported with an Aug. 29-30 civic strike by the Tarija Civic Committee. Since Aug. 24, residents of San Jose de Pocitos and Yacuiba had been protesting the Argentine government’s restrictions on small-scale merchants who transport goods across the border. On Aug. 29, the demonstrators forced workers on the Transredes gas pipeline, owned by an affiliate of the British companies Shell and Ashmore, to shut down the pumping of gas to Argentina. Police and soldiers intervened and got the pumps running again 12 hours later.
The combative urban teachers’ union began a 48-hour strike on Aug. 29 in the cities of La Paz and El Alto; teachers in Santa Cruz joined the strike on its second day, Aug. 30. The teachers are demanding better wages, a new congress on education and the removal of Education Minister Felix Patzi. In a counter-protest against the teachers’ strike, the Federation of Parents of El Alto organized a march of thousands of people from El Alto to the government’s headquarters in La Paz.
Workers at the National Health Department (CNS) held a three-day strike Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 to protest the agency’s restructuring and demand the rehiring of three former union members fired for alleged corruption. (La Jornada, Aug. 30, 31; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Aug. 31)
As of Aug. 30, members of the Assembly of the Guarani People (AGP) continued to occupy a gas pipeline station of the Transierra company in Santa Cruz department, and were threatening to take over two more facilities. (LJ, Aug. 30)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 3
Weekly News Update on the Americas
WW4 REPORT #125, September 2006
“Bolivia: Evo caught between opposing hardliners” WW4 REPORT, Sept. 26
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution