Santa Cruz

Bolivia: Evo Morales resigns amid 'civic coup'

On Nov. 10, Bolivia's besieged president Evo Morales flew from La Paz to the provincial city Chimoré in his traditional heartland of Cochabamba department, where he issued a televised statement announcing his resignation. The statement decried the "civic coup" that had been launched against him, noting more than two weeks of increasingly violent protests since last month's disputed elections. He especially called on Carlos Mesa, his challenger in the race, and Luis Fernando Camacho, the opposition leader in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, not to "maltreat" the Bolivian people, and "stop kicking them." He vowed that the fight is not over, and that "we are going to continue this struggle for equality for peace."

Bolivia: protests as Evo victory contested

Riot police have clashed with protesters in cities across Bolivia as the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced a clear win for incumbent President Evo Morales 24 hours after the Oct. 20 elections, obviating the need for a second round with conservative challenger Carlos Mesa. The announced victory followed a sudden halt in the counting, before which Morales had been falling just short of the percentage needed to avoid the first run-off in his nearly 14 years in power. Crowds set fire to the TSE offices in Sucre and Potosi, and protesters torched ballots in Tarija. Street clashes erupted between Morales and Mesa supporters in La Paz and Santa Cruz. Mesa, of the Comunidad Ciudadana opposition bloc, is charging fraud, saying, "We are confident that the citizenry will not accept these completely distorted and rigged results." (AP, The Guardian, EFE, InfoBae, InfoBaeANF, BoliviaPrensa)

Forest devastation sparks protest in Bolivia

Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in Bolivia's eastern lowland city of Santa Cruz Oct. 4, calling for President Evo Morales to be "punished" at the polls in the upcoming elections later this month. Although the march was called by the city's Comité Cívico, a voice of the right-wing opposition, a key issue was the devastation of the country's eastern forests in the wildfires that have swept across the Amazon Basin over the past months. Comité Cívico leaders accused Morales of failing to respond adequately to the fires. Last month, the Comité held a mass assembly in Santa Cruz, where they declared a state of "national disaster" over the fires. (Reuters, Oct. 5; InfoBae, Oct. 4; InfoBae, Sept. 11)

Amazon forest fires spread to Bolivia

President Evo Morales announced Aug. 21 that Bolivia has contracted a Boeing 747 "Supertanker" to help extinguish huge forest fires in the Amazon have that have spread over the border from Brazil. The giant air-tanker, capable of carrying up to 19,200 gallons (72,680 liters) of water or fire retardant, was flown from California to Viru Viru International Airport in Bolivia's eastern city of Santa Cruz, on lease from the firm Global Supertanker. Morales has also mobilized army helicopters to evacuate affected communites deep in the rainforest. Some 500,000 hectares of forest are now said to be in flames in Bolivia. (Fire Aviation, TeleSur, Folha de S.Paulo, Aug. 22)

Protests over re-election broil Bolivia

Bolivia has seen strikes and protests since the Dec. 4 ruling by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) allowing President Evo Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term in the 2019 election. The ruling was met with marches, road blockades and work stoppages that caused varying degrees of disruption in eight of Bolivia's nine departments. A student mobilization in the hydrocarbon-rich eastern department of Santa Cruz, heart of anti-Morales sentiment, ended in violence, with the regional offices of the electoral tribunal burned to the ground. Hunger strikes were launched in six cities, with at least 20 still ongoing.

Bolivia hosts 'Gas OPEC' summit —amid dissension

The four-day summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) opened Nov. 21 in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra—central hub of the country's hydrocarbon-rich eastern lowlands. President Evo Morales took the opportunity to boast of his "nationalization" of Bolivia's hydrocarbon resources. But the summit comes as member nations are bitterly divided by diplomatic tensions. Established in Iran in 2001, the GECF consists of 12 members: Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United Arab Emirates. An additional seven observer nations are Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Norway, Oman and Peru. The UAE and other Gulf States are currently at odds with Qatar, with diplomatic relations suspended since June.

Bolivia unveils 'anti-imperialist' military school

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Aug. 17 dedicated a new international military academy, which will seek to counter the influence of the US and Pentagon in the developing world. The new academy is based in the city of Santa Cruz in Bolivia's east, and named after the country's former president Juan José Torres. Courses are to include "Theory of Imperialism," "Geopolitics of Natural Resources," and "Bolivian Social Structures."  Said Morales at the inauguration of the new base: "If the empire teaches domination of the world from its military schools, we will learn from this school to free ourselves from imperial oppression. We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements, and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies."

Bolivia: first woman serves as military commander

For the first time in Bolivia's history, a woman assumed the post of chief of the Armed Forces High Command as Gen. Gina Reque Terán was sworn in Dec. 30. In her inaugural speech she vowed: "We will work ardently in the struggle against the narco-traffic and contraband, for the protection of natural resources... We will be forever alert to respond to any natural disaster... We will be prepared for any contingency." President Evo Morales in his own comments noted the military's role in the 2006 nationalization of Bolivia's hydrocarbons, which allowed the country to "liberate" itself economically. He also thanked the armed forces for their support in confronting the secessionist movement in Bolivia's east.

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