The Bolivian Earthquake Continues

At this point in the day, the Bolivian state reminds me of the city where I was born: on September 19, 1985, Mexico City awoke to an enormous jolt. It was 7:19 am. A reporter was on his way to work on the city’s main avenue, and was able to report on the visual effect of the earthquake, which lasted 43 endless seconds. When it all seemed to have passed, the reporter saw an enormous building fall just a few meters away, so fast that all one could hear was a sob from his microphone, then one horrified phrase: “It fell as if it were made of cardboard.” Then he kept crying.

In the same way, the government in this country seems like a city shaken by an earthquake… and the Bolivian political class seems, to this reporter, frightened and incapable of doing anything to stop this phenomenon that surges from below, from the heart of the earth… In La Paz, kind readers, the mobilizations have returned. The number of marchers grew a bit compared to yesterday (today there were several thousand small merchants and farmers in the streets). The scarcity of supplies and the social tension kept growing, bringing all activities to a halt. Perhaps most importantly, the Miyuni water treatment plant is out of lime. Without more of this material, the potable water will run out in Bolivia’s political center by Sunday.

In El Alto the strike continues, impeding the distribution of gasoline and of gas tanks for the home. The president of the Federation of Neighborhood Committees of El Alto, Abel Mamani, said just minutes ago that the Aymara city will not let up this pressure, because “the congressmen don’t listen to what the people ask for.” Mamni said he hoped the social movements’ demands would be attended to, but he refused any talk of a truce.

Thousands of miners and peasant farmers have now arrived in Sucre. Several groups of demonstrators are one block away from Plaza 25 de Mayo, where the House of Liberty (Congress’ original headquarters before the government was moved to La Paz) is located. But the political parties have so far not reached the agreement needed to meet… Copublisher Jean Friedsky and this reporter doubt that they will pull off a session today. There was a general pre-agreement to begin work by 6 p.m., but it is far from certain whether that will happen.

Hormando Vaca Diez knows that he needs the social movements tired and far away in order to take power.

All the country’s social leaders say the same thing: that Vaca Diez and Mario Cossío (President of the Chamber of Deputies, Bolivia’s lower house of Congress) must go, that new elections must be called. The mayors of the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, Potosí and Sucre, together with the representatives of a few organizations, have begun a hunger strike to demand the same.

The Armed Forces have set their position with respect to the constitution, and asked that a solution to the crisis be found. They now await orders, from whoever ends up as president, to “pacify the country.” On the one hand, this sounds like a threat (both to the social movements and the seditious right wing in Santa Cruz), but on the other, at least as the high military command expressed it, it leaves one thing clear: the military is not with anyone, and will follow orders no matter who is in charge of the government.

Carlos Mesa abandoned the Palace of Government a few minutes ago, after working all morning... and surely did the same thing as the rest of us: he got some food and got ready for whatever comes next, a now another mere bystander after his latest political maneuver.

Stay with us, because the earthquakes’ seconds have not finished ticking by yet in Bolivia. We may, in the end, see the great buildings fall, but we keep walking forward...

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