"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A lesson in not taking it anymore

The 'poor' will not accept being suppressed forever.

'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'

"For four weeks, indigenous activists, miners, laborers, students and farmers have staged almost daily demonstrations, shutting down much of the country, and cutting off all routes into the Bolivian capital of La Paz. Miners set off dynamite blasts in the city´s center, as the armed forces used tear gas to keep protesters away from the Government Palace. On Thursday, the police announced that 138 roadblocks had been erected around the country, and the first life was taken, that of 52 year-old mine cooperative leader Carlos Coro Mayta.

Numbering more than 100,000 people in La Paz alone, the demonstrators have been demanding that natural resources be returned to public ownership and that a new constitution be drafted through a process of national dialogue.

"We want our oil and gas nationalized, so that our children can have them one day," demanded Japth Mamani Yanolico, a young indigenous leader from the Omasuyos Province near Lake Titicaca at a mass rally on Tuesday. "And we want a Constituent Assembly."

Many of the protestors come from the high mountain plain known as the Altiplano, while a large number live in El Alto, a radicalized shanty town of 500,000 that sits above La Paz. Accusing the nation's leaders of selling out the country's oil and gas wealth to international corporations, demonstrators also point their fingers at the International Monetary Fund, which has pressured Bolivia since 1985 to adopt economic reforms that have disadvantaged the nation's poor.


"This is a political crisis, because right now the government doesn´t represent the interests of the citizens," said Llorenti, "...an economic crisis because the policies of structural adjustment and the processes of privatization have not resolved the situation of poverty, discrimination and social exclusion for Bolivians, and a social crisis because Bolivians now are in a much more vulnerable state in social terms than they were ten years ago."

The economic instability borne of free market reforms has spurred frequent demonstrations over water and gas privatization and social exclusion of the indigenous majority. In 2003, unrest culminated in a bloodbath in which as many as 80 demonstrators were killed, leading to President Mesa’s predecessor Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada’s untimely departure from office. However, in the current crisis, the military had shown considerable restraint, until the death of Coro Mayta."