maandag, juli 19, 2004

It's a gas in Bolivia

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bolivians vote on gas export plan

The announced general strike in Bolivia against the gas referendum has fizzled out, according to the BBC.

Last October, Bolivian miners, peasants and indigenous people mounted a successful civil strike over the planned export of natural gas. President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was ultimately forced to flee by helicopter and was replaced by former TV celebrity Carlos Mesa. The issue itself was just the latest flashpoint for anger in South America's poorest country, which had seen mass protests - also successful - against the privatisation of the country's water in 2000. Despite the clear opposition to the export of the gas expressed by the protests, the government has now organised a referendum on the issue.

Mesa has followed something of a similar path to Nestor Kirchner in Argentina in offering minimal reforms and opening up the government to elements of the opposition, including Evo Morales, the leader of the cocaleros - the coca plant growers - attempting to walk a fine line between popular pressure and the international financial institutions and investors. Morales, along with the Federation of Unions of El Alto (the suburb of capital La Paz, which was the locus of much of the protest last autumn) have offered their support to the referendum. In the meantime, the Congrees of Federations of Neighbourhood Juntas (FEJUVE) (the popular committees involved in organising the October rebellion) and other sections of the opposition had organised a three day general strike and boycott of the referendum, furious that they should be asked again whether they wish the gas to be exported when they plainly gave their opinion on the matter last fall.

The response from Morales and co: "Those who want to burn the ballot boxes will be burned."

More on the latest from the land of Lake Titicaca from the comrades on MarxMail.