Bolivia country report


(September 23, 2008) – The dialog that started on September 16 continues with tensions among government officials, the different Prefectos (State Governors) in the presence of international supporters in the city of Cochabamba. This dialog pretends to conclude the agenda between both parties after the oil taxes distribution theme has been already agreed. The main issue is the one referred to in the new constitution adjustments and autonomic states inclusion on it.

After many days of road blockades to Santa Cruz, social movements (campesinos, coca growers, miners) and followers of the governmental socialists party (MAS) are marching towards the city of Santa Cruz. Leaders of these groups explained that they will move on towards Sta. Cruz to make sure the Prefectos of the opposition sign the new proposal, presented yesterday by our President Evo Morales, before leaving to a United Nations meeting in New York, and to have everything cleared for his return on September 25 while letting the constitutional referendum run by October 15.

Morales sympathizers originally announced that if the opposition does not sign the mentioned agreement, they will take over the local government and ask for the governor to resign. Even though they claim that their intentions are peaceful, they carry machetes, sticks and some weapons; the police and people in the city fear that it may come to violent confrontations at some point of encounters between the two rival groups. Women in Sta. Cruz went out into the streets today asking for peace. Later today, the campesinos will hold a general meeting and, attending a request from Evo Morales, they might already announce officially that they are suspending their pressure.

The International exposition Fair in Sta. Cruz (FEXPOCRUZ), opened on September 19, continues its program; a decrease in attendance was felt due to the previous days’ conflicts. Tomorrow, September 24, is Santa Cruz’ anniversary, but due to the road blockades, all official programs have been suspended.

Due to these marches, roads to Santa Cruz are still closed and American Airlines announced today at noon, that it will stop their flights again starting September 26 until October 2. All passengers are rerouted through LIM, SCL & EZE. All other airlines (international and local) continue operating normally.

In La Paz, some other governmental supporters demonstrate peacefully against the release or transferal of the Prefecto of Pando Mr. Leopoldo Fernandez, who has been arrested and has been charged for the violence that occurred in the Pando Region during the confrontations of September 11. It is expected to conclude a final investigation in the coming weeks on this matter, but since Mr. Fernandez is an elected Governor (ratified in the August 10 referendum), the supreme court of Sucre, ordered his transfer to Sucre.

As a protective measurement, we are still avoiding any tourism operation in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando or Tarija. There are no threats in the La Paz – Titicaca region, Sucre, Potosi nor the Salar de Uyuni.