Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Bolivia: Dynamite and Tear Gas

Protesters threw dynamite at police in the isolated Bolivian capital of La Paz and the police responded with tear gas, according to the latest report from the BBC.

Offer fails to end Bolivia crisis
Anti-government demonstrators have fought running battles with police in Bolivia's main city, La Paz, despite the president's offer to resign.

Indigenous peasant farmers and labour activists played cat and mouse with the security forces, trading dynamite charges with police firing tear gas.

La Paz is cut off from the rest of the country as protesters demand energy nationalisation and political reforms.
[T]he protestors ... have grown more violent and the place now feels like it is a city at war, our correspondent says.

Throughout Tuesday, poor Indian peasant farmers, miners and trades union members clashed with the police.

When they hurled deafening charges of dynamite, riot police responded with tear gas, forcing demonstrators and unlucky civilians to scurry for cover.

The road blockades across Bolivia are strangling the country, with access to many of its neighbours now impossible.
That's just a glimpse; there are more details in the BBC's story, which you can read here.

The AP's current story on Bolivia contains many more details, as you can see from the following excerpts:

Violent Uprising Persists in Bolivia
LA PAZ, Bolivia - Violent street protests choked off Bolivia's crippled capital on Tuesday, as the collapse of President Carlos Mesa's government failed to quell demands by the poor Indian majority for more power from the white elite that has ruled the country for decades.

Riot police firing arcing tear gas canisters sent thousands of demonstrators fleeing down the cobblestoned streets of La Paz's old colonial center.

Miners, who joined protesting Indians, farmers and laborers, responded by blasting dynamite sticks that sent pigeons fluttering. Ambulances sped away with victims and a major public hospital said it receive 12 victims. Most were felled by tear gas and rubber bullets, but the hospital said one miner lost a hand in a dynamite explosion.

A group of helmeted officers dragged miners roughly from the yellow dump trucks they had used to converge on the city, beating some of the protesters as others regrouped amid the biting tear gas.
Further excerpts from the same AP article may interest you:
[President Carlos] Mesa [who offered his resignation yesterday] went on national television late Tuesday to urge lawmakers to quickly call early national elections, saying it was the only solution to the crisis.

"Let's put an end to this craziness," said Mesa. "The only way to avoid further violence is to hold elections right away."

Congress could call new elections if it accepts the resignation. Such a vote would raise the prospect of Bolivia becoming the seventh Latin American country to move to a leftist government suspicious of U.S. intentions in the region.
Washington has watched with concern for its free-market agenda, which has failed to ease the grinding poverty that affects 64 percent of Bolivians. Per-capita gross domestic product, at $2,600, is among the lowest in the hemisphere.

The poverty has fueled anger at the U.S.-driven globalization movement. A recent tax increase touched off demands for the nationalization of the oil industry and for a new constitution giving more clout to Indians, who represent more than half the population.
The collapse of Mesa's government highlights the growing instability of the Andean region. It follows by just weeks the ouster of Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez in the midst of massive street protests.

In Peru, President Alejandro Toledo, whose popularity ratings have been in the single digits for more than a year, survived an attempt in Congress last month to declare the presidency vacant after a congressional report accused Toledo of helping forge party registration rolls.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez reacted angrily to suggestions by U.S. officials that Chavez was somehow involved in the Bolivian protests, saying: "No, categorically no."

He and other leaders gathered in Florida for a meeting of the Organization of American States said they were ready to "provide all cooperation" to Bolivia but have no plans to intervene.

"The OAS never intervenes in a country. We're going to see how we can help," OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said.
What a tangled web! See this post for more on the embattled OAS and the endangered idea that it "never intervenes in a country".

Your lowly and nearly frozen blogger pleads "guilty" for not having reported very much [or at all] on the very interesting situations in Peru and Ecuador. (Regarding Ecuador, at least we've been reading Greg Palast, here and here). But those who would like more background on the Bolivian situation can find it here, here, here, here and here.