Friday, June 10, 2005

Bolivia Has A New President

New Bolivian president sworn in
Former supreme court head Eduardo Rodriguez has been sworn in as Bolivia's new president, after Congress convened to accept Carlos Mesa's resignation, amid violent street protests that claimed one life.

Rodriguez was sworn in on Thursday by head of Congress Hormando Vaca Diez, who himself declined to assume the country's presidency.

In his inauguration speech, shortly after midnight, Rodriguez made his commitment to a new vote: "One of my functions will be to convene the electoral process to renew the representatives of the people."

He did not set a date for the polls, but the constitution stipulates that under such circumstances, new elections must be held within the next six months.
I've been quoting BBC on Bolivia recently, but considering how heavily I have raided the BBC archives on behalf of Ethiopia, and in view of my reputation for good diplomatic skills, it seemed prudent to look at Bolivia from an AlJazeerian viewpoint, at least for a while.

Bolivia has been in the news previously at Aljazeera:

Bolivian protester shot dead
Bolivian troops have shot and killed a miner after protesters swept into the city to demand the nationalisation of the country's natural gas resources.

Soldiers fired on a bus with miners heading to demonstrations in Sucre on Thursday, Interior Minister Saul Lara told reporters. Two more miners were wounded, Lara added.

The death was the first in nearly four weeks of protests by an impoverished indigenous Indian majority that have triggered the worst turmoil in Carlos Mesa's 19 months in government.

Police also fired tear gas at peasants and students who set off sticks of dynamite and fireworks in the streets to protest against Mesa's possible replacement, Senate President Hormando Vaca Diez.
Look at that! A possible vice-presidential replacement, stymied by fireworks and dynamite! Now there's something you don't see every day!!

Bolivian president offers to quit
Bolivia's Congress is expected to decide who should succeed President Carlos Mesa after he announced he was stepping down amid angry protests demanding nationalisation of the country's gas industry.

"It is my responsibility to say that this is as far as I can go," Mesa said on national television late on Monday, holding back tears.

"For that reason my decision is to offer my resignation from my post as president of the republic," he added, asking protesters to allow Congress to debate his successor.

"The solution to our problems must be based on the interests of all," he said.
Wow! Did you catch that? "The solution to our problems must be based on the interests of all." Good one! I haven't heard anything like that for a long time!

Bolivian protesters clash with police
Bolivian riot police in the capital La Paz have fired tear gas to repel dynamite-throwing protesters demanding nationalisation of the energy sector.

Despite President Carlos Mesa's guarantee of safety for a key session of Congress later on Tuesday, only a quarter of the country's lawmakers ventured into the city's narrow colonial streets and past heavily guarded police barriers.

The main opposition and indigenous leader Evo Morales tried to strike a note of harmony in Congress by saying he "hoped it will be a historical session to unite Bolivia".

But outside, protesters from the indigenous city of El Alto, many of them university students, launched dynamite at police with slingshots. In the rarefied air of the world's highest capital, protesters and office workers scurried to escape clouds of tear gas.
"The World's Highest Capital" takes on extra meaning, as all four or five of my regular readers already know.

And of course the inevitable profile.

Country profile: Bolivia
With a history of nearly 200 coups and counter-coups since its independence from Spain in 1825, Bolivia has been left a legacy of deep-seated poverty, social unrest and corruption along with an underground illegal drug economy.

Bolivia is landlocked between Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Chile in central South America. The west of Bolivia is situated in the Andes mountain range and the majority of the population live in the centre of the country on a highland plateau.