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Bolivia: Two Regions, Two Documents

December 15 marked a pivotal day in Bolivia, when two regions celebrated their newly created documents. In the city of La Paz, members of the ruling party Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) formally presented the Constitution that was approved by the Constituent Assembly delegates present in Oruro. The Assembly was moved to that city after an outbreak of street clashes in the original site of Sucre. Opposition delegates were not present for the final votes, which drew an outpouring of criticisms that the new Constitution does not represent the entire country, for its content and for the process in which it was approved.

As a result, individuals and groups in Santa Cruz protest this move through hunger strikes. However, more importantly, a provisional assembly drafted and presented an Autonomic Statute, which outlines the administrative structure of a more autonomous Santa Cruz. Three other departments are in the process of following the steps of Santa Cruz.

Blogger Renzo Colanzi of Mientras Estás Aquí [es] was one of the members on the hunger strike and blogged about his experience He also reflects on an incident that took place near the site where the strikers had congregated. A man had approached the strikes to take pictures, which had been cordoned off with yellow tape by members of a militant youth group, Unión Juvenil Cruceñista (UJC). As a result, members of the UJC chased and beat the man. Colanzi writes about the incident and other incidents of intimidation.

En otro episodio triste mi amiga Maria Escandalo paso por mi carpa un día a la 1:00 am y por lo que me comentaron (estaba durmiendo) al día siguiente los tarados de la UJC las obligaron a borrar las fotos de su cámara. Una noche hablaba al respecto con uno que era supervisor o algo así y me decía mas o menos lo siguiente… “es que a nosotros nos acusan de debilitar el proyecto, de hacer quedar mal a los cruceños pero cuando hay que ponerle el pecho a las balas nos mandan a nosotros…” Me pareció una suplica de simpatía, no le respondí nada, mi posición es clara, la UJC y los Ponchos Rojos me parecen sacados de la misma bolsa.

In another sad episode, my friend Maria Escandalo passed by my tent one day at 1:00 a.m. and from what they told me the next day (I was asleep), the idiots of the UJC made her erase the photos from her camera. One night I was talking to one of their supervisors about the incident and he or more or less told me…”they accuse us of weakening the project, of making the Cruceño (people from the city of Santa Cruz) people look bad, but when they need someone to go to the front lines to face the bullets, then they send us…” It seemed to be a plea for sympathy, but I didn't respond. My position is clear, the UJC and the Ponchos Rojos (militant supporters of the government) are cut from the same cloth.

However, the outpouring of support for those on the hunger strike caught Colanzi's attention. He continues:

Es impresionante la cantidad de gente que venia a dar su apoyo a los huelguistas y regalar palabras de agradecimiento. Gente que nunca vi, amigos, no tan amigos, en fin… un cantidad increíble de gente desfilaba por la plaza 24 de septiembre todas los días, tardes y noches. También es increíble la cantidad de personajes interesantes que uno se encuentra. Muchos generales, estrategas, guerrilleros y un largo etcétera se presentaban con lo que se debía o no hacer para salvar Santa Cruz y el país.

It is impressive to see the amount of people that came by to give their support to the strikers and give them words of thanks. There were people that I have never seen before, friends, acquaintances, and in the end, there were a large amount of people that walked by the plaza 24 de septiembre during the day, evening and nights. It is also incredible to see the amount of interesting people that you see. Many generals, strategists, warriors, etc. who came by to give their opinion on what we should or should not do to save Santa Cruz and the country.

On the other end of the country, Cristina Quisbert of Bolivia Indigena [es] was in the Plaza Murillo to witness the celebration and reflecs back when the sight was not commonly seen:

Inclusive en la decada de los 40 del siglo pasado, el indigena, estaba prohibido de ingresar a la Plaza Murillo, y la gente de la sociedad de entonces manifestaba su descontento cuando algunos indigenas se sentaban en las escalinatas del Palacio Legislativo. La gente de entonces decia que la presencia del indigena constrastaba con la modernidad que, segun esas personas, el pais debia alcanzar. Hoy, desfilaron por el Palacio, delegaciones de multiplicidad de pueblos originarios ataviados de ponchos blancos, rojos, color alpaca, verdes, celestes, etc. Rostros indigenas aymaras, quechuas, guaranies, etc. mostraban la esperanza de constar con una nueva Constitucion en la que por primera vez se toma en cuenta a los discriminados de siempre.

In the 1940s, the indigenous were prohibited from entering the Plaza Murillo and the people from the higher society expressed their discontent when some indigenous would sit in the staircases of the Congress. The people would say that the indigenous presence contrasted with the modernity, according to these people, that the country should strive for. Today, they paraded by the Palace, multiple delegations of indigenous peoples, with their white, red, wool, green and blue ponchos. Aymara, quechua, guaraní faces displayed hope of a new Constitution, which for the first time, takes into account those who have always been discriminated against.

Mario Duran of Palabras Libres [es] was also present on the other side of the country to witness the marches and intent on covering the activities. He posts photos and videos of the march. Since he is not a member of the traditional press, he had a little trouble to gain access.

Un oficial de la policía me detiene cuando trato de ingresar a la Plaza Murillo, en frente mío el palco oficial, el regimiento Escolta Presidencial Colorados, de nada sirven mis explicaciones, empiezo a tomar fotografías… aprovecho un descuido de la seguridad, unos pasos sin mirar atrás y me ubico en una posición inmejorable, rodeado de los medios de prensa oficiales.

Ingresa el presidente de Bolivia, Evo Morales, por la sorpresa reacciono con lentitud y no alcanzo a tomar fotos, otro día será. Rodeado por los ministros, toma asiento en el palco oficial, la multitud lo ovaciona, vivas y jallallas se escuchan, suenan las notas del Himno Nacional de Bolivia, se canta y se escucha “morir antes que esclavos vivir”. Empieza la marcha de los pueblos.

A police offer stops me, when I try to enter the Plaza Murillo and in front of me is the official stage. Even with my explications, the Presidential Guard “Colorados” do not allow me to enter. I begin take photographs. I take advantage of a lapse in security, and after a few steps I do not look back. I couldn't be in a better spot, surrounded by members of the official press.

President Evo Morales enters, and due to the surprise, I was unable to take photographs. Surrounded by his cabinet, he takes a seat on the official stage. The crowd applauds, with cries of “long live”, and the National Hymn of Bolivia begins to play. Everyone sings and you can hear, “prefer to die than to live as slaves” (a line from the anthem). The march of the indigenous peoples begins.

Now comes the holiday season, where both sides appear to enter into a “truce,” but the argument about the validity of the two documents and the course that each takes from here continues. Miguel Centellas of Pronto* writes about this:

Technically, of course, none of the autonomic statutes are “legal” (in the sense that the state empowered people to draft them). Then again, very little of the process by which the CPE was approved was “legal” (in the sense that it followed established procedures set by law), either. So if the measure of validity is “popular” legitimacy (as if a Rousseauian “popular will” can ever be divined), then it’s going to be a very prickly business to determine which is more legitimate—or if they both are

Andrés Pucci has his own opinion on this question [es]:

Este estatuto tiene la misma legalidad que el documento presentado por la Asamblea Constituyente, es decir, ambos están fuera de la ley,

This statute has the same legality as the document presented by the Constituent Assembly, meaning, both are outside the law.

The divisions between the country seem to be increasing, with rhetoric amplified from both sides. Some other bloggers are talking about possibilities for genuine dialog between all involved and the campaign. Ciuadano K [es] writes:

Esta iniciativa de reunir a instituciones, organizaciones y personalidades representativas con el fin de convocar a un diálogo nacional fue asumida por el Defensor del Pueblo, Waldo Albarracín, a causa que el 95 por ciento de los ciudadanos no participa en la pelea que hay entre el gobierno y la oposición y los comités cívicos de cinco departamentos.

This initiative to gather institutions, organizations, and representatives with the aim to convoke a national dialogue was started by the Defensor del Pueblo (public ombudsman), Waldo Albarracín, because 95 percent of the citizens do not participate in the battle between the government and the opposition and the civic committees of the five departments.

Finally, Willy Andres from Santa Cruz tries to maintain an optimistic attitude among this divisive state [es]:

No había visto a Bolivia más separada que ahora y no quiero buscar culpables y tampoco es oportuno hacer debate de todo esto, solo que antes era por encima nada más; ahora el abismo es más grande y nada parece ser suficiente para construir un puente de unión; pero tampoco me animo a decir que no hay oportunidad de unidad nuevamente… solo espero que no sea demasiado tarde.

.

I have not seen Bolivia so divided than it is now and I don't want to look for the guilty parties and it is also not the time to debate all of this. Before it was only at the surface, but not the abyss is large and nothing seems to be sufficient enough to bridge this divide. However, I also don't want to say that there is no more opportunity for unity..I just hope it is not too late.

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