Bolivian struggles to maintain democracy as Morales declares hunger strike

An article in the Cuban press, Granma, under the heading Reflections of Fidel, has pointed to the ongoing struggles in Bolivia. As was the case in Venezuela, the Bolivian media is still controlled by forces opposing the government of Evo Morales and their representatives in parliament are blocking continuing reforms and it seems elections due later this year. Morales has gone on hunger strike in protest at their actions.
Bolivia has introduced health care for all its people in a very short space of time and moved to put an end to illiteracy for the many indigenous people who have suffered centuries of oppression under colonial rule.

“From the Government Palace, President Evo Morales, the National Coordinating Committee for Change and the Bolivian Workers’ Central Organization have declared themselves on hunger strike, demanding respect for the Constitution and the Electoral Transition Law, delayed for months in order to sabotage the elections.
Evo Morales declared the following:
“As Compañeros from the country’s various social organizations, faced with the negligence of a group of neoliberal parliamentarians, we are obliged to defend the people’s mandate.
“The parliamentarians knew that the Electoral Transition Law had to be approved within 60 days.
“However, they do not want a law passed that will guarantee the implementation of the Constitution.
“To ask for a new register is simply to say that there are no national elections for the end of this year, nor prefectural and municipal elections next year.
“For that reason, I reiterate, this effort by trade union leaders and the principal authorities at the head of COB and CONALCAM, for the defense of the sacred vote of the people.
“In a press conference I explained how the proposal of certain senators stated that the register for Bolivians living abroad must be approved by two-thirds in Congress, when they know that that two-thirds will not be attained.
“The current constitution does not state that either.
“Bolivians resident abroad also have the right to decide their country’s future and who the authorities in their homeland will be.
“It is the defense of the vote.
“Last year they came from Argentina asking for that right to be approved in the Senate, but it was not approved.
“Likewise, when they were talking about population density in order to guarantee special constituencies, basically it is so that these will not exist.
“So this effort is also in defense of the special constituencies of the indigenous movement.
“We have also heard that certain press media are saying that the government, that the president is closing Congress.
“Let’s not talk about a siege, but rather let us make an appeal for the law to be approved.
“We have invoked this measure to defend democracy.
“The anti-democrats of before now believe themselves to be great defenders of democracy.
“Here are the compañeros who have given their lives and their time for true democracy.
“It is for that reason, so as to assume a real democracy, that regulations are passed in the National Congress.
“In Congress, parliamentarians have one of the best opportunities to guarantee democracy and also profound transformations in the structural context.
“I ask the opposition parliamentarians, let us make history together, all of us.
“One has to think about equality and the social solutions that the people want; there must be no egotism, sectarianism here.
“The people must come first, the homeland first and then sectorial or regional interests.
“My salutes, truthfully, to us jointly assuming the defense of democracy, of the people’s vote, of the overseas vote and other demands of a structural nature through the effort of a hunger strike.
“Thank you very much.”
He ended his words with this call.
Throughout the day we shall be finding out how events develop.
At 14:25 I spoke with Rafael Dausá, our ambassador in La Paz. I learned of the news in that way.
Evo well, animated and serene. Only drinking water. He is accompanied in the Presidential Palace by leaders of the Bolivian Workers’ Central Organization and campesino leaders from the National Coordinating Committee for Change. García Linera, as vice president of Bolivia, is presiding over Congress. Talks with the oligarchic opposition are underway in a commission. One highly debated question is the number of indigenous leaders in Evo’s proposal on the representation of those communities, following the approved Constitution, without setting figures. Evo is proposing 14, the opposition is only accepting three. I sent greetings to Evo. No acts of violence had been reported up until that time.
At 16:01 I talked with Dausá again. He had passed on my greetings to Evo, who was planning to visit Cuba on April 9. He said he looked absolutely serene. He was playing chess with his compañeros. People are joining the hunger strike; this has extended to El Alto, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, La Paz and other cities. Popular organizations are constantly calling him to offer their support. The House of Deputies is overwhelmingly supporting him. In that sector of Congress, the advantage is in excess of the two-thirds required. The problem is in the Senate, where the oligarchy is in the majority.
Approval of the Electoral Transition Law required a majority in each House, thus it is easy to block its passing in Congress. However, Evo does have one legal recourse. Among his constitutional faculties he has the possibility of a Supreme Decree to pass the law under discussion. Moreover, in that case, he can dissolve Congress and convene parliamentary elections, but he does not wish to do that in his desire to preserve the country’s unity. That is why he is constantly inviting the opposition to share in efforts to develop the same to the benefit of all sectors of the nation. His honesty and democratic spirit are internationally recognized.
A few minutes ago I was listening to the debate in Congress. The hatred and insolence of the leaders of the oligarchy are incredible. They are trained in insults and personal offenses. They are incensed by Evo, the first indigenous person in the modern history of our America to govern a country and who is, furthermore, of ancestrally indigenous customs.
The disputed law has just been passed in the House by 100 votes in favor and 30 against. The debate is taking place in La Paz, in the due chamber of the legislative building located a few meters from the Government Palace.
At 18:40 I briefly communicated with Dausá again. He told me that representatives of the popular organizations are arriving in Murillo Plaza facing the Palace. He also commented on the insolence of the arguments, although he says that not all the oligarchy deputies are so gross, some of them behave correctly. Negotiations are also continuing and a decision will possibly be reached late in the night.
I am listening to the Senate debate which is just beginning, via the television.
The broadcast ended at 19:20, when an opposition senator asked for the meeting to be suspended in order to negotiate, joined by other senators. More than two hours later it had not yet resumed.
At 20:41 I called Dausá. Evo, well, constantly communicating with his cadres by cell phone. People are still arriving at Murillo Plaza, our ambassador knows that negotiations are advancing, but the opposition is asking for people to leave the Plaza and for Evo to end his hunger strike. Both things would be difficult to achieve. Dausá believes that an agreement could be reached by the end of the night. I promised to call him again.
I called Dausá twice more, at 22:20 and at 22:49.
The first call coincided with the words of García Linera explaining the situation at that moment. The impasse in Congress continues. He explained the advances during the day at the negotiations table. He lamented the intransigence of the senatorial minority. They are still demanding that Evo ends his hunger strike and that people are dislodged from Murillo Plaza. There is now no possibility that an agreement can be reached this Thursday. Perhaps on Friday morning, but that is not certain. Evo well and calm. His attitude remains invariable. In the second call he ratified the former after making some contacts that were pending.
It is now 12 midnight and there is no agreement. The opposition has left Parliament. I have to give this material to CubaDebate so that it can be published in time in our press. This is not a Classic baseball game, but in spite of that one has to go to bed very late. I do not harbor the least doubt that Evo will emerge victorious.”
Source Granma 13/4/2009

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