Blockades and Breaking Points

Those of us in Cochabamba are in for a fun ride over the next while.

A meeting was recently held in which the leaders of the Opposition movement and Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, were scheduled to discuss solutions and compromises in light of the recent referendums. The opposition leaders attended. Evo did not; Evo sent a low-level flunky in his stead. The opposition closed the session and returned to their respective locations.

Santa Cruz is, essentially, taking the attitude of – “Fine. We can the blockade game, too. You [Evo, et al.] have three days.”

This means, for example, that:

  • The roads from Santa Cruz to the non-opposition departments, including neutral/stuck-in-the-middle Cochabamba, are closed.
  • The borders to Argentina and Brazil from the opposition departments are closed.
  • Gasoline lines from Santa Cruz to the non-opposition departments are closed.

Pragmatically, this affects our family’s life in a couple of ways:

  • Most of the beef in Cochabamba comes from Santa Cruz and Argentina. The grocery stores and butchers are selling just chicken at the moment. Our preferred butcher, which is seemingly ritzier than the others with its nice building and clean environment, but is in fact cheaper than anywhere but La Cancha, is planning to fly the meat in from Santa Cruz. This means that although some beef will be coming in by plane, it will be a) in short supply, and b) much more expensive.
  • Gasoline is being rationed today and tomorrow, after which it will probably not be available at all. Our car is gasoline only. The government is providing free conversions to natural gas, but that will require gutting the car of its A/C, power steering, etc. We’ll wait, thanks.

Politically, Bolivia could be reaching a breaking point. Up until now, the leaders of the opposition have been refusing to make too many ultimatums in preference to a desire for negotiation and, to a certain degree, a willingness to compromise. They’ve sat with the mediating organizations. They’ve kept their autonomy movement limited to politics and words. They agreed to the August referendums. After Evo’s extreme, and frankly silly, rudeness by sending a flunky instead of attending the meeting himself as promised, the opposition have made their ultimatum:

“Agree to our terms, or…”

Public buildings are being stormed. Borders and roads are blockaded. Hey, this sounds familiar – is this not extremely similar to how Evo led MAS in 2003/4 and 2005 in the Gas Wars and the run-up to the presidential election? The difference is that Evo and the Masistas could just sit in the way, cause problems, and have protests. The opposition this time is made of political bodies –  whole political departments. Evo is considering sending in the military… which would cause him to lose all credibility and would escalate the situation even further. News reports are filtering in of people caught inciting violence under the banner of the opposition – but when investigated, they’re members of MAS. Both sides are in on this.

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