Negotiation is the only option in dealing with Santa Cruz de la Sierra’s claims to autonomy
Bolivia never ceases to amaze. More than once in its history, when it seemed that Bolivia was on the edge of disaster, it has done an unexpected about face away from violent conflict. Is this what is occurring today?
(From Santiago, Chile) BOLIVIA NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE. More than once in its history, when it seemed that Bolivia was on the edge of disaster, it has done an unexpected about face away from violent conflict. Is this what is occurring today?
“It is possible that Bolivia may not follow through with one of the reasons for which it was determined to go to the people: that the dispute might be resolved peacefully” It is impossible to say for sure. All that is certain is that the two alternatives are still diplomacy or conflict. Drawing popular attention, immediately after Santa Cruz approved its May 4th referendum for independence by an overwhelming majority, the senate decided to order a recall referendum of the management of President Morales and the departmental prefects.
Instead of vetoing the initiative like he could have, Evo Morales accepted it. Now Bolivia is moving towards a decision with the knowledge that it is not something that can be solved by one more vote. They know that the authorities that are subject to the popular will must obtain at least the same percentage and/or number of votes that they received when elected.
A WIDESPREAD CONFLICT OF TWO OPPOSITE VISIONS
“Two Bolivias are set face to face: one with a globalizing trend, composed mostly of white people from the jungle region, (Santa Cruz), and the other being anti-globalizing and composed of indigenous people from the mountain region (La Paz)” The big question is whether Bolivia will resolve its problems democratically, especially if today’s track record indicates that the warring parties (the president as well as those in control in Santa Cruz) should be reelected.
In other words, it is possible that Bolivia may not follow through with one of the reasons for which it was determined to turn to the people – that the dispute might be resolved peacefully.
The reason for this is twofold: In the first place, the conflict in Bolivia is not only political and judicial, but also economic, territorial, ethnic, and social. That is to say: this social crisis is pervasive and general. Secondly, at the root of everything is a widespread fracture that consists of two totally opposed visions and two very different Bolivias. Two different Bolivias face a widespread conflict: One with a globalizing and Europeanizing trend, composed mostly of white people from the jungle region, (based In Santa Cruz), and the other being anti-globalizing in nature and composed of indigenous people from the mountain region (based in La Paz). “The alternatives are the same: conflict or negotiation”
The alternatives are the same as they have always been: conflict or negotiation. Santa Cruz has made some progress in its project to approve a regional legislative assembly, transforming its prefect into a governor, and granting itself jurisdiction in areas that were once in the hands of the central power.
THE MAJOR CHALLENGE TO THE COUNTRY’S UNITY
“The constitution, which was going to be decided upon by the referendum, was approved by Morales in a military compound without the opposition and without following the established laws”This is a situation in which both sides have arguments that make legal sense. The supporters of Evo Mendes have a point in the sense that the Santa Cruz plan has no constitutional support and has also not been validated either by the constitution or by the electoral courts.
But the leaders from Santa Cruz also have a point in two ways: first, the referendum that took place was based on a legal precedent set on July 2, 2006 which was shelved by Morales; secondly, the constitution, which was going to be decided upon by the referendum, was approved by Morales in a military compound without the participation of the opposition and without following the established laws which say that every bill needs a two thirds majority to pass
“The autonomist claims are aimed at a structural reform of the Bolivian state” For this reason, Bolivia´s problem is not juridical. This situation is the expression of a core crisis and represents the most fundamental challenge to the unity of the country.
The first stage, that of conflict, inevitably leads to a budding autonomy and later – a fight for true independence. The second, that of negotiation, leads to real recognition of the opposition on the part of the government of Evo Morales.
A SPLIT WITH REPERCUSSIONS FOR THE REGION
“If the tension escalates from autonomy to an independence movement, the armed forces will become decisive” The negotiation process is undoubtedly what most benefits Bolivia, although both sides have the potential to radicalize the process. In any case, the claim of autonomy naturally points to structural reform for the Bolivian state that is at least as sweeping as the one proposed by Evo Morales, although obviously in a totally different way. The issue is not trivial since what is being discussed, among other things, is whether the authority over the surplus of natural resources, from land to gas, rests with the national state or the departmental government.
“A division of Bolivia is a matter of legitimate concern for the national security of many countries in the region. What occurs in Bolivia is of interest to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, and Chile” Now, if the tension grows and escalates from autonomy to an independence movement, the armed forces will become decisive. The question is whether they will act in unity or reproduce the divisions of Bolivian society. Statements from the senior commanders suggest that the common belief is that they will maintain their unity, but there is no doubt that the regions have the ability to create their own military forces.
If there is a situation like this, because of its location in the heart of South America, a division of Bolivia is a matter of legitimate concern for the national security of many countries in the region. What occurs in Bolivia is of interest to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, and Chile, and their response will depend on how Venezuela intervenes, which could in turn prompt US participation.
A HISTORIC DIVISION
“This is a crucial period in the history of Bolivia, where the ideal scenario would be if Governor Evo Morales opened negotiations to avoid the outbreak of a conflict of substantial proportions” My own opinion is that a time to wait has begun. This is an intermediate period, and a time for autonomy supporters to wait for the results of the votes in Beni, Pando, and Tarija while the government of Evo Morales must look toward a more sweeping referendum, that of the reform of the entire constitution. As for now, both should await the outcome of the recent recall referendum.
In other words, this is a crucial period in the history of Bolivia, where the ideal scenario would be if Governor Evo Morales opened negotiations to avoid the outbreak of a conflict of substantial proportions.
However, either way, all that remains to do now is to wait. None of the elections can resolve the underlying issues, that is, the territorial and ethnic divisions that are the most important issues for the country.