In La Paz

I was sick to my stomach. A pounding headache confined me to bed most of the afternoon. The cause must have been some combination of the high altitude and what I had seen on TV. Usually Bolivian cable television offers up some pretty good programming without the excess of commercials. However, the images of the repercussions of the general strike in four of the eastern departments put me over the edge. The clashes were no longer citizens vs. police, but rather citizens vs. citizens. Live unedited images showed rock-throwing Bolivians launching projectiles without any idea where they would land. The problem was that you could not really distinguish who was the MAS supporter and who was the “autonomy” supporter. Meanwhile, on the streets of La Paz the effects of this shutdown was hardly felt. Hearing the chants on TV of the anti-government protesters and their racist language really served no purpose, while the claims of the government that the protests were orchestrated by PODEMOS was only half-true. People have been growing frustrated at some of the actions of the government, but are afraid of being lumped into the category of those powerful interests and those that do not want to see the landscape change. Some of the criticism are on target, while others are sweeping bouts of condescension. “My god, how could they let a former domestic worker become minister of justice?” in reference to Casimira Rodriguez’s new post. Later that afternoon in La Paz, I delivered an invitation from my place of employment to the Ministry of Justice. There I met a Vice-Minister, the Chief of Staff and other staff members, who were all very professional and had worked decades in other international organizations. It was obvious that she surrounded herself with top-notch staff, but also I noticed others who were given a chance to contribute. A very pleasant campesina was working as the elevator operator, and another sharply dressed young cholita was working in the main office as a receptionist. The tide has been changing, as thousands of young empleadas, such as the new helper at my aunt’s house now sees someone like them in positions of power and agents of change. However, the strike that took place last Friday was not the work of the “silent majority”, but rather groups that have an interest in seeing the government failed. Just as questions arise to who is paying for the lodging, transportation and food of the cocaleros that are vigilando the Constituent Assembly in Sucre, questions must arise as to who is paying the Union Juvenil Cruceñista to do their dirty work, such as threatening businesses that did not join the strike, much like their counterparts in El Alto that used pressure tactics against those who just wanted to work and live peacefully. So at 5 pm, I decided that I had enough. Off went the television and we went to one of the newest restaurants in La Paz, Brosso, which is trying to compete with Dumbo, employing the same copyright infringement. A huge lighted sign featuring the Bear in the Blue House from Disney overlooked El Prado. So I sat there eating our nachos and watermelon juice, trying to forget about the mess the country is currently in, knowing full well that I would be leaving early the next morning on my plane back to the United States.


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