Minding my own business at a corner internet cafe along a main avenue in Cochabama, I noticed a commotion originating from the city’s main plaza, one block away. Dozens of pedestrians were holding their mouths and I knew that could only mean one thing – tear gas was dispersed to quell some disturbance. I quickly closed all of my open browsers on my computer and paid my bill and took off. For several blocks leading away from the plaza, I noticed individuals trying to compose themselves keeled over. One couple with their baby in stroller tried to wash away the sting from the innocent child’s eyes while hearing his wails.
What had happened was that some of the social movements, some belonging to MAS, had tried to “vigilar” and prevent the meeting of 8 of the 9 departmental civic committees and several of the prefects. They were in town at the invitation of the Cochabamba prefect, Manfred Reyes Villa, to brainstorm about possible measures hoping to convince the government to support 2/3 majority in the Constituent Assembly for all of the articles. As it stands now, the government only wants simple majority for the articles with a 2/3 vote for final approval.
This is what I had picked up in the random news footage that I have seen and bits and pieces of newspaper articles. It seems that I tend to be more up to date about the going-ons in Bolivia when I am out of the country, than when in the country. If I hadn’t been around the city’s center when the tear gas was used, then it would have hardly registered.
The civic committees announced that they will give the government 72 hours to support the 2/3 approval or a massive civic strike would take place on Friday. Some of the cattle ranchers in the Orient announced that they may stop sending meat to the Western part of the country. These are some of the same measures that the social movements and others in the government employed in the past. Like all civic strikes, it may not have the support of the entire populace, but those who want to “atacar” (join), everyone will know where they stand. The recent reader poll at Los Tiempos.com asks, “With which of the positions do you most identify with?” The choices are rather simple – with the government or with the opposition.
Well, there was a third choice – “don’t know”. I guess that is what anybody’s best guess to the question, “what about Bolivia?”
PS – Yes, I am in Bolivia (again) for eleven days.