Photo: NY Times
Prensa Latina reports that a meeting between the Secretary of Political Affairs for the Organization of American States (OAS) and leaders from the four opposition departments in Bolivia did not go well. The official met yesterday with governors from Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz and Tarija, which constitute the Media Luna (half moon) who have been pushing for departmental autonomy.
The Department of Santa Cruz is leading the drive towards autonomy and while it has historically benefited from strong Bolivian centralism, the reemergence of indigenous movements and the election of Evo Morales has threatened the elite. The opposition’s referendum is planned for May 4, but both the government, the military, which has historically sided with the elite, as well as the international community are standing beside the Morales government. One notable exception though, is the United States, which is being accused of helping undermine the central government by financially supporting the autonomy movement.
Tarija prefect, Mario Cossio, confirmed that he will use any means to hold the autonomous consultations, the first scheduled for May 4 in Santa Cruz and only afterwards would he consider talks.
OAS negotiations are held separately but with the same purpose as the Catholic Church, the Group of Friends of Bolivia (Brazil, Argentina and Colombia) in the midst of concerns expressed by the European Union and the Andean Community of Nations.
Also, preliminary reports claim that 10 Bolivians and a Uruguayan journalist have disappeared in Bolivia. This is significant in the autonomy discussion because many landowners who face loosing their unproductive land under President Morales’ planned land reform have turned to militias and paramilitaries to suppress indigenous social movements and have recently moved strongly against landless indigenous who have moved to eastern Bolivia in recent decades in search of economic opportunity.
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