[OPE-L:3344] General Strike in Bolivia

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 10 Oct 1996 16:53:38 -0700 (PDT)

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Things are heating-up in Bolivia -- where it was reported that there is a
general strike. As the following makes clear, the strike concerns both
land reforms and opposition to structural adjustment policies. (As I
remarked in another post, Alejandro R is having Net problems. It would
have been nice to have received a report from the ground from him).

I wonder: how does the following (originally posted on the aut-op-sy
list) relate to the Zapatista's struggle? (Fred, Massimo, Alejandro VB --
any comments?).

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Chris Vance x342445 <red@iww.org>

Here's an update I got from "Weekly News Update" nicanet@blythe.org
regularly posted to misc.activism.progressive which is mirrored at
gopher://ecosys.drdr.Virginia.EDU:70/11/communication I will append a
report on land issues from the same update...


Some 20,000 members of the National Federation of Mining and
Agricultural/Livestock Cooperatives (FENACO) are set to march to
La Paz on Oct. 7 in solidarity with the campesinos and to protest
a proposed reform to the Mining Code, according to FENACO leader
Victor Choque. FENACO says the proposed reform would favor only
the large mining consortiums, at the expense of small and medium-
size mining ventures. [IPS 10/3/96; Evening news summary 10/4/96]
Some 20,000 public education teachers in La Paz began an open-
ended strike on Oct. 4, also in solidarity with the campesinos
and against modifications to their pension system. Leaders of the
teachers union proposed to the COB that their demands be
"globalized" with those of the miners and campesinos.

Those sectors which have not signed agreements with the
government on the INRA law plan to step up their protest actions
by blocking highways throughout Bolivia starting Oct. 7, with the
support of rural teachers, miners and cooperative members.
Governance Minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain has warned that if
protests over the INRA law continue, the government may declare a
state of siege and suspend civil rights. [ED-LP 10/3/96 from AFP;
Diario Las Americas (Miami) 10/2/96 from AFP]

The COB is taking advantage of the mobilization over the INRA law
to build protest against the privatization of Bolivia's pension
and education systems, and of the state-run oil company,
Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB). The
government insists it will forge ahead with the "capitalization"
(partial privatization) of YPFB, although authorities announced a
delay in the process until Oct. 31. The postponement is at the
request of the four transnational companies bidding on YPFB; the
companies want more information about an accord Bolivia signed
recently with Brazil on the construction of a gasline.

Meanwhile, a survey by Bolivia's National Statistics Institute
shows that 920f those polled feel that the economic model of
structural adjustment--in effect for more than a decade in
Bolivia--only benefits an elite minority. [La Jornada (Mexico)
9/29/96 from ANSA, DPA, IPS, AFP, Prensa Latina]

In other news, Nestor Martinez, a leader of the campesino coca
growers union, reported new clashes with police troops over
forced eradication of coca crops in the Chapare Agrarian Union
Central. Three people were injured and seven were arrested in the
clashes, which Martinez said involved a group of campesinos from
the La Estrella and El Salvador unions. [Morning media summary


Despite continued protests by campesinos, indigenous people,
settlers and agroindustry owners [see Updates #344, 345, 347,
348], the Bolivian government presented its version of the
National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) law to Congress on
Sept. 30. [Inter Press Service 10/3/96] Even though the ruling
four-party coalition has a large majority in Congress, its
legislators have been critical of the government's version of the
INRA law because of fears it will have a negative impact on
agroindustry. Determined to get the law passed despite the
massive opposition, President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada has
called an emergency meeting of legislators from the ruling
coalition to work out differences. [El Diario-La Prensa 10/3/96
from AFP]

A group of campesino leaders began a hunger strike against the
INRA law on Oct. 2, and the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) began
a general strike on Oct. 3 in solidarity with campesinos,
indigenous people and settlers who are seeking protection of
their land rights under the new law. The general strike was
observed on Oct. 3 by teachers, miners, health workers,
university staff, and one sector of oil workers; strikers held
several different marches in La Paz to kick off the strike.
Violent clashes left several people injured when police used tear
gas and some marchers responded with sticks, rocks and small
dynamite charges. [Bolivian Social Communication Ministry summary
of morning news 10/3/96; ED-LP 10/3/96 from AFP, 10/6/96 from

On the night of Oct. 3, government representatives met with
indigenous leaders in La Paz to seek a consensus on the INRA law.
On Oct. 4, campesino and indigenous leaders took their demands to
Congress, where they were received with applause by legislators.
The campesinos want Congress to approve the version of the INRA
law which had been worked out in consensus last May [not in 1995
as reported in Update #348]. "How are we going to return to our
homes without our [land] titles?" pleaded Marcial Fabricano,
president of the Indigenous Confederation of the Bolivian East,
Chaco and Amazon Regions (CIDOB). [ED-LP 10/3/96 from AFP,
10/6/96 from EFE]

The civic committees of the departments of Santa Cruz and Beni
sponsored a 24-hour general strike on Oct. 4 to support
agroindustry opposition to the INRA law. The committees called
for civil disobedience if the legislature approves the
government's proposed version of the law. Agroindustry owners
believe that a provision of the law which imposes taxes on rural
property will discourage agricultural investment and prevent them
from using their land as collateral for bank credits. The civic
strike shut down Santa Cruz completely: "Not even a fly is
moving," said a committee representative. [ED-LP 10/5/96 from
AFP, 10/6/96 from EFE; Evening news summary 10/4/96] In Beni, the
strike was described as "total" by Fernando Velasco Cuellar, vice
president of the Strike Committee and official spokesperson of
the Beni ranchers. Velasco said that beginning Oct. 4, the
ranchers of Beni, Pando and Santa Cruz departments would suspend
all meat shipments to the capital. [Evening news summary 10/4/96]

On Oct. 4, the government signed separate accords on the INRA law
with CIDOB and with the settlers' organizations from Santa Cruz,
Chuquisaca and Potosi. The settler groups and CIDOB suspended
protest actions but said they would hold a vigil until the law is
promulgated. Negotiations were continuing on Oct. 4 between the
government and private agroindustry representatives over the
law's tax provisions.

Most campesino groups, however, are holding firm against the
law's provision for an Agrarian Superintendency, which would give
the state the power to repossess land. Roman Loayza, executive
secretary of the Only Union Federation of Bolivian Campesino
Workers (CSUTCB), announced that the campesinos reject the
agreements reached with other sectors and that they will continue
their pressure tactics. Loayza stressed that the campesinos
consider their dialogue with the executive branch over, and from
now on they will talk only with the legislative branch, where
responsibility for the law now rests. COB general secretary Edgar
Ramirez charged that CSUTCB and settler leaders were blackmailed
in their meeting with the executive branch. Ramirez insisted that
Loayza and campesino leader Modesto Condori did not sign any
accords, despite heavy pressure and a "show" put on by leaders of
CIDOB and of the Free Bolivia Movement (MBL), part of the ruling
coalition. [Evening news summary 10/4/96]