Monday, June 02, 2008

More of the Same in Beni, Pando

Yesterday, copycat Autonomy Statutes to Santa Cruz were voted on in Bolivia's eastern departments of Beni and Pando. English language newswires saw these events 'fit to print' and are particularly instructive. I learned from AFP that Beni and Pando are "two impoverished Bolivian provinces"- wow, I always knew the conservative opposition was standing up for the little guy against those wealthy, greedy Indians. I also learned from the AP and CNN that the Statutes passed with 89 percent of the vote in Beni and 85 percent in Pando, woot- Autonomy is really popular! Their source? Well, the trustworthy Bolivian corporate press' estimates. No need to mention that these totals are completely unverifiable as the elections were conducted without any oversight from national electoral agencies or international observers, such as the OAS and EU- usual foreign electoral observers in Bolivia. Abstention according to Beni and Pando's admission was high, roughly 35 and 45 percent respectively. Also, according to Morales' leftist government officials (you know they are friends with Chavez, Chavez!) these statute votes were totally illegal and unconstitutional, but that's just like their opinion, man. Why pay attention to pesky things like constitutions and laws when your buddies down at the social club told you those ignorant indios are wrong?

"Members of the Youth Autonomous Union of Beni clash with supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales", (AFP)

Weird that AFP is willing to admit the presence of fascist thugs in Beni through photo captions but makes no mention of such groups in the main text of their newswire. Instead, the repeated line across the board is that violence generally manifested itself with pro-government groups burning ballot boxes- never mind their are suspicions, as in Santa Cruz, that these boxes were already filled with cast ballots before ever reaching polling stations. There were additional early reports that one MAS supporter was killed in Beni, lets hope that both these rumors aren't true. Unionistas did attack Beni's Worker and Campesino Federation the day of the vote and cut the transmission cable of Bolivian State Television into Trinidad, Beni's capital. Reporters Without Borders deserves some praise for denouncing these acts.

It is also interesting that the statutes are presented as somehow "shielding" or protecting eastern Bolivia from national government programs, namely land reform. I suppose it goes back to ignoring the fact that these statutes are unconstitutional, the legality of the referendums aside; but the question is how? With what authority and institutional power? Morales government has already stated that it will not appropriate any government funds for the new autonomous departmental governments in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, or possibly Tarija, as they have no legitimacy or dictate. (See this national speech by Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera) How will these new departmental governments finance themselves or assert their authority? The only answer, if we assume they continue down the same path, is separatist violence. I am afraid the Media Luna is playing a dangerous game, one they can only lose in the end.

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