Friday, December 01, 2006

General strike

Kids on bikes took over the city today. Regional and local government leaders in more than half the country called for a "paro," or stoppage, of all work and commercial activity to protest against the president's policies, which are characterized by his opponents as high-handed and anti-democratic.
What you don't see in this photo is what's remarkable. It's high noon on a Friday, and traffic on the Avenida Monsenor Rivero is nearly always three solid lanes of cars, taxis and microbuses. The lack of traffic lights makes it very difficult to cross this street, even on Sundays and national holidays. But today, everything was closed.
There are huge disagreements about policies involving land reform and local autonomy, as well as the process for writing a new constitution. The divide is described in terms of geography, race, class, income and occupation -- east vs. west, middle and upper class vs. lower class, white vs. indigenous, business people vs. government bureaucrats. The debate is quite shrill. One of the symbolic centers of the battle is two blocks from my apartment, where the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee's headquarters are located. (They're in the group identified with the east, businesspeople, whites, and higher incomes.) Lots of TV cameras around.

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