Thursday, December 07, 2006

Taking to the streets

A couple thousand university students and sympathizers marched today from the Christ plaza near my apartment to the center of Santa Cruz to protest the government´s running roughshod over the law in rewriting the Constitution. That grievance is tied up with other grievances, in which the people out here (green flags are for the city and department of Santa Cruz) want more independence from the central government. One of the signs accuses President Evo Morales of being a dictator.

Things are starting to get violent. About 1,000 of the anti-government protesters are staging a hunger strike. A couple of the prominent hunger strikers, who were in a church in La Paz, which is pro-government territory on the other side of the country, were set upon Tuesday by a pro-government mob that tossed a couple of sticks of dynamite into the room where they were staging their protest. Depending on which newspaper you read, the dynamite´s fuse was either not lit or extinguished before it could explode.

The mob was after a prominent novelist among the hunger-strikers and threatened to kill him. All escaped, but the hunger-strikers accused the government of pulling police protection to allow the mob to have its way. The mob tore up parts of the church and burned up the belongings the hunger-strikers left behind.

It may have been retaliation. A few days previously, a group of university students here in Santa Cruz trashed the party headquarters of the government´s ruling party.

Living on the brink

A newspaper editor told me that Bolivians are accustomed to living on the brink of the abyss and that they push things to extremes, up until the last possible moment. He says that the way they conduct politics and the way they drive is exactly the same -- apparently reckless but always leaving themselves a tiny margin for error so they can swerve away from danger at the last moment. Not always, though.

One of the city´s three dailies carried a four-paragraph item about a bus sailing over a 1,300 foot precipice with 52 people aboard, killing 50. (The other two dailies didn´t mention it. Maybe because it was just a bus. Maybe because it was just over the border in Peru. A plane crash that killed 50 would be in all three papers, I would think.) Seems the bus driver was trying to pass another bus and missed the curve.

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