[Marxism] Bolivian President announces plan to resign as protests loom

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Mar 7 01:13:29 MST 2005



March 7, 2005
Bolivia's Leader Says He Plans to Offer His Resignation Monday
A PAZ, Bolivia, March 6 (Reuters) - Bolivia's president, Carlos Mesa,
said Sunday that he was resigning after 17 months in office as new
protests spread and threatened the important oil and gas sector.

Mr. Mesa, a political independent, announced his decision on radio and
television on Sunday night and said he would tender his resignation to
Congress on Monday.

"I have reached a limit in my work," he said, adding that his government
had faced 820 protests since taking office in October 2003.

He said the authorities would not be able to control the expected
nationwide protest campaign to force changes in rules governing
Bolivia's vast natural gas resources.

That protest is organized by a coca farmer and legislator, Evo Morales,
and his Movement to Socialism, which is unpopular in Washington because
of its opposition to the campaign against drugs led by the United

If Bolivia's Congress accepts Mr. Mesa's resignation, it could opt for
an interim leader or call new elections before the presidential term
ends in 2007.

Mr. Mesa was the vice president when he took over in October 2003 after
President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada fled the country during a popular
revolt that left 67 people dead and hundreds injured in what came to be
known as the gas war.

Mr. Sánchez de Lozada had planned to export Bolivian gas through Chile,
a traditional rival, stirring violent protests, particularly in El Alto,
the explosive indigenous city of 800,000 that overlooks the capital, La

Polls showed that Mr. Mesa was popular, and about 1,000 people gathered
outside the presidential palace in downtown La Paz to express support
for him after his speech. He appeared on the balcony to thank them.

But during his time in office he was constrained by a Congress
controlled by traditional parties and an increasingly organized
indigenous majority, particularly in El Alto and among the followers of
Mr. Morales.

In January, Mr. Mesa was hit by protests on two fronts, set off by a
rise in fuel prices. El Alto's poor inhabitants protested against a
French-owned water utility, while the wealthiest province, Santa Cruz,
called for autonomy.

At that time, Mr. Mesa said he would resign before people died in the
upheaval, but he ended up defusing both protests by making important

Peace lasted just over a month before new protests broke out in several
parts of the country, blocking major roads and interrupting transport. 

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