[Marxism] After Congress vote (and Morales opposition), Mesa drops plan to resign

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Mar 9 22:18:17 MST 2005

The leader of the opposition of working and oppressed people to Mesa is
Evo Morales, a peasant leader and member of the legislature. He opposed
Mesa's resignation, which has now been rejected (the real meaning of the
"vote of confidence" by the Congress). Morales wants time to mobilize
more popular support that can block a move by rightist sections of the
military to replace the muddling Mesa with a right-wing candidate, and
guarantee the replacement of Mesa through a special election that would
probably result in the election of Morales himself.

Frankly, Morales has won me over to this basic approach.  It took time.
Fred Feldman

March 10, 2005
Bolivia Leader Says He Now Has Wide Popular Support
A PAZ, Bolivia, March 9 - A day after winning a Congressional vote of
confidence that kept him in office, President Carlos Mesa said Wednesday
that most Bolivians supported him as he pressed forward to win approval
of the energy bill that spawned the street blockades that imperiled his
government in the first place.

"You cannot be afraid of a situation like this when you know for sure
that 99 percent of Bolivians are against those blockades," Mr. Mesa told
a group of foreign reporters on Wednesday, just two days after he had
tendered his resignation, saying Bolivia had become ungovernable.

In rejecting Mr. Mesa's offer on Tuesday night, the 157-member Congress
agreed that abruptly ending his presidency would bring political chaos
to this already unstable country of nine million. But even after the
show of confidence, it was clear that the troubles facing Mr. Mesa, a
51-year-old former historian, were far from over. 

His victory seemed to have emboldened a powerful one-time ally, the
indigenous leader Evo Morales, who promised Wednesday that protests
would pick up again until the government agreed to a much tougher oil
and gas law that would increase royalties on foreign energy companies to
50 percent, from the 18 percent Mr. Mesa favors.

"I want to say to Carlos Mesa, there will be road blockades as long as
Carlos Mesa blockades the approval of the hydrocarbons law in the
National Congress," Mr. Morales told reporters minutes after the
president spoke.

The fissure between the men, which first appeared a few weeks ago,
appears to be irrevocable, promising more standoffs that could again
endanger the government.

"Mesa's talking tough and feels invigorated by what's happened, in that
he's won this particular battle," said Eduardo Gamarra, the
Bolivian-born director of Latin American studies at Florida
International University in Miami. "The question is whether he's won the
war. The results so far appear to have made Evo not only more radical
but pushed him into a corner, and the history of relations with Evo,
going back a couple of years, is, he doesn't give up." 

For much of Mr. Mesa's 17-month tenure, which began when he took over
after Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada resigned in the wake of violent
protests, the president found solid political footing because of Mr.
Morales's support. Mr. Morales, leader of the powerful Movement Toward
Socialism, had opted largely to abandon roadblocks and negotiate with
the president as he convened a referendum in July that gave the state
more say over the country's prized gas reserves.

Mr. Morales, an Ayamara Indian who has long charged that energy
companies ran off with much of Bolivia's riches, had hoped his alliance
would eventually translate into high tax revenues to benefit Bolivia's
impoverished Indian majority.

But Mr. Mesa and much of the Congress concluded that charging a 50
percent royalty would only drive away foreign investment. They instead
propose a new tax, which would rise to 32 percent for the most
productive fields, as well as 18 percent royalties. The increasingly
bitter row over the royalties eventually led Mr. Morales to call for
protests last week.

Now, relations between the men have never been worse. The president has
singled out Mr. Morales repeatedly in speeches, saying his radical
opposition was isolating him from his base and hurting the country.

Mr. Morales accuses the president of having "a lack of morals and
ethics," and of having become a lackey for the Americans, who have been
no friend of the Indian leader.

"Carlos Mesa is with the Yankees, not with the poor," Mr. Morales said.
"He continues the policies of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and for that
reason the protests will continue."

It remains unclear how perilous the political waters are for Mr. Mesa.
The president, after offering to resign on Monday, drew thousands of
supporters into the central plaza, and he is convening nationwide
rallies for Thursday to show that Bolivians reject road blockades.
Bolivia's major parties, save for Mr. Morales's, have also signed an
accord that sets an agenda for the president that includes a new
hydrocarbon law. 

But Mr. Morales said anti-Mesa factions remained strong. In his meeting
with reporters, he announced that he had patched up differences with two
important radical groups, an indigenous organization headed by Felipe
Quispe and an activist-minded labor confederation.

Mr. Mesa, aware that protests will continue, has promised never to use
deadly force to break up blockades, a promise that has so far kept
Bolivia largely free of the kind of bloodshed that has come with
antigovernment protests in Peru and Venezuela.

"We will always act within the concept of respect for human rights and
dialogue," he said. 

Professor Gamarra, who in the past has spoken at length with Mr. Mesa
and Mr. Morales, says the president's position has set him apart from
predecessors, whose reliance on security forces led to dozens of deaths
and only worsened protests. "I think the president is correct in that
the violence was always a first resort in the past," Mr. Gamarra said.
"I think that's commendable." 

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