[Marxism] Mesa proposes early elections in Bolivia

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Mar 15 22:30:38 MST 2005

Apparently, Mesa has decided he can't face down the protesters and hopes
this will convince them to call off the protests, despite the right-wing
and middle-class support he gained with the resignation gambit and
attacks on Evo Morales. At this point, August does not seem early enough
to satisfy me, but I'm not the expert.  I wonder whether the right wing
will agree with this attempt to back away from the "final conflict" that
seemed to be shaping up.
Fred Feldman

Mesa Proposes Early Elections in Bolivia
By Luis Gomez, 
Posted on Tue Mar 15th, 2005 at 09:12:29 PM EST
In a televised address, President Carlos Mesa has proposed to the 
country, and to the national congress, early elections, to be held 
this August 28. The elections would be for president, vice 
president, senators, deputies (members of Bolivia's lower house of 
Congress), and, at the same time, for the members of the 
Constituents' Assembly. According to Mesa, these measures will be 
the best exit from a stalemate between two objective realities that 
today find themselves in conflict over the form and organization of 

In the Chapare the blockades have continued without interruption for 
the last two weeks, and in other regions the social movements began 
to appear, shutting down roads and organizing marches and sudden 
 and the 48-hour general strike called for in the 
National Mobilization Pact, which will begin at midnight, gives 
indications of being widespread and powerful. Because of this, 
Mesa's decision in his speech a few minutes ago is of great 

For just over half an tour, the Bolivian president appeared before 
the television cameras to explain his new proposal. Showing off his 
refined speaking skills, Mesa summarized the "impossibilities" he 
faces, claiming that the National Congress blocked his hydrocarbons 
law proposal, that the National Public Ministry (Bolivia's justice 
department, headed by the Attorney General of the Republic), blocked 
his attempts to press criminal charges against his opponents and 
blockaders, and that "Congressman Evo Morales has blockaded the 
entire country on me."

Unable to break what he called the stalemate between "the two 
objective realities that confront each other today in Bolivia," Mesa 
announced that he would no longer defend his hydrocarbons law 
proposal to anyone
 and that neither will he approve the law that 
the National Congress ultimately passes. "Let it be the 
responsibility of the president of Congress (Senator Hormando Vaca 
Diez) to promulgate it," as the Constitution dictates. 

Carlos Mesa said that this country, where something surprising can 
occur every day, is impossible for him to govern with a Congress 
full of weakened parties, leading to a decrepit state. And so, 
calling on his notion of a new legitimacy, he announced his proposal 
for early general elections, which he will present as a bill to 
Congress tomorrow.

Mesa's proposal is for general elections August 28 (to comply with 
the legal minimums for campaigns). These elections will be for 
president, vice president, senators, and deputies. At the same time, 
he said, the Constituents' Assembly would be convoked; the newly 
elected congressmen and congressmen would be simultaneously 
named "constituents," with a mandate to produce a new constitution 
within one year. 

These new elections would be for Mesa "a way out that avoids the 
collective suicide" that, according to him, the country is headed 
towards. Curiously, for the first time since his assumed command of 
the Bolivian state, Mesa admitted that he will not "be able to 
comply with what I said on October 17," when he promised justice, a 
new hydrocarbons law and the convocation of the Constituents' 

Finally, and in contradiction to his attacks on the legislature 
early in his speech, Mesa closed his address with an appeal to 
Congress, for the approval of his interpretation of Article 93 of 
the Constitution, which deals with early elections.

Bolivia in Crisis: The Tuto Factor (4.00 / 2) (#1) 
by Al Giordano on Mon Mar 7th, 2005 at 03:18:07 AM EST 
(User Info) 
In his "half resignation" speech (which might better be titled 
a "please beg me to stay" speech), Bolivian President Carlos Mesa 
railed against Evo Morales, he railed against the neighborhood 
groups of El Alto, he railed against the elites of Santa Cruz, he 
railed against Felipe "El Mallku" Quispe... it's all their fault, he 
railed, the fact that Bolivia is on the verge of a paralyzing 
national road blockade.

Already, he said, the city of Sucre (the symbolic capital of the 
country where Mesa was scheduled to sign an historic, if of dubious 
legality, gas export deal with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner), 
is isolated, running out of gas and food, as a result of just the 
preliminary blockades... the political capital of La Paz soon faces 
the same... the La Paz airport (in El Alto) on the brink of being 

It's absolute chaos, he can't please all sides (the social 
movements, nor the elites of Santa Cruz, nor - the ones he feared to 
mention - the pressures by the U.S. government) and any one of these 
sides has power to block his paths... And so he took a gamble, 
saying, basically, unless you beg me to stay, I will resign.

Congress, thus, has to either accept or reject his resignation. In a 
five-party congress with three parties (the old guard MIR and MNR, 
and the rebel MAS) each splitting decisive votes, the math is 
apparently simple:

If any two of those three parties decide that Mesa must stay, he 

If any two of those three parties decide that Mesa must go, he goes.

The early statements from two party leaders, Evo Morales of the MAS 
and Mirtha Quevedo of MNR, said "adios and good riddance."

BUT... what they say is not always what they do.

Tonight, U.S. Ambassador David Greenlee is working the phones trying 
to get the MIR and the MNR to convince Mesa to stay.

The whole thing has the smell of a charade: immediately after Mesa's 
televised "half resignation" speech, "spontaneous" (yeah, right) 
demonstrations appeared in the four largest cities in the country 
urging him to stay. Some wire reports suggested "thousands" 
participating: in the largest one, in La Paz, the crowd did not 
reach even a thousand people. There is a kind of simulation going 
on. Of course. It's politics.

But what is really at stake?

If Mesa stays, the social protests continue.

If Mesa resigns, the social protests continue.

The "line of succession" is not any clearer.

Constitutionally, next in line for the presidency is Senator 
Hormando Vaca Díez, of the Institutional Revolutionary Movement 
party (MIR, in its Spanish initials).

He is so hated by the social movements, especially up the hill from 
the halls of Congress in La Paz, and especially in that shining city 
on that hill El Alto, that - our sources believe - the population of 
El Alto will come down from the hills and shut down the National 
Palace and halls of Congress if he becomes president.

Thus, a scared Vaca Diez was putting out signals last night that if 
the presidency falls to him like a hot potato, he, too, will resign.

If the number-two guy doesn't take the job, then it goes to 
Congressman Mario Cossio, of the National Revolutionary Movement 
(MNR, in its Spanish initials). The prospects for governability 
aren't any better with him at the helm.

Tomorrow (well, already today) at High Noon, a public assembly in 
the hotspot known as El Alto will probably have more to do with 
Bolivia's immediate future than what happens in Congress. El Alto 
will take the lead and the rest of the social movements - with, 
together, the power to blockade the entire country to a standstill - 
will synchronize watches.

What the social movements want is the immediate convocation of 
a "Constituent Assembly" (with citizens elected from all sectors) to 
remake the government of Bolivia.

And they want new elections.

And here's where the rubber gets blockaded on the road:

The gringos in Washington have their hand-picked candidate for 
President in the 2006 elections: former President Jorge "Tuto" 
Quiroga, the darling of the beltway and of Wall Street.

Tuto was Vice President to the former military dictator Hugo Banzer. 
He filled Banzer's vacancy and served out the term. But, under 
Bolivian law, it means Tuto can't legally run for president until 
after July 1, 2005.

Thus, if new elections are convened (and if Mesa's resignation is 
accepted, no one will be able to govern without calling them within 
90 days), Tuto will be effectively out of the game.

(As to the rightness or wrongness of limits on re-election or second 
time service as president, I've always found such "laws" dubious - 
the people ought to decide, always, who the president may be - but 
it is what it is, and therefore the real situation must be analyzed 
as it is.)

Mesa's threat and diatribe - against Evo Morales, against the social 
movements, against the elites of Santa Cruz, against everybody - was 
also a direct hit on the calendar and agenda of Washington.

It puts into the play the possibility that Tuto - who the foreigners 
consider their coming savior - will not be a candidate in the next 
presidential race.

Thus, Washington, have toyed with Mesa again and again, suddenly 
gets toyed back.

And the Viceroy, um, I mean, the Ambassador is up all night trying 
to save Mesa, like a placemark, for his boy Tuto to be able to 
replace him after it is legal to do so... after July 1.

This is the untold story behind the story. It's all about Tuto and 
Washington's cocaine-like addiction to him. And in this, Mesa has 
just put a vice grip around Washington's eggs.

He's done it from a position of weakness, because his back is up 
against the wall. But now he's done it.

Now everybody - and I mean everybody - is scared. And well they 
should be. The prospect of jumping from a devil they know to a devil 
they don't know is filled with uncertainty and risk. Evo and the MNR 
may be talking tough tonight about accepting Mesa's resignation. But 
tomorrow? As Scarlet O'Hara said, it's another day.

But one thing is certain. The social movements march in with or 
without Mesa. And they remain with the power - no matter who is 
nominally "in charge" - to blockade the entire country to a halt. 

That makes this coming week in Bolivia a hair-splitter for all sides.

Short of a swiftly scheduled Constituent Assembly and fast new 
elections, the accidental president (Mesa assumed power only by 
virtue of being vice president to the disgraced and exiled Gonzales 
Sanchez de Lozada), nobody will be able to govern that country. 

And Tuto's Washington-pulled strings face the scissors of history 
and of a law that, when we was president before, was fine by him.

That's the story beneath the story: Washington's rooster in the 
cockfight is in check. And all the rational exit signs bring 
elections before he can crow again. 

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