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After a Truce, More Mobilizations in Bolivia
By Luis Gomez,
Posted on Fri May 27th, 2005 at 05:07:40 PM EST

Yesterday, Thursday, Bolivia celebrated the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi, which is an official holiday in this country. Most organizations called a one-day truce, and the groups aligned with Evo Morales' Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) extended the truce until next Tuesday. Since early today there have been marches and confrontations in La Paz and El Alto, but a major new wave of protests is expected beginning Monday.

It was still dark out when the first dynamite blasts began in the La Paz neighborhood of La Portada, which borders the highway and the first neighborhoods of El Alto. The hillside shook for nearly two hours this morning: the rural public school teachers, in a lightning-fast action, blocked the highway in both directions with rocks.

The police, unprepared for the attack, were surprised by the teachers, who also razed the tollbooth for the highway connecting La Paz and El Alto. There was a confrontation and the police dispersed the teachers with teargas. The confrontation ended with no injuries, but several cars and some buses suffered damage.

In the altiplano, the highlands north of El Alto and surrounding Lake Titicaca, the indigenous Aymara peasant farmers' first blockades appeared. In several parts of the northern provinces, which are loyal to the legendary Aymara leader Felipe Quispe, «El Mallku,» the shut-down can already be felt, and agricultural products are not reaching the cities.

The rural Aymara, who since yesterday have returned from La Paz to their communities, are not only preparing even more road blockades, but have also announced that they will return to La Paz next Monday, in an attempt to fulfill their demands: hydrocarbon nationalization, the end of the Carlos Mesa administration, and the closure of the National Congresss.

In El Alto there was a mass workers' march a few hours ago, which culminated in a demonstration in front of the demolished tollbooth. There will be a general assembly of El Alto neighborhood presidents this afternoon, where they will do an evaluation of the general civic strike called by the Federation of Neighborhood Committees of El Alto (FEJUVE) and draw up new plans for the coming days: at the moment, El Alto, the Aymara city, is shut down in only a few places.

In the city of La Paz there were two marches led by women (today is Mothers Day in Bolivia). The first was a march of urban schoolteachers from the department (equivalent to a state or prefecture) of La Paz, who have been on strike for days. The march had a brief confrontation with the police near Plaza Murillo, where the main government buildings are. The other march was led by the women of the Bartilina Sisa National Federation of Women Peasant Farmers and the women of the Tropic of Cochabamba (in the Chapare region), who spent the day with alternate senator Román Loayza, who is commanding the MAS's rural sector in these days.

The two lieutenant colonels involved in the «civic-military» coup plot were forcibly retired from active duty yesterday afternoon, causing the climate to relax significantly, for now. There are rumors that the government plans to convene the Constituents' Assembly by decree on Monday, and organize negotiating commissions with all the mobilized sectors; all of this with the intention dissolving the protests. It has also been insinuated that the Mesa administration is considering declaring a state of siege, but nothing has been confirmed.

We remain here, reporting, as always....

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