Permanent unrest splits Bolivia

As President Mesa loses political support, unions and certain military officers vow a nationalistic resolution of the conflicts

The situation in Bolivia tends to aggravate hour after hour, as protesters against government's energetic policy have virtually seized the capital, La Paz, and voices of separatism in the wealthy eastern regions become louder. On Wednesday, the Armed Forces had to vow to punish two military officers who demanded the resignation of President Carlos Mesa and sent troops to help keep protesters away from the presidential palace.

For several days, thousands of demonstrators have been demanding the nationalization of the oil industry and protesting regional autonomy drives. Some have tried to reach a downtown plaza occupied by the palace and Congress, but police have turned them away with tear gas and water cannons.

Farmers, miners and a majority of indigenous communities have isolated La Paz from the rest of the country (and the world, by blocking the access to the international airport), but under different programs. Radical labour unions, led by the bellicose Jaime Solares, demand a nationalistic solution to the conflict, meaning with this a military coup led by a “Chavez styled army commander.” At the same time, a majority of farmers led by Congress representative Evo Morales, stand for a democratic way out, meaning with this support to Mesa to finish his mandate in 2007.

In the current scenario, Morales' position does not look realistic, as Mesa has lost all his political support harassed by social protests in the west and separatism threats in the east of the country. Morales, himself, admitted on Thursday that an anticipation of the elections could be a good solution to the crisis as it could settle differences in a democratic way.

Morales leads the second political force in the Congress, while his party, the Movement to Socialism, is the only national political force in this split nation. The other parties in the Congress are out of the game.

The discredited center-right forces have lost masses' support and can only trust in the figure of the President to survive. Mesa, in the southern city of Sucre on Wednesday, said on Wednesday that he will not resign.

This particularly fragmented scenario adds great significance to the political line adopted by the Armed Forces. In communiquй issued on Wednesday, the military vowed to continue to support "the constitution and the state of law" and condemning two officers who criticized Mesa in a radio interview.

The high command said the two officers will receive "severe punishment," adding their comments "do not represent the feeling of the members of the armed forces, who remain firm in the defense of the state of law, democracy and constitutional order."

This is the current hegemonic position within the army, but as the situation progresses could not be the last. In the meantime, regional powers as Argentina and Brazil, have sent mediators but according to the magnitude of the crisis, their efforts to stabilize Bolivia do not look promising.

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Author`s name Olga Savka