Monday, October 22, 2007

Strange Days in Bolivia

As cocalero-presidente Evo Morales appears on the Daily Show, his project to rewrite Bolivia's constitution (key feature: unlimited reelection for the president) is foundering badly and the country seems ever more likely to actually fracture. Last week in Santa Cruz, the least worse off of the Bolivian states and an anti-Morales hotbed, protesters clashed with federal troops and occupied and then reoccupied the international airport there.

Locals retake Bolivia airport from army

By HAROLD OLMOS, Associated Press Writer Fri Oct 19, 4:47 PM ET

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia - Armed with clubs and waving provincial flags, thousands of residents of Bolivia's wealthiest province seized control of the country's busiest airport Friday from troops sent in by President Evo Morales. The retaking of the airport was a victory for leaders of a province fighting for greater autonomy from the socialist central government.

Soldiers and military police melted away before the protesters flooded into Santa Cruz's Viru Viru airport, avoiding clashes. It was not immediately clear if the troops had left the airport entirely or withdrawn to a distant part of the facility.

Morales ordered 220 troops to take control of the airport Thursday after workers threatened to block flights that did not pay landing fees to local officials rather than the national airport authority. Among the carriers affected was American Airlines. The dispute quickly became a flashpoint between Bolivia's national government and a region seeking greater autonomy.
At least two soldiers were wounded Thursday, one by gunfire, and local hospitals reported that about 20 other people were injured, some by tear gas fired by troops to repel protesters shouting, "The airport belongs to Santa Cruz!"

Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas called on residents Friday to retake the airport and thousands responded, marching past startled passengers into the terminal and waving clubs and green-and-white Santa Cruz flags. The soldiers left "with their tails between their legs," Costas said.

Oh and in case you are wondering what these rebel elites of Bolivian society look like:

1 comment:

Shawn said...

the guy in green is a formidable force.