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What is going on these days in Bolivia?

Yesterday, the students in Sucre — where the delegates are writing a new constitution. The police fought them off, but there were problems throughout the city resulting in at least one death. Meanwhile, the delegates met in an army garrison — but only those from Evo’s party, MAS — and approved the new constitution. The eastern departments — the so-called “Media Luna” — vowed to ignore the new constitution.

Here, in Cochabamba, things have been quiet so far. Most of the departments are clearly on one side or the other. Santa Cruz, Tarija, El Beni, and Pando are on one side. La Paz, Oruro and Potosí on the other. Cochabamba lies in the middle. The city people are pretty much on the side of Santa Cruz; the campesinos are on the side of La Paz. I think if the conflict is going to break out in the open anywhere, Cochabamba would be a good bet. So far, luckily, both the prefect (who is on the side of Santa Cruz) and the campesino organizations have been quiet.

I see a number of outcomes. One, of which the probability is low, is that some external threat or event will unite the Bolivian people. Two, a civil conflict could break out. Three, the country could split into two. This would, I think, be bad for Santa Cruz since the population there is low (only a couple of million) so raising an army would be difficult. This area of Bolivia, however, has huge natural gas deposits, which Argentina, Chile and Brazil would love to have. I could see any of these counties stepping in to “help” the people of Santa Cruz. The Chaco war of 1932-35 was fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over the Gran Chaco, which was thought to be rich in oil deposits. This could be another such war over the natural gas deposits, which are really there.

We shall see.

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