It’s really interesting watching the U.S. ramp up its pressure on Bolivia. As I noted yesterday, violence had been increasing in the northern department (like a U.S. state) of Pando, causing the government to impose martial law. Today, they arrested the prefect (like a U.S. governor) of Pando and accused him of being behind the massacre of the peasants there.
Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, recently ordered the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, Phillip Goldberg. The response of the U.S. State Department has been amazing.
First, yesterday, they issued an advisory saying all non-essential personnel and families were ordered to leave the country because of the increasing violence. Then, today, they said two U.S. government planes were coming to evacuate U.S. citizens to the safety of Peru. They also announced that Peace Corps members were being evacuated for their protection, and the LDS announced that all their missionaries were airlifted out to Peru. Finally, George W. Bush announced that Bolivia was added to a list of countries black-listed because of narcotics.
The result is the impression that Bolivia is slowly sinking into chaos and danger lurks everywhere, especially for U.S. citizens.
The result, of course, is nowhere near as bad. Martial law has reimposed order in Pando. Santa Cruz has lifted all its blockades of major roads in and out of the city. (Their annual trade fair is this week, and they were running low on cooking gas and fuel.) The presidents of the countries of South America met in Chile to discuss the problem and voiced their complete support for the government of Evo Morales. This evening, the prefects of the departments in opposition to Evo’s government signed an agreement with the government to meet to resolve their problems.
La Paz, from whence the U.S. is evacuating U.S. citizens, is completely calm, as are the other highland cities such as Sucre, Oruro, Cochabamba and Potosí. (The airport in Tarija remains closed, and there is still some tension in Trinidad.)
I was working in my office today when I heard a cacophony of music, singing and shouting. Wondering what was going on, I went out see a parade of students celebrating the fifth year of their institute. In the midst of the floats, there was one pick-up truck which was pulled by a group of half-naked “Egyptian slaves” and on the back there was a couple dressed up as a pharaoh and his wife. This was in the supposedly dangerous and chaotic country of Bolivia!
The U.S. should back down on its rhetoric.