Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Bolivia Roundup

The two worker's syndicates involved in Bolivia's October revolt — Jaime Solares' COB and Roberto de la Cruz' COR — are threatening to close the national parliament. They're opposed to the return of ex-ministers (Goni's cabinet) to the legislature.

Unlike most presidential systems (but like most parliamentary ones) the Bolivian cabinet is often chosen from the legislature. It's a common mistake to analyze Bolivia's political system from the perspective that it's a presidential system. The only thing Bolivia's institutional design doesn't have in common w/ most parliamentary systems is that parliament can't call for vote of no confidence and the executive can't dissolve the legislature to call for early elections. Hence, there's the potential problem of "what if" Goni decides to return to parliament himself (he was, after all, elected as a senator at the head of his party's electoral list).

Likewise, many ex-ministers were elected to the Senate and House of Deputies in 2002. Legally, they're entitled to return to their seats once their functions as ministers are ended (until then, suplentes occupy their seats). It's not uncommon for Bolivian presidents to dismiss cabinet ministers, who then return to their parliamentary seats. Regardless of their participation in an unpopular government, these men & women were elected to parliament and have a right to exercise their functions in their respective chambers, unless sanctioned by some due process (legal proceedings against Goni & his cabinet are still in process, as are legal proceedings against the uprising's other protagonists).

Interestingly, Evo Morales and MAS have opposed the COB-COR strategy, which marks an important contrast (and perhaps Evo's much-hoped-for evolution?). He and his spokespersons announced that MAS supports the democratic system and "will arrive in the seat of power via elections." The fear is that if popular protests are unleashed again, a military coup could easy follow.

Meanwhile, the Bolivian anti-drug police (FELCN) today discovered a cache of weapons en route from Santa Cruz to Villamontes. The weapons were sophisticated, including FAL & AUG assault rifles, as well as anti-tank munition. It's unclear whether the weapons were to be used by subversive groups in the country (e.g. cocaleros) or if they were en route to Paraguay, an area of heavy al-Qaeda activity for years.

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