On the tenth of September, one day before the 35th anniversary of the death of Chilean President Salvador Allende, Evo Morales, the Bolivian head of state, declared US Ambassador Philip Goldberg “persona non grata.” This is not a contrived symbolic decision. It came after the sabotage of a gas pipeline in the Department of Tarija by opposition extremists in Bolivia with whom the diplomat maintained close contacts.
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Defeated on the national level in the recall referendum on the tenth of August, which Mr. Morales won with 67% of the votes, the prefects and “civic committees” of the so-called “autonomist” regions — Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Chuquisaca, and Tarija — are now clearly seeking to destabilize the country. Seizing and looting public institutions, such as tax and customs offices, the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), and the National Telecommunications Company (Entel); assaults against the police chief (Santa Cruz) and forces of law and order; attacks on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community radio stations; use of shock troops, especially the Cruceñista Youth Union (UJC) — the Far Right has gone on rampage in recent days.
In Cobija (in the Department of Pando), on the eleventh of September, eight people were killed and over thirty injured during a confrontation — the first instance where firearms were used — between government supporters and “autonomist” groups.
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Having received the firm support of the governments of Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela, Mr. Morales denounced an attempted “civil coup d’état.”
Read “Périlleux bras de fer en Bolivie” (Dangerous Arm Wrestling in Bolivia) in the September 2008 issue of Le Monde diplomatique.
The original article in French was published in the “valise diplomatique” section of Le Monde diplomatique on 12 September 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).