Monday, December 11, 2006



How do civic leaders and regional politicians get the government to take seriously the aspirations of their region? They convene a massive public meeting where speeches and declarations are made in the city centre. These public meetings in spanish are called "Cabildos". In 2004 the civic leaders of Santa Cruz called for a "Cabildo"; a declaration of regional autonomy was made at this huge open air meeting of the populace. Nearly 200,000 people responded and turned up (picture on top).

Prior to the "Cabildo" a massive signature campaign, in support for autonomy, was launched in Santa Cruz; the matter was then put to the congress and the wishes of the people were made into law by the previous government. As a result Santa Cruz and the other 8 states of Bolivia elect their governors and have a greater say in resource management and self government. Its fascinating to see the legislative process of a nation bend to the collective force of a massive civic action!

The election of Evo Morales and the possible proposal of a radical collectivist Cuban style constitution at the constitutional assembly have convinced a large number of people in eastern Bolivia that the government intends to do away with regional autonomy and transform Bolivia into a a socialist - indigenous entity. A series of hunger strikes in Santa Cruz against the government continues to capture the imagination of many in Eastern Bolivia.

Civic leaders have now played their ace; they've convened a "Cabildo" on Friday the 15th of December; this is a major civic action only reserved only for critical moments; a "Cabildo" only works when the vast majority of the people are supportive of the cause. And it appears that the people of Santa Cruz as well as 3 other states in the east are supportive of civic leaders and opponents of the government. A million people are expected to turn up! The opposition against the central goverment has now reached the proportions of a major social movement and it is quite possible that at least 300,000 people will respond to the call.

People are also nervous. Rumors abound of government agents planning to instigate violence at the "Cabildo".

Some extremist elements are calling for Santa Cruz to be an independant republic. Forget it! This will never happen.

Will the President declare a state of siege and detain the leaders behind the "Cabildo" and the hunger strikes? The constitution grants him the right to do so if he believes that these actions threaten national security.

Pray that the "Cabildo" will be peaceful and free from violence.

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