Originally published on 6/11/2005 by O Estado de S. Paulo
Especial envoy to Sucre, Bolivia
“A real and feasible milestone.” That is the position and goal for the new Bolivia president, Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé, to assure a consensus on the hydrocarbons subject. Prior question for the Bolivian future, the oil and gas nationalization must be taken to the negotiations only after an essential debate with sectors that want to close the doors for conglomerates as the Brazilian Petrobras and to retake 100% of the minerals stocks. A step in this direction, guaranteed Rodríguez to Estado de S.Paulo newspaper yesterday, can be given by new relations that will be established between Legislative and Executive.
The Rodríguez’s national agenda foresees some priority actions: to pacify the country, to reestablish positive relations among government and Congressmen, to convoke general elections until December and, perhaps, to take advantage of this chance to make possible a Constitutional Conventional and a referendum for Departments autonomy (the equivalent to the Brazilian States). “To approach each one of these subjects it will depend mainly on the consensus scene with the Legislative, the regions and the sectors more interested”, vowed. “In principle, it seems to me an interesting option to join in only one electoral act some agendas, but Congress will decide those questions.”
Rodríguez measures each word before pronounce them and he is not comfortable with wide gestures, like, for instance, Congress president, Hormando Vaca Díez, who until the last minute tried to become the maximum authority in Bolivia. After the entrance into office, in the city hall of Sucre, constitutional capital of the country and stage of a historical transition of power, the new president spoke quickly and did not hide he was happy for the challenge ahead.
“By now, the political problems had not offered the propitious scene to advance in the solutions path. We got an agreement with the Legislative to solve the political crisis”, said. In his first speech, Rodríguez had already expressed intention to smooth the rough edges that had made impracticable the government of his predecessor, Carlos Mesa. In an evident signal that he needs Congress support, he cited five times Vaca Díez and Mario Cossío, House of Commons president.
Social movements hate the current Bolivian Congress. Therefore, he remembered that the definition of general elections date is a Congressmen responsibility, but already knows they will have to occur until December. Rodríguez’s mandate will last 180 days. In this period, the new president said that one of his most difficult tasks will be to recoup State authority.
He also makes clear that wants all society support. He declared that will help the miner’s family, a man who died in confrontation among manifestants and soldiers in Sucre. “Our priority is to send humanitarian relief to the familiar ones, attention to the wounded and to work in the solution of the social conflicts to recover the stability.” About his cabinet, he only said that wants engaged men and women and they must have integrity.
Yesterday morning, in Sucre, Bolivian president got in touch with Chuquisaca mayor, Carlos Cortéz, to hear about the Department situation. Cortéz declared the region does not suffer as many threats as others in Bolivia, but social situation worries. In the airport in the way back to La Paz, the president confirmed that his first official visit will be to El Alto city, one of the rebellious land and cradle of social movements that had radicalized the country with blockades and marches. It is a symbolic gesture. “We will make the possible to pacify.”
Except by miners concentrated in a square in La Paz, who had carried through a symbolic funeral for their colleague died in Sucre, social movements had given a chance to the new president. The blockades had been set free, there’s no more protests and Bolivians’ life starts to be retaken.
Airports had still worked irregularlly yesterday, after a strike of almost 24 hours. In Sucre, Aerosur company cancelled a regular flight to be able to accomodate Congressmen who were in the city and wanted to come back fast to their cities. An employee informed: “They had bought the flight, I’m sorry.” And they had also bought 15 typical hats. A Congressman joked: “That’s the sombreros flight.”
It will take some days to regularize fuel supplying in the country. With the protests and just a few gasoline, the liter costs 15 Bolivians (the local currency), five times more than the regular price. The first trucks had already started to supply La Paz gas station. In the end of afternoon, public buses ride freely. Evo Morales, leftist leader, affirmed that the syndical, mining and farmers leaders, were stopping protests as a proof they will accept an armistice. “Mobilizations had started to transform Bolivia. Now we have to give time to new president to organize his team of work”, he affirmed.