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Bolivia

Yearbook 1997

Bolivia. It was the sixth time for 71-year-old Hugo Banzer. After trying on five occasions since his retirement in 1978, he succeeded in getting both the people and the Congress to his side in 1997. In the general elections in June, Banzer and his party, the conservative Acción Democrática Nacionalista, ADN, received the most number of votes. In August, Congress then had to choose between Banzer and the second of the elections, Juan Carlos Durán, leader of the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, MNR, as new president. In the congress vote, Banzer, whose party since the June elections joined forces, left party MIR (Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionario), 115 out of a total of 157 votes. On Bolivian National Day, August 6, Hugo Banzer was sworn in as Bolivia's president after 19 years of absence from the post.

In the election campaign, Banzer promised that Bolivia would continue the reforms initiated towards a free market and that the reforms would benefit the poor. He also pledged to fight poverty and improve education and health care for the country's Native American majority. According to Countryaah, Banzer also suggested that the cultivation of coca plants, which are used to produce cocaine, should disappear.

1997 Bolivia

2003 President Sánchez de Lozada is forced into exile in the United States

In January 2003, coca growers block the country's main road. It triggers clashes with the military, costing 10 farmers and 2 soldiers life. After two weeks of confrontation, Sánchez de Lozada agrees to start negotiations with the peasants led by Morales. They demand that the quota for cultivation of coca be increased and that radical changes be made to government policy.

On September 1, a farmer and worker march from Caracollo to the capital La Paz began in protest of gas exports through Chile for sale in the United States. The protesters demanded that the gas be used primarily in Bolivia itself for the country's own development. Throughout the month, the protests widened. New marches were conducted and major and minor roads were blocked. On September 29, the COB declared a general strike indefinitely. Thousands of miners marched in the direction of La Paz, until the few kilometers from the capital were held back by large police forces. The confrontation cost 2 killed and dozens of wounded. President Sánchez de Lozada accused the workers and peasant leaders of being "anarchists and drug dealers".

On October 10, the capital was effectively put under siege by protesters. The government characterized the uprising as a "coup d'état organized by MAS". On October 12, the military opened fire on protesters in El Alto. 26 were killed and dozens injured. The consequence was that the conflict immediately spread to the whole country.

On the 16th, the largest demonstration in the country's history was conducted. Workers, peasants, human rights activists, intellectuals and parts of the hunger strike intervened demanded the president resign and leave the seat to his vice president, Carlos Mesa. On the 17th came the announcement that Sánchez de Lozada had resigned and had fled to Miami with his family and the prime ministers of his government. Together evening, Parliament was convened, inaugurating Mesa as president.

The new president pledged to change the oil and gas laws and to demand 50% tax from the multinationals against the then 18%. The president declared that he would convene a constitutional assembly to "give Bolivia a new basis." At the same time, a referendum was to be held on the sale of the country's natural gas. The September-October uprising was subsequently called the "gas war". It cost 74 lives and hundreds more wounded - predominantly Native American population.

A former miner of 47 years who was unable to pay his pension, in March 2004 burst himself into the air inside the parliament building with a bomb taped to his body. Along with the worker, 2 policemen died and 10 others were injured. Mesa subsequently convened a press conference, declaring that the suicide was an isolated case and did not have political overtones.

In July, as promised, a referendum on natural gas was conducted. The parties that supported the deposed Sánchez de Lozada had stated in advance that they were against the vote and boycotted it. The same had a number of unions who had their own reasons for this. The vote was Mesa's baptism of fire after 9 months at the presidential post with great political instability.

Prior to the vote, the government carried out a large-scale campaign to achieve the highest possible turnout. The unions, in turn, conducted a series of demonstrations in protest that nationalization of oil and gas production was not included as a voting theme. Acc. the government allowed the new oil and gas law successive increases in the taxes to be paid by the foreign multinational companies, and at the same time enabled the sale to foreign markets.

As part of the propaganda campaign for the referendum, Mesa opened a new water supply system in the suburb of El Alto, which had played a key role in the trade union movement during the uprising against Sánchez de Lozada.

Mesa won the referendum by 75% of the vote. The vote also approved the government's strategy to use a pipeline through Peru for gas exports. The government subsequently declared that this might be the first step towards recapturing a small stretch of coastline in the Pacific - after Chile deprived Bolivia of its access to the Pacific 125 years earlier.

 

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