Reports from Argentina
Posted: Feb. 13 2003, 20:28Are you guys in Europe watching this? Bolivia is exploding.
Yesterday the police went out onto the streets to protest against a proposed tax of 12.5% on all salaries. Groups of students joined them and soon the whole mass of people began to throw rocks at the presidential palace. Then they looted the Ministry of Labor and the headquarters of the ruling MNR party.
Since part of the police were participating in the protest and the rest refused to leave the commissaries and attack their comrades, the government had to send in the military police. In the center of La Paz there were soldiers and police, both heavily armed, fighting each other in intense street battles.
All yesterday afternoon and through the night the fighting has continued. As of this morning at least 17 people have died, mostly police officers. There are bonfires fueled by the furniture of the President, a cloud of tear gas hangs over the city, and everywhere are soliders maintaining martial law.
And who is responsible? Why, THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND, of course.
The IMF is upset that Bolivia's government is running an 8% deficit. Washington made an ultimatum: balance the budget or no new loans. The government didn't know what to do. It couldn't survive without the IMF loans, but the IMF wouldn't let it raise taxes for multinational corporations. The only possibility was to raise taxes for the already very poor Bolivian people.
No one knows what is going to happen now. It is clearly a prerevolutionary situation, since the workers have always been opposed to the government, and now the middle classes and even the police have passed into the opposition. Today a national strike has been called and lootings are taking place all over the country. The President's appeals for "national unity" aren't going to fool anyone: he is imperialism's lackey and he has got to go!
– Dzhon Rid