La Paz is on edge as the future of Bolivia’s president, congress, and military are poised for imminent change as the Bolivian people rise up. Bolivian protests are entering their third week as divisions of Left vs. Right increasingly divide the poorest country in South America. Bolivia has large deposits of natural gas, second only to Venezuela, and the fight is over how best to utilize this natural resource. Over half the population of Bolivia is indigenous and two thirds live in poverty. The wealthy are mostly an ethnic European minority who want to make deals with various oil companies and possibly secede from the rest of Bolivia as most of the oil deposits are on the east side of Bolivia where most of the wealthy reside.
The majority of Bolivians appear opposed to the current government as indicated by the ongoing protests, participants being a cross section of Bolivian society, indigenous minors, teachers, small business owners, students, and various Leftists.
Bolivia’s president Carlos Mesa has generally sided with the oil companies and wealthy over the poor in his country while the Left has been calling for either a tax of fifty percent on oil-gas revenues or an outright nationalization. Mesa has been resistant to this idea but under pressure he recently agreed to raise the revenue above the eighteen percent that he has agreed to with the oil companies in 2003.
The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) one of the main Leftist organizations said they would continue the protests as long as the situation persists. Evo Morales, an MAS leader said he wants both an increase in royalties and a tax increase designed to alleviate poverty, and improve education and health care.
The majority of Bolivians are ready for an outright nationalization of key resources to improve the lives of the poor who are the majority in this nation of 9.2 million people.