Official union seeks to stop opposition strike in Bolivia

LA PAZ, Bolivia (HPD) — The Bolivian ruling party called on its militants to mobilize against a strike called by opposition organizations in rejection of President Luis Arce’s decision to postpone a census for two years that will redefine the distribution of seats in the Legislative.

Civic organizations in Santa Cruz, the most prosperous region located in the east and an opposition stronghold, have called for an indefinite strike since Saturday to demand that the census be carried out next year and not in 2024. In return, unions related to the government called for protests to define measures against the strike.

According to several analysts, the background to the dispute is that a new census would give that region greater legislative representation and would allow it to have more weight in political decisions. The Arce government seeks to delay registration so that the new redistribution does not undermine its political strength in the 2025 presidential elections.

“We are going to demand that they let us work and the government must guarantee free movement on the streets. If there is violence, it will be the fault of those who are calling for a strike,” Rolando Borda, leader of the Central Obrera in Santa Cruz, said at a press conference on Thursday, before the call for a strike that threatens to paralyze that city with blockades of avenues and streets. . Borda is a member of the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS).

Public Works Minister Edgar Montaño said Thursday that the strike in Santa Cruz seeks to destabilize the Arce government and announced that he will take to the streets to avoid the blockades announced by opponents.

Fernando Camacho, governor of Santa Cruz and opposition leader, accused the government of postponing the census for “political reasons” to prevent his region from obtaining more state resources and political representation.

“The strike will last until the government guarantees a census in 2023. We are not going to go back an inch. A new census will guarantee Santa Cruz better health, better education,” said Rómulo Calvo, president of the Civic Committee, an organization that has called for a strike.

According to Calvo, a census in 2023 will allow “to have a new electoral roll since the current one is flawed and was the cause of electoral fraud in 2019.”

The observer mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) denounced fraud in the 2019 elections in which then-president Evo Morales was seeking a fourth consecutive term. A social outburst against the alleged fraud left 37 dead in more than a month of protests and forced the resignation of Morales, who is currently head of the MAS.

After a one-year interim, the MAS regained the government in the 2020 elections with Arce, who now faces criticism from Morales, his political mentor, in a climate of growing protests over the country’s economic situation.

Meanwhile, employer organizations and the Episcopal Conference of Bolivia have called on the parties to seek dialogue to avoid a possible street confrontation and damage to the economy.

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