October 31, 2007

Old Wounds Deepen for Government Critics

A snapshot of anti-government and protest movements in Bolivia and the Philippines reveals little progress towards healing old wounds — in fact, some appear to be deepening . But in Zimbabwe, a ray of sunshine may break through the political deadlock.

Bolivia’s Fault Lines

In eastern Bolivia, opposition to the socialist government of Evo Morales is digging in over attempts to nationalize lucrative natural gas fields for the benefit of the impoverished, majority Indian communities of the western highlands.

Morales is pushing towards a December 14 constitutional convention, which would give greater power to Aymara and Quechua Indians, reports the San Francisco Chronicle’s Foreign Service.

Public response has been divisive. Troops and counter-protestors turned out after thousands of citizens of the prosperous Santa Cruz state took over an airport to protest Morales’ policies.

The Chronicle also cites a report in Brazil’s O Globo newspaper quoting an anonymous Santa Cruz official who claims that 12,000 anti-Morales militants are lurking in the jungle, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

Protesting a Presidential Pardon

The Philippines, meanwhile, saw a stormy protest following President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s pardon of her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, who had served a six-year “detention” in his vacation house for graft and corruption.

Protestors, who helped topple Estrada in 2001, say the pardon skirted normal procedures and made a mockery of the justice system there, and that the pardon will “weaken” Arroyo politically.

A Ray of Sunshine?

In Zimbabwe, the repressive regime of Robert Mugabe appeared to open ever so slightly, by announcing it would consider the reinstatement of the publishing license for the nation’s popular Daily News newspaper.

The government had twice overturned a Supreme Court ruling that threw out a four-year-old ban on the newspaper, but recently opted to restore a government panel that could issue a license “impartially,” within the parameters set out by the court ruling.

Sources:

“Racial, regional rivalries threaten to tear Bolivia apart”
San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 2007

“Bolivia — A Talent for Upheaval”
Newsdesk.org, March 18, 2005

“Zim to consider licence for banned Daily News”
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), October 31, 2007

“Civil society members rally vs Estrada pardon in Makati”
Inquirer.net (Philippines), October 30, 2007

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