Peasant Power in Bolivia


A fragile government in La Paz is further weakened as more and more

indigenous people rise up and take control of their villages.,1,1759958.story


SORATA, Bolivia - The police won't return to this village in the Andes

unless the peasants promise not to throw rocks at them.


The peasants rose up and chased the police out months ago, along with

the local representative of the provincial government, the judges and

even the army. The authorities fled Sept. 20 in the face of a crowd of

Aymara Indians armed with little more than sticks and stones, enraged by

an insult uttered by an army general hours earlier, and moved by

centuries of pent-up frustration.


Since the uprising, this corner of Bolivia - where the dry Altiplano, a

high plateau, around Lake Titicaca meets lush tropical mountains - has

become a kind of an Indian liberated zone......


"Before, they were the bosses. They made us work, they would run

everything," said Felix Puña Mamani, a resident of the neighboring

village of Viacha, referring to the people of European descent who have

dominated Bolivian society since the 16th century Spanish conquest. "But

people realize what's going on now. It's not like it was before."


As many as 1.5 million people - almost a fifth of Bolivia's population -

live in areas where indigenous authorities have replaced at least some

government functions, said Alvaro Garcia Linera, a university professor

in La Paz who has studied the popular movements of Bolivia's two main

indigenous groups, the Aymara and the Quechua.


"Since 2000, we have seen an enormous, continual uprising of indigenous

people, with a strong element of Indian nationalism," Garcia Linera

said. "In many places, the institutions of the Republic of Bolivia have

begun to fade away."

...........more [Héctor Tobar, Los Angeles Times]