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Date: Tue, 9 May 1995 16:28:20 -0700
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Subject: Bolivian union solidarity committee

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From: saiic (South and Meso American Indian Rights Center)
Date: Tue, 2 May 1995 15:15:04 -0700

Subject: Bolivia (fwd)
Date: Thursday, April 27, 1995 8:49PM

{1} Bolivian General Strike!
** Written 8:10 PM Apr 23, 1995 by gn:antek in cdp:pn.alerts **
BCM 7750 London WC1N 3XX

Bolivian General Strike!

From Bolivian Union Solidarity Commitee. 23 April, 1995

On Wednesday 19 of April the Bolivian government declared a state of siege--a major state of emergency which involves the suspension of all constitutional rights. No more than three people are allowed to assemble and there is a strict curfew. When the "Central Obrera Boliviana" (Bolivia's TUC) held a national conference comprised of delegates from all the factories, mines, peasant unions, universities and other unions, the police and the army broke into the meeting at midnight and arrested all of the participants.

Already more than 1,000 trade union, student, peasant and political leaders have been arrested. All of them have been deported to military garrison in the most inhospitable and isolated places in the country. Some of them are in the hottest and most remote places in the Amazon region, places which are insect ridden and prone to terrible tropical diseases. Others in contrast are freezing in the Bolivian Siberia: the coldest places in the Andes, up to 4,000 metres above sea level when the snows of winter are beginning to fall.

Vilma Plata and Gonzalo Sorucco, leaders of the La Paz Urban Teachers Union, were jailed one month ago. They are being kept in jail with common criminals and are being threatened with sentences of between four to fifteen years in jail for organising and advocating strikes. With the new state of siege the military have seized all key points in the country: they control the streets, schools, universities and workplaces. They have been given the right to hold people without trial.

This is the response of an anti-popular government to the protests of the great mass of the population. For about one and a half months the Bolivian teachers have been on indefinite national strike against the privatisation of education, for an increased budget for education and for better wages.

Teachers, like the rest of the Bolivian workers, earn less than #100 a month. With neo-liberalism and globalisation they have to buy foods and goods with European-level prices despite the fact that they earn African-level wages.

The national teachers strike were so effective that it mobilised the support of the parents and student associations and also of the universities, community organisations and other unions. From the countryside it spread to the main cities, involving thousands of teachers, peasants and students walking many days in "sacrifice marches" through the freezing highlands. The telecommunications system and state mines were also on strike against privatisation. All the important cities declared civic general strikes, in support of them. A spontaneous general strike, launched by all the unions and peasant organisations, was developing with daily mass demonstrations that on several times defeated the state forces which tried to repress them.

According to the Guardian (April 20-1995) "The Bolivian Labour Confederation (COB) launched a general strike three weeks ago in support of teachers' demands. Teachers and other demonstrators, armed with sticks and stones, have clashed daily with police in La Paz over the past few days. In Tarija, a province on Bolivia's southern border with Argentina, unrest led citizens to declare their administration independence last week from President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada's government."

After the declaration of the state of siege the COB elected a clandestine committee of resistance that is continuing with the general strike and is organising street demonstrations, blockades in the streets and roads and barricades. The government is using its new authoritarian powers to persecute the unions, peasants organisations and oppositions parties.

This is not the first time that Sanchez de Lozada has used the military and a state of siege against worker and popular discontent. In 1985, only a few days after he was nominated as the economics minister, he declared a vicious programme of economic shock therapy. He froze wages and at the same time in one day he raised by 15 times the prices of all goods! When the COB launched a general strike his government declared state of siege. Later, in August 1986, when 15,000 miners, teachers and other people were marching to the capital to fight for better wages and against the closure of mines, he used the army and declared another state of siege, to crush this fight. Faced with this repression thousands of miners and other workers entered the galleries of the mines, hundred of metres underground, and carried on a hunger strike.

Since then it has become a tradition of the Bolivian people's to resist the neo-liberal policies, started under Sanchez de Lozada when he was economics minister, and continued when he is now is president. Sanchez de Lozada is a man who was educated in the USA and speaks a bad Spanish with a strong North American accent. he doesn't speak any of the Indian languages which two thirds of the population speaks. he is one of the richest men in the country. he is himself the owner of the biggest mining company in Bolivia and he is using his power to sell at knock down prices all the state companies, sack the majority of the workers from their jobs and destroyed the state mining company Comibol, which before he came to office was the most important Bolivian company, with the aim of increasing his own private business interests ad those of his friends.

We ask the entire Labour movement and indeed all democratic people in Britain and in Europe to support the right of the Bolivian people to have trade union rights and democratic freedoms and to put an immediate end to the state of siege. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of ALL political and union prisoners. We call on every trade union, solidarity committee, immigrant centre, community organisation,, MP, local government representative, student union, and political party to send faxes, telegrams or letters of protest to the Bolivian embassy and to the Bolivian government. We are also seeking signatures in support of a petition for the release of all the political and union prisoners and for the ending of the state of siege. We are organising an emergency picket outside Bolivian embassy next Wednesday, the 26th of April at 18:30 After this picket we will have a co- ordination meeting to unite all the forces that willing to organise further actions. we also appeal to all organisations to sponsor our campaign


Send letters of protest to: Presidencia de la Republica, Palacio de Gobierno, Plaza Murillo, La Paz, Bolivia.

Send faxes to the Bolivian Embassy: Fax No: 0171 235 1286


The Bolivian Union Solidarity Committee in London sent hundreds of petitions. Different MPs, unions, all the left parties, solidarity committees, Latin American groups, etc. distributed the leaflet and the petition. Next Wednesday we will go to picket the Bolivian embassy and present thousands of signatures.

Our telephone number is:
(UK)- 0171-613 2426
PO BOX 7750 London WC1N 3XX UK

Please, collaborate with the Bolivian workers and people resistence. Organize pickets in your cities, Come to our picket, Send letters and faxes to the Bolivian embassies, organize rallies and demonstrations, Contact us!

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