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01/05/2008 | OAS mediation to prevent armed conflict in Bolivia

Mercopress Staff

The OAS, Organization of American States, has sent a top negotiator to Bolivia in an attempt to mediate between the administration of President Evo Morales and Santa Cruz province governor Ruben Costas, ahead of next Sunday’s controversial autonomy referendum which could signal the beginning of the dismembering of the landlocked country.

 

Dante Caputto an Argentine former Foreign Affairs minister head of the OAS Political Affairs Department arrived Monday in Bolivia as a personal and special envoy from OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza.

According to OAS, Mr. Caputto will try to open discussions between the two leaders, “be it directly or three ways” to find a solution to the conflict which could see Bolivia’s richest province, with ample agriculture and oil and gas resources split from the national entity, triggering a crisis of unpredictable consequences including possible civil war.

This is Mr. Caputto’s third trip to Bolivia in a month. In the report following his second trip he anticipated “violence and death” is a real threat for Bolivia if some kind of understanding is not reached before next Sunday.

Santa Cruz, together with Pando, Beni and Tarija or the half moon of the east of Bolivia concentrates most of the country’s agriculture and mineral wealth. If the Santa Cruz referendum is a success it’s a matter of time for the other provinces to follow.

But Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous elected president, has warned he will call on the country’s Armed Forces to keep the country’s unity and also has indigenous grass root organizations allegedly ready to fight secession.

Morales says the referendum as an illegal attempt by a rich minority of European descent to hold on to their privileges and undermine the rights of the majority poor Indians mostly living in La Paz and the central highlands.

Bolivia’s Foreign Affairs minister David Choquehuanca confirmed on Saturday in Washington that the Morales administration was “open to dialogue without pre conditions and an open agenda”.

In Santa Cruz the president of the Juvenile Union David Sejas said “we are ready to respond to any provocation. The (Bolivian) government wants to implement a copy of Cuban socialism and is encouraging violence through its social groups, but we'll not tolerate this".

Mercopress (Uruguay)

 


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