The Battle for Paraguay
While the attention of the mainstream press has focused almost exclusively on events in the Middle East over the last year, yet another spectacular victory has been won by the people of Latin America in their struggle against US-led neo-liberal imperialism.
In Paraguay, one of the poorest and least industrialised countries on the continent, a coalition of peasants, workers and other sectors of the social movement has fought a continuous campaign against the privatisation of state-owned companies since the government announced its intention to sell off electicity and telecommunications assets in 1999. The struggle has involved numerous strikes, blockades and marches throughout the country.
In May this year the pace of protest increased with thousands marching from around the country to the capital Asuncíon to demand President Macchi's governement halt the sale of electricity company Copaco. By the start of June thousands had been blocking roads and protesting in front of congress for several weeks. On 4 June the mood become more ugly as police attempted to prevent another 5,000 people marching from the city of Coronel Oviedo. As police and demonstrators clashed one protester was shot dead and many more were injured.
The repressive tactics only intensified the situation, and on 5 June, with the Democratic Congress of the People (CDP) breaking off talks with the government and the Central National de Trabajadores (CNT) calling for a general strike within days, an emergency session of the Senate voted to indefinately postpone Act 1615 authorising the sale of the telecommunications, railroad, water and sewerage companies.
Far from ending the protests, this important victory, seems to have bolstered the confidence of anti-government protesters, and on 15 July President Macchi decreed a five-day state of emergency as a wave of protests, in which several were killed and dozens injured, swept the country.
Social Resistance Deepens in Bolivia
In Bolivia the social movement is showing strong signs of spreading and deepening, with its most obvious manifestation in the surprise electoral success of an indigenous campesino, Evo Morales, on behalf of the Movamiento al Socialismo (MAS) in presidential elections. Morales' popularity soared after the US ambassador told Bolivians not to vote for him. When the results were announced on 9 July, Morales finished a close second, forcing parliament to make a choice between him and former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada of the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR). Only a last-minute power-sharing pact between Sánchez de Lozada's party and the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) ensured keeping Morales from power.
Meanwhile, people's politics continued apace away from parliament, with a march by campesinos demanding a constituent assembly that began in May linking up with the Coordinating Committeee in Defence of Water and Life (involved with halting the privatisation of Bolivia's water) in Cochabamba to form a broad social block. On 7 June, another victory against privatisation was achieved in Caracollo, where striking miners forced the government to agree to transfer the Huanuni tin mine and the Vinto foundry back to control of the state-run Mining Company (Comibol). The miners were supported by unions and civic organizations in the city of Oruro, who declared a civic strike, while 1,000 indigenous marchers were scheduled to arrive in Caracollo in another day. In August, the new president's plea for a social truce was flatly rejected, as new marches took place and 40,000 teachers began an open-ended strike.
P.S. The south of Peru is similarly rising up against the government of former World Bank official Alejandro Toledo. The cities of Arequipa and Tacna are rebelling against the privatisation of their energy corporations; 10 thousand marched in solidarity in Cuzco.