Paper presented at the Carnegie Council Fellows' Conference 2005. To access the full paper click on the "download" button at the bottom of the page.
A week ago on June 6th Bolivian president Carlos Mesa resigned, for the second time, citing an inability to govern amid another round of large-scale social mobilizations that continue to paralyze the country since mid-May. On May 30, approximately 15,000 protestors filled the Plaza Murillo in Bolivia’s capital city of La Paz. The next day more than 50,000 people gathered in La Paz, and clashed with police in an exchange of sticks of dynamite, burning tires, tear gas, high pressure water hoses, rubber bullets and riot gear. On June 1, Aymara peasants blockaded access to La Paz. Meanwhile in the city of Cochabamba peasants and factory workers led a massive march through the city center. By June 4, highways were blocked at more than 55 points in seven Bolivian departments. It should be noted that Mesa himself had come to power in October of 2003, after his predecessor, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, was ousted and fled the country, in the face of outrage over bloody efforts to control similar protests that convulsed Bolivia throughout that year. It is estimated that up to 500,000 thousand people converged on the city center, as Sánchez de Lozada’s helicopter took off. The new president and former head of the court, Eduardo Rodríguez, is the third to take office since 2002, and has promised to hold early elections within the next six months, and to immediately address the concerns of protesters—a promise also made by his predecessor.