BIF News Briefing, May to June 2012

Posted on | juni 8, 2012 | No Comments

1. Government signs agreement with health workers, ending 52 day strike
2. OAS assembly in Cochabamba: Morales and Correa call for reform
3. Law on political violence against women passed with unanimity
4. Disputes over mine concessions in Mallku Qhota and Colquiri
5. Urban property law passed

1. Government signs agreement with health workers, ending 52 day strike
An agreement was signed on 19 May by interior minister Carlos Romero and the president of the Colegio Médico de Bolivia (Bolivian Doctors’ Association), Alfonso Barrio, ending the strike by health workers which had lasted 52 days.

Doctors and health workers returned to work, with issues to be debated at a National Health Summit, at the end of July. The six-hour working day will be restored in the meantime (one of the central complaints of the striking doctors was against government attempts to increase the working day to eight hours), and any workers who had been fired because of the strike action will be reinstated in their jobs. The agreement also affirms the right for doctors to teach at universities while working, another of the demands of the striking doctors. The six-hour working day was introduced by previous governments intent on weakening the pubic health sector with a view to its privatisation.

Following the resolution of the conflict, hospitals across the country were to increase their daily quota of operations in order to make up the backlog which has resulted from the strike.

2. OAS assembly in Cochabamba: Morales and Correa call for reform
The 42nd General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS), which took place in Tiquipaya, Cochabamba from 3-5 June, saw Morales – hosting the event – call for serious reform of the organisation, which he accused of serving US interests in the region. For his part, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa suggested an extraordinary assembly of the OAS to “refound” the organisation. The US delegate to the forum – Sub-secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs Roberta Jacobson – left Cochabamba a day early, citing diary commitments.

In his inaugural speech, Morales declared that the organisation would disappear if it could not be reformed to serve the interests of the peoples of Latin America. As a first step, he called for the dismantling of four defence agreements which fall within the purview of the organisation, including the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly the School of the Americas. He also called for reform of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which he said should carry out monitoring of human rights in the United States as well as just in the countries of Latin America.

The Bolivian government had proposed food sovereignty as the central theme of the assembly, including the issues of land and land reform and an agreement against the privatisation of water – an issue with particular resonance in Cochabamba, where protests in 1999 and 2000 led to the cancellation of a multinational water privatisation project. Also under discussion were the issues of Bolivia’s access to the sea and Argentina’s claim over the Falklands/Malvinas. Bolivian foreign minister David Choquehuanca called for the re-negotiation of the 1904 treaty which formally ceded Bolivian territory to Chile leaving Bolivia land-locked. His Chilean counterpart welcomed dialogue on the issue but reiterated that Chile’s territorial integrity will not be affected.

The Assembly of the OAS brings together foreign ministers of countries in the region. Of the 34 countries members of the organisation, only 18 were represented by their respective foreign ministers. There were, however, 60 international observers, and leaders and representatives of social movements from across the region, who met separately.

3. Law on political violence against women passed with unanimity
On 28 May, President Morales enacted the ‘Law against Harassment and Political Violence against Women”. As the law passed through the Senate with unanimity, Senate president Gabriela Montaño highlighted the importance of the law, but also the need to continue to work to guarantee that women can occupy public posts without fear of attacks.

The law introduces two new categories of crime to the Penal Code: political harassment and political violence. These refer to acts of pressure, persecution, harassment, threats or violence against a woman political candidate, elected official, or her family members. The Asociación de Concejalas Bolivianas (ACOBOL), the national association of women municipal councillors, had taken a leading role in promoting the law.

Violence and harassment against women involved in politics has been a serious problem over recent years. Verbal or physical abuse is often used to dissuade women from participating in political spaces. Senator Montaño told of situations where women councillors had been physically restrained and threatened to persuade them to resign or to withdraw accusations of corruption. Juana Quispe Apaza, a municipal councillor from Ancoraimes was recently murdered. The circumstances of her death point to a political motivation. Fany Nina, elected president of the FEJUVE (Federation of Neighbourhood Committees) in El Alto, suffered a traffic accident following systematic harassment, causing her to step down from her post.

4. Disputes over mine concessions in Mallku Qhota and Colquiri
On 28 May, community members from Mallku Qhota, in the department of Potosi, began a march to La Paz. They called for the annulment of the mining concession granted to the Compañía Minera Mallku Khota (CMMK), a subsidiary of the Canadian company South American Silver, for the exploitation of gold and silver deposits in the area. These were then joined by members of the Federation of Ayllus of Norte Potosi, who resolved that any mining activity in the region needed to be approved by the federation.

The marchers are also calling for local leader Cancio Rojas to be freed from prison – he is currently being held following accusations of responsibility for the kidnap of two policemen in the mine. These had been held captive for three days before they were finally released. The kidnaps were followed by violent confrontations between communities for and against the mine in the nearby town of Acasio.

For his part, the minister of mines, Mario Virreira, has declared that the march is political in nature and that community members opposing the mining concession are already carrying out artesanal mining there. However, Virreira also mentioned that the government is open to discussing the demands of the marchers, but that illegal mining activity will not be permitted.

Meanwhile, Colquiri has also been the focus of confrontation as cooperative miners took over the mine which is currently part operated by Sinchi Wayra, a subsidiary of Swiss mining company Glencore (previously the property of ex-president Sánchez de Lozada). The takeover saw mineworkers flee the area after some 800 members of mining cooperatives occupied the mine. In order to resolve the conflict, the government is proposing nationalisation of the mine, with the aim of incorporating the cooperative members as state employees. Negotiations between the government and cooperative miners are ongoing.

5. Urban property law passed
On 5 June President Morales approved a law to allow people living in urban areas to have their rights recognised if they can prove they have been occupying the property continuously and pacifically for the last five years or more. Large numbers of people will benefit from the measure, which specifically requires that both husband and wife are given title to the property where property is jointly held. The law will also reduce the activities of ‘loteadores’ – unscrupulous people trafficking in urban property – who take advantage of people, particularly in marginal parts of cities.

AUTHOR: Bolivia Information Forum
E-MAIL: enquiries [at]


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