Daily Archives: September 19, 2012

Are road/street blockades an ‘acceptable’ political action?

Of course not, however, our beautiful Bolivia had to endure this nuisance for more than we care to remember…

Mamfredo Kempff writes a very well descriptive article in El Diario:


The signs of admiration in the heading of this note, does not correspond, they are in excess. They would be needed if the blockades had surprised us, we would accept the admiration sign if the subject were a novelty that it left us stunned. Blocked!, say some commentator of a civilized nation, of a normal society, but not if it comes from a Bolivian like me, that makes a decade seen blockades every day, first in La Paz, then in Santa Cruz, but always locks everywhere. Locks are as a metastasis in a sick body. Jump from one place to another. There is no way to fight them because the antidote, which is the law, not applied out of fear.

More than ten years ago that we began to hear with insistence that there were blockades on the Santa Cruz road. Fences of stones and logs that stopped traffic for a couple of hours and then lifted as soon as the police or the military were there. Blockers disappeared in the mountains and the traffic was returning to normal. Later the news was that the fences on the road had lasted a day and a night and that the besiegers had clashed with forces of the order. Then the fences lasted for days causing huge losses to the export trade, mainly. We knew that those who blocked the route were coca growers from Chapare commanded by their leader Evo Morales, who refused Government control of surplus crops of coca leaves, and then bound to the drug trade.

The road Oruro – La Paz, was then blocked by other actors. And later were the roads the enclosures in various places of the Republic, because there is nothing more contagious than locks. Or to tell Santa Cruz, now main importer of blockers. Then up the streets of the seat of Government was blocked with paving stones and vehicles. Appeared a new method of struggle that caused, largely, some of the dead of October 2003 and earlier, the dead in Chapare. The system of harassment to Governments was successful – unique successes that we display the Bolivian people – because it paralyzed the country in the last decade. And just what they wanted the blockers was: freeze everything to cause significant harm both to the economy much to the free movement of persons. The purpose of blockades is to rile the population and force the authorities to clear the bridge parapet and therefore to deal with the besiegers, causing injuries and sometimes deaths. That was the original intention of the MAS, to cause casualties and blame the official repression.

The lock has been the greatest contribution of the MAS and their leader Evo Morales to the Bolivian “political culture” so far of this century. The “culture of life” that boasts the most cynical way, has its origin in the violence, contempt, the dread of the people remain isolated in a way as a hostage in the hands of assailants. The blocking of roads has cost many millions of dollars in losses to the nation and has become a pariah of Bolivia, which nobody wants to come and make road commerce is an incalculable risk. How will foreigners venture to travel on trails where there is no God nor law, if not even the Bolivians are encouraged to do so?

Ultimately, the lock as the primary mode of political struggle is set to Bolivia. The Congress is worth nothing, and nothing is worth less than the army spying unnerved behind its walls and police getting stoned and sticks every day. The rogue tax method done by the MAS now is receiving a test of its own poisoned mixture. The protests of the insatiable coca growers, “social movements”, are manifested in the easiest way: blocking. Today, they do not need the skills of a  Juan Lechín or a Filemon Escobar to claim the rights of workers with eloquence. Today anyone who pleases, for any reason that is, at the time they want, sits on a street or in a road with a few “brothers”, a wiphala [alleged indigenous flag, used and included as a national symbol by current government], drinks alcoholic beverages, chews coca, and paralyzes the traffic. That’s when the Government who was the trap inventor turns to tremble.

The blockers are not going to discuss with the authorities; that is the natural assumption. Is it not something brilliant and diabolical at the same time? Ministers or the President are who have to go round to the place of blockades to ask the besiegers to withdraw the rocks and logs, under solemn pledge to please their requirements. And are at risk of being retained or simply abducted. This culture of the blockade has led to the mob to do something more: not to think. Instead of thinking in any strategy or substantiated demand, throw stones to the roads, sit there chewing coca, drink, and wait for the desperate people who come to give up on everything. That’s why Bolivia does not grow, sells more expensive but does not produce more. How to grow in a country where its people spend time sitting in the streets and roads, without work, obstructing trade and freedom of movement of citizens? La Paz, today, is a pathetic example.


The following three cartoons are from 2008, just to illustrate the well written article above:

This cartoon shows a long blockade and a conversation:

“we have to accept that in blockade techniques,  we are making progress”





This one shows current Bolivian president when he was campaigning:

As he flies over a blockade, where people and merchandise (starting to rot) are stopped.

He yelss “heil to the blockade” and next to him it reads “first class” and below the airplane windows “vote for evo”

This one shows two rocks surrounding rotten production…

stones have “vote for evo” and “MAS blockades” signs…

Need to say more? no… it is all in there, just to record and broadcast what happens and how politics is being handled these days… so that Bolivians can share to their non-speaking Spanish friends, so they know what to expect, or to understand current political life in our beautiful country.