The Fake Funeral of Evo Morales
Violent clashes kill miner in La Paz
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Bolivians tend to emphasize the main points of their protests with sticks of dynamite. Since it is done in the open, the explosions seldom cause damage. In fact, Evo Morales achieved power after intimidating the population of La Paz with an ongoing siege. There were no veggies; daily protests transformed the city’s main venue into an open mine. Dynamite exploded every day. Out of fear, people voted for him, nobody wanted a civil war.
Yet, sometimes things get out of control. In the recent miners' protests, unionized miners confronted those working directly for the government. Bolivia is a highly unionized country, the typical rhomboid flags of the unions can be seen in every protest. The unions invariably request higher autonomy; this makes sense in a country that still rates as a de facto dictatorship. Laws exist here in the form of “Supreme Decrees” issued by the president. This time the event was touching, the poorest miners—those mining zinc and tin—confronting each other. Lighted dynamite sticks were thrown back and forth between the groups; the police participated in favor of the government miners. Eventually, a stick exploded on Hector Choque, 31, a union miner who got killed on the spot. The picture below shows his destroyed body being taken away by the police. Note how heavily they are armed; this is typical of Bolivia. Eventually, nine other miners were wounded. In the aftermath, both sides promised escalation of the events.
Having heard about the violent event, next morning I left the guesthouse very early. I feared that the downtown area would be blocked the entire day by protests, forcing me to waste a workday. Around 7AM, I crossed El Prado, the city’s main venue. In front of the Miner’s Union building—a low and unimpressive structure—I met an extraordinary sight. It was a mock funeral. Something was wrong with the scene, thus I took a picture as fast as I could. Afterwards, I tried to analyze what was wrong. While attempting to do so a large group of police officers advanced towards the funeral. The area was closed by them. When I returned later, there was no sign of the miners. Since I do not know their names, there is no way to find out if they have survived.
What was obviously wrong, were the symbols used in the funeral. The assassinated—the union formally refers to the event as “assassination”—belonged to the union. Yet, over the empty coffin there was no flag of the union. There wasn’t even the name of the miner on a piece of paper. Instead, the coffin was covered by a Bolivian flag; odd choice given the violent circumstances. Six miners guarded the coffin; one of them looked at me; but said nothing. He looked worried. Then, I noticed that his mouth was full with coca-leaves (see his filled up cheek in the close-up picture above). That was odd, unless you know a bit of Bolivian history. Evo Morales was born to a family of miners; early in his life he became a coca-grower (“cocalero” in Spanish). He was appointed leader of the Coca Confederation, a title he keeps even know, while serving as Bolivia’s president. In fact, the rise to power of Evo, signaled a shift of power from the miners oligarchy to the coca-growers one. The miners here were mocking Evo Morales; physically chewing the coca-grower to death. A mock funeral was performed in order to show he doesn’t represent the miners.
This was awesome enough to justify a new article on the issue. Then, it is also an opportunity to provide some political advice to my jailer. If Evo Morales doesn’t step down from power, then he must crush the protests, or wait to be removed violently from power by the people. Either one of these last two will fill the streets of La Paz with Bolivian blood. Meanwhile, everything is receding into fogginess until the next stick of dynamite explodes on the wrong person.
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