Prior to a recent soccer match in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, 40,000 spectators intoned the state’s hymn and then chanted “Autonomy!” They ended by shouting obscenities aimed at President Evo Morales, the recently elected former peasant leader of indigenous origin.

Since taking office nine months ago, Morales has confronted numerous challenges, including a truck drivers strike, a teachers strike, the seizure of a natural gas pipeline, an indigenous occupation of a firehouse and a 24-hour general strike in the southern state of Chuquisaca.

On Sept. 25, thousands of miners went on strike, blocking highways. Some demanded nationalization of the mines and the transfer of company profits to local farmers.

Vice President Alvaro García Linera went to Washington recently, seeking tariff reductions in return for destruction of coca crops. He agreed to the clearing of 15,000 acres, only to have U.S. officials refuse to ease the tariffs. Criticism mounted when anti-drug operations Sept. 29 resulted in two farmers being killed, two police being wounded and six agents being taken hostage.

Opposition propaganda has focused on differences between Morales and his vice president. Whereas Morales is strongly anti-imperialist in tone, García Linera speaks of foreign company officials and political opposition leaders as “negotiating partners.”

There are ominous rumblings on the right. High-ranking officials in six states have been accused of plotting to undermine the government. The anti-Morales governor of the northern state of Pando has reportedly armed groups of young people. On Sept. 26, ex-Army-head Marcelo Antexana called upon the Army to restore order in the event of civil war.

On Sept. 8, Santa Cruz’s Civic Committee staged a “general strike” in the eastern states to protest developments in the stalled Constituent Assembly. Young paramilitaries threw rocks at peasants.

Wealth derived from large landholdings and foreign-owned oil and gas operations is centered in Santa Cruz, the traditional home base for Bolivia’s political elite. Petrobras, the Brazilian oil giant, has offices there; it controls over 40 percent of Bolivia’s gas and oil reserves. U.S. investors own 49 percent of Petrobras.

Oil company managers and Santa Cruz politicians have launched a publicity blitz focusing on the government’s failure to consummate the nationalization program that it announced on May 1. The state-owned oil company lacks the financial and technical resources required for the transition. The government has until Nov. 1 to negotiate financial arrangements with the foreign companies.

The specter of a fiscal crisis is reportedly causing uncertainties among middle-class and white working-class supporters of Morales’ party, the Movement Toward Socialism.

Making good on the nationalization decree is crucial to Bolivia’s revolutionary process, writes Raúl Zibechi at rebelion.org. “Either nationalize or confront a political crisis from betraying the movement that brought you [the government] to power,” he observes. “Further, it is the only way to guarantee survival for the people of one of the poorest countries of Latin America.”

Meanwhile, opposition forces in the separatist-oriented states wait to make their next move.

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