La Sede no se Mueve!

That is the familiar chant around town these days! And the “cause” of the week as well. Today, in La Paz, businesses were closed, transportation was not running and most people did not go to work. Roads in and out of the city were blocked, and if you had to catch a flight – all the power to you! Why, you might ask? As result of an organized civil action for the people of La Paz to show their support for this cause.

Now what is this ‘cause’ all about that has shut down a city for a day?? Well, it all started many many years ago (1899 or so), when the seat of the government (la sede del gobierno) was moved from Sucre to La Paz after a civil war. Today, the operational capital of the country is La Paz. All the government buildings and people are here. Sucre is still the constitutional capital.

However, recently there has been a demand from Sucre (and the Department where it is situated – Chuquisaca) to move the operations back to that city. The Department of Santa Cruz is supporting the demand as well. Some say the demand to move the seat of the government is a method to divide the country even further and hopefully topple the government. In that way, the demonstration today was not just about keeping the seat here, but also about the unity of the country.

Reports are saying that close to two million people were out in the streets today (in a city where the combined population of La Paz and El Alto is 1.7 million) to show their support for keeping the capital of Bolivia in La Paz. People came from all over the Department of La Paz to join the movement. The action started this morning at about 8:30am. There were meeting points all over the city, from El Alto to Zona Sur. People were to march or ride in buses to the main site of the demonstration, which was located at the toll on the highway to El Alto, effectively blockading the main route out of the city.
In the afternoon, speeches by various leaders were scheduled. The demonstration was supposed to last until 6pm.

I did not attend the event. As UN staff, we are typically advised to stay away from such things because they can turn violent in the blink of an eye. The rules for us today were, if you can get to work – come. If you can’t, stay home. If you go to the rally, you’re taking a vacation day and don’t come to work on Monday with any wounds. I can tell you though, that down here in Zona Sur (which is pretty far away from the action) there was a lot less traffic than usual, and everything was closed. I would estimate that about half the people in the office, those that live fairly close by, were at work today. The other half were unable to get there.

Tomorrow everything should be back to normal. Whether the rally will have a lasting effect is yet to be seen. It is very interesting to see how people here can organize around a cause. The idea is that people shut their businesses to show that they are willing to give up a day’s earnings to support the given cause. This is not the first such event, nor will it be the last in Bolivia!

“The seat doesn’t move!”

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Posted in La Paz Submitted by Meg on Fri, 2007-07-20 18:29

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