No sooner had we pushed the send button on our last up-date than all "heck" broke loose here in Bolivia.The figurative straw that broke the camels back was the imposition of a new income tax (Bolivia has a 18-28% sales tax, but never had an income tax), and in addition, an across the board reduction of salaries for all but the poorest (those earning $2 a day or less) and the wealthiest ($1500 per month and above) sectors.The average wage in Bolivia is little more than $100 per month.
PRAY FOR THE SOCIAL UNREST IN BOLIVIA
Today's activities began with a revolt by the national police (a branch of the military).The government sent in the regular military to halt the uprising and just about everyone else joined in to support the police.As we write there are a number of government buildings burning in La Paz and one in Cochabamba.Most of the riots are in La Paz.The Vice Presidential Palace is among those set on fire; this building houses the Bolivian Library of Congress and the National Archives.Other buildings on fire include the Ministry of Labor, a judicial building, and the headquarters of the two political parties in the current government coalition.Streets are blocked with burning tires and trash containers.Tear gas and bullets are flying; stores and offices are being looted.Reports are not clear, but it seems that more than 10 have been killed in the riots, mostly police, and over 100 seriously injured.
The military special forces (The Dálmatas, Dalmatians in English), have made themselves very present.This specially trained group of military is made up mostly of orphans and those with few family ties, so that they will not be fighting against their own families.They are known to be especially brutal.
A number of opposition leaders have made public statements calling for the current president and his government to resign.One of the opposition leaders has some military support.Everything seems to be in place for a government overthrow (coup de etát).
Tomorrow every union and public sector has called for marches, a public strike, and roadblocks.The President gave orders to the military that are still in his favor to bring order to the country.We expect that martial law will be declared before the weekend.Please join us in prayer for this situation.
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
The new taxes and salary reductions are conditions placed on Bolivia by the World Bank (based in Washington D.C.) in order for Bolivia to receive a redistribution of the foreign debt and to receive future credit.This puts the Bolivian government in the sticky place of having to please either the World Bank or the Bolivian citizens. This is happening in many countries around the world.Pray for the world economic situation.
Thank you for your prayers.Please be assured that your American Baptist missionaries in Bolivia are in no personal danger.
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear."(Psalm 46:1-2a)
Steve and Francesca (Missy) Crane, and David too!
Mailing address: Crane, Seminario Teologico Bautista, Casilla 556, Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Steve and Francesca Crane
Seminario Teologico Bautista