Crisis in Bolivia

Bolivia has the second largest natural gas reserves in South America, which are located in the eastern region. The opposition centers around these energy-rich regions and is calling for greater autonomy and control over their natural gas revenues.

At the beginning of the month, violent protests erupted. Protesters raided public buildings, blocked roads, and clashed with police. In the provincial capital of one of the opposition regions, Pando, 30 pro-government farm workers were massacred and about 100 people "disappeared". President Morales blamed Governor Leopoldo Fernandez, claiming he hired Brazilian and Peruvian assassins to do the dirty work of the opposition groups. The President declared a state of emergency in the region and instilled the military to take control with martial law. He also accused the US of supporting the opposition and expelled the US ambassador to Bolivia from the country.

In an act of solidarity, Venezuela expelled their U.S. ambassador and Honduras refused to recognize the new envoy. Washington responded by throwing out the three ambassadors from those Latin American countries. Nine presidents of Latin America have condemned the political violence in Bolivia and called on the opposition to end its protests. Morales met with the presidents in Chile last week for an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He declared the unrest an attempted coup and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claimed “a conspiracy directed by the US empire” and compared it to the CIA-backed coup that removed Salvador Allende from Chile in 1973. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack proclaimed the allegations were false. This week, Bolivian troops arrested Leopoldo Fernandez, the governor of Pando, the region where most of the unrest has occurs in Bolivia. Other opposition groups appear to be nearing a truce with Evo Morales.

What do you think can be done to end the unrest in Bolivia? What effect do you think this will have for US-Latin American relations?