Bolivia's new president named a non-partisan Cabinet on Sunday, creating a special ministry to deal with Indian affairs in a bid to woo the impoverished indigenous majority that toppled his predecessor in a bloody revolt.
"Any mistakes could make Bolivia fall into the abyss," President Carlos Mesa warned his 15 new ministers at a ceremony at the government palace two days after his predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, quit in the face of protests that paralyzed the country.
Mesa, who was vice president under Sanchez de Lozada, picked a cabinet of technocrats and political independents he hoped would win popular acceptance after 74 people -- mainly Indian demonstrators -- were killed in protests over the last month.
The new ministry of indigenous affairs will deal with issues affecting the Indian majority, who have demanded among other things the scrapping of free market reforms backed by Sanchez de Lozada.
One indigenous group promised to allow Mesa time to demonstrate his sincerity.
"His announcements -- if they are carried out -- reflect the fall of neo-liberalism," said Antonio Peredo, a legislator and ideologue of the MAS party, the country's biggest Indian group.
The revolt that forced out Sanchez de Lozada was sparked by his plans to export natural gas through Chile to Mexico and the US, a scheme that his critics said would benefit only the rich.
The protests also fed on resentment of a US-backed anti-narcotics campaign to eradicate coca crops and on opposition to the former president's economic policies.
Mesa already faces criticism in some quarters and Bolivians say he must show results fast to avoid fresh protests. His term finishes in 2007 but Mesa has asked congress to call early elections.
Sanchez de Lozada, who fled to the US after being toppled, told the <
Many of Bolivia's 8 million citizens live on less than $5 a week and say decades of market reforms have not helped them.
"Our country is still polarized. God help us if Mesa fails," said office clerk Jaime Lopez as he left Sunday Mass at a church in downtown La Paz.
Powerful Indian leader Felipe Quispe, who rails against the "European elites" of Bolivia, said there were still road blockades in the Andean heartland.
"We are going to have problems with Mesa. He has deals with the gringos of the United States," Quispe said, adding he would give Mesa 90 days to abandon the gas project and the coca eradication drive or face new protests.
On Sunday, Mesa addressed members of Bolivia's powerful armed forces, who gave him their backing. "The nation's defense is about the defense of lives of our citizens," the president told a military rally in La Paz. Many of those killed in the protests were shot dead by troops.
Criticism of Mesa emerged in the southern region of Tarija, home of the bulk of Bolivia's vast natural gas reserves, where political leaders fear Mesa will accede to the demands to stop the gas exporting project.
The president has promised a referendum on the gas plan. Many Indian groups demand the project be nationalized, with proceeds going to help alleviate poverty.
At the UN, a spokesman said Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "heartened" that a constitutional solution had been found to the Bolivian crisis.
"He offers the people of Bolivia the assistance of the UN system in helping to address the difficult challenges that they face," the spokesman said.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
BEYOND CULTURE: The US State Department was expected to announce that the Chinese government-funded institutes would have to register as foreign missions US President Donald Trump’s administration is increasing scrutiny of a long-established Chinese-government funded program that is dedicated to teaching Chinese language and culture in the US and other nations, the latest escalation of tensions with Beijing. The US Department of State was expected to announce as soon as yesterday that Confucius Institutes in the US — many of which are based on college campuses — would have to register as “foreign missions,” according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. The designation would amount to a conclusion that the institutes are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year