is Sunday, April 9 and the transport situation in Bolivia is impossible; no lorries
large or small are available, even the majority of jeeps are requisitioned. For
today is the ninth anniversary of the 1952 revolution; today is the procession,
when new Bolivia shows her strength.
early morning the streets have been echoing to the convoys of lorries grinding
in from the country. Lorries packed tight with as many as 50 men, wearing helmets
and carrying rifles; and, of course, flying banners proclaiming their designation
are the campesinos (peasant farmers) and the miners, the "strength"
behind the government.
major reforms of the Revolutionary Government have been: A system of agrarian
reform by which the land has been taken away from the old owners and redistributed
among the people actually working it; the nationalisation of the larger mines,
partially in an attempt to keep money in the country; and the extension of the
suffrage to include all people over 18, irrespective of education.
was hoped by these methods to dignify the status o those large sections of the
people who had been ignored and exploited before.
education has been slowly extended to many - particularly Indians - who had previously
had no such opportunities.
the same time the Army (so often the source of counter-revolutionary power) was
drastically reduced in numbers and is now largely used as a labour force in opening
up the under-developed areas of the country and the workers were made into Civil
Militia organised into regiments and armed.
Unions (known as Sindicatos) were formed among workers of all kinds, industrial,
mining, railways, taxi-drivers, peasants, ferry operators, etc., and, since the
standard of education was low, leaders (national, regional and district) were
were the people who had come to La Paz to show their solidarity and their support
for the government of the Movimento Nationalista Revolutionario. [MNR]
procession began at 2.30, and it lasted six hours. It must have been, at least
six miles long, and at a wild guess, was perhaps over 100,000 strong..
95 per cent were civilians - many armed - dressed in heir normal clothes, the
men with their striped ponchos and woollen hats, the women wearing shawls. All
were marching in imitation - almost parody - of the small army detachments that
army was very smart. They use the goose-step for the actual march-past - ferociously
competent - and this height of military efficiency brought back unhappy memories
of the campesinos - particularly the standard bearers - attempted the same in
a semi-trained way, some serious, some grinning, right arms extended in a V-salute.
the balcony of the palace stood the President acknowledging the salute in the
same way. It was a strange reminder of the last war with both sides president
at the same time, as it were.
wailed, planes (four of them) roared to and fro overhead, and more and more detachments
poured into the square - "Commando National del Pofessionales del M.N.R.,"
"Brigada Femina Juventud M.N.R.," Regimento Campesino No.3," "Dirrection
de Co-operativos," "Ministerio de Agricultura", girls from government
offices having difficulty with their high-heels, miners with helmets, yellow oil
skins, sten guns and large boxes of gelignite with fuses wound around their bodies.
individuals carried a small paper Bolivian flag, once 100 peasant women marched
past carrying a 50-yard long flag horizontally.
there were slogans - "Dignity to the work of the peasants," " Owners
of the land we possess," " The working classes entered into the Government
in 1952," "Death to nepotism," "Death to counter-revolutionaries,"
"Death to traitors."
still the detachments filed past. There were rifles (some even carried by women)
sten-guns, bren-guns, bazookas, mortars (complete with bombs), a sobering sight
in the hands of semi-trained personnel.
showed their enthusiasm by firing off their armaments - into the air, fortunately
- and rifle and machine-gun fire heralded the arrival in the square of each new
are not uncommon in La Paz, sometimes at night, and frequently at weekends, bursts
of firing are heard - the many hills around throw back five or six echoes to make
it sound like a regular fusillade.
the miners ride to town in trucks, tossing small pieces of gelignite over the
side as they go.
are examples of high spirits, largely, but are also a reflection of the sudden
power these sections of the people have gained, and still wish to wield.
power is very real. Although grateful, and probably faithful at the revolutionary
party which had dignified their status, the workers do little to help it solve
the country's enormous problems.
revolution has not brought about a moral regeneration, and the Government often
finds itself powerless to promote necessary reforms.
has had a pendulum effect, and the excesses are now on the other side. The mines,
and industry in general are largely overstaffed, but the Sindicatos will not countenance
the laying off of redundant workers.
there are so many unproductive hands to pay, the payment is low for all, and yet
the industries continue to lose money.
the cases where dismissal of workers is allowed, the payment of three months'
salary is demanded; thus you hear stories of domestic servants deliberately giving
unsatisfactory service in order to compel dismissal and gain the unearned salary.
sad stories are quoted. A small manufacturer, losing money, wished to declare
himself bankrupt; three times he tried and was refused permission on the grounds
that he would put his three workers out of employment.
desperation he eventually made over his concern to his works
and was gaoled
for his pains.