KNOXVILLE — As political troubles continue in Bolivia, a University of Tennessee political scientist says the social unrest there has roots many centuries deep.
Dr. Donna Lee Van Cott, an expert on Bolivia, said the country is politically unstable because of an imbalance of power.
“This is something that’s been building for many years,” Van Cott said. “If you go back to the beginning of its creation, Bolivia has been unstable, because you have a minority of European-descended people ruling over a majority of indigenous-descended people. Over time, the frustration with that situation has built up.”
Rumors began to surface Friday that Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada would step down from office. Van Cott said that’s the ultimate goal of the protesters.
“He (Sanchez) suspended the plan to sell natural gas to the United States and Mexico, which was the policy that had triggered these protests, and agreed to put that up for a referendum so the people could decide,” Van Cott said. “He also agreed to change the constitution so that a constituent assembly could be held.”
“These are major concessions. The problem is that the opposition is quite adamant that he just resign.”
The future of coca-leaf production is also very important to the anti-Sanchez protesters, Van Cott said.
“Some of them are concerned with preventing the government from eradicating the coca crops upon which they depend,” Van Cott said. “Of course, everybody in Bolivia doesn’t grow coca, but many Bolivians are frustrated with the corruption of the government and with the fact that the poor just keep getting poorer and don’t seem to have any influence in politics.”
Dr. Donna Lee Van Cott (865-974-7042)
Charles Primm (865-974-5180)