Bolivian military steels itself as opposition to takeover mounts
Bolivia's 11-day-old military government has very few friends either at home or abroad. Moreover, the new military leaders are facing mounting pressure aimed at making them step down in favor of a return to civilian rule. The pressure comes from three sources:
* Labor elements spearheaded by the country's tin miners.
Miners, who were thought to have gone back to work after striking in protest of the July 17 military takeover, have actually intensified their strike in some mining areas.
* The Roman Catholic Church. through the Bolivian Council of Bishops, the church has condemned the military for violence since the generals came to power.
The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Jorge Manrique Oleaga, archibishop of La Paz, read the statement at a mass July 27, adding his own comments to the effect that Bolivians are living in a climate of fear. He also said that he had witnesses to the executions by the military of four Bolivian youths in La Paz last week.
* Outside forces, including the United States. Over the weekend the US withdrew its military mission and many of its diplomats, and canceled all economic aid projects.
The Organization of American States, meanwhile, passed a resolution July 25 expressing "serious concern about grave violations of human rights" in Bolivia since the coup. There have been all sorts of reports of serious rights' violations by the military and reports of disappearances of hundreds of military opponents.
Underlying the pressures on the military is an unhappy citizenry who regard the military takeover as unwarranted.
The coup did not surprise most Bolivians. It had been rumored for days. The military was upset over the strong showing of Hernan Siles Suazo, a leftist, in recent presidential balloting.
What surprised most Bolivians was the brutality of the coup. Military men in civilian dress entered a number of public buildings July 17 and killed a number of goverment and labor officials. Among them was Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, a widely respected socialist.
Whether the combination of opposition forces is enough to bring down the military goverment remains to be seen.
Last November, an aroused Bolivian citizenry forced the government of Col. Alberto Natusch Busch to resign after only 16 days in power. This time, however , Gen. Luis Garcia Meza, who has declared himself the president, is backed by a majority of Bolivia's top officers.