President Juan Evo Morales Ayma

Bolivia:  A Tourist’s Close Call

Bolivia used to be run by dictators. Now, a far leftist “campesino” peasant, a buddy of Hugo Chavez, is president.

They take the right of peaceful protest to the extreme and so, virtually every day, here in the capital, La Paz, there is some sort of protest or march going on.

The “Protest du Jour” is this:

There is a nature preserve in the south of the country called “TIPNIS,” sort of a natural and beautiful park/preserve.

mapThe Bolivian government proposes to build a highway through it, and the local peasants there are, of course, “up in arms” about what that would do to the environment and nature preserve.

There have been protests, sometimes violent, going on all over the country, and this week they have reached La Paz.

protestToday, walking down the main street in the center of town, there were thousands protesting — marching, shouting, banner waving — what have you.

As I walked down the main street (of course totally blocked to any traffic), blithely taking video clips, suddenly a guy grabbed me from behind by my coat and swung me away from the oncoming marching group.

Immediately after that I realized why:  A huge firecracker, more like what we used to call a “cherry bomb,” exploded in the very spot where I had been before he had swung me out of harm’s way. Clearly he was an undercover security man charged with protecting the populous during the marches.

A little too close for comfort!