Bomb Explodes at Venezuelan Consulate in Bolivia

The Venezuelan Consulate and the residency of a Cuban doctor were attacked with explosives in the opposition controlled state of Santa Cruz, in Bolivia, in the early hours of Monday October 22.
Bolivian opposition protest in Santa Cruz last weekend (AP)

October 24, 2007 ( The
Venezuelan Consulate and the residency of a Cuban doctor were attacked with
explosives in the opposition controlled state of Santa Cruz,
in Bolivia,
in the early hours of Monday October 22.

At approximately 3 a.m. explosives thrown at the
residency of the Venezuelan consulate, blew a hole in the roof of a room where
children were sleeping, then at around 4 a.m. dynamite was thrown from a moving car at
the house of a Cuban doctor also in Santa Cruz, causing minor damage. Alex
Contreras, a spokesperson for the Bolivian Government said no one was injured
and that there would be a thorough investigation into the incident.

The Cuban Ambassador to
Bolivia, Rafael Dausa, told local radio that this was the second attack, "A
month and a half ago there was a similar attack with a tear gas grenade thrown
against another house where Cuban doctors live."

Interior Minister, Alfredo Rada said the attacks were incited by the racist
discourse of Governor of Santa Cruz, Ruben Costas, against the Bolivian
government and its allies Cuba
and Venezuela last Thursday
during which Costas criticized Venezuelan aid programs to Bolivia, referred to Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez a "monkey," and declared him "persona non grata" in Santa Cruz.

"There are people that
find in these words the incentive to carry out criminal and violent attacks,
transferring the verbal violence into physical violence," Rada added.

Speaking on Venezuelan
state TV yesterday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro accused the
"racist Bolivian oligarchy" of being responsible for the explosions. "We have
seen in the last 48 hours the moral decomposition of this oligarchy, how they
have unleashed fury and hate," he said.

Maduro explained that
the Bolivian oligarchy has been the instrument of imperialism, "of the
monopolies that have dominated the natural resources of Bolivia over
decades and exploited the Bolivian people."

"They are trying to
sabotage the peaceful and democratic changes carried out by president Morales,"
Maduro continued.

Recalling Chavez's
recent comments that "Venezuela will not remain with our arms crossed" in the
face of any opposition attempts to overthrow or assassinate Bolivian President
Evo Morales, Maduro affirmed that Venezuela would increase "the moral,
political and material support that we are giving to the president of Bolivia,
Evo Morales and the people of that country."

"They can count on the
support of the Bolivarian Government, of the President of Venezuela, Hugo
Chavez Frias and all the Venezuelan people," he added.

The attacks come in the
context of clashes between the Governorship of Santa Cruz and the national
government over the control of the Viru Viru airport, Bolivia's most important international airport,
in Santa Cruz
last week.

On October 18, in the midst of
widespread reports of corruption by local authorities, and according to an
article by Rainer Uphoff, reports by several international airlines of
encounters "with armed groups demanding $2,000 cash payments as landing fees,"
national authorities ordered the Bolivian Armed Forces to secure Viru Viru.

Falsely claiming the
involvement of Venezuelan military personal in the securing of Viru Viru,
Costas then led an opposition demonstration of up to 20,000 people in
"retaking" the airport on October 19, demanding that taxes collected at the
airport should go into the coffers of the local government of Santa Cruz.

In response to Costas,
who in a challenge the Armed Forces and the national government, said, "the
only commander of this town…is me," the Bolivian Armed Forces indicated that
they have "sufficient capacity" to "guarantee the stability of the legally
constituted government" of President Evo Morales.

Perpetuating the false
claims of Venezuelan military involvement, opposition governors from Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, Pando, and Cochabamba launched a media campaign
demanding the withdrawal of "foreign military forces that are intervening in
the internal affairs of the country."

However, Bolivian
Defense Minister, Walker San Miguel said on Bolivian TV channel Cadena A on
Tuesday that there are no foreign troops in the country and that the opposition
claims were a political posture.

"There are no foreign
military troops. We see not only a confusion in the terminology that they use,
but clearly political and media aims," San Miguel told ABI.

San Miguel affirmed that
around 100 military and civilian personnel from Brazil, Argentina, and
Venezuela arrived in the country to provide humanitarian support during the
floods in Beni and Santa Cruz in January, and said that today only three
Venezuelan officials remain and are working with machinery donated by Venezuela
on the construction of a retaining wall to prevent further inundations in the
city of Trinidad.

"The prefect of Beni, Ernesto Suárez… knows that thanks to the
Venezuelan helicopters we saved many lives," San Miguel added.

Despite the good
relations between Venezuela
and Bolivia San Miguel asked Chavez to "tone down" his statements on Bolivia,
which are "sometimes very controversial."

In addition to
humanitarian aid provided during the floods in Beni,
the Venezuelan government provides funding for health clinics, radio stations,
helicopters, and literacy programs. Additionally, approximately 2,000 Cuban
doctors and paramedics work in various medical programs to provide free
healthcare, such as eye surgery and programs to build new hospitals.

While Bolivia's elite US-backed opposition, centered
in the resource-rich eastern states of Santa Cruz,
Tarija, Beni, and Pando, see Venezuelan and Cuban support to Latin America's
poorest nation as "interference," many from Bolivia's poor and indigenous
majority take a different view.

Leonilda Zurita, a
cocolera leader from the Chapare region near Cochabamba
said the health and literacy programs were extremely significant for Bolivia's indigenous
majority who had previously been excluded.

Similarly, Domitila
Barrios de Chungara, a famous activist from the 1970s in Bolivia's notoriously
exploitative tin mines, told in Cochabamba on Sunday, "I
was very emotional when I heard President Chavez's comments, [in support of
Morales] because Bolivia has been struggling [against US imperialism] alone for
so long."

"Now I know now that Bolivia
is not alone."