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Friday, May 7, 2021

Militant Lockdown Enacted Amid Rising Tensions With Local Government

One city mayor widens the gap with angry citizens begging to work

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Autumn Spredemann
Autumn Spredemann
I´ve traveled the world working as a freelance journalist, blogger, and English teacher. I specialize in remote travel, obscure cultures, and politics.

BOLIVIA. Sucre.  The early hours of Friday left city residents scrambling as police and military vehicles were deployed to enforce an arbitrary militant lockdown instigated by Mayor Rosario Lopez.

Police at a protest in Sucre shortly before the surprise lockdown.
Photo credit: Autumn Spredemann

The measures were touted as part of a plan to survey each household by members of the Servicio Departamental de Salud (SEDES), in an attempt to ascertain a more accurate number of COVID-19 cases.

Throwing good money after bad

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These same surprise lockdown measures were used on 21 Aug. in La Paz and were deemed to be completely ineffectual.

Using government funds to send people door to door like salesmen from a bygone era left officials with circumstantial data at best.

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Part of this is because households with COVID-19 cases tend to be stigmatized by the community, especially in smaller cities like Sucre.

So when SEDES officials come knocking at the door to ask questions, people have little incentive to tell the truth.

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A similar study was done in the country´s largest city, Santa Cruz, and the results were also considered useless in terms of any reliable data.

More advanced contact tracing methods have been discussed, along with the possibility of doing forced rapid tests on residents in their homes.

However, the government has yet to see the amount of equipment or manpower needed to pull the task off effectively.

Tensions between residents and local government escalate 

On the morning of 4 Sept. officials from Mayor Lopez´s office were physically attacked at an open market while attempting to shut down operations for the next 72 hours.

One of many city markets that were closed. Photo credit: Autumn Spredemann

Live footage of the attack at the market can be viewed here.

While the rest of the country has reopened and is functioning as normal, residents in Sucre were blindsided with another lockdown.

It came as yet another dire economic blow from an overly tone-deaf local government.

Months of protracted lockdown and working restrictions have left people angry and desperate to secure vital income.

There have been numerous protests, roadblocks, and other measures used by residents since July to try and strong-arm both local and federal governments into letting people work longer hours with fewer limitations.

Despite a second stimulus bonus being approved by the parliament, the current interim president Jeanine Añez claims there isn´t enough money to give Bolivians any financial help.

These circumstances have created a proverbial powder keg among residents in smaller cities, like Sucre, where unemployment has struck the hardest.

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