We made it out of La Paz this morning on a 5 a.m. bus–the roads are clearer in the morning, we were told, and we made it through difficult spots outisde the city thanks to what appeared to be a military escort. Of course, I can’t be certain–we were told to close the curtains on our windows as we neared dangerous stretches of road, but we were able to glimpse armed soliders roaming the fields surrounding our bus, on the lookout for angry protesters who might stone the vehicle.
It made sense to leave La Paz a few days ahead of schedule. Protesters have said they’ll be stepping up roadblocks beginning tomorrow, and after that no one knows when roads will again be passable. Today’s Washington Post includes a good summary of what’s gone wrong–and where Bolivia may be headed:
Demonstrators stepped up their pace in the past week, with a series of strikes, marches and roadblocks, leaving thousands of businesses unable to replenish supplies, stranding hundreds of tourists and heightening tensions. Seven people were killed 45 miles north of here on Sept. 20 in clashes with troops sent to rescue 800 people, including 40 foreign tourists, who were trapped by roadblocks.
Many Bolivians, political analysts and journalists say they fear the country may have reached its tipping point. With military officers opposing the sale of natural gas through Chile, the possibility of a coup or even civil war is openly discussed.
I’m writing this from Puno, Peru, halfway bewteen La Paz and Cuzco, the city from which we’ll fly back to Ecuador. We’ll be spending a few days here and a few days in Cuzco, and then we’ll be back in Cuenca toward the end of the week.