Bolivia (MNN)–The Grace Ministries youth missions team in Bolivia is safely home from their trip to Chile.
There were concerns last week when deadly clashes erupted in Cochabamba right as the team was due in. Relative calm has settled again as the governor of Cochabamba in central Bolivia will stop pressing for a referendum on regional autonomy.
However, Governor Manfred Reyes Villa’s announcement did not put an end to calls for his resignation as thousands rallied against him. What it boils down to is this: the conflict is a power struggle between the central government and a majority of the country’s regional governors.
Many of these governors want more independence and a larger share of state revenues. They used to be presidential appointees but voters had a chance to elect them for the first time in December 2005. Six of the country’s nine governors belong to opposition parties.
GMI’s Jerry Olson described the scene late in the week from Cohabamba, Bolivia. “All week long the city has been under siege, basically closed down as the strikers have blocked off every road in and out of the city. Thursday (January 11), citizens poured out of their homes in droves in order to turn back the strikers and sure enough violence ensued with several deaths and 100 wounded. We could see smoke from the fires set in several areas downtown.”
The short term team was understandably very concerned how they were going to get back to Cochabamba, since strikers were actually beating back any travelers who tried to cross their picket lines.
However, both time and negotiations have helped the region settle somewhat. The team did manage to get home safely and reports a great time of ministry with many seeds of the Gospel planted. Pray that there will be no more violence in Cochabamba.