Who is Colonel Wilhelm Taboada?
On our first walk in La Paz, we encountered police officers in full heavy gear blocking protesters from entering the square in front of the Congress-House building. We started a conversation with a policeman standing a bit back and to the side. It turned out he was the man in charge. Colonel Wilhelm Taboada spoke good English, which is not common in Bolivia; he told us about the demonstration, the country, himself, and his family origins. Apparently, his grandfather immigrated from Germany, which immediately made me see blinking lights. He might have been one of those Nazis who found refuge in Bolivia after the war, just like Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, see The Butcher of Bolivia.
This was our introduction to the fascinating country of Bolivia. It was also a blessing to directly connect with the Colonel, who knows what might happen during a month traversing the country. He kindly offered any support necessary during our journey. It’s always good to have that kind of connection.
Bolivians are known to voice their discontent whenever they feel they have been wronged or an injustice has been committed. There have been countless revolutions in Bolivia, governments have fallen, and laws have been enacted due to people’s indignation. It seems chaotic, but there is a precise order behind it: syndicates and unions. In Bolivia, it’s normal for any group to form a syndicate, whether it is a neighborhood or street vendor. Everyone is part of a union that efficiently mobilizes its members. Even the current president, Evo Morales, was the head of the coca farmers union. He was the first indigenous president in South America. He was well admired for his nationalizing industries’ initial policies and other socialistic reforms that resembled those of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Initially, people were happy, and the country prospered; now, people say he has been tainted by corruption. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and is faced with complex problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and illegal drug production.