The Current Situation in Bolivia
Against Reaction, For Unity of the Popular and Revolutionary Forces.

Report of the Communist Party of Bolivia to the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties, Lisbon, 10th-12th November, 2006.


After Evo Morales' ascension to the presidency of Bolivia on January 26, 2006, the country has begun an important period filled with deeply democratic, anti-oligarchic, anti-imperialist, and popular sentiments. This process started with the popular rejection of the neoliberal model when the former government imposed the unpopular Decree 21060 on the country, which was nothing other than the Bolivian version of the so-called Washington Consensus, the ideological and economic basis of neoliberalism in Central and South America.

During the last 20 years, a situation more and more adverse to the working class, with the loss of basic rights, a huge increase in unemployment, and a degradation of the quality of life, has led to a sharp rise of consciousness which has been expressed in concrete and decisive actions. An important landmark in this struggle was the so called "Water War" that took place in April, 2000 in Cochabamba, which, through mass struggle, was able to expel the transnational corporation that had managed to gain ownership of the water resources in the region. Later on, the popular movements of September and October, 2000, January, 2002, and February, 2003, shook Bolivian society to its roots when popular anger erupted against the taxation of salaries, provoking a police mutiny that eventually led to a bloody confrontation.

This in turn led to a clearly revolutionary situation in October, 2003, when, in order to resolve the political crisis, the central issue became the demand for the replacement of President Sanchez de Lozada, who was perceived as the real force behind the prevailing neoliberal model. The popular masses placed the recovery of the country’s gas resources for the use and benefit of the people squarely on the agenda by means of a referendum that defined a new national gas policy, and also called for a Constitutional Assembly to draw up a new constitution. With these demands, the mass movement was able to expel the neoliberal President from the country.

Nevertheless, this insurrectional movement was not able to entirely replace all the key representatives of the neoliberal government. The sequel was a “neoliberal light” regime. However, in October, 2003 as well as in June 2005, the Bolivian Parliament ratified the changes demanded by the people regarding the presidency, thereby showing that the actions of the masses and the movement they led were the true motors of political change, while the traditional political parties were entirely absent in terms of finding a solution for this profound political crisis. The loss of prestige of the rightist and conservative parties, their lack of credibility and their rampant corruption, led to their isolation and an open rejection of them by the masses. However, the leftist parties did not play an important part in the final development of events either and were apparently replaced by the mass social movement itself.

The presidential candidate of MAS (Movement Toward Socialism), Evo Morales, won the national elections in December, 2005, with 53.7% of the popular vote, inflicting the severest defeat on the right-wing parties in the last 50 years. The popular struggle had led to an accumulation of forces and a rise in consciousness that demanded real changes and an end to neoliberalism. In other words, the fundamental reason behind the mobilization of the vote for Evo Morales was the social demands of the popular social classes for national sovereignty and dignity, demands that were underscored by a clear anti-imperialist position.

As noted during the 9th National Congress of the Bolivian Communist Party, held in July, 2006, the government of Evo Morales has taken several steps which represent an important move forward:
* the recovery of Bolivia's right to ownership of the country’s natural gas reserves;
* the signing of important agreements with the Venezuelan government for the exploitation and industrialization of the gas reserves;
* the decision to distribute government-owned land to the landless;
* and the dissolution of unproductive, privately-owned landholdings.

The Morales government has also started a widespread literacy campaign, as well as a massive program of healthcare for those who have lacked such services until now. In both cases, it is important to mention the fraternal cooperation of the Cuban government. It should also be mentioned that the Morales government has made Bolivia a party to important trade agreements like the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) and the TCP (People's Trade Treaty). Furthermore, it has begun negotiations with Mercosur (the Latin American trade Association founded in 1991) and rejected previously imposed free trade treaties which went against the interests of the country. Finally, it is worth noting that the present administration is showing a clear determination to conduct government in an honest way, an outstanding new feature, in view of the negative experience left by every neoliberal regime since 1985.

However, these positive measures do not yet go beyond a progressive and democratic program, and are still not firmly directed toward a break away from dependency and the capitalist model. The 9th Congress reaffirmed its position of communist struggle toward a more democratic, popular, anti-oligarchical, and anti-imperialist process in Bolivia in order to insure a period of transition toward a superior form of social organization, that is, a process of recapturing the republic and directing it toward the introduction of a socialist form of government.

The 9th Congress analyzed the dangers inherent in this course, especially those actions aimed at sabotaging the process by rightist sectors, particularly the dominant classes in the eastern region of the country, through the increased activity of groups of neofascist inspiration. We pointed out the need to denounce such actions and to educate the people about them, especially in that eastern region, so that they do not get confused by the call for regionalism and the separatist tendencies that lurk behind the mask of regional autonomy.

In this context, the Party and its friends on the left, as well as the MAS representatives in the Constitutional Assembly, must act in a coherent, coordinated manner, with a profound understanding of the national situation, to defend the unity of the Republic and its independent development within the framework of Latin-American integration and solidarity.

It is urgent to achieve the greatest unity of the left forces, including trade union organizations and other social sectors, in a solid broadly anti-neoliberal political front, that rejects vertical, top-down methods in the handling of the affairs of government, as well as in all public institutions and social organizations. The 9th Congress also underscored the need to begin a broad-based ideological battle, well beyond its own ranks, to mobilize the popular masses in order to achieve new goals of social progress, true democracy, and the sovereignty of the Republic.

Bolivia is presently facing a very complex and delicate situation with serious dangers for the continuity of the democratic process. The following are the main factors that characterize the present situation:

* Attempts at sabotage directed by American imperialism and led by the eastern oligarchy and rightist parties, including strikes and blockades, assemblies of state authorities opposed to the MAS government, and civic committees that openly defy the authority of President Morales. Also noteworthy are proclamations for the creation of a parallel Constitutional Assembly and the holding of local referendums with a separatist intent.
* So-called "civic strikes” in four states intended to paralyze economic and political activity.
* The organization of armed squads to carry out subversive activities aimed at plunging the country into chaos.
* The plans of the reactionary right to force a secessionist civil war. This includes a re-grouping of old paramilitary forces, which has been detected in the eastern region of the country where foreign elements are preparing to perpetrate criminal acts against those who oppose separatism and carry out sabotage against important installations in order to place blame on the government.
* An increase in the presence of US troops at the "Establecimiento Operativo Avanzado" base (Advanced Operations Base) in Estigarribia, Paraguay. American imperialism is now contriving various mechanisms, including diplomatic ones, to lay a propitious groundwork for intervention and the occupation of Bolivian territory, invoking the "Charter of Democracy" of the Pan-American Union.
* Infiltration of union organizations and social movements in order to create an atmosphere of chaos and ungovernability, utilizing demands that are impossible to satisfy, cloaking them in pseudo-leftist language designed to confuse the Bolivian people.
* It should also be noted that there has been hesitation and mistakes on the part of the government itself that create pessimism and frustration in the popular ranks.
* Contradictions and lack of coherence in the central government and advisors close to the President have slowed down the application of the revolutionary measures the population demanded at the polls. There is also a quarrel between pseudo-revolutionaries and defenders of the transnational agencies on one hand and those who really want to carry out a program of national and social liberation on the other.
* There is a lack of capacity in developing successful strategies which is aggravated by the presence of bureaucrats from previous neoliberal regimes, as well as opportunists aligned with MAS.
* Additionally, the Constitutional Assembly that was inaugurated in August is another important arena in which a fierce battle of interests is presently taking place. The conservative sectors are seeking to blockade the Constitutional Assembly by utilizing the arithmetical percentages that are applied to the voting process in the Assembly. Such efforts are aimed at the preservation of the old neoliberal forces institutionally. However, this discourse about "legality and democracy" is really only a guise to block the process of structural change. Regional resistance is the premeditated answer to the far-reaching measures that the new Constitution intends to apply in favor of the workers of the cities and the countryside and for the self-determination of the Republic.

Nevertheless, the process is still young, and it is possible to establish correct goals, improve management, set clear objectives, and rid the state of saboteurs and hidden enemies. The masses have not lost the necessary clarity to reject attempts to subvert order and provoke conflict between the regions at the risk of national unity. Some Positives These are the predominant tendencies in the present process:

* In the economic field, even the most conservative analysts agree that the situation is not only stable, but that there is a tendency towards sustainable improvement.Although the auditing process involving the international oil companies that operate in the country has not yet been completed, new contracts have been signed with most of them. This has provided a climate of legal and economic security under a new tax system that provides a 32% tax revenue increase for the Bolivian government from the principal oil fields. This will result in a substantial surplus, and one that is needed to face the important tasks of the future.
* In the mining industry, the crisis produced by the bloody conflict between union and cooperative workers in the town of Huanuni at the beginning of October, following the replacement of the Minister of Mining, has led to the definition of a new policy which takes into consideration the refunding of Combibol (the Mining Corporation of Bolivia). This in turn has led to the incorporation of 3,000 new workers into this state-run enterprise, and is a challenge that the left must confront with all its organizational, ideological and political implications.
* In the social sphere, the prevalent unregulated hiring of workers has been eliminated, and various social conflicts (teachers, truck drivers, and jail inmates) have been resolved. Fresh economic perspectives are also appearing in light of the surplus generated by new agreements with the transnational gas interests, as a result of the nationalization of hydrocarbon resources.

The process known as "cultural and democratic revolution" requires a decisive and strategic sense of direction, with no concessions on the road to liberation. On the basis what has been stated above, the Communist Party of Bolivia calls upon the people of the country, the working class of the cities and of the countryside, the revolutionary youth, and intellectuals, to join ranks for the defense of national unity and democracy, with the slogan: Down with Reaction: Unite the Revolutionary and Popular Forces.

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