Alvaro Garcia Linera “The indigenous people will convert themselves into the articulator of the state"

Interviewed by Pablo Ortiz, January 21, El Deber

How would you evaluate the first year of government?

It was a year of grand structural changes for this country, the results of which we will have to wait some more time before they become visible with great force.

What have these changes been?

In the economic sphere we have changed the productive model of the country. In 2005 we were handed over a country where the state participated in or controlled between 7% and 8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Today, in this day, in this month, the state is controlling an 18% or 19% of the GDP. Our objective is that in 2007 the state will control 25% of the GDP. We have passed over from being an economy which was in the hands of external sectors to one in which the state has converted itself into the principal business sector.

Is this thanks to hydrocarbons?

Yes, basically in hydrocarbons. The second most important change is the process of “multiculturalisation” of the Bolivian state. We have a state whose institutions and whose rulers were monocultural and monoethnic. Today it is a multicultural state, but not just from the declarative point of view, but rather the practical, from inside the presidency up to the driver.

The price for this measure was a low execution of budgeted costs?

Yes, but you are all using incorrect figures coming from the Santa Cruz leaders. The 54% was until September. According to the Treasury the execution of 74% has been accounted for, but this is without data from dozens of municipalities. According to a very cautious projection will we reach 85%.

What would be the third change?

That is what we could call the formation of a social state, that defines policies based on consultations, deliberations; what Habermas called the civic deliberation of societies. This is the first government that has had the capacity to informally construct a form of social economic councils with the different organised sectors: business owners, campesinos, indigenous. We hope that this will be institutionalised.

Would it be like the fourth power that is being discussed in the constituent assembly?

I don’t like the idea of the fourth power. It cannot be seen to appear like it is only for the indigenous peoples, no. This goes for business owners, exporters, cattle breeders, soy farmers, indigenous peoples, campesinos, micro-business owners between which there is consultation and deliberations over demands, which afterwards are converted into state policy.

Some call this Socialism of the 21st Century or participatory democracy

I have a different idea of what socialism is…. What we are dealing with is within the sphere of the post-neoliberal social state. The first fact that we spoke of, the state which controls natural wealth is already a driving force against neoliberalism.

If we were to put a deadline, how long would it take for Bolivia to emerge out of neoliberalism?

I might be committing the sin of being too adventurous here, but it will take us around 2 years to finish demolishing the secondary and peripheral components of neoliberalism. In the legal sphere as well. It’s that the state is the only thing that can unite society, it is what assumes the synthesis of the general will, what plans the strategic framework and is the first carriage of the locomotive. The second is Bolivian private investment; the third is foreign investment; the fourth is micro-businesses; the fifth, the campesino economy and the sixth, the indigenous economy. This is the strategic order on which the country’s economy has to be structured.

Ex-minister Salvador Ric said that it was necessary to be more audacious in public investment in sectors that generate utilities greater than 20%. Are you contemplating this project?

If you look over our development plan, we have calculated US$8,000 million in investment in the next four years. We still need to decolonise the economy, to stop exporting primary material, and convert ourselves into an industrialised country. We now have 17% industrialisation; we want to reach 40% to be a moderately industrialised country in different areas, not only in natural resources.

Were the results better in the economic sphere than in the political sphere?

We have made good economic progress and regular political progress . And don’t come to me with this rattle coming from some pseudo-analysts about being on automatic pilot, this is an illusion held only in the café. An excellent negotiation to increase the price of gas to Argentina from US$2.5 to US$5 is not automatic pilot. This set off other processes such as the signing of the oil contracts. There, there is no automatic pilot; there is the very concrete decision of the president. The conversion of the formula 18%-82% to 82%-18% is a political decision.

And the political errors?

One of our political errors which we have to deal with… was not having led the way in raising the banner of autonomy. If you ask me what was our worst political weakness: not leading the request for autonomy based on solidarity, within the framework of unity, equilibrium, knowledge of the regions and the indigenous peoples. Politically it has generated various complications for us. There was a series of issues that obscured the debate. One of those was that some prefects – and I don’t want to name names – dug themselves into their trenches in their prefectures in order to blockade the government. There were also some speeches that confused autonomy with independence. We ourselves should have continued the same, but an internal debate opened up which led us to take an ambiguous position.

Is it too late to lead this request?

It is not too late. Autonomies will be created. The president is working on a number of measures to keep working on autonomies. There will be three levels of autonomous regimes: departmental, municipal and regional-indigenous. They are three complementary levels. There are the departmental and municipal levels. The indigenous could in some cases fall within the municipal level and in others be above it. There will be autonomies, within the framework of the grand national house.

What is this framework?

The national house has five pillars which are not up for discussion: taxes, police, renewable and non-renewable natural resources, land and energy. This government respects the results of the national referendum on autonomy and is going to head up a rational, flexible, integrator proposal and that will allow us to move forward. Our ambiguous attitude generated conflicts and history has passed the bill onto us. We admit it.

You were seen as the man of conciliation in Santa Cruz. Whilst Evo had difficulties going there, you could dine in the Monsenor Rivero. Was the cost of that speech [given in Warisata, where Garcia Linera called on the indigenous people to be prepared to spill blood to defend Bolivia’s natural resources –BR] too high?

I keep taking my breakfast in the Monsenor, but clearly that speech generated surprises, I’m in agreement on this. I will try to explain: I did it because it was a certain time, the president said it and the intelligence reports confirmed it, there was a process of conspiracy unfolding. We could tell it as it was, without generating alarms of headlines.

The president identified them. Are you referring to the opposition prefects?

I would prefer not to mention either persons or institutions. The intelligence report mentioned it with total clarity and it was not just one person or one sector. There were people from different institutions and at different levels who had begun to think and move in a conspiratorial manner. It was in this context and only in this context that I wanted to say: “Misters, don’t play with guns, because we are a government elected by the vote and we will only leave via the vote. Those who want to play with some things that are not votes will encounter a response”.

Since that time the confrontation has increased and it has lead people to believe that the government wants to install an Aymara or Andean culture across the whole country.

This is a false lecture and the worst part of it is that I have seen some writers refer to this, and it is absurd, unless the objective is to generate fear. It is impossible. This is a country that has 36 ethnic groups, the Aymaras are 25%, the Quechuas 30%, the Guarani 4% and the mestizos are 32%. We are a country of minorities. Moreover, what action could the government take to convert the indigenous people into the absolute power in this country? Give me just one measure…

The Constituent Assembly? They are not your declarations, but there are MAS militants who speak of a social power, of a form of electing authorities which would allow them to perpetuate in power and would give hegemony to the indigenous people.

But be careful, the fourth power is only one way of talking about the famous social and economic council that exists in any state of law.

You explain it like that, but there are leaders who do not understand it like that.

But look at how we act: we support the agriculture in Santa Cruz in the issue of soy. We have supplied them with diesel with an extraordinary regularity, right up until the campaign finished. The same is occurring with the tractors for the campesinos from the lowlands. This is a government that works on various social floors and we have to support all of them. A fear has been generated that we want to “aymarise”, but it is the same fear that said we were going to take away the houses and annul private activity; no dear man, those who produce have all the support of this country. If you work the land, you are the owner, and mister, and you have a government at your feet; but if you don’t, you have a government that will persecute you. We want a productive capitalism, not a speculative one. In Bolivia, capitalism is going to exist, but it will be one based on clear rules, production, investment and attachment to your country.

All these declaration and fears lead some to think that the government hates Santa Cruz.

There has not been a government in the last 20 years more interested in seeing the potential for the expansion of a democratic development across the whole east and the facts will judge us in the following months. Some figures: in this country there was never an Amazonian project and this government has one. We constructed the Amazonian highway. All of this is part of the Millennium Bill. 90% of the Bill is the highway and 10% will be for micro-projects in Sucre, Potosi and Cochabamba. In Santa Cruz, we need to imagine a new grand project, because look at the figures: last year we exported US$1,600 million in gas and $1,100 in minerals. For the following years we are thinking of reaching gas exportations to the value of US$3,500 million and if we sell another 30 million cubic metres of gas we would be talking about fantasies of US$5,000 or US$6,000 million. Whoever governs between 2009 and 2013 will, in an economic sense, have a different country, because the base is being laid now. Now soy only exports US$550 million. We need to rethink the agricultural development of our Santa Cruz and put at the level of minority. It is up to us as producers, prefectures and central government to design the new grand project for Cruceno development. But this development has to be democratic, and not just remain with the large companies; rather it has to reach the medium and small producers.

Will the design be ready in 2007?

Yes, we will design it and begin to implement a grand project which will take agricultural exports to the level of mineral exports. It is a big error to concentrate the economy on just one export sector. We need to have at least 5 export sectors which will prop up the country.

Was there negligence in some of the ministries?

I would not say negligence, rather, difficulties in the execution of decisions, which has to do with the learning process everyone is going through. Within this government, there are not people who have participated in the management of the state at intermediary levels. Some learn more rapidly and others less rapidly. Some of the things you have observed have to so with the capacity to internalise the management of public things. The logic of the state is very singular and it requires you to think in general key, it requires you to stick a chip with the general will in your head, and it is not easy. What’s more, the governments of Bolivia have been criticised for being patrimonialists. The state was imagined as the widening of my house, my family. We don’t bring with us this patrimonial logic of the state, rather perhaps, in some ministers, a sectorial logic of the state, and we had to release ourselves from this and some were unable to do this quickly. I link this with what you were saying before, regarding supposed pretensions of “aymarisation”. What those misters don’t understand and I am very saddened by the poverty of the intellectual debate here [in La Paz] and in all parts, it is a sociological reflexion, here we are putting ourselves forward: every state is a representation of the general interest. There is a nucleus that articulates the general interest; if they achieve this they convert themselves into the leading sector.

Leading or hegemonic?

Leading. You can go and look up Gramsci and you can find other words, but we have entered into a level of intellectual debate which is very poor and wanting to manage more solid concepts leads us to wrong interpretations. One can interpret the Bolivian state in stages and there has always been a sector capable of incorporating into its interests those of everyone and capable of making everyone else recognise their own interests in the interests of this sector. One possibility is that the indigenous people will convert themselves into the articulator of the state. In explaining the delicateness of these concepts, the vulgarities that we want to “aymarise” the state fall flat.

Will you change any minister?

That is one of the functions of the president. But it is possible that in some ministries there has not been a rapid incorporation of the general interest and a sectorial view has taken primacy. This needs to be adjusted.

Translated from El Deber


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