Evo Morales’ First Year
If the first year government is enough time to assess the course of an administration, the one-year anniversary of Evo Morales (who took office on
Oscar Olivera, director of the Cochabamba Water Coordinating Committee, describes the Morales government as one integrated by “a mixture of every type of current—traditional partisans, emerging social movements, and social climbers who made the cut at the last minute."
Although it is still too soon to know how the four major Bolivian actors will evolve, the imprint of each one has already been established over the last 12 months. The task, then, is to track the evolution of the Bolivian state, now led by the Movement toward Socialism (MAS, for its Spanish initials), as well as the powerful business community based in
A Strengthening State
Although the Bolivian state continues to be as colonial as it was a year ago, it has gained legitimacy in the eyes of the population and stands to strengthen in the medium term. The legitimacy derives, in large part, from the fact that a good portion of those now in power—ministers, advisers, and parliamentarians—come from below, from those marginalized over the last five centuries. But this change does not mean that the way of conducting business has changed. In fact, all indications are that the model of rule-from-above continues, and in some cases, has actually deepened. The manner in which MAS is approaching the negotiations with the Constituent Assembly is an indication of this.
Nevertheless, the Bolivian state has managed to overcome some historical barriers. Thanks to the successful negotiation of new contracts with the 10 multinational oil companies operating in the country, the oil revenue the state receives will surpass the $282 million a year received from 1998-2002, to a total sum of $1.3 billion a year in 2006. According to Evo Morales, this figure will reach $4 billion a year by 2010, which represents approximately 100% of Bolivia's annual GDP and will allow the MAS-led government to undertake ambitious social projects.
In the long term, the issue becomes more complicated because in reality,
This is a key point because Evo's natural resource policy, which covers not only gas but also mining, “consolidates the primary exporter system,” leaving behind industrialization and the internal market, according to an analysis by CEDLA. The agreement signed with
In spite of the fact that the Bolivian state is gaining legitimacy and strengthening, it should implement the objectives outlined during the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, namely, the effective reconstitution of the state, a critical step for the Evo administration on the path to real transformation. The current situation is one of political deadlock. The extreme polarization of the
Problems with the
The only Bolivian social force capable of confronting the MAS-led government is the
A good portion of the oligarchy's power lies in the ownership of land that was obtained fraudulently during the series of military dictatorships that controlled the country. Agri-business is the primary source of wealth accumulation for the local elite, who are apparently involved in illicit businesses like drug trafficking and contraband. But it is also, along with Tarija, the richest area in terms of hydrocarbons. Politically,
The dominant classes in
The crises in
The situation is, however, not so simple. The increased income of the state will allow it to accede to some of
Finally, international factors are at play and seem to diffuse the possibility of autonomy. It is not the
Multinationals and Social Movements
Although the Bush administration is applying pressure to Evo Morales on issues like coca growing and other internal affairs in
The dominating perspective is that the international context is favorable for the current MAS-led government. It has managed to establish agreements with the large multinationals controlling
Finally, the social movements that played a decisive role in the configuration of
But MAS is not having the same impact on each and every one of the movements. Oscar Olivera distinguishes what is occurring in rural areas from the urban: in the former, the support for MAS and Evo is massive and organic. In the cities, the situation is very different and from day one there has been criticism from below concerning the government's actions. This can change, however, if Evo finds his way and if his political project—funded in part by oil revenues—follows a similar course to that of Hugo Chavez's government.
In any case, the movements will not be like they were before. Some have been called to institutionalize, as happened with the campesinos after 1952; others can have more independence from the formal government (as happened in the past with the miners). Falling into the first category would certainly be the coca growers—for historical, political, even affective reasons—followed by a large number of movements that are already staunchly institutionalized, like the colonizing campesinos. The second category could be made up by the neighborhood councils of El Alto and the Water Coordinating Committee, along with the new urban movements associated with it. It is possible, but not certain. It appears clear that the most conflictive region will continue to be El Alto, but an eye should be kept on the goings-on of Santa Cruz (which has a strong migratory influence from the West), Cochabamba (where the discourse has turned for the first time to Indian roots and identity), and several other important cities.
As we can see, Evo's first year has both bright spots and dim ones. The latter are more serious than we could have predicted at the end of 2005. As a newly formed government, Evo should proceed with caution. At the risk of over repetition, everything depends on the actions of the movements, and the non-elite sectors that have taken decisive action in
1) Personal Interview with Oscar Olivera.
2) Federico Bernal, “La tercera es la vencedora,” ob. cit.
3) A good example is the implementation of the Bond “Juancito Pinto” (which will give 1.2 million students 20 euros each year, a considerable sum in Bolivia) using the resources generated from the “nationalization” of hydrocarbons. Drop-out rates have reached 46% overall; in urban areas, only 67% complete high school and in rural areas, only 43%.
4) Alfredo Serrano Mancilla, “La película de los hidrocarburos en
5) Econoticias, “Evo consolida la política neoliberal
Translated for the IRC
Raúl Zibechi is a member of the Editorial Council of the weekly Brecha de Montevideo, teacher and researcher of social movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América
For More Information
Andrés Soliz, Rada, “Los hidrocarburos en el 2007,” January 3, 2007, www.bolpress.com.
CEDLA (Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Laboral y Agrario), “La estructura agraria se mantiene intacta,” www.bolpress.com.
Econoticias, “Evo consolida la política neoliberal
Federico Bernal, “La tercera es la vencedora,” Le Monde Diplomatique,
Raúl Zibechi, Interview with Oscar Olivera,