El Alto: A necessary transformation, from rebellous city to productive city

Mario Ronald Duran Chuquimia

Last March 6, the city of El Alto celebrated its 22nd birthday. A city known at the globally for consummating the first successful popular rebelion of the new millenium, due to the fact that in October 2003 the inhabitants of El Alto, through an indefinite civic stoppage, road blocks, and the surrounding and laying siege to the government palace, achieved the resignation of president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who fled the country. Since then, the voice of the alteños is both listened to, and consulted, in regards to the destinies of the country.

In the last few days, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, on the occasion of his visit to this city, committed economic support to the tune of $46 million bolivianos, destined to the construction of an olympic swimming pool and as a fund for small alteño businesses to produce military uniforms.

The Regional Workers Central [COR] of El Alto asked the bolivarian head of state to support them in the construction of a natural gas industrialisation plant, whilst the Federation of Neighbourhood Committees [FEJUVE] wants the construction of a asphalt plant.

Absence of Vision

The preciding lines serve to make us reflect on what has occurred to the city of El Alto: the statistics show that large companies who use to produce goods, have move their machinery, capital and workers to the east, prinicipally the city of Montero. The rebellious mark'a has slowly, slowly converted itself into a city that expels investments.

Despite the fact that the municipal government of this satellite city, headed by Dr Fanor Nava, points out in its media announcements that El Alto is a productive municipality (conceiving of this fact simply as the construction of a concrete jungle made up of stone or paved streets or rigid pavement, the construction of plazas and social neighbourhood headquarters), each day the city depends more and more on outside resources (Popular Participation, IDH, etc), with the local contribution being minimal, that is to say, if the people barely cover their daily living expenses, with what money will they pay taxes? Which is to say, there is no money because there is no work.

One single image demonstrates the rent-based vocation of the alteño leaders: the current leadership of the Federation of Secondary Students (FES) demands the granting of the costs of a high school certificate, of pre-military service, subsidising of breakfast in high schools and a long list of others things, that they hope will be financied by the resources of the rent from hydrocarbons. But within their demands they do not include pro-positive contribution: what are they, as social leaders, going to do to promote development?

Productive Ideology

For the reasons put forward here, it is urgent that the alteños leaders become actors of change, conceiving of a necessary transformation, from rebellious city to productive city, by putting forward tasks to comply with this commitment: the construction of the physical infrastructure for an industrial park that gives competitive advantage to companies that want to invest in El Alto; the construction of centres of technical studies and the creation of centres of investigation, whose tasks would include innovation, adjustment and appropriation of technology, which will train and make jobs for workers, technicians and specialised scientists; (public or private) financing of productive activites would adopt the philosophy of loans, not gifts; the construction of an institutional scaffolding that can elaborate norms of support for productive activities; but most important is that us alteño neighbours change our mentality, moving from simple demands without proposals for development, to feeling obliged to construct, with the combined effort of everyone, a productive city.

El Alto, Jacha Marka, 13 de Marzo de 2007.

Mario Ronald Duran Chuquimia is a Bolivian citizen, raised in El Alto, and who is currently a member of one of the 560 neighbourhood committees of this city. He maintains the blog Palabras Libres

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