One of the central ideas in the report The state of the state in Bolivia is that behind all the polarising visions and practises, a new “common sense” is emerging which is uniting a great part of the population, more so than region, social class or ethno-cultural identification. This common sense, understood as a set of ideas, representations and aspirations, arises out of long-term social imaginary. Its actors are millions of citizens, who comprise around 70% of the population, and are standing up and putting forward a vision of intercultural coexistence and social and economic equality. The state is perhaps the most important actor in the construction and affirmation of common sense because it reflects the complexities and pluralism of the actual society. Five pillars make up this emerging common sense.
1) “Despite the conflicts, we are optimists, we want change and Bolivia is changing”. The majority of Bolivians believe that their own economic situation and the economic situation of the country has begun to improve. All the indicators of socio-economic expectations show that a moderate optimism has taken hold across the majority of the population. This subjective perception responds to and is reinforced by the combination of strong signs of change.
In this emerging common sense, the majority is openly demanding changes, but stresses that these should come about within a context of conciliation and broad agreements that guarantee minimum levels of certainty and political stability.
2) “Democracy is all of us: this implies conflicts and conciliation, participation and control”. Democracy has regain significance and the challenge to widen it requires profound transformations, with the aim of articulating greater spaces for citizen participation, social control, representation of differences and decisions in public affairs.
The change of government has contributed favourably to the legitimacy of the democratic regime and the Bolivian political system. In 2006, according to three different sources, Bolivia registered record figures in terms of support and, especially, satisfaction with democracy. In the same way, the legitimacy, confidence in and approval of the different institutions of the state has increased.
Even though democracy is associated with the existence of conflict, the statistics show that beyond conflict it is necessary to find a negotiated exit. The search for agreements has become an essential part of our political culture.
3) “We support the nationalisation of gas: natural resources belong to all of us and should be the basis of our development”. A policy which we agree with and which we demand more information on is the nationalisation of hydrocarbons. We know gas produces wealth, but we also know that it generates inequality and avoids development. Only its full recuperation will guarantee that the benefits of its exploitation reach the people.
But nationalisation does not mean expelling the transnationals. In fact, the majority approve of agreements considered to be equal and just (“the country and the companies have come out winning”). It also does not imply that the dispute over the rent should end up tearing up the nation.
It is possible that this may result in a loss of efficiency and that the concrete competences of management and administration take time, but there exists a basis consensus: natural resources belong to all Bolivians and constitute the nucleus of the Bolivian pluri-nation.
4) “We are Aymaras, mestizos, cambas and collas: we are diverse but before everything else we are Bolivians and we make up one pluri-nation”. Even though elevated levels of social intolerance and interpersonal distrust persists, the socio-political dynamic of the last few years, especially the arrival to power of the first indigenous president and the proposals for regional autonomies, has had repercussions in a greater self-identification associated with a sentiment of belonging to a national community in a process of reconfiguration: Bolivians are intercultural and we resist being boxed into one single identity.
We are conscious of our diversity and proud of our identities. That is why the most complex debate is centered on the type of state which can articulate a new concept of the nation. With autonomies (plural) that guarantee a united and solidarity-based Bolivia. And with recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples which should not be at odds with the social pact that the new constitution represents.
5) “The Constituent Assembly is citizens participation and social justice, it is the scenario for a new social pact”. The current Constituent Assembly will have a special place in our history not only because it responds to structural changes that are susceptible to configuring a new historic cycle of medium to long-term duration, but also because it has awoke a enormous expectation for change. Bolivians might not have much information about the constitution, but they have a clear vision of what they hope to get out of the Constituent Assembly: a participative process which in the end will reform the constitution to the benefit of the most poor.
Despite the tendency towards a low approval rating being registered for the Constituent Assembly, this new institution of Bolivian democracy continues to have high levels of legitimacy. There exists a wide agreement in which the Constituent Assembly should be the space where the most important challenges facing the country are solved, as a guarantee that the new constitution will lay the groundwork for the construction of a new state, in accordance with the emerging common sense.Fuente: Informe Nacional sobre Desarrollo Humano 2007.
Translated from Pulso