Bolivia: Joining the ‘axis of evil’

Antonio Peredo Leigue

Bolivia’s right-wing continues to wage its campaign of opposition to the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government, led by the country’s first indigenous President Evo Morales. With the right having succeeded in forcing the temporary closure of the Constituent Assembly, entrusted with the task of drafting a constitution to “refound” Bolivia, the country finds itself on the verge of the definitive closure of this historic space, conquered by the indigenous and campesino movements through years of struggle.

The latest round of attacks have been directed at moves by the government to establish relations with Iran, including a recent visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This led to the furious reaction not only of the domestic opposition but of Washington, which warned of Bolivia’s growing shift towards the so-called “axis of evil”. In this article, MAS Senator Antonio Peredo Leigue explains what is behind the moves to increasingly portray Bolivia as a new “rogue” state and what is required for the MAS government to push forward in its process of change


We are joining the “axis of evil”; that is, if we are not already a part of it. That is how they have classified us in Washington. To make sure there is no doubt, the ambassador of this country has visited President Evo Morales, to warn him about US concern that has come about as a result of initiating relations with Iran. Immediately, commentators who lack any impartiality have expressed this exact same concern.

Many people can not conceive of the fact that in Bolivia real change is occurring; a change which necessarily supposes different interests and, as a consequence, different relations. Or did they hope that there would only be a facade of change? These are profound changes.

The ‘axis of evil’

The current and previous US governments, since Harry S. Truman, have an odd habit of classifying all the countries in the world as good or evil. They could be corrupt, inept, criminal — but they would be good as long as they responded to the policies of the White House. On some occasions, the “good” servants rebelled and therefore, passed over into the category of evil.

In the “axis of evil” are Cuba and Venezuela — how could they not be! On the other side of the world is Iran, as well as North Korea. They are evil countries, because they do not obey Uncle Sam. With some, the US carries out an overt war. With others, they have them under surveillance and warning.

Is there anything these countries have in common, apart from their reaction against the US government? Nothing, except the fact that they do not allow transnational corporations to take the lion’s share of their natural resources.

Of course, the White House cannot say that this is the reason. Instead it attacks using crude declarations: they talk about concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, a country they say has to submit itself to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. One has to ask if they themselves would allow such inspections if other countries, with more than enough justifiable reasons, demanded as such.

But why do they place Venezuela in the axis of evil? Does it have nuclear arms? Is it carrying out nuclear experiments? No. The reasons are different.

One newspaper found four analysts willing to say that the moves towards closer relations between the government of Bolivia and the countries that Washington classifies as part of the “axis of evil” would bring more problems than benefits. The question to them is simply: what were the benefits for Bolivia when it maintained only distant relations with these countries?

The only thing they demonstrate with this simplistic analysis is that there is a fear of change. A few days ago, another analyst wrote with disillusionment in relation to these events, concluding that, more than change, what we are witnessing in Bolivia is disorder, disorientation and discourse.

The reality of change

The social forces in Bolivia that threw themselves into the struggle for change, since 2000 and long before, are the forces that worked and work to create the wealth from which the business owners make themselves powerful. This is the same in the mines, in farming, in export cultivation and with hydrocarbons. Under the conditions that Bolivia’s elites accepted, more than 90% of this wealth left the country as transnationals’ profits. That is the reality which has to change.

To hope that men and women who have suffered — and still continue to suffer — from hunger and misery will act calmly is absurd. Of course these analysts can give themselves this luxury, because they have not suffered hunger, nor have they seen themselves obliged to abandon school in order to work. This is not about reproaching the impatience of the people. It is about reminding them that the viewpoint of those who suffer under these conditions is different.

In the midst of this impatience, which translates into marches, blockades and hunger strikes, the government must work to solve the urgent problems and project policies that make Bolivia a viable country. For each group of people, for each sector, the problem that has dragged on over decades needs to be resolved now, because they have already waited long enough and, with their vote, they made it possible for Morales to assume the presidency.

To this we can add the actions of Bolivia’s opposition parties that, defending the interests of the displaced elites, strongly resist change. Especially anything referring to relations with the US.

Our errors

It would be silly to say that we are advancing without any trip-ups. We have committed errors, many errors, the main one being having accepted not imposing the authority of the majority conquered in December 2005 [when Morales was elected] and ratified in July 2006 [elections for delegates to the Constituent Assembly]. We have conceded too many advances to a minority empowered by its experience in the management of a power that they corrupted.

These concessions have allowed the failures in the Constituent Assembly, and the validation of the demands of the business sector, including allowing them to raise demands of the popular sectors [demands like “democracy” and “autonomy” that have traditionally belonged to the left] and raising the profile of right-wing figures that had never before had a national stature.

We also have to recognise doubts in the application of the major plans of recuperation of our resources. Why have we not renationalised ENTEL [a national telecommunications company] until now? What impedes formulating a national railway policy? When will land be redistributed?

Hundreds of thousands of Bolivian men and women have left and continue leaving the country, in search of a solution to their family crisis. There are better conditions now, but we are not fully making use of them. We have to make investments; although it is true that there is more now than ever before, they are still insufficient. The government must be audacious. We should not worry about the adjectives they use to describe us, from within and outside the country. It is not with them that we have to commitment to; rather it is with the people who elected us.

Translated for Green Left Weekly by Bolivia Rising’s Federico Fuentes

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