The Bolivian Bet

Guillermo Almeyra, October 7

Ferdinand Lassalle, a jurist and constitutional expert, said that the constitution is a piece of paper on the mouth of a canon. That is, only a favourable relationship of forces can approve or impose its compliance. In Bolivia, the Evo Morales government counts on an overwhelming majority support, given that the indigenous peoples and the poor have always been the grand majority, and now support the policies of their indigenous and popular government, confronted by Washington and the petroleum transnationals, maintaining their struggle against the racism and separatism of the k’aras [1] from Santa Cruz, as well as their resolve to convert Bolivia into a multi-ethnic state based on regional autonomies.

Nevertheless, the Constituent Assembly, in which the government has a majority, is deadlocked and paralysed and cannot approve a single article. The definition of autonomy that the right and the regional governments they control (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Cochabamba, Tarija) want, which would convert it into a type of extraterritoriality in front of the rest of Bolivia, leaded by La Paz, its capital, has been one of the principal Gordian knots. Another has come about as a result of the manoeuvre by the right to confront poor against poor and indigenous against indigenous, raising the discussion in the assembly of the problem over the seat of the executive power (the “capital”), given that Sucre reclaims the shifting of the seat and the ministries to this city in order to develop its economy.

Both are, effectively, Gordian knots because they cannot be untied, although regarding the problem of the conflict between Sucre and La Paz, there could possibly be a compromise distribution of ministries and the powers between both cities. If the US embassy is fanning the flames of all these conflicts in order to destabilise the MAS government and is behind those in Santa Cruz who are arming and organising shock troops and paramilitaries against the indigenous peoples of the Bolivian east and what they call “Bolivia” (that is, merely the altiplano [2], comprised of a native majority, opposed to the “camba nation” of the white and mestizo people of Santa Cruz), it is evident that behind the economic power of the separatists is also that of Washington, of the large landowners and the Argentine and Brazilian soya producers, and that of the foreign petroleum companies who would prefer to negotiate the price of gas and petroleum with their servants – or allies – of the oligarchies.

The location of these resources in the eastern zones encourages the separatism of the elites who come from these same areas and who, moreover, are racist and hate, fear and despise those that they see, not as indigenous compatriots, but rather as ballast. To this acute interregional conflict can be added, a violent class conflict, and the clash between the interests of Bolivia and those of foreign capital. That is why, although the government seeks to negotiate via any means possible with the right and provide room for discussion, including with the parliamentary right (who should not have a say in this given that the Constituent Assembly is original and sovereign), it is evident that imperialism and its local allies are preparing bring down the Evo Morales government, no matter how much legitimacy or how popular it is, using the force of its iron fist,. Therefore, one of the battlefields is the spirits and consciousness of those in uniforms, be they soldiers or police, in order to assure their loyalty to the constitutional order and, above all, their support for an anti-imperialist policy of liberation.

Because the paramilitary groups in Santa Cruz could only succeed if they were backed by a coup plotting, separatist sector of soldiers, possible counting on the fact that they are from Santa Cruz (as was the dictator Hugo Banzer). It is necessary to have the sabre to cut the knots; the canon to back the constitution. That is why it is not enough to speak about forming popular armed militias: to guarantee peace and democracy it would be necessary to arm and prepare them with the technical assistance of the politically loyal officers, no matter how much the right screamed that this would mean a dictatorship. And, above all, it is urgent that the government stop utilising the armed forces in confrontations against manifestations of popular discontent (like in the case of the primary teachers in Arandi or the cooperative miners) relying instead on political solutions to elevate the level of comprehension of the social base of the government, lessen corporative clashes and tensions and impatience.

Una política que reduzca los privilegios sociales de las minorías y que dé como resultado mejores viviendas y mejores salarios reales podrá permitir contar, en las ciudades mismas, con “el pueblo menudo” y con los trabajadores sindicalizados, influyendo así, al mismo tiempo, incluso sobre los ultraizquierdistas (en el medio estudiantil pero también en el indígena) que quieren todo, de inmediato y servido en bandeja.

A policy that reduces the social privileges of the minorities and which results in better houses, and better real salaries could allow the government to count on, in the cities themselves, the “small people” and the unionised workers, and by doing so influence at the same time the ultraleftists (in the student sector but also in the indigenous sector) that wants everything immediately, served to them on a platter.

The Constituent Assembly and the government are proposing to construct a new country and they truly want to do it. But it is not enough for them to outline the strategic markers for its construction (decolonialisation, independence, social democracy, racial equality etc): a national and massive discussion around how to implement this project and about priorities (utilisation of underground resources in order to assure housing, services, education, water, employment, a real agrarian revolution to stimulate the level of consumption and the internal market, creation of small agricultural food industries) is also necessary.

Such a discussion, alongside the militias, would back up the actions of the Constituent Assembly; on the contrary, the negotiations in parliament or with the current powers, far from leading to a favourable result, would morally wear down the indigenous peoples, workers and poor, and instead encourage those who want to win time in order to prepare a text book coup, like one of those that have always brought down progressive governments in Bolivia, from nationalists soldiers of the Chaco to the one imposed by Banzer and the narco soldiers.

Translated from La Jornada


[1] Indigenous term meaning white-mestizo

[2] Highlands located in the Bolivian west.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw/heard Morales speak in NYC at the UN. He is clearly a NATIONAL leader of ALL Bolivians. The White Wealthy of Santa Cruz may not realize it, but the US Multinationals will sweep across their land and leave them PENNILESS fighting each other for SCRAPS from the US 'Hidalgos'. The White Wealthy in Bolivia would do well to work with Morales rather than set themselves up to ROBBED by MUCH SMARTER & 'SLICKER' US Oil & Gas & WATER Companies. The folks in Santa Cruz need to look at what the US IS DOING IN IRAQ, IN THE MIDDLE EAST & African Nations. Its Energy Companies are DESTROYING THE LAND, STEALING THE OIL & GAS for Pennies on the Euro and KILLING THE Citizens who dare to stand up against them! If the Rich People of Santa Cruz think the 'White Anglos' will 'BE THEIR FRIEND' AND 'SHARE THE WEALTH' of Bolivia, THEY ARE D-E-A-D WRONG! The US Companies are worse, better & stronger THIEVES than the RICH of Santa Cruz. They will leave Bolivia a Poor, Shattered Nation with NO OIL, GAS OR WATER!