In July 2007 as the crisis was brewing Surya and Tamarai met with activists in
The first interview is with Antonia Rodriguez, a women’s leader from Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) working in capital
LB: What has been achieved since MAS won the election in 2005-06?
MAS: There is tranquillity and free speech but economically there has not been much gain. Before the shoe shine boys and other poor people would be afraid and would hide themselves out of shame. People are now proud of who they are.
In decision making the humble people have more of a voice. Now for instance in the assembly for writing a new constitution they have more of a voice. The constituent assembly will be writing the new laws on which there will be a referendum. We are hoping the new laws will be beneficial to common and humble people.
LB: When will the constituent assembly process be complete?
MAS: Recently there was a ruling to extend the deadline for 3 months starting August. The delegates have to come up with the draft of the new constitution by then. The elections will follow in the following year.
It is estimated that the new constitution will come into effect by August 2008.
LB: What is the role of major industries in
MAS: The large industries are controlled by the private owners. Recently it was found that large companies are not paying taxes while the small businesses pay a lot more taxes. The hope is that it will be more transparent in the future.
LB: In the next 5 years what are the major challenges for MAS?
MAS: They are going to take back the natural resources. The revenues from these natural resources will be used for the benefit of the country. The taxes will also be used for the benefit of the country.
LB: MAS stands for Movement towards Socialism. Is MAS trying to move towards Socialism?
MAS: This is a process that will take several years and we will suffer during this process. If it is immediate there will be a civil war. We prefer to have a slower process to take conscious moves and we can wait for the results.
The second interview is with Salutiano Laura, Executive Secretary of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) i.e. the
LB: Could you provide a brief history of COB?
COB: Welcome to the house of labourers. [We are sitting in the COB office/auditorium.] COB is an independent workers union. It was formed on
LB: How many workers does COB represent?
COB: The COD (Bolivian Workers Centre’s La Paz Department (COD)), which is a constituent department of COB, consists of 67 different union and federations in
LB: COB supported MAS in the 2005 elections. What was its position?
COB: After 2005, the opposition to the neo-liberal policies is intensifying. Politically, we are an independent workers union. The most important position of the COB is the nationalization of the hydrocarbons.
LB: In May 2006 nationalisation of hydrocarbons was announced. What do you think of that?
LB: Then, who controls the hydrocarbon industry in
COB: The YPFB [Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos is the state-owned hydrocarbons company] is the owner of hydrocarbons in
LB: Evo Morales promised to invest in education, healthcare etc. What do you think?
COB: The funds that will be received from the nationalization of hydrocarbons can in turn be invested in education, healthcare, etc. It seems to be a priority of Evo Morales.
LB: Have the promises that were made during the election of 2005 been met?
COB: This is part of an anti-globalization process. Before this government, especially in the public sector, there was a lot of corruption. Since 2006, the victories for the workers have only been partial. Still the stability for workers does not exist. Right now it is impossible to have stability. For each worker that is inside there are five workers outside looking for work. The workers can easily be fired. There is no justice for workers but justice for the enterprise.
LB: What can be done to bring stability to the workers?
COB: There is no stability for workers in
The demand of the textile workers is to have a more export oriented products. Workers also should have health care, social security etc. Only very few workers have this now. All workers should have these benefits.
LB: Any demands in the short term for the workers, maybe in the next 5 years?
COB: The unemployment is very high. It is about 17%. We would like that to be addressed. Also, more than 50% of the workers are in the informal sector. We would also like this to be addressed.
LB: Is it possible to have a Workers’ party in
COB: At this point it is very difficult to have a workers’ party in
The experience we have had is very difficult. The political crisis, economic crisis and social crisis is making it very difficult. The only solution for COD and organizations affiliated with COB is to have a social revolution of workers, peasants, students, marginalized, and join social movement for revolutionary social change under the leadership of the workers.
LB: Is it similar to
COB: Yes, we agree with the direction of
LB: What is the position of COB on
First published at Liberation