Interview with Bolivian Vice President Garcia: ‘Political crisis’ a media beat-up

Pablo Stefanoni, La Paz

18 January 2008

The 10oC “summer” weather in Bolivia’s capital city is strongly felt in Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera house, which has no heating, like nearly all the houses in La Paz. For almost an hour we went over the conjuncture of a week of uncertain negotiations between the government and opposition, in search of an anxiously awaited national accord.

“There is a media beat up of the political tension”, he said.

Is a political accord close?

On the part of the government there is an open and decided search for an accord. We have demonstrated great flexibility around the issue of the distribution of the hydrocarbon taxes and the reopening of discussion on the new constitutional text in order to correct errors and see how we can make it compatible with the sensible proposals of regional autonomy. But there are opposition sectors that are reticent to accept this.

Not long ago you spoke of a “point of bifurcation (seperation)”. How do you negotiate in these conditions?

I took the idea from the Nobel physicist Ilya Prigogine, of a order arising out of chaos. The system can evolve towards one of two possibilities: it can return to the original state of equilibrium — in the political terrain, to the old state — or else it begins to organise until constituting a new structure.

A point of bifurcation is a point of tension between forces, which in 1952 occurred in the form of a civil war. In 2008, President Evo Morales is wagering on resolving it via a consultation at the ballot box.

And if there is no accord reached, how tense could the situation become?

It is difficult to predict. But some are betting on a bunkering down in their regionalised trenches, trangressing laws with a de facto autonomy via an illegal referendum. And if they accompany this with the occupation of institutions they will enter into the road of illegality without exit. If this is the case, the government will use the constitutional means available to guarantee institutionality.

There has even been talk of civil war, do you consider it possible?

It was thought that on December 15 [when the four eastern departments declared autonomy] the civil war would erupt.

There is a big media beat up about the political tension. If someone stops watching the media for a week they can get the real dimension of the confrontation.

Today there is a common sense, whether you are from the left or right, about the protagonist role of the state in the economy and the redistribution of wealth, equality between people and decentralisation and autonomy. There is a national project and regionalised resistances. There are no longer two national projects. In this process of replacement of the elites, those who were previously the national power are today bunkering down in the regions.

Could secessionist ideas tempt some rightist groups?

There is a democratic right-wing and a fascist right-wing (that burn houses, draw up blacklists). Within the authoritarian right, there are small minority groups with a secessionist character, as a desperate intent to preserve their privileges. They don’t constitute a real danger, but they are there. They have a very marginal influence over the regional governors.

How do you evaluate the importance of regional support for the stability of Bolivia?

Very important. Brazil and Argentina, and also Chile, gave a very strong message of support for democracy and hope in the transformations. I believe that this has temporarily neutralised the most extremist sectors that perhaps thought they had found some external support for their adventurist plans. The signal was very clear.

Does the recent change in the commander of the armed forces have any significance?

Institutionally, this is meant to occur after the second year. This is the first military general staff in decades that has resulted from sticking to the norms. The rotation between forces is usual and a habit of the armed forces and we have respected it by naming a member of the air force.

Does the government have confidence in the institutional fidelity of the armed forces?


From the January 13 Buenos Aires Clarin. Translated for Green Left Weekly by Bolivia Rising

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