Bolivia: A third, defining year

Nidia Diaz, Granma International

Evo Morales and his party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), have just breached the threshold that places them in their third year of government, a crucial, defining moment, during which the revolutionary process for the re-founding of Bolivia is in play.

In the past 25 years, no Bolivian president has ever reached the Quemado Palace the way Evo Morales did, with the support of 57% of the electorate, a figure that rose to more than 80% when, on May 1, 2006, he announced the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the recuperation of national sovereignty over the country’s natural resources. At this point in its administration, the MAS government is facing the unavoidable challenge of winning the wrestling match with the opposition oligarchy as the only way to move forward with the country’s much-needed transformation.

Morales and his movement also need to demonstrate the obvious: that the struggle in Bolivia is not on racial lines, as the corporate media insists, but is rather a class struggle; in other words, a battle between the rich and the poor, between the bourgeoisie and its political representatives, sidelined from power, and the people, who are demanding social justice and inclusion as citizens of the nation.

It is true that this battle cannot ignore the racist positions – so nakedly exposed on the Bolivian political scene – of those who believe themselves superior and the heirs to the old colonial regime, whose mission for centuries was the subjugation and exploitation of the indigenous population, of which president Morales is a part. Such travesties do not conform to the reality that the MAS government, an expression of the popular will, is moving the country forward and has resolved in just two years some of the most important demands of the last 30 years.

First was the nationalization of hydrocarbons. At that time, the oligarchy proclaimed that the transnational oil companies operating in the country would never accept the renegotiation of their contracts on the terms set out by the government. They were sure that the president would have to postpone the renegotiations and that the foreign oil companies were sure to pull out of Bolivia.

That didn’t happen, neither the one nor the other. The new contracts were accepted, at the last minute, right before their expiration. Bolivia recovered the profits that neoliberal governments had allowed to escape for years for social programs. Since then, the hydrocarbon income has grown from $200 million to nearly $2 billion.

Also recovered by the state were four hugely important enterprises: Bolivian Oil and Gas (YPFB), the Vinto metallurgical company, the Huanuni mining company and the Illimani Waters enterprise.nstitute, Bolivian foreign trade has grown to its highest level in history, "thus increasing its coefficient of trade openness to an unprecedented level of 80%."

Bolivian exports have reached a new record at close to $4.3 billion, thanks to natural gas and minerals.

The government has paid special attention to the provision of credits for small businesses with the goal of promoting production in sectors such as food, metallurgy, precious metal working, plastic, leather and forestry, among others. And, looking to continued progress, the government this year has planned to allocate nearly $3 billion to public and private investment, as a result of which a 5.7% increase in the gross domestic product is expected.

Within the social arena, the Juancito Pinto school subsidy has been introduced to guarantee children’s attendance and also approved was the Dignity bonus, which provides a retirement pension to all Bolivians over the age of 60. The latter being a conquest that partially repays the tremendous social and moral debt owed to those who have been exploited and ignored despite their contribution to society.

Thanks to the solidarity of the Cuban revolution and the Venezuelan Bolivarian government, 109 municipalities in the country have been declared free of illiteracy. As of last month, Operation Miracle had restored the sight of some 187,000 Bolivians and 900 medical clinics had been established, 30 of them mobile, in order to serve remote rural areas. Not to mention the 20 hospitals already opened with the help of Cuba, whose doctors and health professionals have reached locations where health care services have never before been made available.

The establishment of the Constituent Assembly and the approval of the new proposed constitution, despite hostile media campaigns and sabotage attacks, which left a number of dead, has been one of the revolution’s major conquests in Bolivia. The constitution crafted by the assembly will be submitted to a popular vote this year.

The tangible accomplishments of the Evo Morales government are innumerable and it is precisely because of these achievements that the oligarchy cannot forgive him and is maintaining its strong opposition on the national political scene, obstructing every step forward taken to benefit the people.

The national talks convened by Morales are currently at a standstill.

He has decided to submit his presidency and the mandates of department governors to a popular recall referendum so that it is the sovereign will of the people that settles this struggle in which a minority refuses to give up its privileges in the face of the vast majority who, for the first time, can discern a ray of hope in the future. One more reason to follow closely each and every event that takes place during this defining third year of the Evo Morales MAS government.

Republished from Granma

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