BOLIVIA: The Letter of the Law & the Law of Power

Guillermo Almeyra, May 18

The letter of the law is one thing, and quite another is the power that imposes it and makes it real. For this reason, it is absurd to fall for the fetish of the written legal text whilst forgetting the balance of power which gives it validity and allows its application. For if said balance is unfavourable, the legal or constitutional text is nothing more than a dead letter.

Evo Morales declared a recall referendum for the offices of President, Vice President and departmental Governors in all of Bolivia. Since this referendum was approved in the Senate due to the jealousy of right-wing PODEMOS leader Tuto Quiroga (faced with the increasing leadership of the Right by the Santa Cruz oligarchy) and since its expected result threatens various governors and thus divides the right-wing allliance, and since Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera are sure to be ratified in their posts, there are some who see this measure as a skillful move, but the truth is somewhat different.

In the first place, between now and August much water may pass under the bridge. The Right will present many fait accomplis, whilst the government adheres strictly to the text of the Constitution (which the Right rejects and whose modification it demands) whilst trying to generate the maximum number of votes for the future referendum. The Right, by contrast, will be taking economic, juridicial, social and military measures to consolidate its illegal power.

To top it all off, if Evo Morales again wins the referendum (as he surely will) and the handful of racist oligarchs in Santa Cruz, busy building their parallel State, are also ratified, the catastrophic stand-off will continue, but at a more intense and more serious level, since this time there will be no peaceful means to resolve it. As the government fights its legal fight, Santa Cruz organizes its paramilitaries, creates its own system of tax collectors and blackmail of the big multinationals –as well as its own anti-national judicial system –organizes de facto the region’s external trade, tries to incorporate local indigenous peoples (who have old scores to settle with La Paz) into their illegitimate legislature, provides social services for everyone, all together with a minimum salary that doubles that of the rest of the country, to see if it can buy any misguided individuals.

Moreover, Quiroga accepted the idea of the recall referendum, but he did it so that the government would not carry out a referendum on the maximum size of rural properties, which would have delivered a powerful blow to the Half Moon [Bolivia’s seccesionist eastern provinces. Trans.] and would have been an important instrument for peasant mobilization and organization by imposing a huge redistribution of agricultural land. Although his rule may be questioned, Evo Morales appears in La Paz, discussing power in and of La Paz (when everybody effectively knows he won’t be revoked), whilst his enemies build a Camba (white, bourgeois) State against the Colla (indigenous) State and rapidly construct a nucleus of power (that is undoubtedly supported by the multinationals and all other reactionary forces, together with the United States). Whilst Evo Morales organizes an election, the Right instead organizes his illegal and violent overthrow, and will reject the results of the referendum if it so pleases, the same way it has rejected the Constitution.

Antonio Peredo’s proposal to try the cruceño leaders for sedition in a court of law, has a firm legal basis and would make it clear, if they were found guilty, that it is not a matter of autonomy, nor is it a mere dispute over the interpretation of the law or the Magna Carta, but an attempted coup d’etat and usurpation of legal power and a seccesionism promoted for racist and classist reasons by delinquents outside the rule of law.

But this would require the government to use force in applying its judicial ruling. That is, turning not only to the police and the armed forces which don’t want the country to be divided, but also to the organized capacity of the campesinos, cruceños around the whole country, and the social organizations, which the government would only be prepared to mobilize in extremis, when it is in danger of losing everything. Now, its timid and inadequate reactions communicate hesitation, confusion and defeat to the millions of workers and poor marginalized people who support it, whilst in the opposing camp, the arrogance and initiative of the cruceño racists inspire the national and international Right with confidence. Has nobody in La Paz read the history of the Spanish Revolution which lost, among other reasons, because it didn’t liberate the colonies and therby deprive Franco of the muslims, and because it carried out no agrarian reform (thus delivering him the Galician and Navarran peasants), and because it held back the revolution in order to “save the Republic”, thus losing both in the process? Does nobody remember Danton, who said that in a revolution you need audacity, audacity and always audacity?

What is certain is that if Evo Morales does not immediately adopt urgent agrarian measures and does not urgently mobilize his mass support to squarely face a situation national emergency, it is doubtful that he can neutralize the influence of the Right over vast sectors of the urban middle classes who have, above all, nacionalist motivations –nationalization of hydrocarbons, the destruction of the traditional oligarchic circle, and social improvements in all the key areas.

Translated by David Montoute from La Jornada

Republished from
Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

lovely, thanks for sharing

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