Indigenous peoples in Indo-Afro-Latin America, especially
Fifty-five million indigenous persons, or 400 indigenous peoples, inhabit Indo-Afro-Latin America. Most reside in
Spokespersons for the native peoples realize that the differences between their cosmic visions and those of Europe and the United States are part of an ongoing set of class and ideological conflicts that must be resolved if world peace and ecological balance are to be achieved. They recognize too that they must overcome divisions in their own ranks and that their struggles necessitate solidarity with other oppressed peoples around the globe. They link up internationally, as in the case of the worldwide 87-nation “Via Campesina” so important in the World Social Forums of this century. Sensitive to the world ecological crisis, the native peoples’ movements conducted the 2008 First Interregional Summit of the Amazon, the region known as “the lungs of the planet.”
The CIA has often characterized the social movements of the native peoples as a major challenge to
Brazilian economic interests account for 20 percent of
Bolivian filmmaker Jorge Sanjinés once called
In an address at the United Nations in September 2008, Evo, as he is popularly known, proposed “Ten Commandments” to save the planet, life and humanity:
1. Put an end to the capitalist system
2. Renounce wars (Evo says “I don’t believe there can be peace under capitalism”)
3. Create a world without imperialism or colonialism
4. Honor the right to water
5. Develop clean energies
6. Respect Nature (Pachamama)
7. Recognize basic services as human rights
8. Combat inequalities
9. Promote diversity of cultures and economies
10. Seek “Vivir bien” -- living well (what is known in
Evo pointed out that
Revolutionary Processes Rooted in Indigenous and Social Movements
Revolutionary processes in
One of President Evo Morales’ first acts after taking office in 2006 was to nationalize oil and the production of gas. With proceeds from the nationalizations, he created a “dignity pension” for people over 60 years of age and a “family income supplement” to help keep children in school. He extended credit with zero percent interest to farmers of corn, wheat, rice and other basics. Under Morales,
Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linares often reassures foreign capitalists and says
Upon assuming the presidency, Evo ordered the CIA desk in the presidential palace removed. Later, in the face of US pressures on behalf of Bechtel and other transnational corporations, he pulled
Ambassador Golberg had served earlier in countries undergoing violent breakups, such as the former
Goldberg’s Embassy began enlisting Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright Scholars to “spy” on Cubans and Venezuelans in
Meanwhile, a UNASUR investigating team of experts confirmed details of a
President Rafael Correa of
In November 2008, President Correa, contrary to economic integration plans already underway in
Re-founding the State, New Constitutions
Throughout Indo-Afro-Latin America vigorous movements to “democratize democracy” have taken root. The social movements that put an end to the worse period of US-supported “dirty wars” and toppled the military dictatorships of the 1964-1984 period did not settle for the limited democracies that replaced them. People had fought and died for human rights and not the amnesties that were granted the dictators and their henchmen as a condition for allowing the new “democracies.” To walk down the street and suddenly see one’s torturer coming out of the corner store was one more form of torture. Moreover, the newly introduced “representative democracies” typically served the interests of big money and economic neo-liberalism rather than those of the general populace.
As poverty spread, movements sparked by native peoples and other groups, especially women and youth, mobilized against the IMF and its defenders in the newly elected parliaments and presidencies. For many, to “democratize democracy” meant to introduce economic democracy and not just limited political democracy. People began demanding constituent assemblies. The elections of Morales and Correa paved the way for a re-founding of the State and an official rejection of neo-liberalism.
In elections for
This violence was part of the “civil” coup attempt that actually commenced the day Evo was elected president.
Both nations’ new constitutions distinguish between the old representative democracy and a new participatory and communitarian one. They call for plural nationhood; genuine interculturalism (instead of cosmetic multiculturalism); recognition of differences among cultures; and “unity in diversity.” As a result, the native peoples’ communities have constitutional rights to local self-governance and their own juridical procedures based on indigenous customs and traditions.
Only when there is plural nationhood can there be real interculturalism. Plural nationhood entails re-founding the State. In the eyes of the native peoples, the old State was a colonial one, formed of select individuals. It championed individual freedoms solely for the elites. In no way did it represent collective societies like those of the Quechua, Aymara, Guaraní, Shuar, Siona and other native peoples. The new State is to be an independent, unitary, plurinational one that celebrates human diversity and true democracy. In indigenous terms, exit colonialism and enter all humanity.
1. A unitary, plurinational, communitarian and democratic State.
2. All 36 peoples to have equal rights and regional autonomies, that is, a democratic decentralization of power.
3. Nationalization of natural resources and State control over forests and biodiversity.
4. Three forms of economic ownership: public, private, and communitarian -- in effect, a mixed economy compatible with the Vice President’s vision of an Andean/Amazonian capitalism.
5. State involvement in strategic sectors of the economy, and foreign private investment to be subordinated to national development plans.
6. Agrarian reform with expropriation of huge landed estates (latifundia).
7. Re-election and removal of any elected official by popular mandate -- already implemented on
8. Election of the judiciary; recognition of communitarian and ancestral forms of conflict resolution.
9. A plurinational Parliament with only one chamber (in effect, the elimination of the structurally elitist Senate).
10. Free and equal health care and education; end of illiteracy.
12. A ban on discrimination based on sex, color, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, culture, nationality, religion, ideology, disability, pregnancy.
13. Prohibition of foreign military bases.
14. Potable drinking water as a human right.
Most observers expect that Bolivian voters will approve the constitution in the referendum scheduled for
1. State to tighten control of strategic industries, such as oil, mining, and telecommunications, and to protect biodiversity.
2. State to reduce monopolies.
3. Some of foreign debt to be declared illegitimate.
4. Agrarian reform; end of latifundia; prohibition of genetically modified seeds.
5. Free health care; free education for all through college; State-assisted housing programs.
6. A lay State; civil marriage for gay partners (measures opposed by one of the continent’s most reactionary Catholic Churches)
7. Women’s rights, including valuation for work in the home.
8. Free responsibility over one’s own sexuality and life; recognition of diverse types of family; yet, the right to life from the moment of conception (feminist activists generally welcomed their gains and said the clause on life at conception could be eliminated through future popular mobilizations).
9. Equal rights for the disabled.
10. Universal social security; pensions for stay-at-home mothers and informal sector workers.
11. Presidential control over Central Bank; less autonomy for the Armed Forces.
12. Consecration of Nature’s collective rights.
13. Potable drinking water as a human right; prohibition of privatization of water.
14. Food sovereignty and the right to have secure food sources.
15. Right to have access to the mass media and to establish community media.
16. Prohibition of foreign military bases.
17. A solidarity-based and sustainable economic system; a “private, social and solidarity” economy, in effect a mixed economy.
18. Integration into the rest of
19. Prohibition of State taking over private debts, in effect no bank bailouts
20. Balanced living (sumak kawsay)
There are, to be sure, ambiguities and contradictions in both nations’ new constitutions.
Also, one area of great concern to native peoples in
Consultation with native peoples does not mean their “consent.” There have already occurred killings and repression of protests against foreign petroleum firms. President Correa has gone so far as to characterize some of the protesters as “terrorists.” The UN and ILO declarations on indigenous peoples’ rights are generally interpreted as calling for “previous consent.” “Petroleum is the blood of the Earth,” goes a saying of the U’wa people resisting foreign oil interests in
Clearly, new laws do not necessarily translate into new realities. The movements that gave birth to the new constitutions of
Right-wing Opposition in Historical Context
A long time ago, a Mayan said:
They destroyed our crops
They cut our branches
They burned our tree trunks
But they could not kill our roots. 
In 1781, Tupak Katari, the leader of a widespread and nearly successful revolt by
Evo Morales, a strong advocate for world peace and non-violence, has said the right-wing opposition is attempting to “quarter”
Just as in
Bolivians have a long history of popular resistance to right-wing elements that have governed the nation on behalf of domestic and foreign elites. They have learned from their earlier struggles. In 1952 they achieved the continent’s first revolution since the Mexican Revolution of 1917. They introduced a short-lived agrarian reform and nationalization of tin mines, the main industry at the time. Many miners were Marxists. In 1946 the Miners’ Congress passed the “Pulacayo Thesis,” a program echoing the ideas of Bolshevik revolutionary thinker and military commander Leon Trotsky. This program called for workers’ control of the means of production, a genuine democracy, and internationalization of the revolutionary struggle. Armed miners turned the tide in 1952 just when it looked like the rightist military might crush the democratic revolutionary forces in a bloodbath.
A guerrilla struggle led by Ernesto “Che” Guevara in southeastern
In 1971 a Peoples’ Assembly backed by the military government of General Juan José Torres approved a worker-peasant alliance and a program for socialism. Torres was overthrown by General Banzer, leading to a savage seven-year wave of repression known as “the Banzerato,” a prosperous period for
Popular protests by the poor majority and by the small economically squeezed middle classes continued. By 1980, strikes, revolts, and massacres reached another severe stage. The so-called “Cocaine Coup” of that year established a particularly brutal and corrupt dictatorship that lasted more than two years. In 1985, Harvard-educated economist Jeffrey Sachs introduced a “shock therapy” neo-liberal treatment of the economy that laid off thousands of miners, who had to migrate with their families to the countryside or cities to try to find work to survive. In the early 1990s, Sachs introduced the same economic approach in the former
During and after Sachs’ “shock therapy,”
Native peoples completed an historic 33-day “March for Territory and Dignity” (1990). A movement by coca growers led by Evo Morales gained strength and called itself the Movement to Socialism. Workers, steet vendors, ex-miners, desperate peasants, and heads of households in El Alto and other urban slums organized neighborhood defense-and-struggle committees. Women and youth played pivotal roles. Most of the time
Prefect Ruben Costas in
Several of the fascistic right-wing leaders of the opposition movement are anti-communist fanatics whose pro-Nazi families came to
Over the years, the fascist leaders of the four breakaway departments routinely have hired Brazilian gunmen, some of whom joined Bolivian and Peruvian gunmen in the Pando massacre of
Even though momentarily defeated in their attempt to topple Bolivian democracy, right-wingers of all varieties have not stopped their pressures on Evo. The social movements and native peoples continue to mobilize in defense of Evo´s government.
In the middle of October 2008, some 50,000 to 200,000 people conducted an 8-day, 150-kilometer march that was
joined on its last day by Evo himself. The marchers surrounded the national Congress in
However, prior to the successful vote, centrist and rightist political parties in Congress modified more than 100 articles. Details of the changes are rather complex, but it is clear that greater though not complete autonomy is to be granted the breakaway departments. Also, Evo will not be allowed to run for re-election after the
But the opposition is not just from the right. While leftists generally support Evo and Correa, even if critically at times, there are a few who feel that both nations’ presidents are moving too slowly and with too many compromises. Some even see the emergence of “a new neo-liberalism with a human face.” Also, there are people inside the governments of both nations who act as cliques that tend to undermine democratic processes and thus serve the rightist opposition’s claims that the presidents are “dictators.”
Cooptation and clientelism are occurring, more so in Ecuador than in Bolivia, but the social movements continue demanding genuine democracy and a new type of socialism that meets all human needs in harmony with ¨Pachamama.¨ The chances of either a civilian or a military coup seem slimmer each day but can never be ruled out. Both nations´ Armed Forces have sworn to uphold the constitutional processes underway. The Bolivian and Ecuadorian peoples are on the alert against possible traitorous officers or soldiers.
Decline of US Hegemony
In addition to UNASUR, several new institutions have been created in this recent integrative process. Among them are the following:
· Rio Group (created in 1986 by members of the Contadora Group active in seeking peace in Central America, today an organization of almost all Latin American and Caribbean states whose most recent new member is Cuba)
· TeleSUR (a continent-wide television news and entertainment channel countering the slant and distortions of CNN and most US mass media)
· PetroSUR and PetroCARIBE (for energy integration with discount prices on Venezuelan oil, gas, and know-how)
· Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas -- ALBA, a socially responsible instead of profit-guided alternative to the now defeated US initiative Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
· MERCOSUR – Common Market of the South, an earlier alternative to the FTAA
· Community of Andean Nations and Caricom (two more regional trade blocs)
· Latin American Court of Justice
· Banco del Sur (Bank of the South, a response to US-dominated, neo-liberal financial institutions like the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank).
· Parliamentary Confederation of the
· Security Council of South America (a military alliance of 12 nations excluding the
There are also plans for a single unified currency possibly to be called “pacha” and a Monetary Fund of the South (Fondo Monetario del Sur) as an alternative to the US dollar and the IMF (International Monetary Fund). There is talk of an economic Stabilization Fund as well.
In the past, the US Government and Latin American oligarchies would not have tolerated this for a second. They would have mounted bloody military coups and new dictatorships in the name of defending democracy. But those days of
US military and diplomatic failures in
According to CNN reports, the two-trillion-dollar US bank rescue plan may cost each
It is evident that
In July 2008, the 8,000-mile “Longest Walk 2 All Life is Sacred – Save Mother Earth” reached
The world faces a profound ecological crisis. World hunger is rapidly increasing. In a relatively short time there will not be sufficient potable drinking water, food, or petroleum to maintain current standards of living even in the most industrialized nations. Neo-liberal capitalism faces both deepening economic crisis and loss of credibility on a world scale. The indigenous and popular movements of
In November 2008, some 400 academics of the prestigious Latin American Studies Association sent a letter to president-elect Barack Obama in which they expressed their hope that his presidency would convert the
1. In 2007, the UN passed its Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with only four “No” votes (
2. From books of Chilam Balam (The book of books), documents written in Yucatec Maya with Spanish characters during the 17th and 18th centuries.
This is an updated and expanded version of public lectures delivered