Bolivia: A coup against the process of change

Julieta Paredes

As communitarian feminists, -- women who are committed to our people in Bolivia, to the point where we are dedicating our daily lives and dreams to doing the impossible in order for this process of change to take place -- at different moments we have made our position public, in the face of events that have seemed relevant to this historical process that is unfolding through the efforts of our hands and our feet, that do not rest. Today it seems necessary to us to reveal our position and our point of view. Our people demand this as well as those who follow, from Abya Yala and the world, the proposals of communitarian feminism and the process of change in Bolivia. It seems important to go on record with respect to why we struggle and why we are where we now stand.

What is this process of change?

We, along with other peoples and countries, have lived with the destruction of our lives by neoliberalism, and neoliberal forces. In 2003 we said that we do not want neoliberalism, we need another country, and we rose up to achieve this. Since then we have tried to express, in words of the colonial language inherited from Spain, what our bodies are saying, what we are trying to express, what we feel and what moves us.

This process of change is to create new ways of living, create a new world, new social relations, without violence, a world where differences are not converted into privilege. A world where there are no power relations, in which we see others neither as threats nor as enemies.

We want a world where the products, the wealth, and the natural resources of our peoples, can be redistributed, settling the historical debts imposed on us by: colonial patriarchy, racism, class distinctions, machismo, neoliberalism, and sexism. We want a world where we can restore community relations with harmony, balance, reciprocity among persons, among communities, and with nature.

We want a world where we can think, dream, and engage in creative activity without depending on parties, governments, caudillos, judges, priests or bosses, who lay on us what we must do or think.

We want a world in which pleasure, tranquillity and happiness constitute a principle of life, providing meaning and content to what we call "living well".

The process of change affects the interests of those who are accustomed to privilege, to a monopoly of knowledge, to money gained through exploitation of the poor, to doing as they want with natural resources for their own benefit; those who are used to manipulating the power of governments, to making a privilege of skin colour, of family, styles of clothing, education, sex, customs and social relationships, international contacts, access to information and technology, in order to ensure the continuity of the system for the benefit of their descendents.

Why is the police mutiny a coup against the process of change of the Bolivian people?

The violent incidents of the police mutiny, where the police made armed threats, are not incidents or threats against the government, nor against the military, who have the means to defend themselves, but rather this is a clear threat against the Bolivian people, its movements and social organizations. We are unarmed and it is we who struggle and sustain the process of change and dream of a different world in which no one will need weapons to defend their opinions or their demands.

The main threat of conflict directly affects the process of change, because:-

-- It provokes fear, worry, angst and uncertainty, while what we really need is calm, clarity, serenity and insight to rectify errors and to make way for our utopias.

-- It causes confusion and confrontation among sisters and brothers.

-- It attempts to undermine the legitimacy of a government that has come about as a result of a process of social movements and organizations; and while we have no pretensions for excusing mistakes they have made, we have to recognize their achievements that benefit the Bolivian people.

-- Women are being made into victims, whereas the process of change has generated a strengthening of the image and the presence of women, with their wisdom and organizational autonomy.  Today women are being used by the police as human shields.

-- Because it reduces the process of change to the particular interests of a few limited groups and sectors of the population; even worse, this is done by threatening with weapons, teargas, batons and shotgun bullets. That is to say, with violence.

Why do we defend the process of change?

Because for women, men and intersexual persons who have been impoverished by the patriarchal, colonial, capitalist and neoliberal system, this process of change is our hope, it is the only option, the only way to build a different future and not fall into the clutches of poverty, the destruction of nature, violence and death, into which the big international interests and their national lackeys attempt to plunge us.

To defend the process of change is to defend our dreams and our utopias. Behind the endeavours to destabilize the governments in Abya Yala, Latin America – that have been put in place thanks to the struggle of social movements --, are the big interests of corporations, private banks, those who hold economic power. For these groups it is not enough to overthrow governments that look to other ways of living, they find it necessary to co-opt social organizations, because we have taken charge of our history, because we are struggling for autonomy, self-determination and the repossession of our lands. That is why, through the NGOs and colonialist international cooperation, they are redesigning their agendas with the discourse of the good savage, of gender equity, of governability, governance, environmental services and a green economy, in order to maintain their hegemony in the face of processes of change that threaten their privileges.

To disregard the fact that these interests, as far away as they may appear, are behind the mobilizations that now threaten the process of change, is to become accomplices in this silencing of the historic resistance of our peoples, of their struggles and their proposals that today represent the process of change. To allow ourselves to be carried away by media discourse, by stories of a division between good Indians and bad Indians, is to reproduce their power, because it is the elites that disqualify some because they are seen as inconvenient, and legitimize others because that suits them, putting across a supposed incapacity of peoples to govern ourselves and administer the State in order to forge our own history for "living well".

These big interests have their representatives who administer and reproduce their power: large landowners, politicians, businessmen who do not want to lose their privileges on the one hand, and on the other the relics of moribund rightwing parties that appeal to the international community for asylum, inventing a dictatorship, calling for respect of human rights, the very rights that they themselves historically violated systematically.

Finally we want to look at the groups of intellectuals, who at one time were part of the process and now feel isolated, since they can no longer dominate the discourse, because they are no longer the enlightened few who think for the people. All this, for us, the communitarian feminists, is the new makeup of the conservative right wing, embittered, small-minded and mediocre.  It is this process that is proposing a reordering of power from daily living which, even though it is not exactly in the way we want and need, is affecting many sectors in their big and little privileges. If today there are forces of discontent in the country among different sectors who were once well accommodated in the system, and they are unhappy because they see their interests threatened, this means that the process is deepening, that it is touching live flesh in certain areas.

In spite of the fact that the neoliberal model with its diverse agendas wants to maintain its control over our territories, we see that the system of privilege does not work for our Bolivian people, nor for the world. Its perverse effects are our best weapon, to attack and to transform it. Here resides our strength, as women and men of the community, and this gives us strength in our struggle for life.  Those of us who lived through similar moments of 1992 with the march for land, territory and dignity, in 2000 with the uprising for water, in 2003 with the struggle for gas, know that our common enemies were always well organized, and we knew how to face them. We should recall, in these moments of confusion, our capacity to confront in an organized way a history of exploitation and abuse of power, and to change things in spite of these great articulations of international power and its systemic violence.

The groups that benefit from the system also control the media, these media that today simplify our complex history, with a narrative of caudillos and persecuted people, goodies and baddies, dictators and democrats. Today the media legitimize the power and the institutionalized violence in the repressive apparatus of the state, over-valuing the demands of the police, who for years have exercised violence against the people and encouraged corruption as an acceptable way of life. For us, a violent and repressive institution can never be considered a social movement.

Why would we defend an institution that represses us (the olive-uniformed police)?

It is paradoxical at this time to think about bettering conditions for the police institution and their whole structure, when during our history, these people have repressed us, exercised their power, in addition to being one of the most conservative, patriarchal, colonial and compliant institutions of the de facto governments. This is a history that we cannot forget. It is outrageous to see the olive green uniforms taking advantage of the instruments of struggle of the popular social groups, when we were the ones that put our bodies on the line – bodies that they beat up and violated --, so as to begin this process of change.,  It is outrageous to see the police attacking this process of change, that precisely involves denouncing corruption, reducing the privileges of the few and above all, questioning the repressive apparatus, such as the police and the armed forces, because they have been trained to exercise the violence of power.

In spite of the contradiction with what we have just argued, this process of change and the government have addressed the initial demands of this institution, demands that have grown in an irresponsible manner in less than 24 hours. What this institution has not taken care to think about, is that their demands have to come from our taxes, affecting the possibility of investing in the health and education of the population, at the cost of more equipment and arms to repress us. We will not give up our health and education to buy them arms, gas, bullets and batons.

Why does defence of the process of change today mean defending the government?

It is clear to us that we must defend the process of change, understanding that the process belongs to all of us, not to a party, nor a person.  Nevertheless today we feel OBLIGED TAKE A STAND: THIS GOVERNMENT IS THE FRUIT OF A PROCESS OF SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS, and it has a mandate from the people that it must run until 2013.  Later, in 2014, we will have to rethink; but today we have no other possibility and this should be clear and should be our responsibility as revolutionary women. With all the errors and contradictions of our brother and companion Evo Morales, he is a symbol for our campesino and indigenous original peoples, of which we are a part. Therefore, today we defend the process of change, we shall defend the mandate of the people for the government of Evo and we shall defend our utopias and the future of our wawitas (children), and Mother Nature.

We need to "de-territorialize" the conflict of the colonial space of the Plaza Murillo

We consider it important to "de-territorialize" the Plaza Murillo (including in colonial terms), as a space that symbolizes power, this space that, as our history reminds us, at one time Indians were not allowed to go there, our grandmothers and great grandmothers were denied access, because they wore polleras (wide skirts) and Indian clothing; this space that constantly reproduces and strengthens the structural, hierarchical and colonial powers such as the armed forces and the police. This is reason enough to call on the various levels of government and the pluri-national assembly, to establish their seat and legislate from other territories, in the territories of our struggles, in our barrios, in the city of El Alto where this process of change began; this would be an act of decolonization, to expand the very process of change.  
(Translation: Jordan Bishop and ALAI).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I very much agree with your opinion, till a certain point. In my view (shared with a lot of Bolivians and people from abroad, the same government is doing everything to destroy the feelings of unity. First in emphasising the differences between Aymaras, Quechuas, Guaranis. Attributing a thousand years of history to the Aymaras, where they only appear in that history since 6 - 700 BC.
The Tiahunaco culture is not theirs, never has been. The treacherous behaviour with the protesters for TIPNIS. Using the same methods as the Spaniards, distributing "regalos" to buy the support for their fastidious intention to construct a highway. Bolivian and foreign scientists have shown other technical possibilities for this necessary infrastructure.
Last night the appalling clearing of the Plaza Murillo by Police forces. Like the intervention during the previous march, the Police is and can not act on its own. There is, how much denied on TV by the same spokes people of that government, quiet clearly, instructions from higher up. So please do not make propaganda for institutions that have betrayed themselves as no better than others.
Yes after 26 years of marriage I have applied for the bolivian nationality.