FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Final Battle in Bolivia

by ROGER BURBACH

Evo Morales, the first Indian president of Bolivia, is forcing a showdown with the oligarchy and the right wing political parties that have stymied efforts to draft a new constitution to transform the nation. He declares, “Dead or alive I will have a new constitution for the country by December 14,” the mandated date for the specially elected Constituent Assembly to present the constitution.

Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linares states, “Either we now consolidate the new statewith the new dominant forces behind us, or we will move backwards and the old forces will again predominate.” A leading trade union leader, Edgar Patana, put it bluntly: “The final battle has begun, and the people are prepared for it.”

For over a year the oligarchy centered in the eastern city of Santa Cruz has conspired to frustrate the efforts of the Constituent Assembly in which the governing party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), and its allies hold 60 percent of the seats. First the right wing parties in the Assembly, led by Podemos, insisted that a two-thirds vote was needed even for committees to approve the different sections of the new constitution.

When the opposition was overruled on this point, the oligarchy then won allies in the city of Sucre, where the Constituent Assembly is being held, by asserting that the executive and congressional branches of government should be moved from La Paz to Sucre, which used to be the center of government until the late nineteenth century. This was also a racial strategy as La Paz and its sister city El Alto are at the heart of the country’s majority Indian population that support Morales and mobilized in 2003 to topple an oligarchic president in La Paz who murdered Indian demonstrators in the streets.

In Sucre in recent months right wing militants have menaced and assaulted delegates of MAS, including Silvia Lazarte, the Assembly’s indigenous women president. The Assembly has been effectively prevented from functioning since August 15.

Then in a move to more equitably redistribute the country growing oil and gas revenues, Morales in mid-October declared that a retirement pension equal to the minimum wage would be extended to all Bolivians that would come directly out of a special hydrocarbon fund. Morales simultaneously cut the payments from the fund that go to municipal governments like Santa Cruz with no congressional oversight. This caused an uproar in the Media Luna (Half Moon) region, comprised of the department of Santa Cruz and allied departments, with many of the business interests of the country threatening to create shortages and sew economic chaos by withholding their produce from the market.

Three hundred peasants, who came to Sucre last week to protect the Assembly members in its efforts to reconvene, were violently expelled from their sleeping quarters at the Pedagogical Institute by right wing students and Lazarte was prevented from convening the Assembly. Then Morales moved the Assembly meeting site to an old castle on the outskirts of Sucre that also serves as a military school and barracks. The head of the armed forces, General Wilfredo Vargas, backed the meeting of the Assembly at the castle, saying “it has to meet to continue to modernize the state in all its features.”

Then Vargas in a swipe at one of the regional political leaders allied with the Media Luna who claimed that Cuban and Venezuelan military units where in the country, declared: “No information exists of such units. And if it were the case, they are military units of the State and as part of the State they represent the Bolivian people.”

The Bush administration is also jumping into the fray. Earlier this year Morales denounced that US backed agencies and non- governmental organizations that are providing direct support to right-wing political parties and allied institutions, ordering that all such funding would now be channeled directly through the government. Then at the recent Ibero-American Summit in Santiago Chile, Morales declared that “while we are trying to change Boliviasmall groups of the oligarchy are conspiring in alliance with the representative of the government of the United States,” referring to the US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg. To support his claims a photo was shown of Goldberg in Santa Cruz with a leading right wing business magnet and a well known Colombian narco-trafficker, who had been detained by the local police.

On November 15, the US State Department spokesperson, Sean McCormick, responded by demanding that Morales stop launching “false” and “unfounded” allegations of conspiracy by the ambassador. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the Bolivian ambassador in Washington to deliver the same tough message.

The delegates of the right wing parties led by Podemos boycotted the meetings at the castle, declaring that the Assembly is “illegal.” On Friday 139 of the 255 Assembly members met and approved the broad outlines of a new constitution to carry out the reforms championed by Morales and the country’s social movements. The next step is for the Assembly to adopt the specific clauses and content of the constitution.

But before that process could begin, the opposition in Sucre, led mainly by students and young people, violently took over all the major public buildings using dynamite and Molotov coctails, demanding the resignation of “the shitty Indian Morales.” Parts of the city were in flames as the members of the Assembly abandoned the castle on Saturday, and by Sunday rioting mobs controlled Sucre, forcing the police to retreat to the mining town of Potosi, two hours away. Three people, including one policemen, are dead, with hundreds injured. The right wing and the business organizations in Santa Cruz and allied departments are threatening to declare autonomy and even talking of cession.

“We are at a national impasse” says Manuel Urisote, a political analyst and director of the Land Foundation, an independent research center in La Paz. “The right wing led by the Santa Cruz oligarchy is in open rebellion, but Morales, the Movement Towards Socialism and the popular movements will not back down. The military is supporting the president. As a national institution it intends to maintain the territorial integrity of Bolivia and it will not accept decrees of cession by Santa Cruz.”

ROGER BURBACH is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He is co-author with Jim Tarbell of “Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire,” His latest book is: “The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice.

 

 

ROGER BURBACH is the director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and author of The Pinochet Affair.

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail