FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bolivia Looking Forward

by BENJAMIN DANGL

After Bolivia’s new constitution was passed in a national referendum on Sunday, thousands gathered in La Paz to celebrate. Standing on the balcony of the presidential palace, President Evo Morales addressed a raucous crowd: “Here begins a new Bolivia. Here we begin to reach true equality.”

Polls conducted by Televisión Boliviana announced that the document passed with 61.97% support from some 3.8 million voters. According the poll, 36.52% of voters voted against the constitution, and 1.51% cast blank and null votes. The departments where the constitution passed included La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, Potosí, Tarija, and Pando. It was rejected in Santa Cruz, Beni, and Chuquisaca.

The constitution, which was written in a constituent assembly that first convened in August of 2006, grants unprecedented rights to Bolivia’s indigenous majority, establishes broader access to basic services, education and healthcare and expands the role of the state in the management of natural resources and the economy.

When the news spread throughout La Paz that the constitution had been passed in the referendum, fireworks, cheers and horns sounded off sporadically. By 8:30, thousands had already gathered in the Plaza Murillo. The crowd cheered “Evo! Evo! Evo!” until Morales, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and other leading figures in theMovement Toward Socialism (MAS) government, crowded out onto the balcony of the presidential palace.

“I would like to take this opportunity to recognize all of the brothers and sisters of Bolivia, all of the compañeros and compañeras, all of the citizens that through their vote, through their democratic participation, decide to refound Bolivia,” Morales said. “From 2005 to 2009 we have gone from triumph to triumph, while the neoliberals, the traitors have been constantly broken down thanks to the consciousness of the Bolivian people.”

He shook his fist in the air, the applause died down. “And I want you to know something, the colonial state ends here. Internal colonialism and external colonialism ends here. Sisters and brothers, neoliberalism ends here too.”

At various points in the speech Morales, and others on the balcony, held up copies of the new constitution. Morales continued, “And now, thanks to the consciousness of the Bolivian people, the natural resources are recuperated for life, and no government, no new president can…give our natural resources away to transnational companies.”

A Weakened Right

Though news reports and analysts have suggested that the passage of the new constitution will exacerbate divisions in the country, some of the political tension may be directed into the electoral realm as general elections are now scheduled to take place in December of this year. In addition, the constitution’s passage is another sign of the weakness of the Bolivian right, and their lack of a clear political agenda and mandate to confront the MAS’s popularity. The recent passage of the constitution is likely to divide and further debilitate the right.

Even Manfred Reyes Villa, an opponent of Morales and ex-governor of Cochabamba, told Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post that, “Today, there is not a serious opposition in the country.” When the right-wing led violence in the department of Pando in September of 2008 left some 20 people dead and many others wounded, the right lost much of its legitimacy and support. “With Pando, the regional opposition just collapsed,” George Gray Molina, an ex-United Nations official in Bolivia, and a current research fellow at Oxford University, told Partlow. “I think they lost authority and legitimacy even among their own grass roots.”

Celebrations

Fireworks shot off at the end of Morales’ speech in the Plaza Murillo, sending pigeons flying scared. Live folk music played on stage as the crowd danced and the TV crews packed up and left. The wind blew around giant balloon figures of hands the color of the Bolivian flag holding the new constitution.

As the night wore on, more people began dancing to the bands in the street than to those on the stage. At midnight, when the police asked the thousands gathered to leave the plaza, the crowd took off marching down the street, taking the fiesta to central La Paz, cheering nearly every Latin American revolutionary cheer, pounding drums and sharing beer. After marching down a number of blocks on the empty streets, the crowd hunkered down for a street party at the base of a statue of the Latin American liberator, Simón Bolívar. The celebration, which included Bolivians, Argentines, Brazilians, French, British, North Americans and more, went on into the early hours of the morning.

Oscar Rocababo, a Bolivian sociologist working on his Master’s degree in La Paz, was elated about the victory in the referendum. “The passage of this constitution is like the cherry on top of the ice cream, the culmination of many years of struggle.”

BENJAMIN DANGL is the author of “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia,” (AK Press). He is an editor at UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Email bendangl(at)gmail.com

 

 

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: https://twitter.com/bendangl Email: BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail