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Bolivia on the Brink of Civil War

 
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Oct, 2003 02:22 pm
The Shinning Path is marginal although not necessarily irrelevant to this, as they can cause trouble. This is an indigenous movement, not a movement of venal white leaders and poor deluded natives. If you think otherwise you are mistaken. It is also a broad based indigenous movement that is spread across the Andes and has had it most dramatic manifestation in Bolivia in part because it has the largest indigenous population. This is literally an attempt by the Amyra and other ethnic groups to turn back the clock and a depseated reaction against globalization. I came to that conclusion by talking to people, not the Euro-elite in LaPaz but people, mostly none political people in the country side, I do not think the violence in Bolivia has run it's course. I would be surprised if Mesa lasts six months.

New York Times October 17
Bolivia's Poor Proclaim Abiding Distrust of Globalization
By LARRY ROHTER
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/17/international/americas/17GLOB.html
The many Indian protesters who choked the streets and highways of this Andean nation again on Thursday may be poor and speak broken or accented Spanish, but they have a powerful message.
…no to globalization in any form other than solidarity among the downtrodden peoples of the developing world.
… nowhere have those doubts been expressed as forcefully as in this poor nation of eight million people, increasingly divided along class and racial lines. A majority of Bolivians have Indian blood, descended from the original inhabitants of this continent who got a foretaste of globalization centuries ago with the age of exploration and the arrival of European colonizers.
"Globalization is just another name for submission and domination," Nicanor Apaza, 46, an unemployed miner, said at a demonstration this week in which Indian women in bowler hats and colorful layered skirts carried banners denouncing the International Monetary Fund and demanding the president's resignation. "We've had to live with that here for 500 years, and now we want to be our own masters."
He and many other protesters see an unbroken line from this region's often rapacious colonial history to the failed economic experiments of the late 20th century, in which Bolivia was one of the first Latin American countries to open itself to the modern global economy. The $5 billion gas pipeline project is only the latest gambit.
"The blood that has been spilled is something sacred," Felipe Quispe, leader of the indigenous group that initiated the protests, said in response to Mr. Sánchez de Lozada's offer, made in a televised speech. "So we can't negotiate and we're not even going to talk."


REUTERS : October 19, 2003
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/international/international-bolivia.html
Powerful Indian leader Felipe Quispe, who rails against the ``European elites'' of Bolivia, said there were still road blockades in the Andean heartland.
``We are going to have problems with Mesa. ... He has deals with the gringos of the United States,'' Quispe said, adding he would give Mesa 90 days to abandon the gas project and the coca eradication drive or face new protests.

Associated Press Oct 20
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/international/AP-Bolivia.html
Foes of Sanchez de Lozada want him back in Bolivia to face trial. Evo Morales, the opposition congressman who has championed the cause of Bolivian coca leaf farmers, accused the former government of ``economic genocide'' and said Sanchez de Lozada should be jailed.
Morales supported Mesa, but indigenous leader Felipe Quispe warned of new protests within 90 days if Mesa does not institute policies to help Bolivia's native, peasant population.
``There will be more blood, more fighting, more rebellions,'' Quispe, also a congressman, told Radio Panamericana.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Oct, 2003 10:32 am
Acquiunk:

I don't dispute that Bolivia's is a true indigenous movement. And it clearly does not have the dense Marxist idological connotations as Shining Path in Peru or the Zapatistas in Mexico.

At the same time, globalization is put at the same level as neoliberalism, which in turn is put at the same level as Capitalism.
When the analysis is wrong, the political result is also wrong.
When you don't know where you are going, you can't steer the wheel at your will.

In this phase, they are passing from passive resistance to something more active, but still undefined.

Do you think this is going to help?:
"Here we are. We are back! Millions and millions of Runas to populate again the space of Alpha Mama. Legitimate inheritance of our ancestors! Twpak Katary lives! Twpac Amaru carajo! To the few rich landlords, Euro-christians, Capitalists, we add: Death to the Republics! Jallalla tawaantinsuyu!!!!"

Of course, I do not think violence in Bolivia has run its course, either.
0 Replies
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Oct, 2003 01:25 pm
Israel is an example of an attempt by a modern people to reoccupy a historical space. We are living with the results. The movement by the indigenous populations in the Andes has precedent, whether they will succeed or not is arguable. But at this point I don't think the effort can be stopped.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2003 10:23 am
Interesting and provocative comparison, Acquiunk.

But if I were to make comparisons, I'd rather think about South Africa or Zimbabwe. And there, also, we have quite different outcomes.
0 Replies
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2003 11:56 am
The problem with South Africa or Zimbabwe as examples is time. In both places European occupation and the impact of that occupation as a relatively shallow time depth, on the order of 150 years. As a result major portions of the African culture and social system remained intact. In the Andes the time depth is on the order of 500 years and major efforts at cultural modification were made from the beginning of European occupation. The native peoples have little idea of what the pre Spanish social system and culture were like, just as Israelis have little idea what pre diaspora Jewish culture was like. So in both case they are going to have to make it up as they go along. Israel basically chose a european cultural model, which is now part of their problem. In in Bolivia, Euro-Bolivians and various native ethnic groups are going to have to sort themselves out and decide just where they are heading and what a "native" Bolivia will be like. And as you pointed out, there is no steering wheel. This is where groups like the Shinning Path who both know where they are going and have a wheel (of sorts) can be a problem.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Oct, 2003 12:30 pm
Good points again, Acquiunk.

A third way would be the one Mexico travelled in the early XX Century, through the Revolution.

The Revolution, at least culturally, had some specific racial connotations: it was openly opposed to "white" pro-European culture, paid lip service to the great longtime gone indian cultures ("our ancestors") and praised the "cosmic race" (the mestizos) as distinctly Mexican.

Socially, it wiped out the landlords in most regions and gave land to the peasants. The notable exception was Chiapas... and 80 years later we got the Zapatistas.

In Bolivia, the ideological equivalent of Mexico's PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) is the MNR. Still the strongest and longest living party in that nation.

--------

I was thinking last night about Bolivia's poorness.

It has an income distribution as bad as Mexico's, but a GDP per capita one third smaller.

The richest one tenth of the population has 40% of the income.

But that means the upper 10% have an average income of $14,000 a year. Nothing impressive.

When I was a teacher at the National University of Mexico I had several Bolivian students. Most of them were famous among their classmates because they had so little money. The average student received less than $100 a month from home.
0 Replies
 
Charli
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2003 08:52 pm
THURSDAY, OCT 23 03, NY TIMES
A couple of super articles in today's NY Times about "the problems" in South America.
*************************************************************
Bolivian Leader's Ouster Seen as Warning on U.S. Drug Policy

October 23, 2003
By LARRY ROHTER

LA PAZ, Bolivia, Oct. 22 - On a visit to the White House
last year, President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada told
President Bush that he would push ahead with a plan to
eradicate coca but that he needed more money to ease the
impact on farmers.

Otherwise, the Bolivian president's advisers recalled him
as saying, "I may be back here in a year, this time seeking
political asylum."

Mr. Bush was amused, Bolivian officials recounted, told his
visitor that all heads of state had tough problems and
wished him good luck.

Now Mr. Sánchez de Lozada, Washington's most stalwart ally
in South America, is living in exile in the United States
after being toppled last week by a popular uprising, a
potentially crippling blow to Washington's anti-drug policy
in the Andean region.

United States officials interviewed here minimized the
importance of the drug issue in Mr. Sánchez de Lozada's
downfall, blaming a "pent-up frustration" over issues
ranging from natural gas exports to corruption. But to many
Bolivians and analysts, the coca problem is intimately tied
to the broader issues of impoverishment and
disenfranchisement that have stoked explosive resentments
here and fueled a month of often violent protests. . . .


"Mr. Sánchez de Lozada"


Also, this article from today's NY Times:
*************************************************************
Texaco Goes on Trial in Ecuador Pollution Case

October 23, 2003
By JUAN FORERO

LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador, Oct. 22 - When René Arévalo draws
water from his well, it is brown and gummy, requiring him
to run it through a makeshift filtering system outside his
wood-plank home in the jungle outside this town.

Like thousands of other people here, he suspects the water
was fouled by the waste an American oil company dumped
across miles of Amazonia in its 20 years of operations.
After all, he and his five children live across from a
separation plant once operated by a Texaco affiliate, their
house built on a mound of dirt that covered a pit where
wastewater was dumped.

"If you dig here just a meter deep, you hit oil," Mr.
Arévalo said, moments after probing into the dirt outside
his house to show visitors the gooey slime. "The water is
contaminated, very contaminated. But we drink it. What else
can we do?"

Now, about 30,000 people affected by the waste are hoping
that a lawsuit, accusing ChevronTexaco of dumping 18.5
billion gallons of waste into open, unlined pits, will lead
to a full-scale cleanup. This week, the California-based
company, an energy giant created in 2001 when Chevron
merged with Texaco, went on trial here in a case that, if
successful for the plaintiffs, could establish a new way
for American companies to be held accountable for
environmental degradation in foreign countries. . . .

Texaco in Ecuador
[/color]
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Oct, 2003 11:07 am
Great links, Charli.

"Mr. Bush was amused, Bolivian officials recounted, told his visitor that all heads of state had tough problems and wished him good luck."

Typical Dubya vision and statesmanship.

And yet many Americans wonder why the world fears unilateralism.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jun, 2005 10:18 am
From the New York Times

June 9, 2005
No. 1 Quits in Bolivia, and Protesters Scorn Nos. 2 and 3
By JUAN FORERO
LA PAZ, Bolivia, June 8 - A worsening five-year political crisis in Bolivia reached a precarious impasse on Wednesday, with left- and right-wing adversaries so polarized that the departing president, Carlos Mesa, warned his country to step back from the brink of civil war.

With Mr. Mesa's government collapsing and surging indigenous protesters demanding early elections and more say in economic policy, Bolivia, a country of nine million people, stands at a perilous moment. Five years of instability have already forced two presidents to quit.

In Santa Cruz, the eastern lowland province where much of the country's energy sector is located, peasants pressing for expropriation of private oil companies occupied installations belonging to Repsol YPF of Spain and British Gas, forcing the companies to shut down production.

Here in the western Andes, Indians marched by the thousands and blocked key roads, keeping La Paz short of fuel and food and prompting two international airlines, American and LanChile, to cancel flights.

Two days after Mr. Mesa offered to leave office to defuse mounting protests, demonstrators vowed to topple the new government if it is led by the next in line to the presidency, the Senate president, Hormando Vaca Díez. Congress is preparing to accept Mr. Mesa's resignation on Thursday and anoint Mr. Vaca Díez as successor in a special session in Sucre, the judicial capital.

Leaders of Bolivia's powerful indigenous movement vehemently oppose Mr. Vaca Díez, a wealthy land owner and long-time politician who has the support of the influential business elites in Santa Cruz, his home province. The conservative business class there wants more autonomy, giving it control over the natural gas reserves that the Indians in the highlands want to nationalize.

Mr. Mesa, who remains president, warned the nation that Mr. Vaca Díez must stand down and permit early elections to prevent bloodshed.

"Let us avoid lost lives, let us avoid a violence that devours us all," Mr. Mesa, who has been in office less than 20 months, said in a televised address late Tuesday. "This is an exhortation for a country that is on the verge of civil war."

Since 2000, when a popular uprising forced an American water utility out of Cochabamba, a restive Indian majority has flexed its political muscle, protesting against foreign multinationals and market reforms prescribed by the United States and the International Monetary Fund. Before Mr. Mesa, President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was also forced out; he fled into exile in October 2003.

Many Bolivians, especially the indigenous people, say market reforms put into practice by politicians like Mr. Sánchez de Lozada have left their country poorer than ever.

That impatience has been evident across Latin America, where eight presidents have been ousted or forced to resign in popular uprisings since 2000. Left-leaning candidates have been swept into power in two-thirds of South America's countries.

"The bottom line is that Latin America is in open rebellion of the economic policies of the Washington consensus," said Jim Shultz, executive director of Democracy Center, a policy analysis group in Cochabamba. "Sometimes it happens in the ballot box. Sometimes it happens on the street, like in Bolivia. It is, in essence, the same rebellion."

But in Bolivia, the movement against market reforms and the traditional ruling class has prompted a backlash from the right. "The rejection by the right is called Hormando Vaca Díez," said Gonzalo Chávez, a political analyst at Catholic University in La Paz.

Protest leaders have vowed to stop Mr. Vaca Díez and the man who is next after him in line to the presidency, Mario Cossío Cortez, president of the lower house of Congress. Mr. Mesa and many others say the solution is for the two to step aside and permit the third in line, the Supreme Court president, Eduardo Rodríguez, to call elections.

But Mr. Vaca Díez signaled to reporters that the military could be used to restore order. He also warned that the protests could lead to a crackdown from the right.

"The radicalism of the left leads to totalitarian governments," he said.

Mr. Vaca Díez has not explicitly said whether he will remain president once Mr. Mesa's resignation is accepted. But two powerful institutional parties that would benefit from the spoils if he takes power, the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement and his own Movement of the Revolutionary Left, support him.

Many Bolivians are infuriated by the possibility. "If Vaca Díez is president, the remedy will be worse than the illness," said Mario Acarapi, 37, an office worker who took part in Wednesday's marches in La Paz. "He is a man who will not listen to the people. He will listen to the old political class."

In a poll published Wednesday in La Prensa, 55 percent of respondents said they would support Mr. Rodríguez, while only 16 percent said they would support Mr. Vaca Díez.

"The country cannot play with the possibility of breaking into a thousand pieces," President Mesa said in his address. Speaking directly to Mr. Vaca Díez, Mr. Mesa called on him to "resign his privilege to the constitutional succession."

"It is in your hands to show the country a generosity that will make history," Mr. Mesa said, "that will make you closer to the people than to continue insisting on the impossible."

----------------

A true civil war may come.
The left, lead by radical Evo Morales wants to quarter.
The right, mostly on Santa Cruz de la Sierra wants independence.
The military are moving.

Most ofl this -just a thought- because they don't have a centralized government with regional, and perhaps ethnical autonomies, like in Canada.
0 Replies
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Jun, 2005 09:14 am
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/11/opinion/11powers.html

New York Times
Op-Ed Contributor
Poor Little Rich Country
By WILLIAM POWERS
Published: June 11, 2005

Samaipata, Bolivia
MY taxi is stuck behind Indian roadblocks. Three hundred farmers, many of them Quechua in colorful ponchos, just took control of the only highway near this small town in central Bolivia, right below a jaguar-shaped Inca temple. I can escape neither east to the sweltering boomtown of Santa Cruz nor west toward the windswept Andean capital, La Paz, where tens of thousands of Aymara Indians are on the march. I get through, but only after abandoning my taxi and making my way on foot.

For three weeks, the country has been paralyzed by blockades and protests; a few days after my experience at the roadblock, the uprising forced the president, Carlos Mesa, to resign. The protesters want to nationalize Bolivia's vast natural gas reserves, South America's second largest; BP has quintupled its estimate of Bolivia's proven reserves to 29 trillion cubic feet, worth a whopping $250 billion. The Indians are in a showdown with the International Monetary Fund and companies like British Gas, Repsol of Spain and Brazil's Petrobras that have already invested billions of dollars in exploration and extraction.

Many are calling the remarkable past five years in Bolivia a war against globalization. In a limited way, they're right. McDonald's closed its outlets here, unable to lure Bolivians away from their saice and salteñas. Demonstrators in bowler hats forced out Bechtel and Suez water privatizers; blocked an income tax urged by the mighty I.M.F.; and ousted President Mesa's predecessor, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozado, who spoke Spanish with a heavy American accent, over his plan to export Bolivian gas to California through Chile.
But this is not about walling off a Wal-Mart-free utopia; it's more of a struggle over who has power here. An American Indian majority is standing up to the light-skinned, European elite and its corruption-fueled relationships with the world.
You might say that Bolivia has colonized itself. When the Spanish Empire closed shop here in 1825, the Europeans who stayed on didn't seem to notice - and still don't. Even within Latin America, the region with the greatest wealth inequality in the world according to the World Bank, Bolivia is considered one of the most corrupt, per Transparency International's annual index of political dishonesty. It's also divided along a razor-sharp racial edge.
Highland and Amazon peoples compose almost two-thirds of Bolivia's population, the highest proportion of Indians in the hemisphere. (It's as if the United States had 160 million Apaches, Hopis and Iroquois.) And while native people are no longer forcibly sprayed with DDT for bugs and are today allowed into town squares, Bolivian apartheid - a "pigmentocracy of power" - continues.
I've been here for three years as an aid official, and exclusion is part of life. Indians are barred from swimming pools at some clubs, for example; they are still "peones" on eastern haciendas little touched by land reform. In La Paz, I was walking through the fashionable South Zone beside an Aymaran woman, Fátima, when another Bolivian viciously pushed her off the sidewalk. She wasn't shocked by the sentiment, but she was amazed that the man had been willing to touch her. Meanwhile, Bolivia's energy-rich eastern states are agitating for "autonomy" in a thinly disguised effort to deprive the poor Indian west of oil and gas revenues.
What is to be done to prevent a collapse in Bolivia? The answer, of course, must begin with Bolivians themselves. Elites here must recognize that the country's dark-skinned social movements are stronger than any political party or president and will not go away. Any lasting solution must shift real power to Bolivia's poor majority.
We'll see a lot of political maneuvering in the coming days. Some of the roadblocks have been dismantled in the wake of Mr. Mesa's ouster and the installation of a new interim president, Eduardo Rodríguez, the former head of the Supreme Court. But sustained stability depends on movement toward more equality, not just cosmetic changes, starting with speedy national elections and a constituent assembly with the full power to rewrite the Constitution and decide who benefits from Bolivia's petroleum.
Solving the crisis, however, depends not just on ending exclusion, but also on how the rest of the world relates to Bolivia, South America's poorest country, particularly through economic policy.
The United States and the international community have a vital role. In a speech this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was right to acknowledge Bolivia's democratic deficit.
But beyond lip service we must accept that democracy means, well, letting people decide what to do with their own resources. Existing contracts with foreign oil companies were signed by corrupt Bolivian leaders, without the approval of Congress. Even if nationalizing petroleum may be a growth-zapping bad idea, we need to let Bolivians themselves decide.
Moreover, our own ideas for this region are not always so fabulous. Bolivia was the testing ground for the I.M.F.'s "shock therapy" liberalization in 1985. This stringent recipe has made millions for oilmen and industrial soy farmers here (neither sector creates much employment) but has not reduced inequality; 20 years later, Bolivia's income levels are stagnant or worse, and half the population lives on less than $2 a day.
BESIDES taking a respectful hands off, the world should contribute one vital thing toward a more democratic society that embraces Indians: debt relief to the reforming government. Bolivia's debt load has risen to 82 percent of gross domestic product, sucking up a mind-boggling 40 percent of fiscal expenditures. This is a recipe for more poverty and turmoil.
Meanwhile, the Indians, distrusting Mr. Rodríguez's promise to call elections and talk to proponents of nationalization, are keeping some of the roadblocks in place, a tactic that costs millions of dollars in lost commerce, hurting the Indians themselves most of all. But as one Quechua told me as he crossed his arms in front of trucks here in Samaipata, vaguely evoking Tiananmen Square: "Our cultures have been blocked for 500 years. This is our only voice."
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Jun, 2005 10:43 am
Quote:
ISOLATING THE LEFT WON'T SOLVE BOLIVIA'S CRISIS.
Outside Chance


by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 06.22.05

Earlier this month, Carlos Mesa became the second Bolivian president to resign in less than two years. Weeks of protests by Indian and labor groups demanding nationalization of the country's natural-gas resources and more autonomy for local communities were accompanied by rumblings of secession from whiter, wealthier, and resource-rich Santa Cruz province--all of which, Mesa said, had left the country "ungovernable." In resigning, he warned of civil war.

At the center of this chaos was Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian who has gained national prominence as a leader of the country's coca growers' movement and international notoriety for his denunciations of globalization, the war on drugs, and the historic mistreatment of Bolivia's Indian majority. To Washington, his brand of confrontational left-wing politics is dangerous--part of what General James Hill, the former head of U.S. military operations in South America, has termed "the emerging threat best described as radical populism." The State Department refers to Morales as an "illegal-coca agitator," and the U.S. has consistently denied him a visa. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Otto Reich has said that Bolivian democracy is "under attack from the violent left." And as roadblocks and riots paralyzed Bolivia last month, U.S. officials went out of their way to blame Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, another Bush administration bête noir, for Morales's rise.

It's true that Morales is no hero. But if the Bush administration wants to strengthen democracy in Bolivia, a confrontational stance toward the country's most prominent left-wing politician can only hurt. Morales is less a cause of Bolivia's instability than a symptom of serious discontent within its political system. And freezing the discontented out of the democratic process will simply exacerbate the tensions and dysfunctions that have permitted Morales to accumulate such influence. Far from keeping radicals like Morales out of power, Bolivia's best path to stability lies in bringing them into government--and keeping them there.



Bolivia, the joke goes, is the only country in South America that belongs in sub-Saharan Africa. Its per capita income (around $800) is considerably lower than that of even its poorest neighbors. It is riven by deep divisions between a small European elite and an indigenous majority, and between the impoverished highlands and the better-off eastern lowlands. Since the '80s, when tens of thousands of former miners and farmers fled into the jungle and started growing coca, it has also been a main front in the war on drugs. Part of what makes the coca issue so controversial is that some percentage (high or low depending on whom you ask) of Bolivian leaf is legally consumed as a mild natural stimulant rather than processed into cocaine.

Morales, who I traveled with in Bolivia last December, has perfected a creation myth that mirrors the story of all poor Bolivians: born in a desolate Andean village, driven to coca farming by economic desperation, politicized by imperialism, the war on drugs, and the elitism of Bolivia's political class--and then elevated to power and a seat in congress by voters. Washington has also aided his rise: In the weeks before the 2002 Bolivian presidential elections, the U.S. ambassador in La Paz warned of the "consequences" of a Morales victory--an end to U.S. aid. Morales immediately shot up in the polls and ended up losing to Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, the victor and Mesa's predecessor, by less than one point. Morales's political party, the Movement Toward Socialism, has since become the biggest in Bolivia.

There are two competing narratives of the current crisis, neither of which does justice to the complexity of Bolivia's problems. The left has projected onto the unrest a vision of revolution: the long overdue mobilization of exploited Indian communities against a craven elite that has enforced a bankrupt neoliberal economic agenda, given away the country's gas resources, and carried out a disastrous war on Bolivia's coca growers at the behest of its American overseers. The right denounces the upheaval as an attack on democracy by a fringe clique of leftist thugs who have turned to intimidation after having failed to convince most Bolivians that they have anything to offer; Sánchez de Lozada even accused Colombian drug traffickers of sowing chaos in an attempt to install a leftist government that would shield their activities in Bolivia from interference in the name of sovereignty and indigenous rights. Not surprisingly, Washington has embraced a version of this second explanation--one in which Venezuela's Chávez is playing a nefarious supporting role.

What these interpretations miss is that the current upheaval is evidence both of Bolivia's problems and of its progress. Instability is not the result of a crisis of democracy or an attempted takeover by criminal elements; it is a byproduct of the growing pains of Bolivia's society and political system. The poverty rate, to take one indicator of development, was 86 percent in 1975 and more than 70 percent in 1992; by a few years ago, it had fallen below 60 percent. Previously quiescent indigenous communities have become politically mobilized and raised their demands. At the same time, inequality has worsened, traditional institutions have come under assault, and an array of longstanding injustices--a dysfunctional judicial system, pervasive corruption, widespread prejudice and exclusion--have gone essentially unchallenged. In the past five years, economic growth has slowed as well.

A host of changes has thus increased pressure on weak and outdated governmental institutions while eroding the ability of those institutions to respond to and balance pressures from wildly divergent interests. When angry groups fail to get their way within the system, they revolt against it--sometimes for legitimate reasons, sometimes not. "The real problem," the Bolivian political analyst Roberto Laserna says, "is total institutional disintegration in the face of the growing aspirations of the population." The flashpoints of the crisis--the ownership of natural gas, the degree of local autonomy, the war over coca--are expressions of this paradox of progress.



Morales and the rest of the radical Bolivian left are also products of this paradox. Two decades of Bolivian democracy improved things enough to make people want more, but the system proved too weak to survive the pressure of their new demands. So Bolivians lost faith that the political system could respond to their grievances in fair ways. "There was a complete political vacuum," Jorge Lazarte, a key minister in the current transitional government, told me. "Evo Morales was the only one who stepped into it standing." He managed to channel widespread dissatisfaction, even when his agenda had little to do with the real causes of discontent.

To be sure, Morales's commitment to democracy has wavered in the past. He has often resorted to protest as a way of subverting the political process and forcing radical views that most Bolivians do not share onto the national agenda. But this protest has proved so powerful precisely because that political process lacks legitimacy, even among those who do not share his views, and because the sense of disillusionment he has tapped is so widespread. And for all he has done to subvert Bolivia's political status quo, he has also worked within it. Last year, I saw him angrily defend himself when a coca grower asked about a compromise he had struck. "These are elections," he shot back, "and you have to have more than militants to win an election."

With half a year to go before the next elections, a measure of calm has returned to La Paz. The widely respected chief justice of the country's supreme court, Eduardo Rodríguez, has taken over as caretaker president and suggested that he will hold an assembly to rework the constitution, a key radical demand. The protesters have mostly gone home, waiting to see what happens. Still, no single group claims much support on the national level, and even Morales is clinging desperately to his position as the leader of the opposition, facing skepticism from moderates and charges of selling out from more radical groups on the left. Two weeks ago, as the current calm set in, Hugo Chávez placed a phone call to Morales and offered this advice: "Within democracy, Evo, it is possible to make a revolution." The way out of the current crisis is convincing Bolivians that Chávez 's dictum is true. Marginalizing Morales and his many followers won't accomplish that. Co-opting them back into democracy will.


I had to grin/shake my head at this bit: "In the weeks before the 2002 Bolivian presidential elections, the U.S. ambassador in La Paz warned of the "consequences" of a Morales victory--an end to U.S. aid. Morales immediately shot up in the polls and ended up losing to Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, the victor and Mesa's predecessor, by less than one point." ...
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Jun, 2005 10:20 am
Got to agree with the former article.

Evo Morales has radicalized to dangerous levels and is, IMO, a threat to all Latin America. But trying to isolate him is a cheap way to buy a clash of unknown consequences.
0 Replies
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Jun, 2005 10:45 am
nimh wrote:
Quote:

What these interpretations miss is that the current upheaval is evidence both of Bolivia's problems and of its progress. Instability is not the result of a crisis of democracy or an attempted takeover by criminal elements; it is a byproduct of the growing pains of Bolivia's society and political system. The poverty rate, to take one indicator of development, was 86 percent in 1975 and more than 70 percent in 1992; by a few years ago, it had fallen below 60 percent. Previously quiescent indigenous communities have become politically mobilized and raised their demands. At the same time, inequality has worsened, traditional institutions have come under assault, and an array of longstanding injustices--a dysfunctional judicial system, pervasive corruption, widespread prejudice and exclusion--have gone essentially unchallenged. In the past five years, economic growth has slowed as well.

"Evo Morales was the only one who stepped into it standing." He managed to channel widespread dissatisfaction, even when his agenda had little to do with the real causes of discontent.

for all he has done to subvert Bolivia's political status quo, he has also worked within it. Last year, I saw him angrily defend himself when a coca grower asked about a compromise he had struck. "These are elections," he shot back, "and you have to have more than militants to win an election."

" ...


Morales is riding a wave not creating it. If he were removed someone else would replace him. The underlying source of the discontent is an indigionous movement that is attempting to regain a historical position in the Andes. Morales' rantings against Globalization, free trade etc is not what his follwers are primarily concerned about
0 Replies
 
delgranado
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jul, 2005 01:36 pm
Fallacy of Bolivia's "Pigmentocracy"
Dear Mr. Powers,

I recently read your interesting article, "Bolivia, the Poor Little Rich Country" [http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0613-24.htm].

The expression you coined, "pigmentocracy of power," while catchy, is decidedly misleading. Though I am undoubtedly a member of the "ruling elite," the members of my extended family range in color from lily-white to dark brown. None of us has been discriminated against on the basis of the amount of melanin in our skin. I'm sure a number of my dark-skinned relatives who have held the reins of power would be perplexed by the notion.

Bolivia suffers instead from an "ethnicocracy of power," where those whose ethnic identification is predominantly European -- regardless of skin color -- maintain tight control over the Quechua and Aymara majorities.

Bolivia's power structure is formed around tightly-knit social and familial clans. This prevents easy access by outsiders, as you either have to marry or become close friends with insiders to enjoy membership in the club. An illegitimate half-Quechua ancestor of mine became one of the wealthiest men in the country, and proceeded to marry his children into "noble" families to cement this membership for future generations -- much like the Astors and Vanderbilts did in the USA.

Were I to dye my hair and skin black, get a perm and dark contact lenses, and walk up to any government or business office, my last name and comportment would still get me access (though no doubt also some strange looks).

Let me emphasize: ethnic Quechuas, Aymaras, Guaranis, and others are primarily marginalized because of their language, behavior, education, and social status.

Does this somehow make things better? No, absolutely not. A meritocracy is infinitely preferable for both moral and practical reasons. Nonethless, the racial lens by which people in the USA seem to judge others is not directly applicable in Bolivian society.

I read that you are writing a book on Bolivia. I hope you will perform more research and consider your terms more carefully than you did for this article. I look forward to reading it when you are done.

Alfonso del Granado Rivero
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Dec, 2005 11:59 am
Well, Evo Morales won the presidency yesterday with over 50% of the popular vote (a rare feat in Bolivia). He's saluted his brethren Castro and Chavez and promised to bring Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, to a new foundation.

As dangerous as the democratic middle classes in Latin America may find Morales, it was only logical than many Bolivians ("who have nothing to lose but their chains") voted for him, after the liberal reforms of his predecesors failed to deliver anything tangible for the majority of the people.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Dec, 2005 12:49 pm
And then there were three. These are very interesting times and I'll be watching closely.
0 Replies
 
Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Dec, 2005 10:35 pm
Morales is not as radical as some of his followers. He may be a transitional figure to something further to the left or more or the more "traditionalist" element in the indigenous population.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2005 02:51 pm
What Acquiunk says is correct. The main problem he'll find is to keep up his radical promises to a radicalized electorate with even more radical natural leaders, like indigenous leader Quispe and the Bolivian Workers Central (COB, the union of unions). They've already given Morales 90 days to nationalize oil, or else they'll resume with protests.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2005 02:54 pm
Just wanted to remark, Fbaezer, on the interest with which i always follow your analysis of Latin American politics . . . what we get on the news tells us so little . . .
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2005 03:20 pm
You're too kind, boss.

And when it comes to Bolivia, Acquiunk has a lot to offer.
0 Replies
 
 

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