[News] For Bolivia’s indigenous majority there is no going back

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 18 12:03:53 EDT 2007

ZNet | Bolivia
Bolivia needs our solidarity
by Federico Fuentes; 
<http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/724/37573>Green Left; September 18, 2007

For Bolivia’s indigenous majority there is no 
going back. The election in 2005 of Bolivia’s 
first indigenous president, Evo Morales, marked a 
watershed ­ a before and after in Bolivia’s 
history ­ after more than 500 years of struggle 
against imperialism and colonialism. It marked a 
conscious step forward by Bolivia’s indigenous 
majority in its struggle for justice and equality.

As Morales pointed out in an August 22 interview 
with the BBC, right from the start Bolivia’s 
right wing “said this little Indian is only going 
to be president for three or four months. That 
day passed and now they say this little Indian is 
going to be here for a long time, we have to do 
something about it; and that means encouraging confusion or destabilisation.”

That is why today a resurgent right wing is 
determined to destabilise the country and 
government ­ even if it means plunging the 
country into civil war or provoking a violent 
military coup ­ to bring down Morales, and with 
him the hopes and dreams of millions of 
indigenous and non-indigenous people, not just in 
Bolivia, but throughout Latin America and the world.

Distribution of racist material inciting people 
to “bring down this Indian shit”, provoking 
violent confrontations, holding civic “stoppages” 
enforced by fascist youth groups, and smuggling 
arms into the country ­ these, and more, are 
ingredients in a conspiracy to overthrow Morales. 
The public faces of the right wing, centred in 
the wealthy departments (states) of the east, are 
the opposition governors and the unelected, 
business-controlled civic committees ­ in Santa 
Cruz, Pando, Beni and Tarija ­ now openly joined 
by the civic committee of Cochabamba and 
Chuquisaca. Behind them stand the gas 
transnationals, large agribusiness and the US 
empire, all of whom benefited from ransacking 
Bolivia’s enormous natural wealth while pushing 
the country to the position of the poorest in South America.

But their task will be far from easy. The 
election of “this little Indian” came on the back 
of a wave of social rebellion, fuelled by an 
increasing rejection of neoliberalism and the 
emergence and growth of national and indigenous 
pride, based on the celebration of the country’s 
indigenous peoples and recuperation of its 
natural resources. It was also the result of a 
conscious decision more than 10 years ago by the 
indigenous, campesino and coca-growers’ movements 
to move “from resistance to power” and construct 
their own “Political Instrument for the 
Sovereignty of the People” ­ more commonly know 
by its electorally registered name, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).

Gaining the support from an important section of 
the country’s middle class and intellectuals for 
its project, MAS was able to win the 2005 
national elections, crushing the traditional 
politicians whose subservience to the US empire 
had almost led to the total suffocation of the country.

Today, the Bolivians who due to their skin colour 
were previously excluded from the plaza in front 
of the presidential palace, and who protested 
outside it to overthrow other governments, have 
begun to take over the positions of power. This 
act has been a powerful catalyst in rebuilding 
the self-esteem of the people, who now proclaim 
with pride their indigenous roots.

The central task entrusted to the MAS government 
was to convoke a constituent assembly in order to 
“refound” Bolivia, ending injustice and 
recognising the rights of the previously excluded indigenous majority.

However, more than a year since the assembly’s 
inauguration in Sucre in August 2006, it is yet 
to vote on a single article for the new 
constitution. The same political minority that 
ruled over the demise of the country today cries 
out in defence of “democracy” and “autonomy”, 
with the objective of protecting its political 
enclaves and economic power and mobilising 
sectors of the white and mestizo middle classes 
of the east and west against the government.

The stalling tactics and latest round of violent 
protests by the right wing, this time in Sucre, 
threatened the security of the assembly, forcing 
some indigenous delegates into hiding in order to 
avoid racist attacks. On September 7 the assembly 
directorate voted to suspend sessions for a month 
as it was unable to guarantee security.

On September 10, more than 10,000 campesinos and 
indigenous people marched through Sucre in a show 
of force to defend the constituent assembly and 
national unity. Unlike the scenes of violence 
over the previous weeks, the streets of Sucre were filled with a festive tone.

Later in the day, during the 10,000-15,000 strong 
Social Summit, the social organisations resolved 
to “defend, including with our lives, the 
constituent assembly and this process of 
irreversible profound change being driven forward 
by the historic forces of our peoples and the 
indigenous, originario and campesino nations, 
together with the popular organisations”.

Furthermore, the social movements declared 
themselves to be in a “state of emergency” and 
committed themselves to organising Committees in 
Defence of the Constituent Assembly, adding that, 
if necessary, they would undertake “other more radical measures”.

In its manifesto, the summit outlined 18 
strategic points behind which the participants 
would mobilise to ensure they are enshrined in 
the new constitution. Among them are the creation 
of unitary, plurinational, communitarian and 
democratic state; nationalisation of natural 
resources; taxes on large fortunes; the 
expropriation without compensation of latifundios 
(large land-holdings) and the immediate 
distribution of their land; re-election and 
revoking of mandates of any elected authority; 
and the confiscation of all goods implicated in acts of corruption.

For now the situation in Sucre has calmed down; 
the opposition’s threats of further actions 
starting on September 10 were called off. A new 
round of dialogue has been convoked to see if it 
is possible to overcome the impasse.

But the tension remains, and one can only 
speculate how long the calm will last. The 
directorate of the assembly has signalled it will 
reject a court ruling overturning the assembly 
decision to remove the issue of the location of 
Bolivia’s capital from debate (the right-wing 
fuelled conflict over whether to locate it in La 
Paz, the current political capital, or Sucre, the 
current constitutional capital, helping trigger 
the latest confrontation). The future of the 
constituent assembly and Bolivia hang in the balance.

The indigenous and campesino mobilisation was an 
important step taken by the social and indigenous 
movements in defence of the constituent assembly. 
However, as Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera 
pointed out in the lead-up to the protest, “To 
wear down the old powers will cost a lot, it will 
be conflictive, the population needs to be 
conscious of this, and the best way to defend the 
continuity of the process of change is through 
democratic mobilisation to back this 
transformation and to put an end to the history of these old elites”.

Mass democratic mobilisations and the 
organisation of the people will be central to 
maintaining unity amongst the movements and 
avoiding provocations by the right wing. The 
right wing’s strategy depends on stirring up 
anger among the exploited and oppressed who 
refuse to ever go back to the old Bolivia, with 
the aims of triggering violent reactions and creating chaos.

The government and social movements need to 
demonstrate that they are the only ones able to 
provide real stability and change for all 
Bolivians. This is necessary in order to appeal 
to the middle classes sectors that, due to 
mistakes by MAS, now feel alienated from the 
government ­ something the government itself has 
acknowledged and that it has begun to remedy. It 
is also critical to maintaining support among the armed forces.

Internationally, it is vital for the governments 
and peoples of the world to voice their 
solidarity and make clear that they will reject 
any attempts to trigger a civil war, or an 
ensuing US/UN military occupation or illegitimate government.

Undoubtedly the US elite sees Bolivia as the weak 
link in the emerging Bolivia-Cuba-Venezuela “axis 
of hope” in Latin America. Moreover, Bolivia’s 
government and the indigenous revolution is 
helping stimulate indigenous struggles in the 
region ­ something Washington fears and will not tolerate.

On September 9, Venezuela’s socialist president 
Hugo Chavez, sitting next to Morales, warned on 
his Alo Preisdente TV program: “If US imperialism 
attacks our peoples, using their lackeys in 
Venezuela and Bolivia, they can be sure that 
we’re not going to wait with our arms crossed. If 
that occurs, we will shout with Che Guevara, and 
then one, two, three, four, five, or 10 Vietnams 
will have to be created in Latin America.”

To date, neither the governments of Argentina or 
Brazil have spoken out about the growing threat 
to Bolivia. A clear statement by these two and 
other South American countries rejecting a civil 
war, military coup or invasion of Bolivia, would 
be a strong blow against the US empire’s designs.

Now is the time for all intellectuals, union 
militants, solidarity activists, political 
parties and progressive minded individuals who 
believe in real justice and equality to raise 
their voices in defence of Bolivia and its 
government, which is leading an important process 
of change providing hope and inspiration to 
millions of indigenous and oppressed people 
around the world, to ensure that the US and its 
lackeys cannot get away with crushing this movement for social liberation.

[Federico Fuentes is editor of 
Boliviarising.blogspot.com. Eduardo Yssa from the 
National Coalition for the Defense of Water, 
Basic Services, the Environment and Life of 
Bolivia will be participating in the Latin 
America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity 
Forum in Melbourne, October 11-14. Visit 
for more information.]

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