Bolivia needs our solidarity

marksimonbrown mark at
Sun Sep 23 09:16:10 BST 2007

by Federico Fuentes, Caracas
14 September 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

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

[Federico Fuentes is editor of

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