Saturday, July 05, 2008

Bolivia: Regroup the Patriotic Movement

Bolivia: Regroup the Patriotic Movement
by Andrés Soliz Rada

The decree to nationalize hydrocarbons (1 May 2006), which enjoyed 95% public approval, was the zenith of the Evo Morales government.  Now it has lost the Chuquisaca Prefecture, by a narrow margin, but legally, which lets the referendums that approved the autonomy statutes in Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando camouflage their illegality.  It should be remembered that, in politics, if we wish to advance, it is more important to criticize our own errors than the errors of others.

The separatist schemes in Bolivia have escalated geometrically from the arbitrary election of "governors," the outrageous creation of a virtual parliament, which passes "laws" in Santa Cruz (published in its "legal gazette"), to making it impossible for the President to visit the official premises controlled by the opposition.  Meanwhile, the armed forces and the police are unable to contain a creeping coup d'état through regional autonomies which, step by step, are disintegrating the nation.

Unfortunately, the MAS, with NGO funding, gave the pretexts that their adversaries needed.  Only an absolute myopia (or bad faith) explains why the officialdom welcomed the proposal of Román Loayza, the head of the MAS bench, to change the name of the country from Bolivia to Tawantinsuyo and that of Plaza "Murillo" in La Paz to Plaza "Tupaj Katari."  Similarly, Foreign Minister Choquehuanca couldn't resist warning that domestic workers, Aymara and Quechua, could poison their employers, opponents of the regime.

The physical abuses committed by irregular groups against parliamentarians, journalists, and opposition governors (who got their names attached to dogs whose throats were slit in Achacachi) explain the present difficulties.  Such actions obscure the cruelty of oligarchic racists, who, on several occasions, beat Quechuaymara Indians in Santa Cruz and stripped campesinos naked in front of the "House of Liberty" in Sucre.  In short, the MAS, instead of strengthening the alliance of mestizos and the indigenous against oligarchs, isolated the indigenous by pitting them against mestizos and agents of imperialism.

The government, abandoning the legal channel and tolerating corruption (not judging, for example, frauds in road construction as serious), had to submit itself to the illegalities of the opposition, since it approved a reckless draft Constitution, which, recognizing 36 indigenous nations, divorced Evo from middle strata.  Lending money from Bolivia's foreign exchange reserves at 2%, only to receive loans at 8% from the very banks and entities that benefit from that money, has demonstrated the fragility of the government's anti-neoliberal convictions.  Likewise, sending troops to Haiti has put its anti-imperialist rhetoric into question.

However, Vice President Álvaro García Linera, (who inspired the gaffes of Loayza and Choquehuanca), recently made the correct decision to reconsider the MAS's program of government, in which state capitalism regains its status as the engine of the country's economy, replacing the unviable politics of ethnic fragmentation.  Based on this program, which is an expression of state capitalism, the government must put an end to the plagues of corruption and indigenous exclusion that still exist and must give effect to regional autonomies that bring the country together.  Consistent application of this program will prevent the dismemberment of Bolivia.  Then, Evo could better face the recall referendum on the tenth of August and, if that referendum doesn't come to pass, the early elections that his opponents demand.

Andrés Soliz Rada is a former Minister of Hydrocarbons of Bolivia.  The original article in Spanish was published in Rebanadas de Realidad on 5 July 2008.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.


El Duderino said...

Rada is simply revealing his conservative stripes by blaming the MAS and "NGOs" for the racism and violence of the opposition. In contradiction to his rhetoric of unity, he would have MAS sacrifice its indigenous-worker coalition to the idol of the State. A move that would ensure the end of revolutionary change and certain future victory for the opposition. Rada should have more faith in the Bolivian people.

Yoshie said...

Andrés Soliz Rada is saying that, economically, the Evo Morales government has been too conservative and that the conservative economic program cannot be made up for by a rhetorical emphasis on the autonomy of indigenous nations, which is not a coherent politico-economic alternative to the Right's drive toward dismembering Bolivia.

It cannot be denied that, economically, the indigenous people would benefit more from a powerful central state capable of redistributing tax revenues progressively so as to diminish socioeconomic chasms between races, classes, and regions than a week federal state.

Politically, taking the electoral road -- as the MAS, like much of the rest of the Latin American Left, has -- entails a certain political necessity: one can't afford to lose the middle strata to the Right.

El Duderino said...

Please forgive Bolivia's indigenous peoples for not viewing their autonomy and land claims as mere "rhetoric" or as a consequence of historical legacies, not having an unskeptical romanticism for the fetish of a centralized state.

Rada's argument for ditching the Indian repeats the collapse of every single leftist coalition and government in Bolivian history, in which rural campesinos were pitted against urban and mining workers pacing the way for the return of the elite to centralized power.

Yoshie said...

Soliz Rada's is hardly an argument for "ditching the Indian" as you put it. His is one of an increasing number of voices, though, that are concerned about the MAS's disarray in Bolivia.

Here is another: "Unfortunately, the Morales government and its social movement supporters have, at various times, made the mistake of justifying moderate policies with radical rhetoric. Because of the indigenist content of their political program in many cases this rhetoric was ethnically or racially coded. It was very easy for the opposition to use such terms to stoke the racial fears in such an unequal in the middle-class populace. The control over media sources by the right-wing makes headlines with titles like 'Evo provokes conflict' common" (Andrew Lyubarsky, "The Revolution on Hold – Departmental Autonomy and the Crisis of the Left in Bolivia," Bolivia Rising, 1 July 2008).

Now, using a rhetoric that appeals to only the hard core* of your base is not a problem if what you are doing is outside the framework of a war of position through competitive multi-party elections within capitalist democracy. But it can make it difficult to hold together and expand an electoral coalition, which the MAS needs to win the upcoming referendum and pass the draft constitution.

* I'd say only the hard core, because it doesn't appear to appeal to all the indigenous people either. If it did, the MAS could win since the indigenous are a big majority, estimated to be about 60-70%, of the Bolivian population.

El Duderino said...

Like I said, blaming MAS for the racist tactics of the opposition. Political and economic inequality/conflict in Bolivia is racialized, ignoring such or scraping the core the "plurinational" proposal of the constitution (as Rada is effectively arguing) would not have helped MAS in the face of the opposition, it would have only have served to abandoned its constituents. As Lyubarsky points out, MAS made a mistake with its position on the autonomy referendum (I am unimpressed with the depth of the rest of his article), but this alone would not have significantly undermined the opposition's power base in the east. The historical forces and obstacles of revolutionary process in Bolivia are much larger than MAS, or its minor tatical errors. Commentators would be wise to recongize this fact.

Yoshie said...

The problem is that, given the vastly uneven geographical distribution of natural resources, there is no way that the MAS could grant departmental autonomy that is more than symbolic and pursue an egalitarian national economic program that progressively redistributes tax revenues at the same time.

A program that vests strong politico-economic powers in the central state and that promotes pluralism in only the cultural sphere -- such as education in indigenous languages -- would probably make more sense in Bolivia. Once substantial economic powers are devolved to subnational levels, it is difficult to hold the nation together in a time of economic trouble (which is beginning to arise in more and more nations due to the still developing financial crisis that began in the USA and higher oil and food prices creating the specter of stagflation).