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Keith Millea
03-08-2010, 06:43 PM
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/08-0

Published on Monday, March 8, 2010 by The Guardian/UK (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/08/bolivia-evo-morales-election) Bolivia, A Beacon of Hope

The inspiring example of Evo Morales's Bolivian government

by Matt Kennard

There's a game I've been playing recently. Any time I read the news and get depressed about the parlous state of our world, I type "Bolivia" into Google news (http://news.google.co.uk/news/search?aq=1&pz=1&cf=all&ned=uk&hl=en&q=bolivia+) and wait for the results. It's really all you need to brighten up your day.
In the last month things such as this have popped up: Bolivian women spearhead Morales revolution (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8498081.stm), which describes the decision by Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, to stock half his new cabinet with women, nearly half of them indigenous. More recently there was this: Bolivian president donates half pay to victims (http://www.insidecostarica.com/), which detailed Morales and his vice president Alvaro García's decision to donate half their March salaries to help the victims of the Haiti and Chile earthquakes.
What is happening in Bolivia (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/bolivia) now - and has been since MAS, or Movimiento al Socalismo, came to power in 2005 - is truly inspiring. There has been a lot of talk about how the left is dead and Francis Fukayama's "End of History (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Last_Man)" means we all have to accept that a global economic system that creates obscene inequalities and mass starvation is the highest stage of social and economic organisation our species can attain.
That might be true for an academic at Johns Hopkins (http://www.sais-jhu.edu/faculty/fukuyama/index.html), but for everyone else looking to the future and something to fight for, I ask them to kindly divert their gaze to Bolivia. It is the closest thing we have to real democratic socialism: a government, but more importantly a grassroots movement, committed to economic and gender equality, anti-racism, free speech and every other ideal the left should hold dear.
In December last year MAS won their second five-year term with 67% of the public vote, more than double the percentage won by their nearest opponent, Manfred Reyes Villa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manfred_Reyes_Villa). The re-election of an incumbent was particularly exceptional in Bolivia. A country often dismissed by regional experts as "ungovernable" due to its bloody history of military coups and mass public protests, it has seen only a handful of presidents complete their terms in office. The FT now calls Morales "one of Latin America's most popular leaders".
Morales's landslide victory was a clear sign of public support for the present administration and the extensive social reforms they have implemented. On coming to power in 2005, Morales pledged to see through a "democratic revolution" in an attempt to alleviate poverty in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America. The democratic revolution had its genesis in 2000 in what were called the "water wars (http://www.irc.nl/page/2082)", centred in the city of Cochabamba. The water industry had just been privatised with the help of the neoliberal government and the IMF and was run now by the US corporation Bechtel.
Prices soared and police were even instructed to arrest people collecting rainwater to bypass the new prices. The indigenous community was up in arms and Bechtel was forced out by the local communities. The indigenous movement, which is based around small micro-democratic communities, went on to blockade La Paz. The government shot dead a score of protesters in 2005 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Bolivia_protests), before the presidential incumbent was forced out and fled to Miami.
When Morales was elected he became the country's first indigenous president and his party embarked on a programme of "decolonising the state". For Latin America, the election of an indigenous leader had the same poignancy as Barack Obama's election in the US.
Throughout his mandate Morales has determinedly pursued a programme of social change, including the part-nationalisation of the country's energy resources and a surge in social spending that has focused on conditional cash transfers (whereby payments have been made to poor families on the condition that they send their children to school.) These measures have seen Bolivia record a fiscal surplus for the first time in 30 years; the country has been predicted a higher growth rate this year than anywhere else in the Americas; and poverty levels have dropped continually since MAS came to power. Even the head of the IMF's western hemisphere countries unit has praised the Morales government for what he referred to as its "very responsible" macroeconomic policies.
The backbone of Morales's reform programme was the creation of a new Bolivian constitution, which was ratified by a public referendum in 2009. Morales has signalled that he will make the implementation of the new constitution his main legislative priority at the start of his second term. In a country that is often compared to apartheid South Africa, as the stark divisions of poverty and inequality are marked along racial lines, this constitution represents Bolivia's Freedom Charter (http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/charter.html).
The texture of the modern Bolivian revolution is different to that of Hugo Chávez's Venezuela. It is a much more bottom-up revolution, and Morales is kept on a tight leash by the democratic movement that was behind his rise to power in a way Chávez isn't. As you look to our election battle between a Labour government that has been in power for 13 years and allowed inequality to worsen and a Conservative cabinet full of reactionary Old Etonians, it's easy to despair. But when you do, look to Bolivia. The future lies in that small landlocked Latin American country of 9 million people.
© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

Magda Hassan
03-09-2010, 02:57 AM
Nice Keith. Thanks. Bolivia gives me hope too. As does Venezuela and Cuba and Ecuador. Even Paraguay sacking the generals put a smile on my face. Sorry Ruben but it does.

Ruben Mundaca
03-13-2010, 04:50 AM
I really don't want to disturb your world of fantasy, my dear leftists. I am fast begining to understand what means to live in a "socialist" country: continous lying, nice speechs, political and not administrative work, human rights abuses, the absence of law (at least, as a mechanism of administrative control. Law is used as a weapon against all others "oppositors"), hidden (false) economy (private debt is the largest in Bolivian history), the return to a mono-production (minerals and gas are almost the only source of money. Industry, services, cattle and agriculture is dying fast) which turns people jobless and more dependant of the state and Morale's will; media cups to control information and cover their own roberys and crimes, etc.......

God..!!!...You like to live in such country..?.. well, I invite you to live in my country, then...!! Leave your confortable and predictable lifes, come to my country to "help and support" Morale's "great" government, make your lifes valuables by practicing what so enthusiastically you speak and believe...!!!.. and bring your children too. They shurly will have a bright future here...Not between the "dirty and corrupt" democratic governments of your contries, which I see by many of your post you crytizyse and criminalize so much. Come here, and I guarantee you will not have the chance to critizise Morales, or else.....

Come to our paradise, you will feel happy by looking the results of the application of you "beliefes": poverty, drugs, social degradation. And if you rise your voice to protest, probably you will be caught by a false accusation of terrorism and kidnapped in the middle of the night and tortured or killed.

But dont' worry, be happy...after all, comunism (and his ugly daughter, the socialism) are the only systems that justify the robbery and crime as a way to reach their absolutism goals. After all, they have killed more people than the nazis, filling the killing fields with millions of their victims in almost any place they have taked. They bring the peace.... of the cementeries.

Ruben Mundaca
03-13-2010, 02:58 PM
A quick view of the kind of life you will have here: Evo Morale's "Comunnitary justice":(attached)

And this article, writed with love by a journalist in Venezuela, whose family was victim of Chavez's policys. Same is happening here in Bolivia. I post it because I never will say it better than her:(Sorry, is in spanish. But even if you use a bad google translator, will squeeze your hart - for those who still have one).

http://lapequecomeflor.blogspot.com/2010/03/adios-caru.html

Austin Kelley
04-06-2010, 03:13 PM
http://www.counterpunch.org/burbach04062010.html

April 6, 2010

Bolivia's Path to Socialism

Evo's Way

By ROGER BURBACH


When Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, was sworn in to a second term in January, he proclaimed Bolivia a plurinational state that would construct “communitarian socialism.” In an accompanying address, Vice President Álvaro Garcia Linare, envisioned a “socialist horizon” for Bolivia, characterized by “well-being, making the wealth communal, drawing on our heritage . . .” The process “will not be easy, it could take decades, even centuries, but it is clear that the social movements cannot achieve true power without implanting a socialist and communitarian horizon.”[1]

During the past decade Latin America has become a scene of hope and expectations as its leaders and social movements have raised the banner of 21st century socialism in a world ravished by imperial adventures and economic disasters. Proponents of the new socialism assert that it will break with the state-centered socialism of the last century, and will be driven by grassroots social movements that construct an alternative order from the bottom up. There is also widespread concurrence that the process will take a unique path in each country, that there is no singular model or grand strategy to pursue.

The new socialism has been characterized by a much slower and transitory process than the revolutionary socialism of the past century, which was based on the overthrow of the old regime, with a vanguard party seizing control of the state and moving quickly to transform the economy. A different scenario is occurring in Latin America where new governments take control politically, with the previous economic system largely intact. In Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, where the socialist discourse is the most advanced, constituent assemblies were convened to draft new constitutions that restructured the political system and established broad social rights. The process and pace of transforming their economies has become the task of the political and social forces acting through the new legislative assemblies and the “refounded states.”

In Bolivia, the struggle for a constitutional assembly and a new constitution was particularly strife-ridden with the oligarchy, centered in the resource-rich lowland departments, engaging in an outright rebellion with the tactical backing of the US embassy. Little was heard of socialism in this period, in spite of the name of Morales’ political party, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).

Now, with the consolidation of the new political system and the plurinational state, socialism has been placed on the agenda. In a number of public addresses and interviews, Vice President Garcia Linare and Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca have articulated what they envision as the Bolivian road to socialism.

The vice-president--a member of an armed guerilla movement in the early 1990’s who was captured and imprisoned for four years--now asserts that “in Bolivia we are working and betting on the democratic path to socialism. It is possible …because socialism is fundamentally a radical democracy.” He goes on to add: “The constitution provides the architecture for a state constructed by society and it defines a long path in which we participate in a process of constructing a new society, pacifically and democratically.”[2]

Noting the uniqueness of the Bolivian process, the vice president states: “Bolivia is inserted in planetary capitalism, but it is different from other societies…community structures have survived, in the countryside, in the high lands, the low lands, and in some parts of the cities and the barrios that have resisted capitalist subjugation.” He adds, “This is different from American and European capitalism, and it gives us an advantage.”[3]

David Choquehuanca in an interview elaborated on the communal roots that facilitate the construction of socialism: “We have always governed ourselves in our communities. This is why we maintain our customs, perform our own music, speak our own Aymaran language, in spite of a 500-year effort to erase these things – our music, our language and our culture. In a state of clandestinity, we have upheld our values, economic forms, our own types of communitarian organization, which are all being reappraised now. This is why we are incorporating into socialism something that has resisted for 500 years - the communitarian element. We want to build our own socialism.” He added: “In the communities, we always had our ulacas (assemblies), where debates took place. Those political spaces are being recovered. I don’t know if this can be called ‘the seeds of a people’s government’. What existed, what exists, is being reappraised, is beginning to be valued and developed. These are the times we’re in.”

Choquehuanca also described the contemporary communities and the unions that exist both in and outside of them: “We organize ourselves in the communities. In Bolivia there must be around ten thousand communities, and in each community there is a union of campesino workers. Each union has a base which is associated first on a provincial level, and then on a departmental and national level. The national level is the Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB). They’re not naturally existing organizations, but organizations that helped allow us to table our demands and participate in elections. There are various organized sectors with similar structures, such as the teachers, the miners, the indigenous groups, women, factory workers. And we have a mother organization which is the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB). These are the people’s organizations. President Evo Morales has called for strengthening them, since they are the agents driving this process of change.”[4]

Some are skeptical of Morales’ commitment to socialism. Jim Petras, a Marxist scholar who has written on Latin American politics for half a century, asserts that Morales gives a “high priority…to orthodox capitalist growth over and above any concern with developing an alternative development pole built around peasants and landless rural workers.” This he says has led to “the increased size and scope of foreign owned multinational corporate extractive capital investments.”[5]

Others from an ecological perspective like Marco Ribera Arismendi proclaim: "We´ve changed the discourse, but not the model.” A member of the Environment Defense League, one of Bolivia´s largest environment organizations, Ribera adds, "We had great hopes in this government to solve or make a change on these issues," but it has instead followed an extractive industry model that is driven by transnational capital.[6]

While it is true that Morales has not launched a full assault on capital, his government along with the other New Left governments in Latin America have ended the neo-liberal era in which the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank imposed free market policies, severely curtailing social spending, and enabling transnational corporations to gain unprecedented control of the region’s nonrenewable resources. Now many of these governments are using the state to exert greater control of the economy and are renegotiating the terms of investment in order to capture a greater portion of the revenue for social programs and to facilitate internal development and industrialization.

Morales, soon after taking office in 2006, moved against the foreign-owned natural gas and petroleum companies to take 50% of the revenues, and to make the state-owned petroleum company the administrator and, in some cases, a co-investor. Similar deals have been made with transnational capital in the iron-mining sector, and the government is in the process of negotiating state-dominated agreements for the exploitation of Bolivia’s huge lithium deposits.

Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, who previously served as the representative on trade and economic integration issues, summed up the government’s policy: “We need foreign investment. The issue is the rules under which we are going to allow this foreign investment—how much they are going to leave for the country, how much they are going to have as profit, who is going to own it, the transfer of technology, the transformation of raw materials inside the country. Those are the key issues that Bolivia has synthesized into the words ‘When it comes to foreign investment, we don’t want bosses; we want partners.’ If they can accept that rule, they are welcome. We will no longer accept the relations that we had before.”[7]

The process of transforming Bolivia’s social and economic institutions will be the task of the legislative branch, which will be drafting over 100 bills to implement the provisions of the country’s new plurinational constitution. Of central importance is the empowerment of the indigenous communities and granting them the economic resources to construct communitarian socialism.

The existing agrarian reform law will be revisited. According to Victor Camacho, the Vice-Minister of Land Issues, “we are going to re-territorialize the indigenous communities,” recognizing that the ancestral communal lands have been seized from the indigenous peoples since the conquest.[8]While advancing at a rhythm that reflects the country’s particular correlation of social and political forces, the Bolivian experiment is contributing to the advance of socialism on a global level. As Vice President Garcia Linares declares: “The society we have today in the world is a society with too many injustices, too much inequality…We have the seeds of communitarian socialism, badly treated, partially dried up, but if we nourish this seed in Bolivia a powerful trunk will grow with fruit for our country and the world.”

For Evo Morales, the necessity for socialism is global and urgent, given the state of the planet. “If capitalism produces crises in the financial system, in energy, in food, in the environment, in climatic change, then what good is this capitalism that brings us so many crises? … What is the solution? I am convinced that it is socialism, for some socialism of the 21st century, for others communitarian socialism.”[9]



Roger Burbach is the director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and author of The Pinochet Affair.



Notes

[1] Garcia Linare: Bolivia deja el Estado aparente e impulsa el Estado Socialista, Arzobispado de La Paz, 22 de Enero, 2010,http://www.arzobispadolapaz.org/noticias/Nacional

[2] Garcia Linare Plantea Socialismo Comunitario Contra el Capitalismo, Jornadanet.com, 8 de Febrero, 2010, http://www.jornadanet.com/n.php?a=43340-1

[3] Bolivia Vira al Socialismo Comunitario y Comienza a Sepultar el Capitalismo, Cambio, Periodico del Estado Plurinacional Boliviano, 8 de Febrero, 2010, http://www.cambio.bo/noticia.php?fecha=2010-02-08&idn=14526

[4] Bolivian Foreign Minister: Communitarian Socialism Will Refound Bolivia, Bolivia Rising, http://boliviarising.blogspot.com/2009/05/bolivian-foreign-minister-communitarian.html

[5] James Petras, Latin America’s Twenty First Century Socialism in Historical Perspective, The James Petras Website,http://petras.lahaine.org/articulo.php?p=1789&more=1&c=1

[6] Juan Nicastro, Environment Continues to Suffer, Latinamerica Press, Febr. 11, 2010, http://lapress.org/articles.asp?art=6061

[7] Jason Tockman, Bolivia’s New Political Space: An Interview with Ambassador Pablo Solon, NACLA News, Views and Analysis, March 15, 2010,https://nacla.org/node/6473

[8] Victor Camacho, Vamos a Reterritorializar las Comunidades Indigenas, La Prensa, 16 de Febrero, 2010, http://www.laprensa.com.bo/noticias/16-02-10/noticias.php?nota=16_02_10_nego2.php

[9] Evo Morales Defiende al Socialismo como la Solucion al Capitalismo y sus Crisis, EcoDiario,http://ecodiario.eleconomista.es/politica/noticias/1740280/12/09/Evo-Morales-defiende-al-socialismo-como-la-solucion-al-capitalismo-y-sus-crisis.html

Ed Jewett
05-02-2010, 05:11 AM
Breaking News: Bolivia nationalises energy firms (http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/breaking-news-bolivia-nationalises-energy-firms/)

Posted on May 1, 2010 by willyloman

Bolivia has nationalised at least four power companies, expanding state control over the Latin American nation’s key industries.
Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, signed a decree authorising the nationalisation at the offices of one of the companies in the city of Cochabamba on Saturday, hours after police had moved in to secure them.
“We are here to nationalise all the hydroelectric plants that were owned by the state before, to comply with the new constitution of the Bolivian state,” Morales said.
“Basic services can not be a private business. We are recovering the energy, the light, for all Bolivians.”
Shortly after taking office in 2006, Morales nationalised Bolivia’s natural gas industry and has since taken control of several other utility companies.
… “This is essentially what Morales, the Bolivian president, was elected on,” Alex Van Schaick, a Bolivia analyst, told Al Jazeera
“It was for the recuperation of basic public services putting oil, natural gas and other strategic public utilities back in the hand of the public sector.”
… Bolivia’s state-run National Electricity Company (ENDE) was privatised in 1994 and broken up into a number of generation, transmission and distribution companies.
Roberto Peredo, the president of the current state power company, said in a speech at the Corani power plant on Saturday that the renationalisation”one of the biggest achievements of the cultural revolution“.
He said that privatisation had seen ENDE solde to “neoliberal capitalists for the price of a dead chicken“. Al Jazeera (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/05/201051153755686496.html)
Imagine that. A president was elected to bring about “CHANGE” and he actually does change something…. funny how that works.

Magda Hassan
05-02-2010, 06:15 AM
“Basic services can not be a private business. We are recovering the energy, the light, for all Bolivians.”
Absolutely. I wish there were a Morales for every country in the world.