Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bolivia On The Brink



By Darrall Cozens in La Paz, Bolivia
Thursday, 13 December 2007

Today "my people", the pensioners, were on the streets. They blocked one of the major crossroads, Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz and Calle Ayacucho, near the centre of La Paz. Slogans such as "Por culpa del ministro estamos en la calle" (It is the minister's fault that we are on the streets), rang out as traffic snarled its way down side streets.

Why should about 200 men aged 50 and over block one of the main arteries of the city? Victor Castro, President of the National Committee of Pensioners, an organisation that is active in all geographical departments of Bolivia, explained.

Here in Bolivia men can retire at 55 and women at 50. (Sounds good when compared to the UK but the average life span here is 47.) However, the Social Security Code states that if you want to, men can retire at 50 and women at 45. If this option is chosen then for each year before the official retirement age that you retire, you lose 8% of your pension. So if a man chooses to leave work at 50, he will lose 40% of his pension. The code also states that once you reach the official retirement age, the 8% lost will be restored.

The government says that that interpretation of the code is correct, but has refused to pay back the 8% for each year. In response the pensioners took to the streets in September and October of this year. They then went on a 9-day hunger strike. The Minister of Finance and the MAS deputies in the Constituent Assembly promised talks if the pensioners called off the hunger strike.

The pensioners agreed and talks started but very little progress was made. Eventually the pensioners asked the civil servants they were negotiating with to sign an agreement. The bureaucrats stated that they did not have the power to do so. Eventually the pensioners agreed to meet the Minister of Finance but he kept on postponing the meeting. The pensioners now began to feel as if they were being made a joke of.

So now they are back on the streets and will stay there until Friday. If no progress is made, they will begin the hunger strike again next Monday. Some 21,000 pensioners across Bolivia are affected.

While this protest was going on, just 100 metres down the avenue on Santa Cruz, a group of miners had blocked the entrance to a large building. They had banners and placards saying that they were from the Himalaya pit and had had their work stopped since October. They were there to stay until the minister responsible ensured that they got their jobs back. If that did not happen, they were threatening to take even more drastic action without specifying what it would be.

A few days ago, on Monday, the women stall holders outside San Francisco cathedral had blocked all entrances to the cathedral and were facing up to the riot police in a bid to get their contracts renewed so that they could carry on selling. The same day saw a march up Santa Cruz by about 200 youngsters aged between 9 and 15 carrying banners they were demanding the right to work. The constitution here has clauses that outlaw child labour and guarantee access to education for children. The reality however is that if children do not work, then their families will starve. So children of all ages are on the streets shining shoes, selling everything that you can think of and begging - and being abused in the process.

Whilst all of this is going on the country is falling apart. Last night I was discussing with a MAS deputy from Sucre who has to return to her home this weekend from Las Paz on a 12-hour bus journey, but who has been told that the situation there is very tense and dangerous for anyone connected with MAS. I was told that there is a crisis on three levels: economic, political and social. What is even worse was that in the opinion of this deputy, the Morales government did not have an answer.

The Constituent Assembly (CA) here has just finished ratifying a new constitution that will be put to the electorate in a referendum at some time around April next year. The vote will be in two parts: one vote will be on the statutes in the constitution and the other will be on the government proposal to limit landholdings that are unproductive to 10,000 hectares.

You can imagine the furore that this has created amongst the bourgeoisie. They are trying to prevent a referendum taking place on the basis that the way the CA approved the draft constitution was illegal. If the referendum does take place, and the constitution is approved, the bourgeoisie in the Eastern Crescent regions of Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni and Tarija is threatening to break away and form a new state. They have already held open air parliament meetings (cabildos abiertos) of up to a million people that in the manner of a plebiscite vote have agreed to secede if Morales does not back down. If the referendum is lost, this will encourage the bourgeoisie in different parts of the country to break away, to balkanise Bolivia, so that they can directly control the areas that are rich in natural resources, such as gas and oil.

The oligarchy, with the help of imperialism, have skilfully used issues like the capital city status for Sucre and the question of autonomy to build a basis of support in the Eastern regions of the country. They have backed this up with the organisation of armed fascist gangs (Unión Juvenil Cruceña) to intimidate workers and peasants who support the MAS government. Every concession of the government is interpreted as a sign of weakness by the oligarchy and used by them to increase their demands.

In these conditions the strategy of the Morales government seems to be based on making more concessions (for instance including the issue of autonomy in the proposed constitution) and appeals for negotiation, combined with putting the different issues to a vote in a referendum "in order to gain democratic legitimacy".

The crux however is that at this juncture the opposition could win. There have been no plans drawn up to ensure a MAS victory. Most of the MAS deputies are relying on the personal authority of Morales. Just as in Venezuela, the idea of actually going out to the natural constituents of Morales (the indigenous people, the workers and the peasants) and explaining in a language that they can understand what the practical implications of the new constitution are, has not been thought of.

Furthermore, the oligarchy will not be impressed by any democratic vote in a referendum. In Venezuela the Bolivarian movement has achieved plenty of democratic victories in elections and referenda and this has not stopped the ruling class and imperialism from using extra parliamentary undemocratic means (rioting, sabotage of the economy, a military coup) to try to overthrow the democratically elected government of president Chávez. In Bolivia they have already said that they would not participate nor recognise the validity of any of these referenda.

Let me give a practical example. It gets cold here at night at 3,600 metres and I have summer clothes. Yesterday, I went out to buy a coat in one of the many stalls that are run by indigenous people, mainly Aymara. During the transaction there was obviously a conversation along the lines of who are you, where are you from, what are you doing here, etc. When I explained that I was not here as a tourist but to find out what MAS was doing and what people thought of socialism, the old lady in the corner, one out of 4 women on the stall, asked me point blank, "What is socialism?" I was taken aback because here was a natural supporter of Morales, yet the MAS movement at a grass roots level has done very little to raise the level of political understanding of core supporters, never mind actually carry out policies that would benefit these core supporters and get their children off the streets and into schools.

The lady explained that she and many others could not read nor write, so any kind of political "socialisation" (the term used here to sell the new constitution) would have to take place at a level that people can understand - verbal, pictures, DVD, etc and that would mean that all the grassroots organisations of the MAS would have to be mobilised to go out and win others to the vote. For Morales to win and take the movement forward, his supporters have to be convinced of the benefits of the changed laws so that they will turn out and vote. They cannot be taken for granted. Look at what happened in Venezuela. A defeat for Morales will embolden the bourgeoisie here to take even more drastic measures to throw back the MAS project, the movement towards socialism.

It is said that 8,000 soldiers have been mobilised to move on Sucre should there be any more disturbances there. Previous activities have led to deaths and injuries within the past few weeks. The impression given in private conversations from those at the heart of the MAS project is that the country is slowly falling apart and within the MAS there is no coherent political programme along socialist lines to actually carry out a change in society. Unless serious changes are made within the MAS the likelihood of a defeat is on the cards, that is if the bourgeoisie does not use its economic power to scupper the actual vote. Only a serious campaign of mass mobilisation can safe the Bolivian revolution from a defeat which would have serious consequences. And this is the one thing that has not been organised.

Darrall Cozens in La Paz, Bolivia
12 December 2007


RENEGADE EYE

46 comments:

Graeme said...

Morales is in a tough spot.

I believe that the bourgeoisie live in the area that is rich in natural resources as well. A break-away would be bad.

Interesting how only worker-led movements are supposed to respect the opposition's "right" to subvert any real changes. They need to get the vote out and if the rich don't recognize democracy, they can go live in Miami with the other terrorists.

Phil BC said...

It is very worrying, please keep us posted.

Little Pope said...

LET'S STOP ALL THIS MASQUERADE!!!!!!

Justice Minister Pedro Carreno became the subject of widespread criticism and ridicule by local media this week, when a journalist asked if it wasn't contradictory to attack capitalism while sporting a $180 Louis Vuitton tie and $500 Gucci shoes. Apparently caught off guard, Carreno stammered unintelligibly for a few seconds before responding: "It's not contradictory because I would like Venezuela to produce all this, that way I could purchase things produced here instead of 95 percent of what we consume being imported

The VIDEO here

Renegade Eye said...

Little Pope: The Chavez movement has defects, the opposition has no virtues.

It looks bad, but it's not an important issue.

Té la mà Maria - Reus said...

explendit post congratulations

sonia said...

, The crux however is that at this juncture the opposition could win. There have been no plans drawn up to ensure a MAS victory.

Interestingly candid admission. Darrall Cozens reveals his totalitarian sympathies by criticizing Morales for not being a Stalinist dictator.

Thanks Ren, for reminding me once again who is good and who is evil...

Renegade Eye said...

Little Pope: I changed my mind. He should be recalled.

Sonia: , The crux however is that at this juncture the opposition could win. There have been no plans drawn up to ensure a MAS victory.

You are misreading what he said. He meant that Morales has no strategy to win.

I think any governor calling for autonomy, should be arrested. I think the autonomy movement, should be handled like Confederency was handled here.

Farmer John said...

So much for federalism as a basis of legitimate government.

Why even have state "governors". Just call them "lackies" instead.

Farmer John said...

It's a "statesman's" job to weave the peplos, and NOT pit left versus right. This is where the Chinese got it right (the three represents) and the Chavistas and Morales idiots have gone wrong.

sonia said...

Darrell: ensure a MAS victory.

Ren: You are misreading what he said. He meant that Morales has no strategy to win.


A winning strategy, no matter how clever, cannot "ensure" a victory. The only way a victory can be "ensured" is to send the "bourgeois" opponents to the gulag and/or exterminate them.

Morales refuses to be such an oppressor, and Darrell denounces him for it. He is an evil Stalinist.

This debate isn't about a revolution, but about the costs of a revolution. Those who believe that a revolution is worth any cost in blood and human misery, are Stalinist psychopaths. And they need to be denounced as such.

troutsky said...

Thinking beyond this particular vote, the breakaway region is in an untennable position to survive "autonomously".The real movement of history is obviously in favor of the indigenous majority, on the whole continent,and whether Chavez or MAS got out in front of it politically for a while it will not change the eventual outcome.The lowlands have valuable soil and natural resources underneath but they have no value in isolation.Their main trading partners will have nothing to do with a "breakaway" confederacy.Love how the rightwinger Farmer sides with those who reject the will of the majority and re-distributive justice.

Farmer John said...

The myth of the Indigenous people. LOL! Troutsky, didn't they ever learn ya that THERE ARE NO AUTOCHTHONOUS people... but then again Marxism ALWAYS requires a "victim" and a "cause", doesn't it.

Somebody call the Mermidon's, for Troutsky thinks himself a new Achilles! OMG, I think I can see Jason sewing the dragon's teeth and armed warriors springing from the soil right now!

Marxism is just sooooooo pathetic!

And yes, I reject BOTH the will of the majority and re-distributative justice. I'll take "negative liberty" and plain old simple JUSTICE any day of the week. I've got no need for the interference of bribe swallowing lords...

My advice for Bolivia's poor oppressed "indigenous" people...

Hesiod, "Works and Days"

(ll. 202-211) And now I will tell a fable for princes who themselves understand. Thus said the hawk to the nightingale with speckled neck, while he carried her high up among the clouds, gripped fast in his talons, and she, pierced by his crooked talons, cried pitifully. To her he spoke disdainfully: `Miserable thing, why do you cry out? One far stronger than you now holds you fast, and you must go wherever I take you, songstress as you are. And if I please I will make my meal of you, or let you go. He is a fool who tries to withstand the stronger, for he does not get the mastery and suffers pain besides his shame.' So said the swiftly flying hawk, the long- winged bird.

(ll. 212-224) But you, Perses, listen to right and do not foster violence; for violence is bad for a poor man. Even the prosperous cannot easily bear its burden, but is weighed down under it when he has fallen into delusion. The better path is to go by on the other side towards justice; for Justice beats Outrage when she comes at length to the end of the race. But only when he has suffered does the fool learn this. For Oath keeps pace with wrong judgements. There is a noise when Justice is being dragged in the way where those who devour bribes and give sentence with crooked judgements, take her. And she, wrapped in mist, follows to the city and haunts of the people, weeping, and bringing mischief to men, even to such as have driven her forth in that they did not deal straightly with her.

Farmer John said...

I love the way I call for the Bolivian leaders to become "statemen" and "weave the peplos" and am immediately accused of "taking sides".

But then, why should I be surprised? That's all Marxism has to offer... pitting rich against poor... worker against proprietor. Immigrant of 500 years standing versus "indigenous" person. Never did Marx ever have to try and compromise. It was always "his" way, OR active subversion. And Marx's way was always to align himself with the poor, for he always found "justice" in poverty.

Anok said...

Random fly-by commentary...I will be around to debate things with you and Sonia! But first, a fun game. Then debate.

You've been tagged!

See blog for details. If you don't want to play, thats OK too.

Mehmet Çagatay said...

Hello John,

I'd be appreciated if you explain us how did you arrive the conclusion that Marxism dignifies the poor and poverty?

For instance Marx said:

"It is true that a controversy now arises in the field of political economy. The one side (Lauderdale, Malthus, etc.) recommends luxury and execrates thrift. The other (Say, Ricardo, etc.) recommends thrift and execrates luxury. But the former admits that it wants luxury in order to produce labour (i.e., absolute thrift); and the latter admits that it recommends thrift in order to produce wealth (i.e., luxury). The Lauderdale-Malthus school has the romantic notion that avarice alone ought not to determine the consumption of the rich, and it contradicts its own laws in advancing extravagance as a direct means of enrichment. Against it, therefore, the other side very earnestly and circumstantially proves that I do not increase but reduce my possessions by being extravagant. The Say-Ricardo school is hypocritical in not admitting that it is precisely whim and caprice which determine production. It forgets the “refined needs”, it forgets that there would be no production without consumption; it forgets that as a result of competition production can only become more extensive and luxurious. It forgets that, according to its views, a thing’s value is determined by use, and that use is determined by fashion. It wishes to see only “useful things” produced, but it forgets that production of too many useful things produces too large a useless population. Both sides forget that extravagance and thrift, luxury and privation, wealth and poverty are equal."

Regards,

Farmer John said...

Dignify? Please. Heroicize.

How many Marxists today are NOT of the vulgar variety? How many don't immediately take up the cause of poor and oppressed indigenous but completely transient hunter-gatherer over his slightly more sophisticated but equally transient but slightly more productive domesticated animal herder, over his slightly more sophisticated and productive, but lame footed, peasant farmer, over his slightly more economically sophisticated and urbanized and productive proletarian industrial worker? The lower one's position in the social and economic pecking order, the more "just" his cause.

Sorry, but I've no time kneel with vulgar Marxists at the altar of the Roma or indigenous Bolivians and rant and rave against the luxurious life of the large landowner or capitalist who's effort supports the lives of 100,000 urban citizens/workers. How many Marxists today don't accuse the farmer for "stealing" the primitive hunter-gatherer's land or the capitalist for having stolen his capital?

And today, what vulgar Marxist wouldn't march in support of indigent, the more useless and non-productive, the more ardently would he condemn and work to subvert "the system" which does not provide the hobo and drug addict with luxuries: flat-screened TV sets, educational opportunities, access to capital... gratis, each according to his "needs"? Isn't it the epitome of Rawlsian Justice to measure a social system by how greatly it empowers it's lowliest citizens?

In Plato's "Republic" Socrates begins to describe the "just" state. But then Glaucon throws in a need to provide "luxuries" (a relish), which compels Socrates to describe a state in a "fevered heat" from which "injustice" can arise... and this tale results in the Republic we associate with the "noble lie"...a kind of "utopic dystopia"?

Marx and Socrates may have been able to contemplate this idyllic socially harmonic point, but few humans are satisfied with the simple "necessities". Huxley's "Island" always has neighbor with the desire to "take" those "necessities" for themselves.

And your vulgar friends are NO exception.

JDHURF said...

When Democracy Now had on James Petras to discuss the then looming Venezuelan referendum they also discussed Bolivia, it was an excellent little piece:

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Petras, I wanted to ask quickly about Bolivia, the proposed constitutional changes there. On Wednesday, opposition groups staged a general strike in six of Bolivia’s nine provinces against the government-backed changes. Bolivian President Evo Morales says the plans will give Bolivia’s indigenous and poor communities a greater voice in running the country. The proposals will go before a national referendum in the coming months. This is President Morales speaking from the presidential palace in La Paz.

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] I hope that tomorrow morning these five governors are here to have a dialogue. I hope that in five or nine of our departments that we can lay down new social policies together for Bolivia, because this is a government for all Bolivians, not a government for just one sector of them, as some of our companions have said.


AMY GOODMAN: Professor Petras, Bolivia and Evo Morales, do you see similarities with what’s happening in Venezuela?

JAMES PETRAS: No, because Morales has adopted a policy of conciliation with the elites, hoping that he could construct what he calls Andean capitalism, in which there’d be subsidiary benefits for the Indian communities, largely creating greater degrees of autonomy. But the autonomy issue has been taken up by the states, the rightwing states, and it’s become a trampoline for a secessionist movement. And I think these measures of autonomy have been reinterpreted by the extreme right, and they have assumed the leadership in five of the nine provinces. And they’re heading for a major political and constitutional confrontation.

And let us be absolutely clear what this is all about. The oil and gas wealth is precisely in the states that the right controls, and they are in favor of secession, in which they will control Bolivia’s wealth, even though they may be less than a majority of the population. So this is just like in the United States. This is the equivalent of the Confederates, and they’ve been running roughshod in their states on opposition.

Let me give you just one quick example. They have been assaulting the delegates at a constitutional convention. The government of Morales has not intervened with the military to protect these people. In fact, they’re holed up now in a military school, where they’re carrying on their constitutional deliberations. And we’ve had other cases of assaults on Indian groups in Santa Cruz, in Beni and other provinces that are associated with the secessionists. And it’s both a racial issue once again, as well as an oil and gas issue, and it’s all hung around the issue of a secession, a white-dominated confederacy in which there will be no land reform. The wealth will continue to be shared between foreign corporations and the oligarchy.

AMY GOODMAN: James Petras, I want to thank you for being with us, Professor Emeritus of sociology and Latin American studies at Binghamton University.

JAMES PETRAS: Keep up your good work, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks very—

JAMES PETRAS: It’s extremely helpful to all of us researchers and scholars and students of Latin American and world affairs.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, thank you for your work, as well, Professor James Petras in Binghamton.

JDHURF said...

Actually, just today Democracy Now had a piece on the situation in Bolivia:

AMY GOODMAN: The Bolivian President Evo Morales formally received a copy of the country’s new draft constitution Saturday, as tens of thousands of supporters marched through the capital La Paz.

The new constitution would increase the power of Bolivia’s indigenous majority. But four of Bolivia’s wealthiest regions have declared autonomy in protest of the plans. The four lowland provinces contain much of Bolivia’s natural resource wealth and most of its large natural gas deposits. In Santa Cruz, tens of thousands of people marched to celebrate their self-declared “autonomy.” They object to the new constitution, which would redistribute wealth to the poorer highland areas of Bolivia.

Opposition leader and president of Santa Cruz Civic Committee Branco Marincovic spoke at a rally on Saturday.

BRANCO MARINCOVIC: [translated] Mr. President, Evo Morales, stop discrediting this autonomy. I propose you read our statute. I propose you read our statute, so that you can realize that this is an autonomy of unity and not a separation.


AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, President Evo Morales opposed the autonomy move and has vowed to defend Bolivia’s unity, saying, “We’re not going to let anyone divide Bolivia.” All the legislation has to be submitted to referendums that are expected to take place early next year.

Jim Shultz joins us now, executive director of the Democracy Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He writes a blog on Bolivia that can be found at democracyctr.org. He joins us on the phone from Cochabamba. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jim.

JIM SHULTZ: Good morning, Amy. Thanks for having me on.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you on. Can you tell us what’s happening?

JIM SHULTZ: Well, I think as your listeners and viewers know, Bolivia has been going through a huge political transformation for the last year and a half with the election of Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president. One of the big initiatives that that movement has been pushing has been to rewrite the constitution through a constituent assembly elected by the people just over a year ago, to rewrite the nation’s Magna Carta.

And that’s all come to a head in the last few weeks, and the opposition to Morales and MAS has worked for over a year to try to sidetrack that process. They don’t want most of the things that Morales has been pushing for and that MAS and the indigenous groups have been pushing for in that constitution. The meetings that were held in Sucre were disrupted to the point where for two months, the constituent assembly wasn’t able to meet. Finally the backers of Morales and MAS actually met in a military facility behind police guards to initially approve a constitution in a session that the opposition boycotted. All of this has just snowballed into what we have this last weekend, which you described, which is the highland areas, where the support for the new constitution is very strong, delivered the constitution symbolically to Evo Morales in La Paz, and the lowlands, where opposition to Morales is equally strong, on the other side, have declared autonomy.

It’s about a lot of issues all at once. It’s about race. There’s certainly a racial divide between the highlands and the lowlands. It’s about oil and gas. By the luck of geology, the oil and gas wealth in the country is in the eastern lowlands, and the people in the highlands, where there isn’t oil and gas, want that to be a national resource, and the people in the lowlands, in the same way that you see in Chad or Cameroon or all over the world, are looking for the oil and gas to be within their control. So it’s about race, it’s about power, it’s about oil and gas, it’s about regional divisions. And it’s all come to a head in this endgame over the new constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, with these four areas declaring autonomy, do you see the breakup, a possible breakup of Bolivia?

JIM SHULTZ: I think that there’s certainly a fear of that here. I think that’s unlikely. I think that there is a lot of tension. I think that there’s some very hard negotiations to happen in this country. But remember, Bolivian politics always plays out in two forms at the same time. It always plays out simultaneously in political institutions and negotiations and on the streets, as people flex their street muscle.

I think there are two big issues that autonomy relates to. One is land, and one is oil and gas. On land, I think that the autonomy movement is potentially very strong. I mean, the national government is not going to send in troops to enforce land reform. So I think the autonomists there have a strong hand to play. On the other hand, the oil and gas contracts the Bolivia has are largely with the governments of Brazil and Argentina. You know, the governments of Brazil and Argentina are not going to suddenly cut side deals with these conservative governments in Santa Cruz to deliver the gas and oil revenue. So that revenue is still going to go through the national government.

AMY GOODMAN: Jim Shultz, are any foreign governments or corporations backing these four states declaring autonomy?

JIM SHULTZ: Well, certainly, overtly they’re not. There is always suspicions here that there are some foreign oil companies with their hands in the movement to try to get more autonomy for these eastern regions. But again, the players are the governments of Argentina and Brazil. I think it’s highly unlikely that Lula is running around behind the scenes to try to topple the Morales government or weaken it. There’s certainly always, you know, conspiracy theories here about whether the US government and the US embassy has a hand in this, and Morales has certainly made that accusation. My experience with the US embassy here is that they’re a lot more incompetent than they are conspiratorial.

AMY GOODMAN: And the draft constitution, what does it give to the indigenous people of Bolivia?

JIM SHULTZ: Well, it’s very important for the indigenous people here in a lot of ways. And it’s important to remember, Amy, that this dream of a new constitution and of a constituent assembly did not get born with Evo Morales and it did not get born in 2005. This goes back two decades with this vision of, you know, really trying to write a constitution that rises above the history of colonization here. So, for the first time, this constitution recognizes the thirty-six indigenous peoples that are a part of Bolivia. It includes things like the recognition of community justice, in which indigenous pueblos in the highlands, for example, instead of bringing cases of theft and that kind of thing to a court system far away, communities can have systems of justice where people have to make amends through helping build a school or that kind of thing. It also grants other kinds of autonomy to indigenous communities so that people, for example, can elect their leadership through traditional means, as opposed to just adopting a quote/unquote “Western model.”

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happens now with the draft constitution?

JIM SHULTZ: Well, we’re going to have a lot of elections in 2008, that’s for sure. The draft constitution has to go to a vote of the people. It has to be approved by a majority of 50% plus one. There will be a separate article of the constitution that did not receive the approval of the full assembly needed, that’s on land reform, that will be voted on. As part of the standoff between the regions, President Morales has called for a referendum, in which there would be an up-or-down vote on whether he and the governors would continue in office past 2008. So I think we’re headed for an awful lot of elections. I frankly think that the MAS government is in a politically weak position to win approval of this constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: Jim Shultz, we’re going to leave it there. I want to thank you very much for being with us, executive director of the Democracy Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia, writing a blog on Bolivia that can be found at democracyctr.org.

Farmer John said...

Gee, Morales circumvents Constitutional procedure by turning a 2/3 majority vote requirementfor changes into a 50-50 majority vote and his citizens threaten to secede. I can't imagine why... actually, I think I can.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Morales opened on August 6, 2006 the Bolivian Constituent Assembly to begin writing a new constitution aimed at giving more power to the indigenous majority[6]. Problems immediately arose when, unable to garner the two-thirds votes needed to include controversial provisions in the constitutional draft, Morales' party announced that only a simple majority (50%+) would be needed to draft individual articles while two-thirds needed to pass the document in full. Violent protests arose in December 2006 in parts of the country for both two-thirds and departmental autonomy; mostly in the eastern third of the country, where much of the hydrocarbon wealth is located.

Hmmm. I wonder how many Americans would support Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi re-writing OUR Constitution on a simple majority vote. Zero's my guess.

JDHURF said...

Farmer John:

You're such an hysterical reactionary that you are virtually a caricature.

CUSCO, Peru - It began as a long march by indigenous people through the Amazon jungle in 1990, shook the streets of Bolivia in 2003 and 2005, brought down two presidents and elected the first Indian president of Bolivia in December 2005.

On July 2, the people of Bolivia will finally begin the process which indigenous groups and social movements have been demanding for 15 years: the rewriting of Bolivia's constitution.

Two hundred and fifty-five representatives will be elected, with a quota of women, who will draft the new constitution over the next year. Simultaneously, Bolivians will vote on a referendum for greater autonomy for the country's wealthy eastern region.

In the four months he has been in office, Bolivian president Evo Morales has cut his own salary and the salary of other government officials, nationalized Bolivian oil, begun ambitious land reform and literacy programs, and imported Cuban doctors to work in poor, rural communities.

Now, in his proposal for the new constitution, Morales reframes Bolivia, which is 65 percent indigenous, as a state based on ''plurality, equality, and the dialogue between cultures.'' But as the elected representatives add their own ideas to Morales' proposal, he will be challenged not just by conservatives who opposed his election but by some Indian and campesino organizations who say they have been excluded from the constitutional assembly process.

''Refundar Bolivia,'' a document released by Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) in May, specifically mentions the struggles of Andean indigenous heroes.

It lessens the power of the Catholic Church by redefining Bolivia as a lay state with respect for all religions and beliefs. It makes the Wiphala, a flag that has been a symbol of Latin American Indian unity and resistance, the official flag along with the current one. Aymara, Quechua and Guarani are named as official languages along with Spanish, and Bolivia's indigenous population is ensured the right to their political systems, cultural traditions and natural resource management. The coca leaf, as a cultural tradition, is guaranteed protection by the state.

Several campesino and Indian organizations are mentioned as having worked on the MAS proposal, including the Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB) and the Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Marqas de Qollasuyo (CONAMAQ).

But in April, some of the leaders of CONAMAQ, a nongovernmental organization headed by Martin Condori, took to the streets and burned papers representing agreements with MAS, officially ending the relationship. They claimed that MAS had not given them enough representation in its selection of candidates for the constitutional assembly. Vice President Alvaro Linera responded that MAS could not give them more without excluding other groups.

''Evo is one of our sons,'' said Jaime Perez Castro, one of the mallkus, or authorities, of CONAMAQ, ''but is he paying attention to his ancestral culture?''

Castro says CONAMAQ will present Morales with its own proposal, emphasizing indigenous forms of political organization.

''We're not interested in communism or capitalism,'' he said. ''We want to return to the system of Ayllus we had before the colonization.''

Leaders of CSUTCB, which was once headed by Felipe Quispe, Morales' opponent in the 2002 presidential elections, have also expressed dissatisfaction with Morales, ranging from accusations that he is still surrounded by too many members of the previous government to charges that his proposal is ''too European'' or that Hugo Chavez is wielding too much power in Bolivia.

Quechuan activist Marta Orozco, who worked with Morales before his presidency, said some of the dissatisfaction from Indian groups is because ''Morales is a syndicalist, not an Indianist. But it's all healthy self-criticism, a necessary part of the process.''

Faustino Aricagua, Mallku of the indigenous group El Consejo de Suyus Aymaras y Quechuas del Qullasuyu (CONSAQ), emphasized the need for unity.

''Evo is working hard to incorporate all 36 of our national indigenous cultures,'' he said.

''What we need to do is change the cultural self-esteem of every single Bolivian,'' said Aricagua. ''This can't happen in three or four months.''

One of the major criticisms from indigenous organizations and social movements has been that the hurried deadline for gathering signatures made it impossible for them to present candidates, essentially handing over the assembly to political parties and excluding other organizations.

Democracy Center Director Jim Schultz has commented in his Web blog from Bolivia that this may be one of the reasons for the relative lack of enthusiasm for the constitutional assembly elections compared to the presidential elections of December. Without the enthusiasm MAS was able to generate in December, he said, Morales may end up with a majority of assembly members from opposition parties, who have opposed his land reform project and seek greater autonomy for the wealthy, largely European area of Santa Cruz.

Those within MAS see the constitutional assembly as ''the beginning of an important change'' for the indigenous people of Bolivia.

''The peoples of Bolivia, the Guarani, the Aymara and others, were excluded from the writing of earlier constitutions. Now it's our turn,'' said Lorenzo Mamani, Aymaran director of unemployment for MAS.

Mamani said the MAS proposal is a work in progress, and authorities from indigenous communities will continue to be consulted in its development.

He took the criticisms of Morales and MAS in stride. ''You are never going to be able to satisfy everyone,'' he said. ''There will always be criticism.''

In La Paz, women in traditional Aymaran clothing mingled with university students in blue jeans and office workers in suits and ties, at a meeting of Santucos or ''busy little devils,'' a grass-roots MAS group, which has sprung up separately from the MAS leadership to organize for the new constitution on a community level. There, organizers spoke of how to gather suggestions from people on the street to add to the MAS proposal.

''It's not the job of MAS to preach to the people,'' said one organizer, ''it's our job to find out what kind of Bolivia they want.''


Oh wow, that is such a travesty, obviously that would be exactly like Reid or Pelosi rewriting the constitution themselves, perfect parallel../sarcasm.

Farmer John said...

What was wrong with following the established Constitutional process in Bolivia?

Just like the "Omnibus" spending bill that just passed our Congress, Morales is afraid people will discover the Greeks hiding within his little paper horse. LOL!

Larry Gambone said...

The ruling classes and their wannabees are all for nationalism until the moment that their stolen wealth is threatened in the slightest. (Esp. if those threatening that wealth have a different skin color!)Then they are for dismembering the country or acting as Quislings for the Empire. Let's hope the Bolivian working classes and the Indigenous peoples kick their asses all the way to Miami where they belong.

nanc said...

ren - how can you say the opposition is inert in the castro debacle? do those people have no right to a voice?

you are a selectivist - it's not about what the majority wants with you and your cohorts, it's what you believe the majority SHOULD be thinking!

shame on you. every society yearns to be free - and that includes free of inclusive "government"!

do you really have the desire to be TOLD what is right?

p.s. only 372 shopping days left until CHRISTmas 2008~! woo-ooh!

nanc said...

oops! i meant "chavez", not "castro" - although if the foo shitz!

nanc said...

p.s. - in a government you condone, we'd not have this avenue to discuss the events of the day - think about it, ren. you will not be immune.

Renegade Eye said...

I'll reply to comments tomorrow. Just came home from a movie screening, of "The Great Debaters," directed by and starring Denzel Washington. That movie will open Christmas.

JDHURF said...

nanc:

What the hell are you talking about? The opposition in Venezuela not only had the right to a voice, but, they voiced it in the referendum.

JDHURF said...

farmer john:

Unless or until you specify what the Greeks hiding within the reforms refers to - most likely illusory bogeymen - then I will ignore your trifling posts. For, that which can be presented without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

Farmer John said...

...and until you tell me what the suitcase w/ $800,000 in cash (US) from Hugo Chavez was for, I think I can ignore YOUR trifling posts as well.

A military Venezuelan C-130 lands in the jungles of Bolivia. Thinking that the plane is full of illegal arms, the "local indigenous people" attack the plane with stones. The C-130 pilot immediately takes off, but not before allowing a single Venezuelan passenger disembark with a valise containing $800,000.

I guess Hugo is financing Morales as well. I wonder if the Venezuelan people know where all their oil money is going.

Farmer John said...

...but I guess suitcases full of cash going from Hugo Chavez to Morales in Bolivia or from Hugo to the finance the Argentininan election isn't "Stolen wealth", right GAMBONE? No... and Hugo's "Bolivarian Republic" won't be an "imperialist" empire, either...

Watching Hugo and his useful idiots (that's YOU Gambone) is like watching an episode of the 3 Stooges. Don't these idiots know how to use "diplomatic pouches"?

Farmer John said...

I guess the Benianos who stoned and chased away the Venezuelan plane weren't really indigenous people either, since they're from the plains/jungles and NOT the Andes mountains, like Mr. Morales' indigenous supporters...

Renegade Eye said...

JDHURF: I like what Petras has been saying lately. He was real good on the referendum in Venezuela.
that which can be presented without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. I'm going to use that argument.

Nanc: I don't get what you are saying. In Venezuela the opposition won the referendum. They got their message across.

In Bolivia Morales background is only as a parlimentarian. That is why he is overwhelmed by the militancy of the opposition. He has done nothiing but offer compromise. To the opposition that is seen as weakness.

Farmer: If Chavez wanted to channel money, he could do it easier and smarter than using a private plane.

In Argentina the poorest are always paid to vote by the ruling party.

The US is violating Argentine sovereignty.

Farmer John said...

Argentine sovereignty... bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

What was Chavez violating?

Renegade Eye said...

There is no proof of a government to government transfer.

Chavez could bring $$ by himself, without inspection.

Farmer John said...

The captured courier was a Venezuelan soldier in uniform...

btw - Is Michael Vick coordinating the Morales campaign against autonomy in the breakaway Bolivian state of Santa Cruz? (CAUTION - EXTREME IMAGES of Animal Cruelty)

Farmer John said...

I'll give one thing to Morales, he's really trying to remain true to his indigenous roots.

All he needs now are a few Waldo's to disembowel and throw off the top of Machu Pichu... instead of a coupla measly dogs.

JDHURF said...

Farmer John has degenerated from a laughable caricature of a reactionary to a repugnant racist. After having posted the hilarious propaganda that Chavez flew a suitcase of money to Argentina and not being able to support that with any serious evidence - because none exists - he has now resorted to waging a vitriolic ad hominem attack against Morales which is based upon explicit racism.
I picture "Farmer" John sitting behind his computer screen typing away draped in white bedsheets with a framed picture of Nathaniel Bedford Forrest on the wall.

Farmer John said...

LOL!

Go to the links I've posted above and click them. You're confusing Chavez's captured suitcase full of money that went to Argentina with Chavez's "other" captured suitcase full of money that went to Bolivia.

And is the NFL and US government racist because they are persecuting Michael Vick? Since when is it "racist" to denounce senseless dog killing? If my attack seems "racist" to you, then perhaps there is perhaps some "good" in "racism" after all... although I think you'll discover that what you're calling "racism" is simply my disgust with certain "indigenous cultural practices"... like sensless dog killing.

Farmer John said...

btw - In your fantasy of me above... are you tied to a bed naked and begging me to come spank you?

STOP fantasizing about me, pervert!

JDHURF said...

Farmer “the white supremacist” John said:

Go to the links I've posted above and click them.

The blog links? Lol!

btw - In your fantasy of me above... are you tied to a bed naked and begging me to come spank you?

Certainly not, but, it is a bit more than revealing that you have conjured this little scenario up. Mark Foley, anyone?

perhaps there is perhaps some "good" in "racism" after all

First of all, you only need one “perhaps” there buddy. Second of all, I rest my case. You are a racist white supremacist. Shame on you.

Farmer John said...

...and racists make you HOT, don't they?

Keep livin' the fantasy JD. Maybe, one day, you'll find a real Klansman to spank you.

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