by Boaventura de Sousa
from CommitteeForTheAbolitionOfIllegitimateDebt Website
The dramatic events in Bolivia in recent months have followed an imperial script that Latin Americans are becoming more and more familiar with, and which consists in paving the way for the replacing of a democratic government deemed hostile to the interests of the United States (or rather, of U.S. multinationals).
This is done by orchestrating a two-pronged plan:
We have certainly been caught by surprise not only by how the whole situation evolved, but also by the way in which it was promptly followed by comments that were mostly unfavorable to Evo Morales' government, coming from supposedly opposing ideological camps.
I wish to contribute to
the current debate, because I see in these recent developments in
Bolivia the seeds of much that is to come throughout the continent
and the world in the decades ahead.
With the nationalization of hydrocarbons and of companies in such strategic areas as telecommunications (Entel), which happened at a balmy period resulting from a rise in international commodity prices, Bolivia ceased being a mendicant State (a "State with holes") and became, under Evo Morales, a strong democratic State with significant penetration in the whole Bolivian territory.
Public investment became a primary source of economic growth, a model of development combining economic stability and redistribution that received praise from all international bodies.
Notwithstanding all the
difficulties and delays, important steps were taken toward the much
sought-after hydrocarbon industrialization and other major projects
(electricity generation, mining of iron and lithium reserves).
One key component was the constitutional recognition of the "original peasant indigenous" peoples as a political subject and its inclusion in the State's structure and in the public sphere.
The State's plurinational nature is an achievement still under construction, its major strength being the outcomes of the Unity Pact, which managed to unify most popular social organizations.
Progress was also made
with regard to the long-term path toward indigenous self-government.
According to official data, during Evo's time in government poverty dropped from 59.9 percent to 34.6 percent and extreme poverty from 38.2 to 15.2 percent...
Various cash transfer programs targeting vulnerable groups:
...contributed to this
This was only possible
thanks to the persistent efforts of women's organizations.
In any event, there is one substantive achievement that no indicator is able to measure.
It has to do with the reaffirmation of Bolivia's dignity and sovereignty in the international scene.
In the post-Constituent Assembly process, the government proved weak when it came to implementing some of the Constitution's main principles, especially as regards the exercise of rights.
Mention should equally be made of the misconceptions of government management, as was the case with,
...and other measures
favoring the official alliance with Bolivia's agro-industry.
In the meantime, the whole "process of change" (proceso de cambio) ran into difficulties as far as finding new leaders was concerned, which made it more and more "Evo-dependent".
Despite the initial momentum, a series of obstacles got in the way of the original peasant indigenous autonomies, in which the government itself seemed to put little faith.
But that is not what happened.
That was simply not the case.
The facts show that some time before the elections a coup plan was set in motion in Bolivia. It comprises several well-synchronized components involving both the local elites and US imperialism...
As a matter of fact, the "fraud" motif crystallized weeks before the election and became widespread in several regional governments that called for ignoring the election results in case Evo won.
Thus, the protests of the opposition forces shifted from demanding new elections to an ultimatum demanding that the president step down within 48 hours.
A police mutiny soon followed, with the police forces refusing to perform their duty as the guarantor of security and public order. Then there was the insidious "preliminary report" of the OAS audit, with its talk of "irregularities".
The coup staged by the empire and the political elites constituted an abrupt interruption of a constitutional mandate and reached its peak with the direct intervention of the Armed Forces, which "suggested" that the president resign.
There followed violent actions against officials and leaders of MAS (the Movimiento al Socialismo party), forcing them to resign.
Despite all this, Evo's resignation and his asylum in Mexico and later in Argentina did not lead to a military government. Instead, a democratic façade was fabricated, with the second vice president of the Bolivian Senate (whose party won a mere 4 percent of the vote in the election) appointing herself president, allegedly to secure the constitutional succession of power.
With the backing of the
police and the armed forces, she assumed a mandate steeped in
conservative religious symbols and racist vindictiveness.
As a consequence, we are now faced with the search for a path - certainly a difficult, delicate and unconvincing one - back to democratic "normalcy" at the polls, amid persistent human rights violations.
The "return to normalcy" means,
With its intervention, the 'empire' took advantage of domestic mistakes to add Bolivia (after Brazil and Ecuador) to the number of countries where it has been seeking to neutralize China's influence throughout the continent.
The rivalry between the 'two empires' (one on the rise, the other in decline) knows no democratic rules. At stake is the control over the new wave of globalization based on artificial intelligence and 5G technology.
For the time being, China appears to be better positioned to take that control, and toward that end it has proposed positive incentive measures on the international stage (such as the New Silk Road: the Road and Belt Initiative), whereas U.S. intervention has mostly taken the form of punitive measures (embargoes, economic sanctions, regime change, counterinsurgency).
The multilateral façade is provided by the Organization of the American States (OAS), which acts in the region as the chargé d'affaires of the U.S. Department of State.
Only recently, Evo Morales's government signed a contract with China to build a company to produce lithium metal. Lithium, of which Bolivia possesses huge deposits, is a strategic mineral of the new technological order.
Such an act of rebellion
against the ever-present Monroe Doctrine (the subcontinent as
the U.S. 'backyard') just had to be stopped.
Like Brazil before it, Bolivia functioned as a laboratory of what is to come. In the case of Bolivia, it can be said that no anti-imperialist government has ever surrendered this quickly (in sharp contrast to Venezuela).
But imperialism and the elites know that there are leaders who, despite their many mistakes, have touched the heart of the poorest, humblest and most abandoned classes, and that despite all those mistakes, there is a danger that they may come back...
Hence the enlisting of the repressive apparatus and the judicial system, to accuse those leaders of crimes that may render them politically ineligible forever.
Such has been the case with,
The same will happen with Evo...
This was puzzling and cause for outrage among other left-wing and feminist sectors, especially the indigenous women's movements.
Whether explicitly feminist or not, the criticism coming from some left-wing sectors certainly deserves serious consideration.
I have often said that women's struggles provide one of the most solid foundations of a true renewal of the struggle for social justice and liberation in the new century.
But it is unquestionable that after the fall of Evo Morales' government the controversy has become more acute and there seems to exist a deep divide in today's Latin American feminism.
It should be noted that in the past decade many indigenous feminist activists have voiced criticism of their government, and always in a constructive manner.
To name just a few of the great women leaders with whom I have worked, I could mention,
...who is now seriously ill in prison for having presided over the Electoral Tribunal and in that capacity charged with the alleged election fraud.
Many of them have kept a
distance from the various feminisms and even refused to call
themselves feminists, believing that the description was better
suited to white and mestizo women.
All three are fiercely present nowadays and always act in concert, because free labor - a hallmark of capitalism - is not sustainable without slave labor or greatly undervalued or even unpaid labor.
These latter types of labor are supplied by racialized and sexualized populations who are viewed as subhuman:
The disturbing thing about our present situation is that while domination acts in concert, resistance to it is fragmented.
As long as the asymmetry between domination and resistance persists, it will be impossible to get out of the capitalist, colonialist and heteropatriarchal hell in which we find ourselves.
But the asymmetry can also provide us with clues to explain the discomfort caused by some of the criticisms.
The very way in which
many of the critical comments were articulated contributed to
further exacerbate the fragmentation of the resistance to
capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy on the continent.
On the one hand, a distinction needs to be made between important and urgent struggles. Anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist and anti-patriarchal struggles are all equally important, but some may be more urgent than others, depending on the context.
In view of the vicious imperialist strike against Evo in Bolivia,
Given today's climate of
aggressive imperial belligerence, it would be more urgent to show
that the alternatives on the part of the left have to be
democratically found within Bolivia and under no circumstances play
into the hands of imperialism.
This is not about silencing criticism, but about finding the right tone so as not to provide the national and international right with grounds for increasing its anti-democratic belligerence.
Thus, for example, fair criticism of Evo's neo-extractivism could be made at a time and in a style that would not be conducive to the current situation:
The issue here is not whether to whitewash the grave mistakes of potential allies or not, but rather to ponder timing and context, and then make sure that one's criticism helps reinforce, or at least does not cripple, anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist and anti-patriarchal resistance.
The downtrodden men and women who now mourn the death of their own in the Sacaba and Senkata massacres (a full thirteen years - something unheard-of in Bolivia - since the military had last fired on the people) felt further abandoned because of the left-wing and feminist criticism directed against the political process in which they had put their faith.
The State over which he presided was certainly unparalleled in its benevolent treatment of the popular communities that for such a long time have endured all sorts of violations, discrimination, abandonment and humiliation.
But the institutional and cultural framework within which it operated was,
History's inertia does not fail to weigh on those who take the brunt of it, even as they seek to fight it. But indigenous patience and resistance are as old as the ages.
A country like Bolivia (a country in which the majority of the population is indigenous) will not be fully democratic until it is ruled by indigenous people and in accordance with indigenous cosmovisions.
State power makes no sense unless governance is geared toward transforming it.
The power of the State has to be used to set in motion a long transition toward a truly plurinational, anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, and anti-patriarchal State.
Like Benito Juárez (Mexico) before him, Evo Morales was an 'Indian out of place'. The learning process began with them and does not end with them.
On the contrary, it is but a beginning.
In Evo Morales' case, a 13-year-long beginning that was necessarily messy and even contradictory, after 500 years of political non-existence.
History will absolve Evo Morales...