An Open Letter to Our Friends About the Current Situation in Bolivia

Dear Friends,

Over the past few days we have received many emails from friends outside of Bolivia, long-time supporters of the struggle for social justice here, asking for our opinion and analysis about the turbulent events of the past week. In particular, people want to understand what led to the government’s violent repression on Sunday of the indigenous march protesting construction of a highway through the TIPNIS rainforest. As many of you know, a year ago the Democracy Center stopped its ongoing reporting about events in Bolivia and we do not intend to return to that role. However, given recent events neither can we be silent. Our analysis and views are represented in the article below.  Please share it with others who might be interested.

We also hope you will return to the Democracy Center site in a few weeks for the launch of our new global initiatives on Climate and Democracy, Corporate Power, and Citizen Advocacy.

Jim Shultz — The Democracy Center

The Morales Presidency Takes an Ugly Turn

In 2005, Sacha Llorenti, the President of Bolivia’s National Human Rights Assembly, wrote a forward for our Democracy Center report on an incident here two years previously, known as ‘Febrero Negro’.  The IMF had demanded that Bolivia tighten its economic belt and President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada complied by proposing a new tax on the poor.  His action set off a wave of protest and government repression that left 34 people dead.  Llorenti wrote of the government’s repression, “Those days refer to an institutional crisis, state violence, and her twin sister, impunity.”

Only months after Llorenti wrote those words, that era in Bolivia’s history seemed swept away in a wave of hope. The nation’s first indigenous President, Evo Morales, rode into power on a voter mandate unmatched in modern Bolivian history.  He proclaimed a new Bolivia in which indigenous people would take their rightful place in the nation’s political life, human rights would be respected, and a new constitution would guarantee autonomy for communities ignored by the governments of the past. Overnight the people who had been attacked or ignored by Bolivia’s leaders suddenly became Bolivia’s leaders. Llorenti eventually rose to the most powerful appointed position in the nation, Minister of Government. The rays of optimism that spread out from Tiwanaku and La Paz extended worldwide and Morales become a global symbol of something hopeful.

It is a sad measure of how deeply things have changed that it was Llorenti himself who stepped behind the podium at the Presidential Palace last Monday to defend the Morales government’s violent repression of indigenous protesters on September 25th. Five hundred police armed with guns, batons and tear gas were sent to a remote roadside to break up the six-week-long march of indigenous families protesting Morales’ planned highway through the TIPNIS rainforest.  Llorenti’s declarations echoed the tired justifications heard from so many governments before: “All the actions taken by the police had the objective of preventing conflicts and if cases of abuse have been committed they will be punished.”

Men, women and children marching to defend their lands were attacked with a barrage of tear gas, their leaders were beaten, women had bands of tape forcibly wrapped over their mouths – all under orders from a government that had promised to be theirs.  How did it come to this?

The Highway Through the Rainforest

The indigenous families that were attacked by police on that Sunday left their lands in the TIPNIS on August 15th to march nearly 400 miles to their nation’s capital and press their case against the road that would cut through the heart of their lands.  President Morales had made it very clear that he was not interested in hearing any more of their arguments against the mainly Brazil-financed highway. In June he declared, “Whether you like it or not, we are going to build this road.”

Morales argued that the highway was needed for “development,” creating new economic opportunities in parts of the country long isolated.  In the name of those goals he was willing to ignore the requirements of community consultation and autonomy in the new Constitution that he had once championed. He was willing to abandon his own rhetoric to the world about protecting Mother Earth and to ignore studies about the likely destruction of the forest that the new highway would bring. What could have been a moment of authentic and valuable debate in Bolivia about what kind of development the nation really wanted instead became a series of presidential declarations and decrees.

As the march of some 1,000 people crept slowly onward toward La Paz its moral weight seem to grow with each step, drawing growing public attention that Morales couldn’t stop. The march became the lead story in the country’s daily papers every morning for weeks. Civic actions in support of the marchers grew in Bolivia’s major cities. More than sixty international environmental groups, led by Amazon Watch, signed a letter to Morales asking him to respect the marchers’ demands.

From Morales, however, each day only brought a new set of accusations aimed at stripping the marchers of their legitimacy. First, said the government, the march was the creation of the U.S. Embassy. Then the government declared that the marchers were the pawns of foreign and domestic NGOs. Last week while in New York for his speech to the U.N., the Morales entourage announced that it had evidence that it was former President Sanchez de Lozada who was behind the march. The litany of ever-changing charges began to sound something akin to a schoolboy scrambling to invent reasons for why he didn’t have his homework.

When the charges failed to derail the marchers’ support, the government and its supporters decided to try to steer them off their path to La Paz in other ways.  They blocked the arrival of urgent donations of water, food, and medicine gathered and sent from throughout the country. But this only added yet again to the moral weight of humble people walking the long road to the capital.

Tear Gas at Dusk

Just after 5pm on Sunday, September 25, five hundred police dressed in full battle gear descended on the encampment where the marchers had pitched themselves for the night.  Running at full speed they began firing canisters of toxic tear gas directly into the terrified groups of men, women, and children.  Then the police began forcing them, screaming and crying, onto buses and into the backs of unmarked trucks for unknown destinations. Television footage captured the police knocking women to the ground and binding their mouths shut with tape. Many others ran to escape into the trees and fields so far from their homes. Children were separated from their parents.

Later that night those who had escaped the police began to take refuge in the small church of the town of San Borja. Early Monday morning government planes tried to land on an air strip in the town of Rurrenabaque, where more than 200 captured marchers were to be forcibly put aboard and returned to the villages where they had begun their trek so many weeks and miles before. The people in the community swarmed the runway to keep the planes from landing and were met with another attack of tear gas by the police sent there by the government.

Hours later the country’s young Defense Minister, Cecilia Chacon, announced her resignation.  She wrote in a public letter to President Morales, “I can not defend or justify it [Sunday’s repression].  There are other alternatives in the framework of dialogue, respect for human rights, nonviolence, and defense of Mother Earth.”

She became the latest in a string of former Morales allies who had dramatically split from the government over the TIPNIS highway and the government’s abuses of the marchers.  Morales’ former ambasador to the U.S., Gustavo Guzman, and the President’s former Vice-Minister for Land, Alejandro Almaraz, had not only left the government but also gone to join the marchers.

Over the course of the following Monday public denouncements poured out against the police attack on the marchers – from the National Public Ombudsman, the U.N., women’s groups, human rights groups, the Catholic Church, labor unions, and others, including many who had once been fervent Morales supporters.

By that Monday evening, with his public support in freefall, Morales finally spoke to the nation. He began by denying any involvement in Sunday’s police violence, blaming it on unnamed subordinates.  But after years of arguing that his predecessors should be prosecuted for the abuses of soldiers and police under their command, it was a defense that convinced no one. Several key government officials told journalists that such an aggressive police action would never have taken place without orders from the government’s highest ranks.

Morales then announced that he would put the highway to a vote by the two Bolivian states, Cochabamba and Beni, through which the project would pass.  Almaraz, the former Lands Vice-Minister, and others, quickly pointed out that such a referendum was unconstitutional, a direct violation of the provisions allowing local indigenous communities to decide the fates of their lands.

If Morales thought he had plugged the political leak in his weakened Presidency, it became clear Tuesday morning that the anger against him was only growing.  Larger marches filled the streets in the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Sucre. The country’s labor federation (C.O.B) announced a strike. By nightfall the nation’s transportation workers announced that they too would stage a work stoppage Wednesday in opposition to the highway and in support of the marchers.

Just after 7pm Tuesday night Sacha Llorenti appeared at the Presidential Palace podium once again, this time to announce his own resignation.  It appeared not so much an act of conscience, in the mold of Ms. Chacon’s the day before, but more a man being tossed overboard in the hope that it might afford the President some political protection.

Then Morales took to the airwaves to add an announcement of his own – the temporary suspension of construction of the disputed road.  But by early Wednesday news reports revealed that the Brazilian firm happily bulldozing the highway had received no such order.

A People Rising

Wednesday morning Evo Morales woke to a nation headed for a transit standstill, with new marchers headed to the streets, schools closed and a nation deeply angry with its President.  The cheering crowds of his 2006 inaugural had become a distant memory.

What is behind Morales’ devotion to a road through the heart of the TIPNIS?  Is he simply a stubborn believer in a vision of economic development filled with highways and factories, in the style of the North?  Is it a matter of Presidential ego, of not wanting to make the call to his Brazilian counterpart (Brazil is both the financier and constructor of the road, and eager to gain access to the natural resources it would make accessible), admitting that he can’t deliver on a Presidential promise?  Are his deepest supporters, the coca growers, so anxious for a road that will open up new lands for expanding their crop that Morales has been willing to push things this far? Only President Morales knows his true motivations.  But what is a certainty is that he has paid an enormous political cost for sticking to them.

The events of the past week represent something new rising in Bolivia. The people – who have now listened to many Morales speeches about protecting the Earth and guaranteeing indigenous people control over their lands – have risen to defend those principles, even if their President has seemingly abandoned them.  Ironically, Morales has now inspired a new environmental movement among the nation’s younger generation, not by his example but in battle with it.

In my interview with Sacha Llorenti for our report on Febrero Negro, he also told me something else.  He told me that the 2003 repression was, “the moment in which the crisis of the country was stripped down to the point where you could see its bones.” Today in Bolivia a different crisis has laid bare a new set of political bones for all to see.

Evo Morales, in his global pulpit, had been an inspiring voice, especially on climate change and on challenging the excesses of the U.S.  In Bolivia on economic matters he has often been true to the world, raising taxes on foreign oil companies and using some of those revenues to give school children a modest annual bonus for staying in the classroom.

But the abuses dealt out by the government against the people of the TIPNIS have knocked ‘Evo the icon’ off his pedestal in a way from which he will never fully recover, in Bolivia and globally.  He seems now pretty much like any other politician.  What has risen instead is a movement once again of the Bolivian people themselves – awake, mobilized, and courageous. The defense of Bolivia’s environment and indigenous people now rests in the hands, not of Presidential power, but people power – where real democracy must always reside.

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28 Responses to An Open Letter to Our Friends About the Current Situation in Bolivia

  1. Roberto says:

    Morales’ government is all about propaganda, this is only one of the most notorious aggressions to the Bolivian people. In the past there are so many issues, so much violence and dead obeying orders of the Morales Adm. that even I can’t recall all of them. More than 100 people had died in the Morales government in protests for legitimate demands, the very same Morales promised to accomplished in his campaign. Many political refugees are now living on almost every country bordering Bolivia, and some in US. We live in no democracy, this is a dictatorship just like “in the book”.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This time the true face of Evo Morales will be unveiled for the world to see, the real master of destruction is the vice president Garcia Linera, Morales is a puppet. The ugly truth here is that the ambition for money and power has determined their alliance to the coca growers, not the environment or the indigenous people, they don’t care about that.

  3. Lesson: don't believe in words but in action says:

    Thanks for your article that is a fair description of what is happening in Bolivia.
    The Bolivian example shows that more immportant that to be indian, left or right is to be prepared to deal with the challenge to change the prevailing political culture that is athoritarian, favors corruption and vested interests, and doesnt care for knowledge and expertise.
    Other things worth mentioning on regard to this government are that most if not all its projects are environmentally destructive (Cachuela Esperanza and Bala Megadams, Corocoro minning, the paper mill in Villa Tunari a beatiful rainforest turistic destiny, among many others).
    The terrible administration of the state.
    The export of huge quantities of gas while we dont have enough to satify our needs.
    Best regards, Teresa Ecologista

  4. Anonymous says:

    How convenient that for the past year you stopped reporting on our country, as it slowly slid closer towards authoritarianism. Now, when it’s so obvious, you decide to finally speak up. Where was your democracy center then? And why has no one in Cochabamba (where I live) ever heard of you?

  5. Sim1 says:

    Bolivia is still the best exaple of democracy in the world. Before Evo, none of these speeches (protection of indigenous rights, protection of mother hearth etc.) would have been possible, ask about them to the Goni. He’s making a lot of mistake baceause he is in between too many forces/powers. Bolivia and Bolivians should decide what is their first priority, if it is development (which goes through construction of infrastrucure too) or the defense of the Pachamama and other values. Having both of them together is quite impossible. Also Bolivians sholud help and support Evo in this difficult nmoment as it’s clear that he has lost his bright way of thinking. Otherwise thay can vote for a “Sanchez de Losada’s style” new prime minister and see if things go better with him.

    • mm says:

      Dear Sim1,just two points.

      First, Evo has resigned to any democratic argument since during his first speech as president(Feb 2005)he started with his divisive arguments. Since then, he showed his concern with the “two Bolivias”: not the one between the poor and the affluent, but the one between the “natives” and “whites”. This idea marked his divisive policies and political games. The means: systematic destruction of the opposition (we all now know that Rosza’s case was built by the govt., as well as some other “problems” such the January 11th-2007 in Cochabamba and Sucre, when they doubtfully and forcefully approved the new Political Constitution). Bolivia is not, by far, a good example of democracy.

      Second, do you really think that we, Bolivians, should choose between development or Pachamama? Unfortunately, that is a very narrow conception of the world (and development, of course). It’s completely possible to combine both, my friend, but a success requires consultation, discussion, patience and effort. In fact, Morales’ “plural economy” proposes the combination between a highly industrialized economy (of course, leaded by the govt it won’t work), and local and environmental principles. There are no clear successful examples, but that’s the road we have to choose.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I can see believing that Bolivia is still a democracy, but to argue that it is the BEST EXAMPLE of democracy in the world? Based on what evidence? You can defend Evo Morales without saying stupid things.

    And the choice isn’t between Evo and Goni. You realize there are other options, right? We’re tired of you useful idiots promoting authoritarian regimes and ignoring them as they slide into the abyss.

  7. Philippa says:

    If the Morales administration suffers from anything, it is a romanticization which served its inspirational purpose in the earlier part of the decade but which has been insufficient in the task of actual governing. The narrative, crafted as much by outside observers’ agendas as by Evo or his supporters, pits an indigenous leader against the corruption of an imposed globalized order and certainly had charm. But this is a man whose ideological underpinnings are not even consistent, who has publicly proclaimed that baldness is a sign of homosexuality, who espouses not the tenets of respect and compassion that he wants to see Bolivians treated with but rather hatred and belligerence (towards the U.S., towards globalization, toward crucenos, towards fellow Latin American leaders). What “progress” does he represent if his vision for Bolivia is one where its people remain frozen in pre-Columbus poverty and isolation?
    I have lived in and traveled throughout Bolivia extensively and from the wide variety of people I met I know that the Bolivian people’s dreams are, on their face, not incompatible with “globalization”, “modernity”, “capitalism” or any other originally Western concepts (I use quotation marks only because these have become dirty words in Bolivia). They want JOBS. They want education and healthcare and – yes! – infrastructure. The latter need not be an either-or choice, between integration of a physically diffuse country and ecological or environmental concerns. Not having been in-country since summer 2010, I know only what I read about this particular TIPNIS situation, but I would venture a guess few would be opposed to transportation projects that preserve farming and historic lands while at the same time opening new trade routes. Maybe it’s the fact that a Brazilian corporation probably stands to gain more than they do from the whole project – hmmm, projects the population didn’t approve and that don’t actually benefit them but rather the foreign contractors, sounds awfully familiar… (Cochabamba, Bechtel, gas and water wars, all of which I lived through in Bolivia).
    If Evo is ordering the clamp-down on these protesters and if he insists on pushing forward with any version of the project which doesn’t have the affected population’s full approval, then it will be because his true despotic colors are finally showing through. The term limit clause of the new constitution was but the first in what I predict are a series of moves he makes to indefinitely extend his power – the first red flag signaling a consolidation of the political process and very reminiscent of Chavez’s actions.
    The problem is that of course the real world isn’t black and white…that characterizing other countries or international institutions as “evil” may galvanize a social movement but it is simplistic at best…that the real enemies of the Bolivian people are ignorance and isolation, not commerce or foreign investment (done right, of course!)
    I’m saddened but not surprised by this turn of events, as I first noticed people’s attitudes souring on Evo Morales as far back as 2006. I hope the governmental factionalization taking place is not indicative of a purging of his administration of all but the loyal Evo-ists. From experience I can say the most fervent supporters are those that love the idea of what he represents more than they can actually point to concrete improvements he has brought to their lives.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I would like a version of this in Spanish please.

  9. Philippa says:

    De mi comentario?

  10. León Galindo says:

    ¿SURPRISED BY THE VIOLENCE OF THE MORALES REGIME? NOT I!

    Jim, this is an excellent article that lays out the situation quite clearly. Yet I cannot cease to feel surprised that only now your analysis of the Morales Regime has become so lucid — — along with that of so many other friends of democracy, the environment, of social justice, etc., etc.

    Those of us who since the early 2000´s actively denounced the Orwellian, Machiavellian, Goebellian tactics that Morales and his Vice-President García Linera used to “conquer power” through democratic means were labelled as racists, imperialists, xenophobes, fascists, and the worst labels of all — as “neo-liberal rightists” which even today is still a direct insult used to disarm anyone who thinks differently than the government — or than anyone else on the street.

    The active international support that Evo Morales and his regime received from intellectuals, universities, NGOs, and other organizations throughout the world was largely possible thanks to the active support and cheerleading that they received from people and organizations like yours.

    Perhaps for all of us it is not enough to observe the inconsistencies in the MAS regime and the aparently (but not really) paradoxical conduct of Llorenti, Linera, Evo and company. Perhaps it is imperative, in this “moment in which the crisis of the country IS stripped down to the point where we can see its bones” that we each look deeply at ourselves and the roles the we and our organizations have, or have not, played in this overall process.

    I am glad that the TIPNIS-Gate affaire has brought you and is bringing increasingly more people to see the reality of what the MAS regime is, and has always been.

    I am sincerely glad you are now questioning Evo, Llorenti and the MAS regime, though I remain surprised that organizations like yours supported Evo for so many years despite the very blatant use of completely anti-democratic strategies and tactics.

    Anyone who has lived in, or observed Bolivian (and Latin American, particulary neo-socialist) politics over the past years knows very well that the primary tools of power used by the MAS against the TIPNIS disidents were exactly the same tools used by the ALBA governments against all opposition parties and leaders, against democratically elected governors and mayors, against the media, the private sector, and against the citizens of any city or region that dared speak up against them.

    Anyone who has observed and documented Bolivian politics over the past years (as I have through http://www.boliviademocratica.net, now http://www.boliviaaldia.com which contains 160,000+ documents on the Morales regime registered methodically since 2005) knows perfectly well that the same tools being used methodically over the past 40 days against the indigenous people of the Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS) region are the same tools used against anyone who has spoken up against this increasingly dictatorial regime.

    Anyone who has watched television and read the news in Bolivia has seen how Evo Morales, Linera, Llorenti, Quintana and their accolades perfected totalitarian techniques of scaling up the destruction of “the other” by dissing, diminishing, dismissing, degrading, insulting, accusing, attacking, persecuting, exiling, and than resorting to open physical violence against anyone who thought or thinks differently than them. Anyone who is surprised by what happened sunday frankly has not adequately studied Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and the techniques of totalitarian technologies.

    Evo Morales and his regime are a living case study in the making of a dictatorship and how innocent, and not so innocent, third parties have contributed to this process.

    What is still amazing is the fact that not only an entire nation was not able to assume a deeper level of awareness of this entire charade earlier on, but that the entire international community, inspired by the cheerleading of pro-democracy, pro-human rights, pro-social justice, and pro-environmental rights organizations also was swept away.

    Especially when those who cared to look could see that the President of Bolivia was and still is the Federation of Coca Growers (that produce coca that is mostly used to produce cocaine and not for “traditional” consumption) and that the VicePresiden was (and still is) a convicted terrorist who spent 5 years in prison and who has openly and repeatedly used intellectual and moral violence (and time will tell what else) against anyone who dared speak up against him.

    Jim, I am glad you have seen Evo Morales, Garcia Linera, Sacha Llorenti and their circle of power for whom they really are (better late than never) and I pray that neither you, I nor others who are speaking up against them will end up in as bad or worse situation than the TIPNIS indians and marchers of this past sunday.

    León Galindo Stenutz
    Executive Editor
    http://www.boliviademocratica.net / http://www.boliviaaldia.com
    Fundación Civitas Pro-Democracia y Libertad
    Cochabamba, BOLIVIA, 29 September, 2011

  11. León Galindo says:

    I hope Jim and the Democracy Center have enough of a democratic spirit to publish my post as is. If you do, it will be easier to believe that you are truly committed to democracy.

    • Anon says:

      Please. These guys are more interested in promoting their romanticized view in order to justify the donations that keep them living comfortably in Bolivia. I’ve worked on Bolivian social issues for over a decade. Funny that I’ve never run into anyone in the NGO and expat community that has ever even heard of this so-called Democracy Center.

      It’s pretty obvious why they stopped reporting on Bolivia for over a year. It was becoming too difficult for their romanticizing propaganda to match up with reality.

  12. Aaron York, B-45 says:

    Jim, thanks for posting this. Over the past few days, I kept thinking that I wish the Blog from Bolivia was still up and running. It was always the best English-language source for Bolivia news.

    As far as why Evo did what he did, my guess is that the free infrastructure money from Brazil had a lot to do with it. This also highlights the fact that Evo was never particularly close with indigenous movements, but rather used them to further his political career. He was always more of a classic nationalist/populist, which is still a huge improvement over the neoliberal thugs who preceded him. All that being said, it is worth noting that if the police had not intervened and the marchers had continued on to Yucumo, the clash with the colonizadores would have been far uglier than what we saw.

    Thanks again and I look forward to learning about your new initiatives.

    • Anonymous says:

      Aaron, the colonizers where sent by the government.

      • Aaron York, B-45 says:

        What do you mean, sent by the government? Don’t they live along the route of the march? Besides, colonizadores tend to be Evo’s most loyal supporters, so they would stand up for him even if he didn’t say a word to encourage it. I can’t believe the government wanted the country to witness the spectacle of highland Indians fighting lowland Indians.

        • Anonymous says:

          This isn’t about “highland Indians” fighting “lowland Indians.” Evo made it clear a a week ago when he said “I never considered myself the first indigenous president, but rather the first syndicalist president.”

          Evo used the romantic image of himself drawn up by the West (Orientalism, anyone?!) and exploited it to his own advantage. He had been in Bolivian politics since the 1990s, and had never campaigned as an “indigenous” candidate until 2005 (and even then it was barely really part of his larger strategy). You American/European westerners bought it hook line and sinker because you wanted it. Because it fit your idea of the “noble savage.”

          The colonizadores are NOT “indigenous” in the way you romantically think of them. They are farmers. They best equivalent to them is the poor rural farmers you see in the backwoods of the conservative south. Why else would MAS have originated as “MAS-U” (the U stands for Unzaga de la Vega, the founder of the Bolivian fascist movement in the 1930s).

          Wake up, people!

  13. Aaron York, B-45 says:

    If this is meant as a response to my post, you are basically repeating what I said and then adding a series of lies. Indeed, Evo was never part of the indigenous movement in Bolivia, and much of his agenda was always anathema to it. He came out of the syndicalist and colonizador movements, He clearly used his indigenous heritage to further his political ambitions, and much of it was just lip service.

    I believe the word you are looking for is “Occidentalism,” and there’s no question that the Western media’s coverage of Evo (whether positive or negative) is usually grossly misinformed. The idea of Evo as the gentle Indian who wants to save the earth was always sbsurd, and now that is becoming clear.

    Evo and his colleagues basically bought the MAS name and symbols from its previous owners (who were indeed fascists) so that they would not have to go through the rigorous and expensive process of registering a political party from scratch. Ideologically, Evo’s MAS has nothing to do with the Bolivian falange.

    The comparison of colonizadores to conservative southerners is simplistic and silly. For one thing, many rural farmers in the American South were traditionally quite radical in their politics, and some still are. Bolivia’s colonias consist of indigenous people who have migrated from the highlands to the lowlands to find and work more arable land. In terms of lifestyle, they tend to be more modern and westernized than the traditional indigenous peoples. Some colonias have done quite well economically, while others have not. They are, along with the miners of the altiplano, probably the most politically informed and active population in the whole country. Their basic demands are for things like better education, health care, electricity, roads, etc. And despite them not openly identifying with the indigenous movement, they are still blatantly discriminated against by the white upper classes.

  14. Teresa Ecologista says:

    In response to your question Aaron:
    “Don’t they live along the route of the march?” NO. A group of colonizers (coca growers) was sent to Yucumo to stop the March. Colonizers of Caranavi make a meeting to reject the support to the government against the March.
    Yes, the coca-growers are the Evo’s most loyal supporters, that is why Evo rules for them, most of the development projects of the government are located in Chapare.
    “I can’t believe the government wanted the country to witness the spectacle of highland Indians fighting lowland Indians.” You cannot believe, but that the government wanted the fight of indians against indians is undeniable.
    The problem of Bolivia is the internal colonialism. Now that cocagrowers–that always maltreated indians from the lowlands and took their land–are the powerful ruling class, they behave as the upper class behaved before.

    This March has been another trail of tears… but no change in the government.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Good to see this blog back.

    A year is a long time, but did anyone forsee what has happened? Evo has seen his popularity fall spectacularly and, worse of all, he is alienating the very people that brought him to power. But why I am not surprised? Because nothing has changed, really. All the talk of “change” is just that.

    Bolivian politics is as personalist and clientelist as ever. The MAS government has many things in common with the MNR governments of 1952-64 and, ironically, of the Barrientos regime that followed it (and neither Barrientos nor Banzer or anyone up to the mid-80s altered the statist model). Evo is no less selfish in catering to his interest groups (cocaleros) than previous regimes were. And many of his more successful policies have really only been an expansion of his predecessors’ better policies, like…

    Goni may have been awful as president, but his better progressive reforms such as decentralisation (LPP) and bilingual indigenous education have either been ignored, or claimed by his successors as their own. And LPP is exactly what the indigenous groups, cocaleros, cruceños and media luna autonomists, etc all benefitted from- the acquisition of political space.

    Bolivia badly needs middle ground stability and peace. But can Juan Del Granado or Samuel Doria Medina provide that? Their chances against Evo (if he’s even allowed to run again) in 2014 must have improved significantly over this year alone.

    Of course, the modern romatic left-progressive rhetoric is to demonise the West as brutal and evil and romanticise “noble” and “beautiful” indigenous cultures, whilst ignoring the fact that Aztecs and Mayans (for instance) had societies that institutionalised violence and cruelty on a grand scale that makes Islamic fundamentalists look benign and tolerant in comparison.

    And the environment? Did they even bother to ask about slash and burn forest for growing coca, or stripping soil of nutrients, or the run-off from illegal factories that produce the “stuff”? Very environmentally friendly isn’t it?

  16. Teresa Ecologista says:

    Aaron,read this link if you not believe in my words.
    http://www.erbol.com.bo/noticia.php?identificador=2147483950280

  17. No hay pero ciego que el que no quiere ver says:

    How innocent were all of you. How naif. We, in the country, know Evo years ago. It is so surprinsing that people abroad are beginning to open their eyes 6 years after. Well, naif is to soft. Stupid is more appropriate.

    How could you beleive that Goni decided to “tax the poor”. How ridiculous. But it seems you did beleive it. On the other hand, didn´t you hear how the 2009 Constitution has been aproved (preventing all opposants to enter de Constitutional Assembly — don´t you know how to use google and search for news?) or how the Pando massacre has been carefully planed, not by the people who are in prison now (regional opposants) but by the goverment. Or how a terrorist group, rapidly decimated, has been in fact contacted by the government intelligence and caught in a trap? Etc. Etc.

    The list of examples is too long to admit that is just now, when a group of very valiant indigenous defend their way of life, that you realize that Evo is not a democratic president, an that he is destroying all institutionality in the country since day one, for his own benefit. Better later than never, that´s true, but it tells very poorly of your institutional intelligence to realize that 6 years after.

    • Anon says:

      It’s because those “well-meaning” gringos never have to live with the consequences. They can jet in after reading a book or watching a documentary and sermonize about how to start the “revolution.” They never bother to learn the past history or put things in broader context (I’m amazed at the number of books written by these people in recent years about Bolivia that seem to start at year 2000 or later as if nothing ever happened before they became aware Bolivia was on a map).

      Then, when things go bad, they can just whip out their US/EU passports, call mom & dad for more money, and go somewhere else and start all over again. Maybe they’ll all go to Libya or Egypt now. Though I wouldn’t wish that upon the Libyans or Egyptians.

  18. Marta20MENDOZA says:

    All people deserve good life time and business loans or just small business loan would make it better. Because freedom is based on money.