Luis Gutiérrez Esparza
Latin American Circle for International Studies (LACIS)
A plan is in place in Bolivia, headed by the governors and organized groups of the oligarchy –the latter known as the “cívicos”- of the provinces of Santa Cruz and Tarija, with the open and important participation of Beni, Pando and recently Cochabamba. It was designed and has put into operation to promote the disintegration of the Bolivian State, according to journalists, researchers, social movement activists, and academics in Bolivia.
The prestigious Bolivia Center for Documentation and Information (CEDIB, http://www.cedib.org/pcedib/index.php) charges that the entrenched oligarchy of eastern Bolivia, which considers itself the owner and master of the land, the resources, and the people, has decided not to allow the reforms with which the government of Evo Morales has barely touched some privileges that such sectors have illicitly taken it upon themselves to assume.
These sectors of the oligarchy seek to maintain absolute power, avoid structural transformations, and conserve their economic power, appropriating -without restrictions- the country’s natural resources. For such effects, they are plunging into an increasingly frontal battle, taking advantage of the legal and democratic trappings with which they have been able to put barriers on the way of the new government. It appears that the scope of their intensified campaign even implies the option of a civil war. With this in mind, they receive support and resources from the United States, through, for example, the Bolivia office of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Skillfully, the right-wing and the oligarchy are capitalizing the spaces of a system that they costumed designed for themselves. The government's decision to act in accordance with the laws of this system has facilitated the efforts of these sectors to further entrench themselves and from these institutional spaces, continue in the political scenario from a position of strength that is also cemented in the control of economic power that they never lost.
Cochabamba was, in this context, the field of battle that Governor Manfred Reyes Villa offered up in order to strike a frontal blow to the aspirations of the masses and to try to position the strategy of autonomy in the region, with the intention of inclining the balance in the nation’s political scenario in his favor. This strategy was within the spirit of the declaration of December 15, 2006, which raised the call for a referendum in favor of independence, that is, for the disintegration of Bolivia.
Taking advantage of the indecision of the Constituent Assembly, the right-wing, defeated in two successive elections, began to regroup, with evident U.S. support, although on an official level, Washington has chosen a certain degree of discretion. The right-wing sectors took very good advantage of the relative vacuum that allowed them to elect a larger number of governors and to obtain a majority in favor of autonomy in some provinces. This was enough for them to proclaim that the program of change should be annulled, according to analysts and commentators from the newspapers La Razón and El Diario, as well as from the Bolivian Information Agency (ABI) and Indymedia Bolivia.
The right-wing has not failed to use a single one of the instruments at its disposal: finances, the communications media, blackmail, and shock troops. At certain times, the right-wing openly declares its intentions and, and at other moments, behaves as if were a victim of persecution. Certain transnational corporations, interested in a return to the past, are spreading the image of a country that is unviable, which Bolivia’s right-wing sectors raise in order to justify an intervention by the international gendarme, the United States.
The latest episode of this conspiracy began in Cochabamba, with a governor who is good for all purposes. Aware that the referendum on autonomy received a resounding “no” vote in the province, Governor Reyes Villa intends to organize a new ballot initiative on the same issue. In addition, he declared himself in favor of the independence of Santa Cruz, even though he later explained that this was a lapse in judgment. Such explanations were unnecessary, since Reyes Villa’s subsequent activity demonstrated that he is determined to concretize his declarations and proposals.
The mass organizations are openly taking to the streets, demanding that Reyes Villa rectify his behavior or otherwise, resign as governor.
Throughout the past year, the right-wing has been shown that it is determined to use violence to impose its demands. Only the personal intervention of President Evo Morales, calling on the social organizations to reflect upon the gravity of the situation at hand and urging Reyes Villa to put a halt to his provocative attitude, has prevented the spiral of violence from becoming a nationwide confrontation. To do so, Morales suspended his international agenda.
However, the right-wing is determined to maintain its plan to destabilize the government. In its attempt to halt the process of economic and social transformation initiated by the Morales government, it has decided to place all its cards on the table. Armed groups have appeared, whose emergence had been reported, but that had still not shown their face. Their leaders are constantly seeking military and police support to halt grass roots movements that have thus far influenced the course of the developments. Their spokesmen constantly take their case to international public opinion, inciting for an intervention to "pacify" the country, while their mentors do all that they can possibly do to destabilize the internal situation.
What has not been achieved, despite all their efforts, is to dismantle and destabilize the mass organizations. On the other side of this ledger, the people are spontaneously mobilizing, and as a result, sometimes extreme positions appear that help further the plans of the right-wing sectors. Organization, coordination, and unity on the level of leadership, will prevent the maneuvers of the reactionary forces that seek to regain and retain their privileges.
In an effort to strike a balance in the country’s foreign policy and despite the barely hidden hostility of the George W. Bush administration, a Bolivian diplomatic mission headed by Foreign Relations Minister David Choquehuanca, visited the United States with the purpose of initiating negotiations for a new extension of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which expires on June 30.
The delegation, also comprised of Finance Minister Luis Alberto Arce and Vice Minister of Trade and Exports, Pablo Rabzuck, asked for a two to five year of the advantages that the preferential tariff law provides. They hold talks with representatives of the U.S. Senate and sectors that support the Bolivian cause.
Rabzuck said then although there was an extension of the ATPDEA for six months in favor of Bolivia, at that time there was nothing that could be resolved in favor of the country’s exporters.
However, it can be anticipated that Bush will not desist from applying pressures against the Bolivian government. In fact, the Bush administration has already reduced financial support for the war against the drug trade, from 45 million to 38.6 million dollars, and, from what we can see, is betting that the tactic of barely hidden hostility will result in an increase in Bolivia’s social and political crises, so that by August or September, instability and the inability to continue governing will openly erupt.