Conflict coming in Bolivia?

map of Bolivia

Joe Hartley, who speaks and reads Spanish fluently, says trouble is coming in Bolivia. He’s a long-time friend and astute student of history, even if he is allergic to socialism.

Keep your ear tuned for news from Bolivia. I expect to see a lot of violence there within the next few months. Morales is, unhappily but unsurprisingly, reverting to the type of thuggish populist behavior which characterizes so much of poor South America, but the parts of the country that are expanding economically are in a position to push back. I don’t think it will be as ugly as Iraq, but Bolivian history is not pretty, and Morales doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a transcendent figure, however popular he may be in the US of A.

And the US trying to kill Chavez of Venezuela in a coup attempt wasn’t thuggish? Your position seems the typically liberal one that bemoans exploitation but opposes any real action to end it. After a long history of colonial exploitation Bolivia now has a leader who wants to right historic wrongs, and that’s a good thing.

Cochabamba elected a governor who was not a member of MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo). The MAS folks don’t like him because, well, he’s not a supporter of MAS. Folks from outside of the Cochabamba department have descended on the city demanding that he resign, and are trying to cut all road links to and from Cochabamba to force his resignation, which is creating not only battles between the police and the demonstrators, but between the demonstrators and locals, particularly the local middle class. There’s no indication that the governor is unpopular in Cochabamba, but Morales comes from a cocalera community in the department and apparently considers it a personal affront that the locals elected a governor who isn’t a member of MAS. (Socialism of whatever stripe in South America, alas, has no tradition of democratic form, from Francia in Paraguay on.)

Ahem, Chavez of Venezuela has been elected democratically a number of times, which is more than can be said for George Bush.

The Morales government as far as I can tell is doing nothing to break the blockade. How effective it will be remains to be seen, but it’s certainly not an example of democracy in action.

Cochabamba has a history of direct street action, as witness their successful fight against water privatization in 2000. So maybe that’s what’s happening now, another uprising, and quite possibly for just cause too.

The real problem with Bolivia is that most of the people are in the altiplano (the Andine, western part of the country) where there are few resources. Historically the east has been unpopulated, but it’s grown enormously in the past 20 years since the soil is rich and the Brazilians have railroads that can export soy and other agricultural products. As a result, the eastern provinces and Cochabamba are growing faster and becoming richer than the Andine west, which continues to have a rentier mentality, as many of the Bolivian newspapers point out, oriented exclusively toward the extraction of raw materials (gas, tin, and silver) rather than agriculture or sustainable industry, or even tourism (an interesting eco-tourism in the barren areas of southwestern Perú, not far from where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are reported to have been killed.)

Thus, the rentier class of Bolivia, plundering as fast as they can, is allied with neocon globalization forces against their own people and the people are fighting back. Karl Marx would understand exactly what is happening and indeed, a class analysis of the situation, something almost entirely absent in US political discussion, makes what might be murky considerably more understandable.



  1. For centuries the foreign bastards exploit us and they enslave and now that we ask equality they blame us of racists. We are not RACISTS neither much less REVENGE SEEKERS, but WE natives want REINVINDICATION. We want that they return us the stolen and free given of millions of acres of lands (IT IS like the half state of montana and whole bolivia is the size of state of montana) that have the foreigners these lands were given by previous native hater governments. We never invaded or made holocaust and plundered to anyone, but now we ask for equality and they say we are the OPPRESSORS! Suddenly the 85% of the Bolivian natives and racially mixed, have lost the thousands of years of cultural inheritance and we become mutant products of the globalizacion? WHAT KINF OF YOKE IS THAT.
    The war of independence the MILLIONS of natives do it above all to free to its native race and to its country. The natives and mestizos burst the spanish bum, and our native exclamation still demands:”We are in our house and you foreigners should leave”, The motto FOREIGNERS says:”WE MAYBE FOREIGNERS, BUT YOU ARE THE SERVANTS SLAVES”.
    We the native of america do not value al man by the color of its skin; we value it for the degree truly that contains its spirit. For us the race is not the color of the leather, is the color of the idea. It is been born with any color of skin; of it nobody is to blame. But the human being is responsible for the ideas that carries in his brain. The racial hatred is a prejudice an idea done force, blind and destructive force. This blind hatred and destroyer cannot be the hatred of the indigeneous native people; because the native American has theory, has program and has Party; its fight is fights political of the highest human quality. We cannot lose us in the search of European superman and its reigns of the hatred, the torture, the dagger; the hemlock of Athens, the cross of the Golgotha; the fire of the Holy position, the fields of concentration, the gallows of Nuremberg, of the missiles of occupation, of the immunity, the iraq occupation and genocide… the demiurgos, the makers of the genocide and the privatization.
    Neither occupation, neither domestication. we want LIBERATION!.
    sorry not all whites are racists some are good hearted ones and these are welcome to our land. But you gringo Joe Hartley nazi, kkk, slave master. You will never going to put a foot in my country

  2. quechua nation:

    Evo and his “comrades” had support by a lot of the 30% of the mestizos in Bolivia.

    Evo won a lot of support from middle class mestizo Bolivians because we believe that yes there is racism in Bolivia and their is inequality towards the indigenous, But the recent undemocratic methods that Evo and his “comrades” are trying to force upon the rest of Bolivia is not sitting well with the middle class. Trying to force an elected official from office by burning the government building and crippling the economy of Cochabamba is NOT sitting well with the middle class and moderate Bolivians from all over Bolivia.

    Remember that Bolivia is 55% indigenous and 45% mestizo and european. Evo won the presidency with slightly over 50% of the votes, so you can not say that the indigenous are the supermajority.

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