The Government House was full of smoke. In the corners of the main hall, which is as big as a volleyball court, there were small fires with which they were trying to neutralize tear gas.
About thirty soldiers were bending their heads trying to avoid the harmful effects of tear gas. The Ministry of Defense, Freddy Teodovich, was talking to Waldo Albarracin, President of the Human Rights Assembly: "we do not want to face the police". It was 12:30 on 12th February. Journalists were running here and there while those in charge of security were taking them towards the press room so that they could not continue scenting within the House. The Ministry of Presidency, Sánchez Berzaín, better known as "the wolf", came downstairs smiling as he usually did and said: "The situation is being controlled, there is nothing to be worried about, government is not responsible at all…. Nice to meet you, so long". Outside, at Murillo Square there was a rain of tear gas and the first shots could be heard.
* Researcher Solon Foundation
Carlos Mesa, Vice-president of Bolivia would say some weeks after to the Struggle against Impunity International Mission that visited Bolivia that, while he was looking at the disturbances through the window, thinking that that must have been the same situation in which President Villarroell (1947) was hanged, the present President Sánchez de Lozada was phoning the American Embassy.
It all begun on 9th February when the government announced the "super tax to salary" in order to reduce the fiscal deficit, following directions of IMF. It was either a "super tax to salaries or a super gasoline tax" said the President. The fiscal deficit had grown 8.5% due to the privatization of the service of pensions to retired people, and IMF was demanding the reduction of same to 3.5% as a condition to give new credits. The government presented this measure as a great idea: "instead of a super tax to gasoline which would affect everyone, we will only affect salaried people, which are not majoritarian. And we will do it in a gradual scale that will cover from a discount of 4.2% for those earning more than 880 Bs. (U$S115) up to 12% discount to those earning more than 20 thousand Bs. (U$S2.630)."
The spark that caught the big fire
Why did a decision that theoretically was only directly affecting the salaried people, representing 10% of the population in Bolivia, provoke a generalized rebellion by the whole population? The reason used by entrepreneurs was that the diminution of salaries was going to diminish consumption, and then it was going to affect the already deteriorated productive area. This is real, but is not enough to explain the popular rebellion.
The origins of 12th and 13th February and can not be only explained by the cause-effect relation of the conjuncture, but because of an explosive accumulation of 17 years of application of the neo-liberal model.
Bolivia lived in 1952 a great workers and peasants revolution that defeated the army, nationalized mines, conquered the universal right to vote and performed the agricultural reformation. But this revolution took place within the capitalistic model of state and the tradition of heads of the recently constituted COB that trusted the MNR and Paz Estensoro and not in their own potentialities.
During the period 1952-1985 Bolivia lived under capitalism of state, in which the main industries, services and natural sources were ruled by the State. So it was a period of thirty three years with an almos absolute hegemony by the mining proletariat, which was the vanguard of social struggles. In spite of the military coup d'états and of the defeats suffered during said period, the structure of capitalism of state and mining vanguard was maintained. The COB was one of the scarce centrals in the world that included almost all social sectors and that had great discipline and unity.
In 1982 the decay of COB and Mining Movement begun, and it was a time in which democratic and popular unity arrived to government. UDP was seen by the population as a leftist front. It included MNR-I, PCB and MIR that by that time had a "Christian guerrilla" past. The ascension of UDP generated great expectations. It had won three consecutive national elections in the middle of three coup d'états and three democratic recoveries. A great proportion of trade unionist leaders of the country integrated PCB and MIR.
But the UDP government was a total downfall, and what is worst, it constituted a great frustration. They wanted to satisfy everyone. They tried to satisfy the increasing demands by workers and peasants without breaking with IMF nor suspending the payment of the external debt. The result was a tragic one for workers: there was no period in the history during which the acquisitive power of salaries had fell in such an extreme way as during that one, as a consequence of hyperinflation.
Workers and peasants achieved important theoretical goals but the reality was that there was no money to fulfill and make real said vindications. They were making new money without support, inflation was growing and growing. Instead of stopping the bloody payment of external debt in order to count on fresh sources, UDP "really" favored entrepreneurs, changing their debts from dollars to Bolivian. In other words, the state assumed private entrepreneurs' debts.
From State capitalism to neo-liberal capitalism
Political errors are usually paid. And workers' movement "paid the government's piper". UDP had to end its government one year earlier. In the 1985 elections the historical enemies won, ADN first, that is to say dictator Banzer, who had been defeated a few years earlier, and MNR. Paz Estensoro, from MNR, made the Congress elect him as the President, supported by almost all political parties, and begun to stabilize the country that was leaded by workers, particularly its miners' vanguard. More than 30.000 miners were laid off and 10 thousand industrial workers had no job any more. The neo-liberal model begun to be applied and so they stopped hyperinflation with the sacrifice of workers. The neo-liberal receipt was simple: you can only waste what you got. In brief, to waste less it is necessary to let the State apparatus be smaller, laying off workers, ignoring social conquers and selling all the State enterprises.
There were lots of resistance struggles during those 15 years: miners, teachers, health workers, marched to the streets to oppose every neo-liberal measures by governments of MNR, MIR and ADN that governed in turns. Notwithstanding the above, the great majority of said mobilizations ended in defeat or pyrrhic matches, in the form of agreements that were never accomplished.
All these struggles took place within a situation of absolute skepticism. The failure of UDP together with the crack of the Soviet Union and the so called "failure of socialism" made that pragmatism and the "every man to himself" slogan impelled corruption and the "let it be" philosophy for most of leftist people. The formerly MIR of leftist past crossed the bloody river that separated it from ADN and begun to co-govern with General Banzer. The critical intellectuals were economically and ideologically co-opted.
The neo-liberal promise was that letting the state be smaller and privatizing its enterprises and sources would bring foreign investments. The direct foreign investment was to develop the productive apparatus in crisis by those times, and would generate jobs, increasing all the Bolivians incomes. Jaime Paz Samora stated the slogan "either export or die". The whole development of the country was submitted to the market and foreign investment.
Time passed by, the enterprises were privatized, by the announced success turned into a permanent and increased pauperization for the population.
Water is ours, damn!
The expectancy turned into desperation. The neo-liberal system parties (ADN, MIR and MNR) did not realize the situation the country was passing by and continued as if everything was ok. This time they were searching the privatizing of water. They presented at the national Parliament a project for a Law of Water that privatized and commercialized this resource. The protest marches begun from the countryside. The rejection was enormous. Banzer's government went back and tried to introduce "through the window" what he couldn't do in the correct way. He gave in grant to a transnational the city hall's potable water service in Cochabamba and approved in a record time of 48 hours a law supposedly only for potable water but that in the last article conceded the Basic Sanitation Superintendence for all the uses of the water resource.
The water war begun in January 2000. It was the first battle that had as protagonists over all the peasants of Cochabamba. Then the second battle begun in February. A march in the main Square turned into a virtual war against the police and the army that were avoiding the access of people to 14 de Setiembre Square. The combat lasted two whole days. The whole population of the city, the peripheral population and people from the countryside was mobilized. There was a blockade in every street. Even at the comfort-living neighborhoods people blocked the streets. Near by the 14 de Setiembre Square a solidarity net was created for a few hours to support the "water warriors". Paper, wood and cartoon were thrown from high buildings to make fire. In lots of houses refreshments and food were prepared. All the radios of Cochabamba united against government. After two days a precarious agreement was signed and the multitude could enter the Square, "their" Square.
The definitive battle in Cochabamba was stated for April 2000. The Coordinator in Defense of Water and Life had been created about 6 months earlier demanded the revocation of the Aguas del Tunari Contract and the radical modification of the law for potable water and sanitation. This time the conflict lasted nine days. The government tried to break the struggle persecuting and putting in jail the directors of the Coordinator in Defense of Water and Life. They declared martial law and for the first time in 15 years of neo-liberal model it was not in force though people was not afraid anymore. The struggle was not only in Cochabamba. In La Paz and the rest of the country there were too blockades of streets and roads. The country was paralyzed. Then the mutiny by the police in La Paz took place. That was the greatest mutiny during the neo-liberal period.
At this situation the government had to break the contract and modify the law in record time. For the first time in 15 years, Bolivian population won, they had new confidence and hope in their own force. Since then, nothing was the same for neo-liberals in Bolivia.
In September 2000 there was a national blockade that had deep influence in La Paz, and it isolated that city for two weeks. In 2001 and 2002 the blockades of roads were repeated in the countryside, as well as marches and protests.
Peasants, coca producers and indigenous people
The neo-liberal model stroke everybody. The salaried people received a physical defeat by means of massive lay off. For peasants and indigenous people, it was different. They had to go back some times but were never defeated. The coca producers from Chapare and Cochabamba were one of the most struck sectors, having more murdered people by the army than any other sector, but they never surrendered. The eradication of coca plantations achieved important results by the end of the 90's, but the more the "zero coca" dream was nearer, the bigger was the growth of resistance and new camouflaged plantations appeared in the middle of the jungle.
The defeat of the historical mining vanguard and of salaried people brought peasants to the first place, coca producers and indigenous struggles. The recuperation of their aymara, quechua and guaraní identity that was hidden in other times because of the workers' class oriented conceptions, begun to be developed. The peasant-indigenous movements begun to state the struggle not only for land but too for territory. And "territory" in its multiple dimensions. On one hand as the right not only to land, but too to natural resources below it and "fly" such as trees, birds and bio-diversity that now government wants to concede to private enterprises. On the other hand, as a symbol of respect to their original authorities, their ways of self-government, their uses, habits, their customary right. "Territory" not only as a physical space but as sovereignty, as the right of being and existing, as cultural identity, as the right of being different in a world that is tending each time more to uniform everything by means of globalization.
In Bolivia peasants are indigenous. There is almost no peasant or inhabitant of the country side that is not aymara, quechua, guaraní or from any indigenous people. But the 1952 revolution that gave the agricultural reformation and lands to aymaras and quechuas and not to the oriental indigenous people, considered the first ones only in their economic-social dimension: "peasants".
In general terms, aymaras and quechuas were called peasants and organized themselves in trade unions or peasants communities, while guaraníes, ayoreos, yukis and more than 30 ethnical groups were considered indigenous, people from the jungle that did not have direct right to property over the earth and that needed the protection of the state or of a boss.
During the last decades this separation between the peasants and indigenous affair has been broken. The great majority of peasants from the western area vindicate their identity as aymaras or quechuas. Neo-liberalism and globalization in their effort of equalizing and turning everything into a single merchandize, have strengthened the roots of diversity and cultural identity in Bolivia.
This emergency of peasants, indigenous and coca peasants and the verification that their demands were each time more contrary to the State, took peasants' trade unions to plan the organization of a "political instrument" to be able to intervene in the national elections and in politics in general. This proposal begun to be extended within the whole country in occasion of the 500 years of the discovery of America, and it was in Chapare where it was more successful, as well as in the coca area and afterwards in Cochabamba, where they obtained four deputies and dozens of city hall counselors as well as mayoralties. The Political Instrument is not a political party according to peasants and indigenous organizations, though it is ruled by the community, because the social organization elects its own candidates and define their policy. "It is an instrument and not a group of professional politicians".
This Political Instrument, whose original name was the Assembly for the Sovereignty of People, tried in several occasions to obtain juridical status to be able to participate within national elections. But the Elections Court never recognized them. This is why they participated in national elections by means of fronts, or by lending abbreviations, up to the moment they decided adopting the abbreviation MAS (Movement Towards Socialism), that was one of the very few ones that had legal recognition and that their leaders accepted lending them.
On the eve of February
Until the elections of June 2000 took place the phenomenon of the Political Instrument was mainly rural, based over all in Cochabamba. In those elections the history was changed. The increased social discomfort, the crisis of traditional political parties, the exhaustion of the neo-liberal model, the discredit at the democratic system, the fear, impotence and the arrogance of the North American Ambassador, who openly called people to vote against Evo Morales, made MAS to win in four of the nine districts, in two of the three most important districts of the central axe La Paz-Cochabamba-Santa Cruz and that Evo Morales almost could be the first candidate one in the Presidential elections.
Sánchez de Lozada was elected President thanks to the North American Embassy, that made a meeting with MIR and MNR to let them co-govern. The leaders of MIR, that were before trade unions of narco-traffic and that had lost their visa to enter the United States, could then enter in that country. Everything was worth to avoid the Evo phenomenon.
All the political analysts and the press could see that the government of Sánchez de Lozada was very weak, that it had to agree, that it could not govern the same way it did before. On the other hand, MAS was implementing a kind of opposition never seen before: no connivance at all. The proposals of MAS were and still are Popular Constitutive Assembly and Assembly of Original Nationalities to refund the country, bring back gas and hydrocarbon from transnationals, rejection to ALCA, sovereignty and defense of coca leaves. It is a program that could seam not enough for some people but it constitutes a Chinese wall, though none of these points is acceptable for the system, specially if the North American Embassy keeps on governing Bolivia.
During the first months of its government, Sánchez de Lozada tried to de-compress the coca struggle by means of studying the possibility of lending them some concessions. The Embassy reacted immediately stating that it was unacceptable, and Sánchez de Lozada went back. Over the other points the situation is even less acceptable for the system. The proposal of a Constitutive Assembly is very resisted, though, according to what the vice-president said, the possibility that the anti-neo-liberal sectors can win is great, and that it could be a Political Parties Constitutive Assembly, but never a popular and original nationalities' one.
The second semester of 2002 was a permanent menace of conflicts between social forces and government. Either the first ones or the latter knew the crash was unavoidable, and both of them were trying to get ready in its own way. MAS and Evo Morale were trying to give their electoral success an organic character, by transforming the electoral support into an organized force, over all, out of Cochabamba. The government wanted to weaken MAS by means of dialogues with no end and researches that came to no conclusions.
The beginning of the conflict was set to 13th January 2003. That day different social organizations called to the blockade of roads having as a slogan a group of structural demands. The coca producers were the vanguard that guaranteed the blockade of roads in spite of the greatest militarization of roads ever seen in Bolivia. In the rest of the country the mobilization grew slowly. Sánchez de Lozada, that up to that moment had instructed his Ministries to avoid conflicts, strongly repressed people. In less than 48 hours there were four murdered peasants. The repression was savage, but could not break the movement, and it could integrate peasants sectors from Chuquisaca which were decisive to oblige government to a negotiated solution of the conflict. Government and North American Embassy wanted to physically and militarily defeat the emergent movements, particularly those of the coca producers. They wanted to lecture them and to frighten the rest of the country. The result of these actions was that they had to give up. January ended with more than one dozen of murdered people and lots of dialogue and discussion tables to deal with the subjects related to gas, capitalization-privatizing, ALCA, coca, etc.
We do not know what kind of thoughts passed through the minds of the strategy men of government and the Embassy to begin with the "super tax campaign". They could probably have thought the movement was weakened after January. Others think that they really wanted a popular reaction to finish with what they could not implement one month before. The ones who were closer to government said that they had never imagined such a reaction. The real point is that they had never calculated a mutiny by the police.
Discomfort within Police had ever been latent, and it had already made Banzer's government suffer a terrible head ache. Policemen learned in April 2000, when the war for water took place, that the best moment to make a mutiny is when social conflicts are taking place, though that is the moment in which they have more power to press government. In April 2000 they achieved the agreement of government to some of their demands. Now they wanted to do the same with Sánchez de Lozada.
The mutiny begun on 11th February. That night, the Ministry of Government instead of negotiating with them, pressed them to give up their measures. Was it stupidity by the Ministry? Or a policy by the North American Embassy to mark its position? It is difficult to find out. The real thing is that the following day the mutiny that begun at the GES in La Paz, one block and a half from the House of Government, spread out through all the police stations of La Paz and the rest of the country.
On 12th February the House of Government begun the day with no police protection. The students from the Ayacucho School took approach of the opportunity and threw stones at the House of Government. Sánchez de Lozada ordered the mobilization of the Armed Forces in order to protect his offices.
At 13:30 there was an enormous shooting. Who ordered shooting the positions of the police placed just almost in front of the House of Government? Until today no Ministry talks. The result of that day was eleven policemen and four militaries murdered. At 16:30 Sánchez de Lozada appeared at the T.V. to announce the "super tax campaign" was off and called for peace. Nobody obeyed him. People assaulted and burned the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Sustainable Development and the Vice-presidency of the State. Afterwards they assaulted MNR's headquarters, MIR, ADN and a series of shops.
At 18:30 Sánchez de Lozada appeared once again accompanied by the Commandants of the Police and the Armed Forces so that they could call their comrades to calm. The night fell on La Paz without T.V. channels working, though all of them stopped their transmissions because they were afraid of being assaulted by the "vandals" , as they like qualifying them.
In the morning of 13th February the radios announced the government had reached an agreement with the police and that said agreement was being consulted at the different police departments of the country. There were no policemen in the streets. Their turn had been taken by the army that surrounded with tanks the Murillo Square. All the media called the population not to leave their homes. But the march called by all the social organizations and the opposition was really big. The unanimous request was the renounce of Sánchez de Lozada and Carlos Meza.
That day more than ten civil citizens were shot and died. Government said that snipers were the ones who shot them and that they did not belong to the police or the army. They were snipers from the army that shot a nurse and a female medicine doctor of the Red Cross, as it is demonstrated in a video shown by the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights. In El Alto too several persons died when a helicopter was over-flying the Coca-Cola factory.
The marches and mobilizations took place too in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Oruro and Trinidad. At the beginning the TV speakers greeted the Santa Cruz march because of its peaceful character; they had to shut up afterwards, when they begun assaulting the MNR headquarters. By the end of the day the police had to act and the situation begun to be calmed.
What Bolivia lived during 12th and 13th February was not a consequence of excitement: 33 dead people and 189 hurt people can not happen casually or because no authority ordered it. And if we add those murdered during the blockade of roads during January, we can conclude that in Bolivia, in less than two months, more than 50 people were murdered by the army.
So many victims are not a casual fact, they are the result of a policy of repression and militarization implemented from the North and that is expressed in the policy of war in Iraq, the attempt of coup d'état against Chávez and the attempt of destroying the social and peasants' movements in Bolivia. There was and there is a clear and conscious policy to physically break and abort the popular ascend in Bolivia.
But in this battle the government was the great looser. Many people say it is already a political cadaver. It may be true, but in politics a cadaver can still kill you. Three months have passed and no one has been taken to prison in spite of the images and evidences already presented. The reason why this did not happen is obvious: if you take to prison a policeman or a member of the Army, the Institution to which they belong will defend them. How? It will be better not to try to know how.
Government on one hand is asking for money to foreign cooperators in order to be able to re-structure the police, and on the other hand they appeal to the Church so that it can propitiate a social pact, a meeting, marriage or whatever among the opposite forces leaded by the MAS and the parties of government. The strategy is clear: try to win time while institutions of order are re-constructed in order to guarantee the continuity of capitalistic system. Spain has already offered money to Bolivian government to "institutionalize" the police.
March was marked by rumors of coup d'état. The North American Embassy delivered a report from the CIA stating that Evo Morales was promoting a coup d'état in which he was going to die due to a sector of his own party, MAS. The signs of the Embassy were clear: to frighten and prepare an attack not to install a military dictatorship, but to eliminate the main leaders of social movements.
Several intellectuals from the opposition said that in order to save democracy and avoid the exterminating coup d'état it was necessary to accept the social pact with government. Others said that the social pact was necessary to let the medium class, frightened because of the violence of February, could join the movement. But the proposal was not accepted by the leaders and bases of the social organizations that do not want to have any pacts or agreements with the assassins of February. In case there is a coup d'état, it will be promoted by the Embassy and sectors of government. Pretend avoiding this danger by means of alliances with them is stupid.
Bolivian society is polarized after February. Middle class -that before could accept a progressive speech, is now strongly defending its menaced privileges by the "furious crowd". It is impossible to pretend that middle class can join people.
The key to future is the development of low middle class from the urban popular sectors. February was a surprise not only for government, but to the forces of MAS, that were overpassed in the cities. Those who were in the streets on 12th and 13th February were not organized within a political force or social organization. Evo Morales was no doubt an important referent in the rebellion, but he was not the real leader of same.
February has demonstrated that leadership and a program are not enough, but that it is too fundamental the existence of an organization capable of organizing those new sectors that emerged as a consequence of seventeen years of neo-liberal model and that are not organized within a social or trade unionist structure. The organization of broad sectors can not be covered from night to day. The social emergency in Bolivia demands time, proposals and a lot of work to find the adequate path.
The economic situation of the country is serious and urgent. Government cannot give populist concessions. The Embassy shouts once and again "hard policy" is necessary, as it is shown in the last message by the White House alerting against the "coca Mafia". Social conflicts are taking place everyday. La Paz is a place in which marches are institutionalized. The economical situation lived by broad sectors of the population is desperate. The members of the governing coalition quarrel every day. Social movements have a leadership and an organization in the countryside but there is plenty of work to be done within the cities.
And all this is taking place within an international situation that is extremely complex, in which there is a rebellion against the neo-liberal movement in Latin America that has generated the establishment of government that smiles to the left but walks towards the right. In this frame work we can appreciate imperialism haughtiness because of the invasion to Iraq in spite of the multitudes marching against them. Within this context of polarization, crisis, emergency and militarization, there is a people hoping to change history.
The ruin of "alternative development"
"In relation with traffic of drugs in Bolivia, there is a story of success in the sea of groundless pessimism. The total elimination of the leaf of coca in the region of Chapare and the efforts to control a few illegal remaining crops in the area of Yungas, is a model to the world. Bolivia is giving us some hope. It is essential to keep our support to maintain this rutilant Bolivian success in the struggle against drugs".
Declaration by Benjamin A. Gilman, republican representative, President of the Committee of International Relations of the Representatives Chamber to the Congress of the United States.
"If drugs have such a devastating effect in the United States, let us just think the harm they can cause in fragile democracies without stable economies. I can not think in a more important fact for the stability of our hemisphere than this one. (…) In order to maintain our own security and economic stability, the U.S. must be surrounded by stable democracies with solid economies. Stopping helping Colombia and the neighboring nations, puts in danger our own nation and its citizens. The cost may seem to be very high now, but I can assure you it will be greater if we do not act just now".
Cass Ballenger, representative of the Republican Party, President of the Subcommittee of Occidental Hemisphere to the Congress of the United States; November, 2000.
Globalization in the north American way cannot understand people's cultures, nor their habits and ritual, communal or medical rituals. It can't understand that there can still exist peasants in the 21st Century earning their livings by means of the cultivation of coca, and that their use of coca is not for the manufacturing of drugs, but for the communal and ritual use by the indigenous communities in Bolivia.
And this lack of understanding is so enormous that they have sent soldiers, fumigation planes, and all the necessary means they feel necessary for the eradication of the cultivation. They have placed an Embassy making more decisions than Bolivian government. But what they could not think about is on failure, that peasants would keep their culture at the fantasy of their "Alternative Development" and that they would resist, once more, in spite of the strength of the enemy, in spite of 510 years of struggle with no end, in spite of the famous "globalization of opportunities."
One of the central points in the proposal of Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada to conquer the Presidency on 30th June 2002 was, in concrete relation with the coca conflict in the area of Chapare, the de-militarization of the zone and the establishment of negotiations with the federations of producers.
The promotion and re-launching of the so called "alternative development" would be then, the solution for country people that could substitute, as a bases of their livings, coca for citric, pepper, banana, palmetto and pine-apple.
But the position of successive governments in relation with seeding coca was not always the dialogue. In fact, the path of forced eradication has been, since 1997, the main way of treating the subject officially.
It is mainly during the period in which the ex – dictator Banzer, when the "Bolivian struggle against narco-traffic" strategy is elaborated, (Decree No. 24.963, year 1998), better known as "Dignity Plan", it is defined that for the year 2002 the country will not integrate any more the coca-cocaine circuit.
For that purpose they prioritized the forced eradication of illegal seeds and the exceeding ones by the Armed Forces, the Police and the Ministry of Agriculture. Independently of the information spread throughout the world by Banzer's government -and of his successor Quiroga after the first one died- of the eradication of 38 thousand hectares of seeds, the cost in lives and violation of human rights was no doubt, the main result of the policy of the Dignity Plan.
More than 30 peasants were assassinated with weapons for war, as well as trade unionist leaders, among others the Secretary to the Federation of Chimoré, Casimiro Huanca. The repressive strategy applied by the democratic government of Banzer had economic and political support of the United States that had already financed intelligence plans during the stage of Banzer as a dictator.
The "Andine initiative" and its precedents.
During 1974, the Secretary to the State of the United States authorized the dictatorial government of General Hugo Bánzer a contribution of 5 million dollars to finance researches to identify and promote opportunities of substitutive inversions of the extended illegal seeds of coca in the areas of Yungas and El Chapare.
The first Andean Initiative -originally nominated as Bennett Plan -was announced by the north American Congress on 5th September 1989. Said program marked the beginning of a flux of USA financing which was significant within the Andean region with a package that included 2.200 million dollars as economic and military aid for Colombia, Peru and Bolivia in the period 1990-1994. One of the main objectives was to reduce the amount of entry of cocaine to the States in 60% for 1999.
Among the different chapters and amounts for "help" the military help was clearly dominant.
In the large list of diplomatic interference and violations of sovereignty committed by the giant of the north over the poorest nation of the southern hemisphere, the bill continues up to the immediate past; recently the Congress of the USA approved the Andean law of trade preferences and eradication of drugs (ATPDEA) that conditions the entrance of products of the region together with another series of restrictions to the advances in the processes of eradication of seeds. The situation of textile workers in Bolivia is included within this disposition.
The Law No. 1008 "Law of the coca regime and controlled substances"
The juridical support for the eradication of coca and the promotion of alternative seeds is proportioned by Law No. 1008. The history of its conception is interesting to reveal the mechanisms that stimulated its approval.
Since 1986 a group of analysts from Paz Estensoro's government concluded, after evaluating the first projects that were implemented, that same have been misconceived, suggesting that in order to prevent the further expansion of the seeds in El Chapare, they should have impelled the massive creation of jobs in those places where immigrants going to coca regions used to live, that is to say, in the Sierra, with the objective of attacking the causes -instead of the effects- of this phenomenon that has, no doubt, demographic characteristics.
To do so a diagnosis should be done in relation with the results of massive lay off of workers from the mines -main economic area of the country- by means of the famous approved decree No. 21.060, that completely introduced Bolivia in the neo-liberal capitalization model.
In November 1986 the government desisted of said substitutive attempts, and adopted a simple policy of elimination of seeds, badly called "volunteer elimination", over the bases of a compensation of U$S2.000 per hectare and a term of 12 months for each peasant to finish his work under the warning that after that term the State would use force against those who have not done so.
Within that process the Law No. 1008 is approved and is in force since that very moment. Said law provides the gradual eradication in change for a rural development integration project, typical in areas of colonization, oriented towards the building of potable water infrastructures, energy, credits, technical assistance, roads and agricultural research.
The law was approved almost by the end of Paz Estensoro's government. Its central axe was the elimination of cultivation that was not destined to traditional consumption, declaring them illegal and that was concretely referred to those existing in Chapare. That was based on the distinction among areas of traditional cultivation (the Yungas region, for example) and new cultivation (such as that of Chapare).
This is to say then, that with the exception of the 12.000 hectares that due to historical and cultural reasons the population of Yungas was allowed to preserve -concentrated at the city halls of Coroico, la Asunta and Caranavi- for their own consume, all the surplus coca was declared illegal and therefore, it was obligatory its eradication.
Programs of alternative development: logical ruin
The central problems of alternative development are the scarce participation axes for peasants, acute technological problems and mainly all what is related to markets, prices and commercialization of the alternative production.
Markets and prices:
The products that were supposed to make the substitution of coca possible, are citrus, palmetto, pepper, passion fruit, pine-apple and bananas. The main problem is that none of these cultivation can provide with the economic support that coca is providing peasants with. And this is not because coca is commercialized at high prices but because there is an over saturation of the markets for alternative products.
The programs for alternative development have been developed over the basis of preliminary studies without a clear diagnosis of the market and of the possibilities of trading for the alternative production.
This is for example the case of the palmetto, which is considered one of the star products for alternative development. Four years ago the peasants were paid U$S0.40 for the palmetto heart, to let them abandon the cultivation of coca. Now, this peasant is paid less than U$S0.10 for the same product. Logically, those managing the process of palmetto are private enterprises.
And we can here appreciate the central problem of alternative development: every enterprising are univocally oriented to the conformation of entrepreneur groups under a capitalistic logic having as a starting point peasant organizations, whose vocation is the familiar agricultural production and that therefore lack of technological and commercial knowledge. This is the point that limit their possibilities of penetration and subsistence within national and international markets.
Deficient knowledge on peasants situation.
The peasant producing coca is not an agriculturist specialized in one cultivation searching for maximizing production and benefits of same. This has been demonstrated once and again in all the studies on the colonization in the Chapare.
They work the land under ways and organization that are quite similar to those of peasants in the valley, that's to say, they mainly use familiar working force and occasionally they employ other people by means of work or products exchanges.
Peasants do not only cultivate coca, but they are based on the diversification of cultivation in order to reduce the risks of an agriculture that is extremely dependent of nature and very vulnerable at the market. And within said diversification, the cultivation of food guarantee familiar subsistence.
If we add to the above the generalized lack of basic services such as electricity, potable water, roads for the entrance and exit of products, the conjunction of economically non viable projects with minimum educative opportunities, we can see how these proposals destroy the already weak familiar subsistence structures.
The rol of coca is then fundamental, though it provides with sources that complement the familiar parcel. By its commercialization peasants can obtain those products that are not possible to be produced in their own land.
Official reports by their own have highlighted as non sufficient and lacking rigor the research processes for the technological transference within alternative development projects.
The technological transference that by definition constitutes a long term process, and a process of multiple entrances is not visualized in this way because they are not implementing methodologies and technical procedures that are required for the consecution of valid and sustained socioeconomic results.
And at last, the cultural aspect…
This is the central and decisive aspect within this long conflict. The title itself of the cocaine conflict is the cultural relevance coca has got for the quechua and aymará nations and for Bolivian peasants in general. As a basis of ritual and social connivance there is no alternative possibility providing the cultural meanings the coca ensures peasants. It's got medicinal properties, support for social solidarity, it is a part of ethnical identity, and none of these characteristics have been considered by the wise representatives of the North American Congress, that finance the project, nor Bolivian governors and execute them.
Sebastián Valdomir, November 2003, Uruguay
BOLIVIA, A FACTORY MAKING REBEL AND POOR PEOPLE.
Econoticiasbolivia.com (La Paz, February 20th, 2003).-
The Bolivian model has turned into a real factory generating poverty and rebelliousness. During the last year almost 130.000 Bolivian people fell into poverty, more than 50 thousand lost their job and the income per capita and salary fell to the lowest historical level. The only increase that could be appreciated was discomfort and social discontent that were the axes of the popular rebellion that commoted Bolivia.
The official figures of the economic and social debacle extremely worsen during the last years show that "during the last three years, 1991-2002, more than 380 thousand people fell into poverty and marginality according to UDAPE (Unity of Economic Policies Analysis).
Misery and indigence were increased in a vertiginous way, specially within the urban area, though the proportion of citizens that have survive with less than one dollar per day reaches now to more than one fourth of the population. It is officially estimated that at least five millions out of the eight millions of Bolivian population are poor, being one half of them living misery and indigence.
During the period 1998-2002 the income per capita fell almost to one fifth. According to information of the Ministry of Finance, the income per capita in 1998 was a little more than U$S1.100/year and in 2002 it was just U$S900/year.
The evaluation made by UDAPE states that "the last four years have been years of an intense economic crisis within the whole Latin America and that there was in Bolivia an average increase of GNP of 1.6 per cent, while the increase of population reached up to 2.3 per cent, which means a negative growth rate per capita during that period".
"This situation's had a devastating effect on the productive sector, particularly in manufacturing industry. One of the data that most impacts within this situation is that an increasing proportion of the population is living under the line of poverty."
Most of them, unemployed people, workers receiving miserly salaries, homeless children, and students actively participated in the civic-police rebellion that made the neo-liberal system of González de Lozada stagger during the second week of this crazy February.
The row of lower classes crashed against State institutions, neo-liberal parties and against certain sectors of enterprises, showing the enormous abyss existing in Bolivia between the richest sectors of the population and the poorer ones. This deep economic and social gap was deepened during the last years as a consequence of the downfall of real salary and income per capita that had a strongest impact in poorer and homeless people.
This acute inequality in the distribution of incomes has turned Bolivia into one of countries having more social inequality. According to the Economical Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), Bolivia is the Latin-American prototype of inequality: the great majority of population subsist in extreme poverty while a bunch of people concentrate the greatest part of richness.
This unfair distribution of richness was deepened since the neo-liberal pattern was implemented in August 1985. Official information show that presently one fifth of the richest homes receive incomes almost 50 times superior to those received by the poorer fifth part of the population. The 10% of the richest population, among them president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and the greatest part of their partners concentrate one third of national income and have more money than that obtained by the 70% of the population, composed mainly by indigenous, country people informal workers, and women.
UNEMPLOYMENT AND INFORMALITY
This majoritarian segment of poor population is basically included in micro enterprises and informality. 65% of the working population is immerse in family subsistence, self-employment and informality. 83% of the working population work in micro and small enterprises with extremely low levels of productivity and survive only by means of self exploitation and family sacrifice.
350 thousand Bolivians are suffering in the same way. They lack of employ and have no incomes. Almost another million of workers have poor jobs and earn salaries that do not cover their basic needs of food and services.
This is the sector over which Bolivian government, pressed by the IMF, charged the fiscal crisis by means of a tax to salaries, which begun the social rebellion.
For lower classes it was clear that the government was trying to finance the government waste, its extended corruption and the massive taxes defraud made by national entrepreneurs and petrol transnationals, with the workers' and poor's money.
The taxes implemented by the government of millionaires was unacceptable in a country in which one of every three women die when giving birth because of the lack of medical attention, where children death rate is 67/1000 born alive and malnutrition in boys and girls below three years old is 28%.
The rebel reaction of poorer people is too fed by the confirmation that at least one out of every five Bolivians is suffering malnourishment, that one of every four girls and boys' got a lower length according to their age, that 5% of girls and boys are born with low weight and that one of very four Bolivian pregnant women suffer anemia due to a deficient feeding. And let us not try to mention rural areas, where they can only cultivate poverty, affliction and social discomfort.
This is why the taxes implemented by the government was the inflection point. The victims of the neo-liberal model stroke back, stopped the confiscation of part of their salaries and countersigned with blood a warning: they are no longer in the disposition of accepting more sacrifices in order to save the bankrupt Bolivian model.
Bolivian people is loosing one sixth of their incomes
The average income of Bolivians diminished 1/6 during the last four years, as it is shown in an official report to which Econoticias had access.
During the period 1998-2002, the per capita annual income was reduced from U$S1.057 to U$S882, with a net loss of U$S175. This drastic fall is originated in the deep economic crisis the country is living and that has virtually paralyzed its main productive sectors such as manufacturing industry, agriculture, construction and commerce.
The direct consequences of this drastic reduction of the per capita incomes have been fatal for the great majority of the population, that is now experiencing a diminution in the consumption of products and a lower level of access to basic services.
Presently, as an average, Bolivian people have access to a lower quantity of goods and services than that they had four years before. "Today we are poorer than yesterday" confirmed the Director of the National Institute of Statistics (INE), José Luis Carvajal.
According to information provided by the INE and of the Unit of Analysis of Economic Policy (UDAPE), the reduction of the income per capita has been permanent and systematic during the last four years, though its intensity has been greater from 2000, being the most vulnerable and poorer sectors the most affected ones.
The situation of 45.5% of the Bolivian population is particularly critic, though according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) they receive an annual income that does not even reach half of the national average.
The most affected ones
But the worst situation is that of 1/3 of the poorer population, that have an average annual income per capita lower than U$S200. It is in this part of the population composed by three million people, that the deterioration of living and working conditions have been the most alarming ones.
This is how since 1998 the population that is lacking of electricity within their homes grew in 800.000 people and the population that is lacking of potable water in their homes is more than one million, and the percentage of homes without sanitary services grew 2.4% and the sector of homes lacking of a system to eliminate polluted waters was increased in 3.3%, according to information of the INE.
A lost battle
The reduction of incomes has too been a strong shock to the millionaire plans of struggle against poverty implemented in Bolivia. Official studies established that the level of incomes and consumption by the population had to be increased at least 1/3 to defeat poverty. "As an average, the population needs to increase its consumption level in a value equivalent to 31.13% of the poverty line to overcome the situation of poverty in which they are living", points the INE.
But if the income per capita diminishes instead of growing, as it happens in Bolivia, it is clear that the battle against poverty is lost. This is why it is not rare that levels of poverty and indigence have been increased within marginal urban sectors of the cities and rural areas.
According to a recent report by United Nations, the extreme poverty was increased within the rural area since 1998 and so the situation is now reaching to alarming extremes.
"The medium income of indigents (almost ¼ of the population) is 25% lower than the cost of basic feeding products, being 33.7% lower in rural areas, where the daily consumption of food shows a gap bigger than 28%, in relation to the recommended level by FAO's WFPb which is 2.100 kilocalories, which expresses a chronic malnutrition affecting 50% of children under 5 years old from poorest homes", states United Nations.
IMF applause tributary severity in Bolivia
The Board of IMF expressed its support to the new tributary policy by the government of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and qualified it as a valorous action oriented to increase collections imposing new charges to working people.
During the meeting of the Board of IMF, in which the Bolivian case was evaluated, on 7th August in Washington, the directors of IMF praised the decision by the government of Sánchez de Lozada to get fiscal stability back within a scenery in which economic and political circumstances have extremely elevated the vulnerability of Bolivian economy. The actions the national authorities decided to perform in the fiscal area, and that have already begun to be implemented, received praises from the board of the international organization, that believes that through this path Bolivia will be able to fulfill its external debt, and will be able too to equilibrate internal finances and preserve macroeconomic equilibrium.
These actions included brave political decisions to redefine the priorities of public spent and to enlarge the tributary universe, states an official brief of the discussions by the Board of the IMF on the Bolivian case.
The report shows that the Board highlighted the set in motion of the new Tributary Code, the deep-set of the tributary reformation and other measures oriented to the achievement of greater tributary incomes within the frame of a curious fiscal policy that tries to charge more taxes to workers at the time it offers stimulus and tributary advantages to entrepreneurs.
Up to now this policy has turned into governmental exigency to workers so that they pay for a unique time the 5% of the salary they perceived during a year to avoid being judged or persecuted by justice under the charge of adulteration and acquisition of false bills, crime that could have been committed by 80% of workers either from public or private sectors.
And in spite of the fact government has stated terms and facilities for payment, social and trade unionist sectors have questioned this measure though it reduces the poor incomes of workers and because they consider this measure as a confiscation of incomes that will only be useful to finance the permanent and increasing governmental waste and corruption.
But for entrepreneurs this tributary policy means the partial condoning of mulets and penal interests for Bolivian enterprises that have avoided the payment of taxes during the last period. In this way, the State will not receive 160 million dollars, that would be partially compensated by the new resources coming from the workers, which is generating social protests.
But in spite of these protests, the Board of the IMF stimulated Bolivian authorities not to dismay in their efforts to increase fiscal incomes and modernize the tributary system, even though it can mean greater social tension and conflicts, such as those that could begin at the beginning of 2004 according to what political and trade unionist opposition is afraid of.
According to what some Deputies of the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) have analyzed, the hardening of the tributary policy against workers could provoke a social eclosion such as the one that took place on 12th and 13th February 2003. Those sorrowful journeys, in which 33 people died and more than 200 were hurt, were originated in the popular rejection to the tax to salaries that the government had implemented to reduce the fiscal deficit, as the IMF demanded.
The gas war
Bolivia is considered one of the greatest energetic reserves of the continent, with 1.5 trillions of cubic meters of gas reserves, taking into account those already known and the estimated ones. The renouncing Bolivian government planned not only exporting gas, but installing plants for the liquefying of natural gas in a port at the Pacific Ocean (in Peru or Chile).
Behind this initiative by Bolivian government there were the interests of the consortium Pacific LNG -integrated by the transnationals Repsol, from Spain, British Gas from Great Britain, and the North American Pan American Gas and Sempra Energy.
I – The demands.
The first demand by the popular movement was that of the suspension of the sale of natural gas under disadvantaged conditions at the interests of the transnational enterprises, that own the rights of commercialization. The slogan was clear: "We are not selling gas for Chile or because of Chile; gas is for Bolivian people".
So the concrete demand was de social reprobation of hydrocarbon. That is the axe through which the derogation of the Law of Hydrocarbon passes by, though it delivered the sources of petroleum and gas to foreign enterprises.
At this first and detonating item of sovereignty of their sources, Bolivian society expressed by means of mobilizations a second demand: the renounce or destitution of the political character that had propitiated the entrance of foreign enterprises to control sources: with the signature of Decree 24806, two days before ending his first presidency, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada concentrated the whole focus of protests "Let the gringo go away, let him go away just now…"
Finally, the national re-foundation by means of convoking a Constituent Assembly to let the "new Bolivia" be possible, built under a new social, political and economical pattern. Natural gas must be the path to said economical re-foundation, in order to avoid what first took place with silver, afterwards with tin, with the murdering of Indians, peasants and miners within an excluder and a-symmetrical pattern either because of its constitution or of its nation.
II – The mobilizations.
The process of mobilizations related to the sovereign defense of Bolivian energetic sources -natural gas, petroleum, hydrocarbon- during 2003 finally opens a parenthesis with the escape of the by that time President Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada. But the events previous to that 17th October, the strikes, blockade of roads, marches and struggles against the Police repressive forces and the rangers of the Army specially taken to La Paz from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, meant an ascension of the force of social movements and organizations to question the whole economical and political model of the last 18 years in Bolivia.
Thousands of people, some of them members of organizations and some of them not integrating organizations but that were agreeing with their demands for social justice were the protagonists of the marches repudiating the sale of natural gas by the transnational foreign enterprises through a Chilean gas pipe and port.
The mobilizations had two main focus: La Paz and the peripheral city placed 13 kilometers far from it, El Alto, on one hand and Cochambamba, in the center of the country on the other.
August 1997: "The sale of sources in the name of lack of sources".
The Supreme Decree 24806 dated 4th August 1997 (two days before President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada ended his first government period), textually states that the foreign contracting enterprise "acquires the right of property of the production obtained at point blank and the disposition of same…" That is to say that Bolivian gas, when coming to surface is no more Bolivian, but a property of the enterprises that exploit it.
That Decree expressly contradicts the art. 139 of the Political Constitution of the State that forbids the alienation of hydrocarbon beds of the country.
On 5th August publicly appear the so called "mega-coalition" , that is to say, the arrival of a series of minor political parties, but mainly the one of the ex candidate to the presidency Manfred Reyes Villa (New Republican Force – NFR) to the government of Sánchez de Losada. In this way they will try to ensure parliamentary majorities to impose, in short term, a series of dispositions considered as key ones to overcome the serious economical recession through which the country is passing.
The main objectives for the conformation of said parliamentary majority are:
- ¨ The application of a new adjustment to the incomes of public employees and of retired people so that the fiscal incomes can be increased though they have reached 10%
- ¨ "Capitalize" the gas reserves so that they can receive immediate cash incomes. For that means they decide gas should get abroad through ports of Chile to be sold to USA at a ridiculous price.
- ¨ Definitely eradicate coca from Chapare by means of a a fulminating plan without taking into account human or cultural costs, nor in the fact that the cultivation of coca is the way of earning their livings for thousands of peasant families that are living in extreme poverty. According to what Edward Miller, president of the transnational British Gas which promotes the project, explained, the business would report yearly more than 1.300 million dollars to transnationals, while Bolivian state would receive about 70-80 million dollars per year.
1st September, 2003.
A group of peasants and workers begin a march from Caracollo, in Oruro, to La Paz.
5th September, 2003
The so-called National Coordination for the recuperation and Defense of Gas is created, as a space to join different social forces and organizations.
11th September, 2003.
Thousands of peasants from the different areas of La Paz, together with students from the Public University of El Alto, install a strike picket at the auditory of Radio San Gabriel, which is owned by Catholic Church.
19th September, 2003.
Important marches by thousands of people through the streets of La Paz, Cochabamba and Oruro take place. The historical Bolivian Workers Central (COB) warmly support the already begun strike.
17th September, 2003
"Government is preparing a self military coup d'état in order to guarantee the sale of gas through Chile", denounces Evo Morales. This denounce was immediately denied by the authorities that accused Evo Morales of conspiring to defeat the government of Sánchez de Losada. The Ministry of Government, yerko Kukok said that the activists of MAS were preparing an artificial convulsive climate related to the sale of natural gas.
19th September, 2003.
There are enormous marches by thousands of people in the streets of La Paz, Cochabamba and Oruro. The historical COB warmly adhere to the already begun strike.
"The first sign of unity and mobilizing capacity was demonstrated on 19th September, when more than 500.000 people not only in the main cities, but in small towns and communities all along the country, protagonized marches demanding gas for Bolivians and industrialization" (National Coordinator of Recuperation and Defense of Gas; Manifest to Bolivian People, 4th October 2003).
20th September, 2003.
It was the detonative of the repressive scaling. At the suggestions by the North American Embassy and of the Ambassador Greenlle, government ordered "the rescue" of a group of foreign tourists (Germans, North Americans and British) that could not leave Sorata city, by the famous Titicaca lake, because of the blockade of roads. During the campaign developed by the police and the Army, specifically at the peasants vile Warisata, six people were murdered, among them a six years old girl called Marlene Rojas.
21st September, 2003.
The blockade of roads to La Paz provoke the deprivation of provisions in the city. The blockade of roads are extended and hundreds of people participate in them. Within the region of Yungas, the peasants cultivating coca control the region. Felipe Quipe, National Deputy representing the Indigenous Movement Pachakcuti (MIP) and leader of the Unique Trade Union of Peasant Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB), demand, at the call by Sánchez de Losada's government to negotiations, that any kind of dialogue to be held, should take place in Warisata, the place in which 6 peasants were murdered the day before.
29th September, 2003.
COB convoke a general strike and the national blockade of roads. The government rejects the attempts of mediation and dialogue developed by the Catholic Church.
8th October, 2003.
The eight city hall districts of El Alto promote a civic mobilized strike of indefinite character.
9th October, 2003.
At the population of Ventilla, a few kilometers far from La Paz, thousands of marching people are taken to prison, attacked with gas and shot by the Army. The result of this event is 2 people dead and 26 people hurt. Sánchez de Losada talks by radio and TV accusing the main leaders of social movements as "narco dealers and anarchists". He does not show an intention of dialogue or possible negotiation.
10th October, 2003.
La Paz broke totally besieged. The blockades of streets with stones or anything worth to do so, avoid the advance of the Army's tanks. The Army receives the order of breaking the blockades, which they could not do. The blockades at El Alto (Senkata) avoid the tank trucks with gasoline arrive to La Paz.
Tank trucks are stopped and by midday there is no more gasoline at the 58 stations in La Paz y El Alto.
The government takes to prison 6 policemen, accusing them of planning a mutiny and of having links with the ex Major David Vargas, that since the Journeys of 12th and 13th February adopted people's struggles and is now persecuted by the Intelligence Services of Government.
Women from the organization "Women Creating" were marching too and painted with red ink the walls of the House of Government to symbolize government is dirty with the blood of people
11th October, 2003.
El Alto is declared as "military zone" by government. The confronts at Ballivan Avenue have as a result 3 dead people and dozens of injured people. Dozens of stores and shops are robed and fired, which shows the deep lack of food La Paz is suffering. The lack of fuel provoke a diminution of traffic.
The strike is massive. The radios open their microphones to let people freely express themselves, to make denounces or simply to send news to their relatives.
The representative of Government, the Ministry of Public Health declares that everything is due to "a coup d'état generated by the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS)".
12th October, 2003.
El Alto, militarized, suffers the greatest massacre of its history as a city: in the confrontation at the bridge of río Seco, the Army machine-gun a multitude and assassinate about 26 people and injures more than one hundred people. The public pretext given by Government is the constitutional obligation of providing La Paz with fuel. The first convoy of tank trucks is for the Army and the second one for gas stations.
The "National Coordinating Organization for the Defense of Gas" publishes a document in which they establish their demands:
- ¨ the immediate renounce of Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada though he is a "betrayer and assassin"
- ¨ The installation of a new government within the frames of the Constitution, a government compromised with the derogation of the Supreme Decree 24806, of 4th August, 1997 that guarantees the ownership of hydrocarbons by foreign enterprises.
- ¨ The immediate suspension of any negotiations on natural gas and the Free Commerce Treaty with Chile.
- ¨ The convocation to a Constituent Assembly, as a via of recuperation of participative democracy for Bolivian People.
13th October, 2003.
The advance over the neighborhoods of La Paz begins; from El Alto thousands of people literally besiege the Capital, at the time contingents from other regions of the country come closer demanding the renounce of President Sánchez de Losada. There are confrontations in different places. The fire of a gas station in Río Seco left 5 dead people and lots of injured persons.
The National Confederation of Transport Workers begins the national strike that was planned for the following day due to the above mentioned events.
The Confederation of Rural Teachers of Bolivia ratifies the General Strike.
The Confederation of health Workers join the General Strike with the exception of La Paz y El Alto due to medical emergencies.
President Sánchez de Losada emits a presidential message in which he declares he's promulgated, at the beginning of the day a Supreme Decree stating gas is not going to be exported until 31st December and that meanwhile consultations and debates with relevant political actors will be made.
Vicepresident Carlos Mesa abandons government, but does not renounce to his charge. Councilors of El Alto begin a hunger strike demanding the renounce of the President.
Ana María Romero de Campero, ex Defender of People, demands exactly the same.
New Presidential message: (14:00). The President states he will not renounce. He accuses Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe of sedition, a sedition financed from abroad, alluding possible the guerrilla in Colombia. He warns that in case he's got to renounce democracy will fall, the country will be divided and that the confrontations will be class to class, ethnia to ethnia.
Message by Jaime Paz Zamora. The main allied man to government and leader of the Leftist Revolutionary Movement (MIR), talks at a radio emergency program of government, and considers the president is a factor to the unity of nation and so he must stay; in a servile way he stays at the disposition of the President providing him with political support.
14th October, 2003.
People from the farthest regions begin to arrive to La Paz. People from El Alto go down and keep the city virtually in their power. The Police and the Army fall back to the Government House and to the neighborhoods of high classes in La Paz.
The city is on absolute strike; there are no open shops, nor traffic due to the lack of fuel.
The Organization of American States (OAS) offers mediating in the conflict.
In the night there are massive dull parties for the dead people. Rumors about soldiers executed by officials because they rejected shooting people marching are increasing: they are talking about 17 tortured and murdered soldiers due to insubordination.
Members of Parliament that had before supported Sánchez de Losada begin criticizing him because of his lack of capacity for dialogue and because he could not avoid confrontations.
15th October, 2003.
Thousands of people keep marching and arriving to La Paz in order to participate in the decisive "Battle for La Paz". At Patacamaya, about 200 kilometers to the south of La Paz, a contingent of miners that was traveling in trucks is intercepted by the Army; three of them died.
The protest begins to be extended to other neighborhoods of La Paz, and it reaches diminished medium classes that join to the demand of renounce of Sánchez de Losada. Vigil in churches go on and the hunger strike begun some days before still continues. There are protest actions within practically the whole city, in spite of the fact that the nucleus of the confrontation is in town, between San Francisco Square and Murillo Square, where the House of Government is placed.
Four Ministries renounce because of the repression and assassinations.
Government seizures the weekly "Pulso" and "El Diario". They menace channel 36, channel 21 and shuts the audio of channel 4 RTP. They shut radio Pio XII from Oruro after an attack to their equipment.
In the night a Manifest of the Coalition of Government is published. Sánchez de Lozada together with Paz Zamora and Reyes Villa let the document be known. It proposes:
- Ø To convoke a Consultative Referendum in every Department on the subject of exportation of natural gas (it will be a consultative referendum and not a decisive one).
- Ø To review the hydrocarbon law.
- Ø To convoke to a Constitutive Assembly, although no dates are mentioned.
- Ø "Redirect national policies to reinforce democracy".
16th October, 2003.
By midday for the second time within the week thousands of people coming from El Alto and from many other neighborhoods converge at town in La Paz. The soldiers begin to entrench for the defense of the government's offices; it is notorious that they are not the same ones that up to now were repressing the population, but that they are rangers coming from the region of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, brought to La Paz to avoid insubordination of the soldiers of the city, the great majority of which are aymarás. 5 different marches converge in La Pa<: about 100 thousand people march to defeat Government. Hunger strikes in churches continue and they are increased, to the point more than one thousand people were in hunger strike.
Three new political parties assume positions in the end and join to the demand of renounce to the President of the Nation. A message by the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush is transmitted, and in same he expresses his support to Sánchez de Losada and his worry for the health and salvation of "constitutional order".
At a press conference, Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada says:
- ü Protests have as an objective a coup d'état by narco – trade unionists to end with democracy and disintegrate the country.
- Ø It would be a coup d'état financed from abroad through agricultural trade unions linked to "Sendero Luminoso".
- Ø He manifests his interest to begin with dialogue
- Ø Strikers "… want to substitute democracy by an uthopian dream that we do not really know where it can take us to…"
- Ø In relation with the position of neighboring countries, he affirms that "… the unique country that is not supporting us is Venezuela, in spite of the fact we did support them because it was about the elected president, may be they are not supporting us due to a distraction…"
17th October, 2003.
About 10.000 people could avoid military control and enter La Paz through the road of Yungas. Once again the go down towards the historical San Francisco Square.
The National Congress is convoked at 16:00. By midday, the party of Reyes Villa, New Republican Force (NFR) abandons the coalition of government and its ministries have already renounced. Villa visits Sánchez de Losada and asks him to renounce to avoid further deaths. The renounce of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada is known. Multitudinous marches, never seen in many places, begin with the party.
20th October, 2003.
The new President, declared as such by the Parliament, Carlos Mesa, goes to a meeting of Bolivian Workers Central (COB) and of the Unique Trade Unionist Confederation of Peasant Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB), that took place at the San Francisco Square. He there declares he will work for the interests of the great majorities of the country, at the time he highlights the collective action of aymaras communities of El Alto and La Paz.
Felipe Quispe affirms in his speech, after Mesa's one, that if Mesa does not fulfill his promises they will kick him out as it happened to Sánchez de Losada.
III – The actors and the movements.
Bolivian people was the main protagonist that carried out the confrontation for the energetic sovereignty of the country; and this must be understood in its most ideological sense, that's to say, people equivalent to popular sectors, aymara communities from the Altiplano, people from El Alto, coca peasants from Chapare and Yungas, workers and miners from Cochabamba.
Considering leaders such as Evo Morales, Felipe Quispe or Jaime Solares as the artifices of the protests has been almost a reflex identification. This has been clarified even by the protagonists themselves (see interview with the trade unionist leader of Cochabamba Oscar Olivera).
There is no doubt that the strongest social and political organizations such as Workers Central -COB, the Confederation of Peasant Workers -CSUTCB, and Evo Morales' MAS participated as direct referents of the protests, but that does not mean they provoked or organized them from their own political structures. In this concern, we must remark that the main protagonists were people from El Alto, and the organizational expression there was provided by the Workers Regional Central of El Alto.
But the immense quantity of persons, men, women, children and old people that participated in the blockades of streets, marches towards La Paz, in all the confrontations with repressive forces were not members of any of the social or political organizations that today try to assume a great deal of what happened in Bolivia.
Popular discomfort surpassed said organizations, pushing them to make struggle decisions; the government itself was surpassed and his representative, Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada, was surpassed too.
So first we must mention the National Coordinator in Defense of Gas, that although emerges in the middle of the protest instances, it appears as the direct inheritor of the Coordinator in Defense of Water that expelled the transnational Bechtel after the "war of water" in April 2000 in Cochabamba.
The Trade Union organization of peasant workers (CSUTCB), where there is an important leadership by the MIP Deputy Felipe Quispe, has a presence as a national organization, although it concentrates the great majority of his force at the region of el Altiplano. There is no doubt it is the most radical political expression within the popular spectrum.
Another situation is that of the coca peasants that are grouped around the six Coca Federations of El Chapare (United Centrals, Mamoré, Chimore, Carrasco, yungas del Chapare and Trópico). Here, Evo Morales' leadership, who is the candidate to Presidence for MAS, is expressed since the very small instances for dialogue implemented by Sánchez de Losada when he begun with government, in relation with the subject "war of coca" (September-November, 2002), in which he represented peasants at the negotiation teams of government.
And in relation with the Bolivian Workers Central, that has had a main rol within the large history of popular protests in Bolivia, it appeared in these last journeys with diminished forces. Notwithstanding the above, the regional and local expressions (Regional Workers Centrals, mainly in El Alto – played a central and vital rol during the confrontations and mobilizations. His most important leader is Jaime Solares.
Felipe Quispe: "… we have given a term of 90 days to the President for him to fulfill the compromises he assumed…"
In an exclusive interview conceded to the web radio sit RadiomundoReal (http://www.radiomundoreal.fm/ and http://www.realwordradio.fm/ in English), a project shared by Friends of Earth International and by the World Association of Communitarian Radios, Felipe Quispe expressed, a few days after the renounce by Sánchez de Losada, that the new government of Carlos Mesa had a term of 90 days to fulfill popular demands.
"… that is an acid test for him; if he does not fulfill with our demands, we are obliged to assume more radical positions, we are obliged to go on struggling by roads blockades or even armed blockades in many areas of the Atliplano".
In relation with the concrete measures the new government should assume, Quispe expressed: "… we have already said he has to nullify the Hydrocarbon Law, the Law 1008 that prejudices peasants cultivating coca to earn their livings, because with that law they eradicate coca in Chapare, Yungas and everywhere, and on the other hand we have proposed the nullification of the Taxes Adjust Law, as well as Decrees 21060 and 24806".
"We have let him promise at the historical San Francisco Square, and the President accepted the challenge. Now we hope he acts in consequence. We hope his promise is a real one."
In what's got to be with whether peasants' movement, can begin an armed process of defense, Quispe said that had already happened:
"On 20th September we confronted the Army with guns, though we do not want to be hunted as animals, and that is why we have to defend ourselves; if you catch an animal, it bites you, it defends itself up to death. I am not talking in a metaphorical way, we got to define things just like that."
"Militaries, policemen, and civil intelligence agents are still here, they are not retired, we still didn't touch that point and it will be difficult, though we are not in government, only MAS is in government, though they have two Ministries: a Ministry of Education and an Indigenous Ministry that for sure will be with Mesa.}"
Finally, the problem of gas will be the subject that will define the welfare of the following governments in Bolivia, though an action in defense of energetic sovereignty has been generated and it avoids, according to Quispe, that politicians "… can do whatever they want to do."
"We have heard from presidents, ministries, that they are anxious to sell gas to the United States of America, but I am sure that if they really do so, they will fall. The gas subject has joined many people, it is a stimulation for further mobilizations".
Evo Morales: "Sánchez escaped like a rat…"
The political leader of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) said during an interview for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada that was known all around Latin America, that the responsibility of those who ordered shooting people cannot be just covered with the escape of the president: "Sánchez de Losada escapes, he escapes like a rat, but we say there can not be a final with impunity for those who seeded death among our brothers. What he committed were crimes of lesa humanitá; we are now really knowing the quantity of victims. We are in the disposition of going wherever we have to go, if possible, to international courts, to the International Penal Court."
"It is not possible to conceive that in Bolivia no one paid for the crimes against people".
"It is not only say that Goni renounced, as if he had done so voluntarily. It is Bolivian people the one who threw him out, because instead of murderers we stood up and each time mobilizing more and more sectors. This has been an enormous defeat for that power of Mafia, but we must be alert. That is why we are here reunited at the People's Board, because these are decisive times, from today to tomorrow and so on."
When asked about the possibility that him and his party can join the new government, he said "… MAS is not planning co-governing with anybody. We have been, together with our brothers, protagonists of this story, and our voice and demands must be there, but it would really be difficult to share government, though there are deep differences of varied kinds."
"We learned it is possible to construct an alternative to neo- liberal policies political movement, thanks to the consciousness of people and of social organizations in the country. This system and this model mean the destruction of peoples, and this is why the rebellion took place."
Finally we should be conscious that the powers of economical domination that the Free Commerce Area of the Americas (ALCA) pretends to impose, that are the same interests of the transnational enterprises spread through out the continent, will for sure pretend to place within the diplomatic relationship arena the destiny of peoples: "We have struggled against transnationals, the hegemonic world power and their representatives here and too against the ALCA, an economical tool for domination and re-colonization. We struggle against militarist projects such as the Colombia Plan, and that is why they wanted to menace us with massacres and repression."
"We won an enormous battle, but we still did not win the war this war that took all of us to the streets and roads. We have achieved consensus over differences, but same can be agitated once again. This popular triumph must be an example at a national scale to continue in our work for unity in order to be able to advance in organization, in mobilization."
Jaime Solares: "… the term to Carlos Mesa's government is coming to an end."
The trade unionist leader of the Bolivian Workers Central, the miner Jaime Solares warned that the demands of the workers, expressed in a document sent to Carlos Mesa's government, must be attended:
"The government's term is coming to an end from 1st December on, and I think this will begin exploiting from 1st January, because we cannot wait any more. We hope that government could positively answer the demands of workers".
The document sent by the COB was presented last 12th November; it includes demands for structural changes within Bolivian society, whose attention would imply the abandon of the economy of market, break relations with international organizations such as IMF and World Bank, stop abuses and excesses by transnational enterprises working in Bolivia and retake the productive role of the State. For the conjuncture the document demands the immediate improvement of living and working conditions of working people.
"COB has not yet received an answer by the government in this connection, and we only extra officially know that this week we could have a meeting with them. Up to now, government did not show any positive measures on the changes the population has asked them for. In this case, COB is asking government to define whether we are in a continuative policy or there will be radical changes."
The COB's wage demands were considered to be "foolish", according to what the Ministry of Economic Development Xavier Nogales said, and who is planning, on the contrary, freezing salaries.
With the trade unionist leader Oscar Olivera
"…October is the culmination of a process of accumulation of forces within social movements".
Interview to Oscar Olivera, trade unionist leader of the manufacturing movement that in April, 200 participated in the defense of the public property of water in Cochabamba, in the so called "War of Water"; a citizenship insurrection that threw out of the country the transnational Bechtel. A whole year of conflicts, the first months of the new government of Carlos Mesa and the enormous political cost these almost eleven months of popular resistance in Bolivia, have had for neo-liberal policy in the continent.
How have these first three months of government by the present President Carlos Mesa been?
What we have been seeing is that we could only expel the head of government, of a system within the State apparatus. Painfully, Mesa is still maintaining the whole Sánchez de Losada's government's apparatus, either at a national State level or within the three powers -Executive, Legislative and Judicial power-; and even more, he is still keeping the repressive apparatus of the Police and the National Army. We have publicly denounced that Mesa is surrounded -even at the key places of the ministries, with people linked for example to the World Bank, as it happens with the Ministry of Economical Development, Javier Nogales. And the same happens with the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbon, Alvaro Ríos, who is really an employee of petrol transnationals.
The repressive and intelligence apparatus are intact; the corrupt functionaries are keeping their jobs, and even the North American Embassy is still ordering the ratification of some prominent vie-ministries, in what's got to be with the struggle against narco-dealing, headed by the Vice Ministry of Social Development, Oviedo.
The demand by Evo Morales on behalf of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) to make a judge of responsibilities at the Office of Treasurer of the Nation, has been denied because of supposed lack of proofs. The attorney has ordered that the research of the events of October can be applied too to the main leaders of social movements and organizations. We are eight: there are three deputies, such as Felipe Quispe, Evo Morales and three trade unionist leaders that are Jaime Solares from the COB, Roberto de la Cruz, from de El Alto COB, and myself. There is too an ex military, such as Luitenant Coronel Gutiérrez and the Captain of the Police, David Vargas.
This is demonstrating that too at the Judicial power, as it is an integrating part of this practice of quotes of power absolutely cynical that have implemented the politicians in the past, they have an apparatus of protection for the main persons of Sánchez de Losada's regime.
Which have been the axes on which social movements have discussed during these three months of new government, either the coca movement, the COB, the CSTUCB?
I think that each one is living its own political project. The saddest thing after the October events, is that in spite of the fact our people demonstrated their unity and has generated a common agenda that everybody should carry on, the leadership and the political projects of each one of the sectors you have mentioned are immerse within this subject. I must tell you that, for example, all of them pretend to have leaded or have been the main leaders in the defeat of Sánchez de Losada. It is false. None of the leaders I have mentioned, with the exception of Solares, have been in the streets of El Alto.
Some of them were clandestine, while our people was confronting the authorities and being assassinated. So it is really worrying that some leaders pretend to have leaded the rebellion. A self organization by our people, a popular rebellion, is pretended to be a triumph of the one who is speaking in his turn. No party, no social movement, and no leader has leaded this mobilization. Some trade unionist leaders, have risked their selves, it's true, but the great majority of the leaders that now talk on behalf of Bolivian people in this connection have not shown up during the rebellion.
This situation explains that is has not been possible to establish a coordination, an articulation among social and political movements to establish a common agenda and press in order to let Mesa's government fulfill with people's demands of October, when the Parliament elected him as the president. This is basically: the edition of a new hydrocarbon law, the convocation to a Constitutional Assembly and the referéndum in connection with the subject of property of hydrocarbon.
That agenda is not understood by many people, I would say they are more worried for the city hall elections than for the Constitutive Assembly. I think COB and CSUTCB are trying to make Mesa renounce, leading that revolutionary process with the advanced convocation to elections, that is not really easy to be understood.
We visualize three possible scenarios: first, the scenario of the great reformations people has demanded, basically economical and political changes: the rejection and stop of any attempt of privatization, the re-inclusion of hydrocarbon to national patrimony and the Constitutive Assembly.
A second scenario would be that of certain sectors that want to recycle and keep the political and economical model and that do not want any transformations or changes; this is how they talk about the possibility of a coup d'état, propitiated by the petrol transnationals and the North American Embassy to destroy social movements, eventually suspend the Parliament, and after that cleaning re- establish those rules that can allow "tranquility" to their interests. We can add to this the cynical campaign by Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada after his forced renounce, that says that narco- dealing and terrorism are abundant in the country propitiating a more direct North American intervention. It was said by some members of the Department of State of US, worried for the interests of North American interests. That is a scenario for social movements and that is floating in the aire. And there is a third scenario which is the revolutionary one, where people would be in the disposition of an open, military confrontation to achieve the changes the government or political parties have no will to implement
The passed years have been rich in popular mobilizations, beginning with the so called "War of Water" in Cochabamba, afterwards the coca mobilizations in the Chapare area: do you think that all those precedents culminating as an eclosion during the journeys of October or let us say the "war of gas" was the concrete moment in which people let their demands be appreciated in relation to a concrete subject such as that of hydrocarbon?
October was the culmination of a process of accumulation of forces by social movements, that begins, just as you say in the year 2000 with the war of water against Bechtel. The war of water is an inflection point in which the neo-liberal model is perforated, the transnational is expelled and we achieved a law wanted by people. Then people realize they can omit political parties, leaders and that they can omit the State apparatus to let their demands be heard by government in a self organized way and then try to improve their living conditions.
That is the inflection point according to my opinion, after 15 years of a neo-liberal economic model. There were too small "wars" in relation with coca; in September of that same year a strong indigenous rebellion took place, and it ended with the signature of an agreement. Afterwards, in January and February 2002 once again the problem of coca came through, and this subject that had ever been the axe of strong mobilizations and social processes, just in those months, made eclosion.
The war of water was a victory against the World Bank and its policies of privatization. January and February 2002 was a victory against the policies of the North American Embassy in relation with the subject of coca; February 2003 is a victory against the IMF and its attempt of imposing taxes on the workers' salaries which was nefarious for Bolivian people. And October is a victory against the model, that in a symbolic way expels the main representative of the model -the impeller and creator of the model imposed here in Bolivia, such as Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada.
From the water war during 200, people begun to gradually regain their deliberation spaces, that were placed just within the four walls of Parliament and of the House of Government, and they regained too their capacities to make decisions, and fundamentally their capacities of self organization.
That accumulation process culminated with the popular rebellion of millions of Bolivians in October; the most important fact within this process, I believe, is that politics is taken from Parliament, from the House of Government, to the streets, roads, communities, factories.
That is what just by now either the Parliament or government are doing, that's to say try to understand the signs people is sending them from outside the power, either social movements as the right, where the entrepreneurs elites are too developing their task of propositions, but fundamentally under the sign of reposing the old political order. They have tried to divide the popular sectors in the country by saying there is a part of Bolivia, the oriental one, that is productive, laborious, whilst the western area is a Bolivia only dedicated to blockade roads, a non productive Bolivia, a conflictive Bolivia: they are openly calling to confrontation.
This distinction is due too to the fact that these elites are still keeping power in the oriental area of Bolivia, where social movements are still weak and could not -as the rest of the country- exercise their rights to decision. We are not far from what somebody defined as a "balcanisation" of the country: a systematic separation of people.
Next February will be the first anniversary of the "super tax law" by Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada, who brought him to his forced renounce. It's been a year of struggle for Bolivian people and a year of victory for Bolivian people, though Sánchez de Losada has escaped out of the country, in spite of the fact now Mesa is the President: which is the balance of this period?
I think it is a positive balance, though our people has been capable of articulating itself, of proposing and facing with bravery and dignity the model. Our people has shown its disposition of offering their own lives in order to improve their living conditions. I hope the leaders of social and political movements , mainly Morales, Quispe y Solares, can identify that signal and can establish that common agenda for 2004, consisting basically in impelling the reformations our people has demanded.
Which is no doubt negative, and is too a very strong sign to reactionary sectors and the North American Embassy, has been the human sacrifice of this rebellion. In January 2003 13 people died, when the Boad of People from Cochabamba achieves the implementation of some Dialogue Tables with social society to the government of Sánchez de Losada.
Afterwards, in February there were 33 dead people, as a consequence of the "super tax" imposed by IMF and Sánchez de Losada, and in October there were 88 dead people, in the massacre the police developed at the popular rebellion. The last reports we have is that the militaries were in the disposition of killing much more people, 500 hundred perhaps, as the acceptable figure to defeat the rebellion. And we are talking of people that had no guns.
Is this consistent to what in some occasion Felipe Quispe manifested in relation with the fact that the project of ALCA could not enter Bolivia though it had been defeated in the streets? How is this situation seen in relation with that project by the United States of America for the peoples of Latin America?
The ALCA has practically lost its character as it was defined by transnationals and North American government; there is really not going to be any more about that. North American government, as you know, is now impelling processes such as ALCA at a sectorial level, by means of bilateral treaties. But what worry us is that during the last meeting of Ministries of ALCA that took place in Miami, it was practically accepted to get to such an agreement with the United States of America, placing themselves apart of a block of countries that had aligned themselves against ALCA. We are worried because of the fact we see those governors and functionaries are not identifies the signs the population is sending them: they keep signing agreements, they keep accepting nefarious impositions by the Imperial power and do not release that the signs the population is sending them are that policies such as those by the World Bank, transnationals and IMF are going to be faced, resisted, and defeated as they have already shown them.
Much more, people is making proposals on the items I already mentioned, and on the kind of country they pretend to have; what I want to tell you is that ALCA is not going to be implemented in Bolivia. I am completely sure of that, and that depends on the fact that Bolivians continue in a serious articulation among us but too with other peoples of Latin America, with other social movements.
We as Bolivians can do very little, from an economical point of view our influence is null and can demonstrate it to you through this information: every U$S100 industrially produced in Latin America, only 60 cents correspond to Bolivia. So we are almost nothing, but there is an example of resistance, of struggle, of organization that can be an example and inspiration for social movements in other countries; an example to demonstrate that it is possible, that there are organizative ways to do so, that you can expel neo-liberals and that the process of implementation of those policies can be stopped, you just need organized struggle to achieve it.
 COB: Bolivian Workers Central; MNR: Revolutionarian Nationalist Movement
 MNR-I: Leftist Nationalist and Revolutionary Movement; PCB: Bolivian Communist Party; MIR: Leftist Revolutionary Movement
 Acción Democrática Nacionalista
 Special Security Group