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IW 02

Latin America

Bolivia: Between national dissolution and proletarian revolution

 

In Bolivia the biggest sellout operation that has ever taken place in the history of the country is being prepared . On July 18th, a fraudulent plebiscite approved the official proposal which includes the nationalization of hydrocarbons (natural gas and oil). President Mesa, who is abroad, did not stop repeating that Bolivia has 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, of which it could only consume two trillion in the next two decades (obviously, within the present conditions of increasing poverty and de-indutrialization of the Altiplano...), which is why the "export" solution is the only possibility. He did not say, of course, that the international cost of the extraction of one equivalent barrel of oil is 5.60 dollars, while in Bolivia that cost (low salaries, tax exemptions, natural availability and "almost free" state infrastructure)is reduced to one dollar for Repsol and 0.97 for Amoco ( Global Upstream Performance Review , 2003), the cheapest in the world.

Almost on the same day tribute was publicly being paid to the fallen during the revolt of October 2003 (when he was vice-president of the oil-mining president Sanchez de Losada), Mesa was signing a contract to export natural gas to Argentina with Repsol/Petrobras. The contract was to yield a yearly profit of 1.7 billion dollars, leaving a Bolivia with fiscal royalties of ... 70 million.

The hydrocarbons bill, that was introduced after the referendum, has an article (the 5th) which establishes "the recovery for the Bolivian state of all the hydrocarbons at the well mouth". Although it sounds "radical", it is the answer to the claim for the "total nationalization of the infrastructure and assets of businesses" and it limits itself to establishing a modality of negotiation of the price over which the monopolies should pay tribute. This 5th article did not provoke any flight of capital: most of the businessmen have already announced their disposition to "changing the new contract modalities" (Bolivia Press Nº 15, 22 Nov 2004). The bill, meanwhile, is being torn apart in the Congress.

Where does the political support for Mesa come from? Substantially, it comes from the Bolivian "leftists", from the "modern" side (Evo Morales) and the "ethnic-radical" (Felipe Quispe). What is more, it would be preparing a transaction to a "leftist" administration from 2007, as admitted by Mesa (Clarín, 23 April 2004). The delay in the debate of the hydrocarbon bill in order to get to the transition is being led by a group of deputies, among whom stands out the parliamentary leader of the MAS of Evo Morales, Sandy (Bolivia Press Nº16, 14 Dec 2004).

The people's movement, in spite of the high-sounding statements of their leaders, is, meanwhile, at a strong impasse. The federation of the neighborhood committees of El Alto suspended the general strike of activities that was planned for November 29. After rejection of the presence of ministers in the neighbourhood, they give up because of the allied pressure of the Presidency... and the MAS. The MAS had already dismantled the big demonstration of October, when a miner-farmer vigil was set up around the Parliament, in La Paz. In order to get rid of this pressure there was a vote on the hydrocarbon bill, afterwards declared "purely formal", that was followed by "a meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary groups, during which the leader and deputy of the MAS, Evo Morales, committed himself to asking his followers in the streets to go back to their towns" (El País, 22 Oct 2004).

MAS is the great fireman, the problem is: what is the political alternative with which to overcome it?

In this framework the municipal elections were held in early December. The international press characterized them as a great political turn, signifying the defeat of the traditional parties (MNR, MIR, ADN, MBL, NFR) and a huge victory for the MAS. In fact,there was an abstention of 40 percent (voting is compulsory), the "great victorious" got only 11 percent (that is, just under 6 percent of the total registered electorate), and he failed to win in any of the ten most important cities.

The elections were real orgy of "civil society" and "ethnic autonomies", because 17 political parties, 62 indigenous towns and 337 "civil associations" participated. It would be naive to underestimate the effects of this carnival. The weak performance of the "indigenous" "allows us to suspect that the ones who registered them did not represent the people in question"; those "civil associations" won in the most important cities, "but in all cases with a candidates of old party origins" (especially right-wingers). In the ten most important cities (nine of the capitals and El Alto), for instance, "the winners had been mayor a short time before" (¡!); MAS "hasn't moved forward very much in the urban town halls (and) besides it is not showing signs of a way of doing politics which distinguishes it from the broken parties (Bolivia Press Nº 16, 14/12/04). We are in the presence of a recycling of the old bourgeoisie, and to achieve this they do not hesitate to vindicate the "new politics (anti-partidy)" and even "ethnic autonomy".

The "civil associations" (Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosí, El Alto) and the districts (Trinidad, Cobija, Tarija, Sucre) that won explicit or implicitly are related to Tuto Quiroga, the politician who is closest to the US embassy. The civil committees of Tarija and Santa Cruz, the districts which possess the largest natural gas and oil reserves, are planning (with " civil strikes" and all) a constitutional reform that gives "autonomy" to those districts and, consequently, to the property of the subsoil. Mesa and the high commands confirmed "the steps taken towards the creation of the autonomies in Bolivia are irreversible" (EFE, 16 Nov 2004).

Bolivia presents a potential of national dissolution that makes very difficult any attempt to structure a governmental variant similar to Kirchner, Lula or Tabaré Vázquez.

In fact, the pressure that is exerted on Bolivia by her left-wing neighbours, in defence of Repsol or Petrobras, emphasizes the trend to disintegration. A attempt at government by the democratizing left-wingers in Bolivia will clash even with the appetites of the democratizing left-wing governments of the region. To this confusion must be added the principal factor of this equation, Yankee imperialism, whose main aim is the sending of liquid gas to the US market.

Only the continuation of the revolution which started in 2003 can move Bolivia out of this impasse. As occurred with the October uprising, the main enemy of the revolution are Messrs. Kirchner and Lula, meaning that this is a continental revolution. The Bolivian workers vanguard, one of the most politicized in the continent, is capable of being equal to the task.

 

OSVALDO COGGIOLA