Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Columbus Interim: 500 Years Later, the First Indigenous Government Attempts to Reinvent the State; Bolivia & Pres. Evo Morales' Ormolu Chairs

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Two quotes for contrast:

For a man who rose to prominence as a union leader, and to office on the back of social movements with mainly economic grievances, economic policy has hardly figured in the first 60 days. Instead, he has used the parliamentary majority that came with his 54% landslide to push through a law convoking a Constituent Assembly, and allowing regional referendums on autonomy.

"In last year's election we only captured government - with the Constituent Assembly we want to capture political power."

Meanwhile:

President Bush came into office declaring that Latin America was a priority. That's hardly surprising. It's been a priority for every American president since James Monroe in 1823 whose "Monroe Doctrine" told European nations to keep out of Latin American affairs. In pursuit of American interests, the US has overthrown or undermined around 40 Latin American governments in the 20th Century.




Evo Morales 'padlocked' in palace
By Paul Mason
BBC Newsnight, Bolivia

Shortly before 0500, the military police huddled in the doorways of the Plaza Murillo begin to stir beneath their capes.

Morales interview

The door of the presidential palace creaks open and the guards, in scarlet tunics and white webbing, begin a rigmarole of shuffling, stamping and saluting that is the changing of the guard.

The police are muscular white guys. The guards, armed with muskets, are willowy young indigenous kids - the regiment has always recruited from the "indios" for ethnic novelty value.

Now, as the police strut away, the guards smile nervously at each other from beneath their kepis: then they collapse in a fit of giggles.

Since Evo Morales took office, the joke is no longer on them. "Look," President Morales tells me, "60 years ago, our grandparents didn't even have the right to walk into the main square - not even in the gutter. And then we got into parliament - and now we're here."

He looks around apologetically at the long Rococco state room we are meeting in - at the ormolu chairs we are sitting on. He has installed a portrait of Che Guevara in the presidential suite but, apart from that, the palace remains as it was under his neo-liberal predecessors.

"It's been a great victory - now this is a stronghold for the indigenous people. And we're not going to stop," Mr Morales says.

"The most important thing is the indigenous people are not vindictive by nature. We are not here to oppress anybody - but to join together and build Bolivia, with justice and equality."

'Fight for power'

In truth, the Morales presidency is fast getting beyond the "peace, love and understanding" phase. The first indigenous leader to run a country in the Americas has been two months in office, but he does not feel like he is in power - yet.

It's full of padlocks that mean you can't transform things from the palace... I feel like a prisoner of the neo-liberal laws
-Evo Morales


"How does it work now? I'll tell you," he says.

"You want to issue a decree to help the poor, the indigenous people, the popular movements, the workers... but there's another law. Another padlock. It's full of padlocks that mean you can't transform things from the palace... I feel like a prisoner of the neo-liberal laws."

For a man who rose to prominence as a union leader, and to office on the back of social movements with mainly economic grievances, economic policy has hardly figured in the first 60 days.

Instead, he has used the parliamentary majority that came with his 54% landslide to push through a law convoking a Constituent Assembly, and allowing regional referendums on autonomy.

"In last year's election we only captured government - with the Constituent Assembly we want to capture political power.

"Who makes the decisions here - the poor and indigenous people or those families who've done so much damage to our country in the past? They discriminated against, marginalised, oppressed, hated and totally disregarded the indigenous people. It's a political fight - it's a fight for power."

'Boycott'

If the economic conditions Mr Morales has inherited are relatively benign that is because of Bolivia's newfound hydrocarbon wealth.

There could still be sabotage - we've just heard the news that some transnational companies are putting $2m into a campaign to boycott my government
-Evo Morales


The trillion-cubic-foot (3bn-cubic-metre) gas field was discovered in the late 1990s and, originally, leased at what Mr Morales sees as knock-down prices to the oil and gas corporations.

He has got a judge beavering away at declaring the original contracts illegal, and plans to nationalise the gas and oil industries.

But here is the problem. Most of the gas is in the Chaco region, administered from the city of Santa Cruz, which represents 33% of the country's GDP and 25% of the population.

Santa Cruz is the traditional base of the Christian right-wing parties - it is the centre from which the US anti-drug operation is run, it is where Repsol, Petrobras and British Gas are headquartered.

Now Santa Cruz wants autonomy and the right to all but 10% of the hydrocarbon revenues.

President Morales appears unfazed by veiled threats of disinvestment.

"Of course, there could still be sabotage - we've just heard the news that some transnational companies are putting $2m into a campaign to boycott my government. It doesn't matter - we're monitoring the problem," he says.

Visceral support

Meanwhile, his own mass base is restive.

The miners of Huanuni, buoyed by the rising international price of tin, paralysed the southern quarter of the country with a series of roadblocks, enforced with dynamite. Their demand? Fifty-five extra teachers in their local schools.

Mr Morales' response - to announce he would provide 3,000 extra teaching posts, paid for by closing embassies and scrapping "decorative" civil service posts.

He seems to sense there is only so long you can go on like this, but as the first indigenous leader in the continent, he has some unique cards to play, the first one being himself:

"I have a lot of trouble understanding all the detail of finance and administration - but if you combine intellectual and professional capacity with a social conscience, you can change things: countries, structures, economic models, colonial states."

That position has visceral support in a place like El Alto, the shanty-city of one million Aymara people which dominates the high plain above La Paz.

There the talking point is not whether the president should nationalise the gas and neutralise the opposition - but what they will do to him if he fails.

They will tolerate Evo, one tells me, for a year or two - though they will never move against him if it weakens the united front against "the whites".

Vote for change

Mr Morales, for now, is more than capable of meeting the wave of rising indigenous cultural consciousness with concrete reforms. But soon the crunch will come - the form and costs of nationalisation for the hydrocarbons industry must be concretised.

How it all pans out now depends on whether he can forge his political party, the Movement Towards Socialism - until now more of a federation of disparate social movements - into a disciplined political force.

It scored a big election victory not only because it mobilised the poor but because the young, white, foreign-educated middle class mobilised themselves to vote for change.

Their vote was more of a rejection of the failure of their fathers' generation than an endorsement of Evo Morales.

"We hope the delegates to the Constituent Assembly will represent not only the indigenous people and popular movements but patriotic professionals, intellectuals and business people. If these patriotic sections take part we'll succeed," Mr Morales tells me.

What happens if they drift away, if the foreign gas companies play hardball, if the rumours of paramilitary arms stockpiles around Santa Cruz turn out not to be scare stories?

Well, at that point the farce played out at the palace gate between the president's ceremonial guards and the muscular remnants of regimes past may turn nasty, on a national scale.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/americas/4878466.stm

I will use this post as a running commentary on Morales and Boliva when I come across something.


2.

Analysis: How the US 'lost' Latin America

As the BBC begins a special series on Latin America, Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler gives his view on the region's leftward trend and its changing relationship with the US.

There is trouble ahead for Uncle Sam in his own backyard. Big trouble.

It is one of the most important and yet largely untold stories of our world in 2006. George W Bush has lost Latin America.

While the Bush administration has been fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, relations between the United States and the countries of Latin America have become a festering sore - the worst for years.

Virtually anyone paying attention to events in Venezuela and Nicaragua in the north to Peru and Bolivia further south, plus in different ways Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, comes to the same conclusion: there is a wave of profound anti-American feeling stretching from the Texas border to the Antarctic.

And almost everyone believes it will get worse.

President Bush came into office declaring that Latin America was a priority. That's hardly surprising. It's been a priority for every American president since James Monroe in 1823 whose "Monroe Doctrine" told European nations to keep out of Latin American affairs.

In pursuit of American interests, the US has overthrown or undermined around 40 Latin American governments in the 20th Century.

For his part, President Bush even suggested that the United States had no more important ally than... wait for it... Mexico.

None of that survived the attacks of 9/11.

More ulcers?

Mr Bush launched his War on Terror and re-discovered the usefulness of allies like Britain.

While Washington's attention turned to al-Qaeda, the Taleban, Iraq and now Iran, in country after county in Latin America voters chose governments of the left, sometimes the implacably "anti-gringo" left, loudly out of sympathy with George Bush's vision of the world, and reflecting a continent with the world's greatest gulf between rich and poor.

[Violeta Chamorro] told me that Washington politicians could always find money for wars in Latin America - but rarely for peace
The next country to fall to a strongly anti-American populist politician could be Peru.

Voters there go to the polls on 9 April to elect a president and Congress.

The presidential frontrunner is Ollanta Humala, a retired army commander who led a failed military uprising in October 2000 and who is now ahead in the opinion polls.

Now, opinion polls in Peru are not especially reliable. They under-represent poor voters in the countryside.

But that is the point. The rural poor form the backbone of Mr Humala's support. If he is ahead even in the flawed opinion polls which tend to under-count his key constituency, Mr Humala is confident he can take the presidency.

And if he does, there will be more ulcers in George Bush's White House.

Shades of red

Like President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and President Evo Morales in Bolivia, Mr Humala talks of the evils of what he calls "the neo-liberal economic model that has failed to benefit our nation".

He dismisses the role of multinational companies that "offer no benefits" to the people of Peru, and he speaks of a new division in the world.

Where once Cuba's Fidel Castro could harangue the US with talk of the colonisers and the colonised, Ollanta Humala attacks globalisation as a plot to undermine Peru's national sovereignty and benefit only the rich on the backs of Latin America's poor.

"Some countries globalise, and others are globalised," is how he puts it. "The Third World belongs in the latter category."

All this may discourage foreign investment, but it is mild compared to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

He compares President Bush to Hitler.

"The imperialist, genocidal, fascist attitude of the US president has no limits," Mr Chavez says. "I think Hitler would be like a suckling baby next to George W Bush."

If you were to colour a map of anti-Americanism in Latin America, for nearly 50 years Fidel Castro's Cuba has been the deepest red. Three of the most economically developed countries - Brazil, Chile and Argentina - are now in varying shades of left-of-centre pink.

Peru - if Mr Humala wins - would join Venezuela and Bolivia in bright post-box red, with two other countries - Mexico and Nicaragua - possibly about to follow.

Bogeyman returns?

Nicaragua is close to my heart. What has happened there for the past 20 years sums up the failures of US policy across Latin America.

As a young reporter I travelled across Nicaragua witnessing the fall of the left-wing Sandinista government led by the revolutionary Daniel Ortega.

Now in this new century things are changing, and [Latin America's] potential is being realised
For years Mr Ortega was Washington's Enemy Number One, the ultimate bogeyman.

President Bush's father, George Bush senior, was a key player in undermining Mr Ortega and the Sandinistas.

Mr Bush senior had been Director of Central Intelligence and Ronald Reagan's vice-president before he became president of the United States in January 1989.

During the Reagan administration money was channelled - illegally Democrats said - to the Nicaraguan "Contra" guerrillas, a motley crew of CIA trained anti-communists, paramilitaries and thugs.

The resulting scandal - known as "Iran-Contra" - almost brought down the Reagan administration. George Bush senior survived the scandal, and as president managed to see his policies finally work when Nicaragua's own people threw out the Sandinistas in a democratic election in 1990 [with U.S. supplied vote machines...].

After the polls closed in the capital, Managua, I stood in a counting station next to a young Sandinista woman in green military fatigues. Shaking with emotion she brushed away a tear as the voting papers piled up for the Washington-supported opposition candidate, Violeta Chamorro.

"Adios, muchachos," the Sandinista girl called out to her defeated comrades, "companeros de mi vida!!!" (Goodbye boys, comrades of my life.)

Money issue

That was then. This is now. The young Sandinista revolutionary, Daniel Ortega, is back. He may well be re-elected president of Nicaragua.

Can you imagine it? The man who survived CIA plots and Contra death squads, who relinquished power peacefully to Washington's candidate, Violeta Chamorro, sweeping back into the Nicaraguan presidency?

It will be a huge embarrassment for George Bush junior, a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with American foreign policy in the hemisphere. And guess who predicted it would go wrong? Violeta Chamorro herself.

The night before her election victory over Mr Ortega I was invited to dinner at the walled compound of Mrs Chamorro's house in Managua. She told me that Washington politicians could always find money for wars in Latin America - but rarely for peace in Latin America.

She said even a slice of the money used to back the anti-communist Contra guerrillas could build a new Nicaragua - but she predicted that if she won the election Washington would declare victory - and then cut off the money supply. She was right.

Potential realised

And now? Well, most of my travelling in Latin America in the 1990s was to cover bad news: insurgency in Peru, American troops invading Panama, the killings by the Contras in Nicaragua, the repressive regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba, and armed thugs burning the rainforest in Brazil.

Even then, the potential of this wonderful continent was obvious.

Now in this new century things are changing, and the potential is being realised. With the exception of Cuba and Haiti, democracy has flourished, almost everywhere.

Latin American voters have thrown out their governments and - often - given a two-fingered salute to Washington. That is their prerogative.

Economically, some countries - including Peru - have been roaring ahead.

Their cultures are flourishing too. A new generation of novelists is following the path blazed by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Carlos Fuentes.

The music? In this special series, we'll be hearing from Novalima from Peru - just one of the talented new bands.

And the cinema? If you haven't seen some of the new hot films from Mexico or Argentina, then you are missing a real treat.

I will be reporting shortly for Newsnight from Argentina on the New Generation cinema which is hotter than a chilli pepper and cooler than a long-neck beer. Plus we'll be covering the run-up to Peru's elections live from Lima, and assessing the huge leftward shift from Argentina to Venezuela.

Oh, yes, and I've also been an extra in a film being made in Buenos Aires. (I don't think the Oscar judges are likely to get too interested. But it was fun.)

I hope, in other words, that Newsnight's Inside Latin American season will capture some of the spice and rhythms of a continent full of life, and hope and promise.

Inside Latin America week starts on BBC Two's Newsnight on 3 April, at 2230 BST.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/americas/4861320.stm

9 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

More on "The 'reinventing the state' watch" in Bolivia.

-----

"What's also left unsaid or unsatisfactorily explained is nationalization does not mean expropriation. Evo Morales has made it clear that foreign investors will not lose the rights to their investments.

What they will lose once Morales' plan is implemented (he's giving them six months to comply) is their unfair share of the profits and benefits they never had a right to have in the first place.

Under the Morales plan, a new contract will be made between the government and foreign investors guaranteeing that the people of Bolivia will receive the majority of benefits from its own resources while at the same time foreign investors will receive their fair share but no more than that.

It also means the government alone now will decide the terms of revenue sharing and tax obligations due rather than Big Oil dictating them with the long shadow of the US looming in the background, which is still the case, of course."


-----


newswire article reposts global 04.May.2006 00:33
economic justice | imperialism & war
EVO MORALES' COURAGEOUS MOVE NOW MAKES HIM A US TARGET ALONG WITH HUGO CHAVEZ
author: Stephen Lendman lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net
evo morales' choice to serve interests of his people ahead of those of us now makes him a us target.

EVO MORALES' COURAGEOUS MOVE NOW MAKES HIM A US TARGET ALONG WITH HUGO CHAVEZ - by Stephen Lendman

To get a good sense of where US policy is heading, one need only read the front page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal - painful as that may be to do. I skip the Times but do read the Journal daily because of the audience it reaches - high level people in business and government who want real information to guide them in their work. So despite the Journal being a voice for US business and imperialism, knowing how to read it and doing it carefully yields useful information and clues about what future US policy is likely to be.

The Wall Street Journal Signals Evo Morales Is Now A US Target

The May 2 Journal was a good example as they had a feature front page story headlined "Bolivia Seizes Natural-Gas Fields In a Show of Energy Nationalism." That alone signals a call to arms that's backed up strongly in the copy that follows.

The Journal began its heated rhetoric claiming Evo Morales has been "emboldened by Hugo Chavez's moves against private oil companies" and on May 1 (symbolically on May Day celebrating working people around the world including in the US in a big way for the first time) nationalized the country's largest natural gas field, San Alberto, and ordered the army to "take control of it and the country's other fields." It went on to explain that it ordered foreign oil companies to relinquish control of the fields, accept "much tougher operating terms or leave the country."

Bolivian law is clear that the state owns the resources in the country. Up to now it's allowed foreign investors to operate the fields and take the majority share of production from them to sell for their gain. Last year, however, Bolivia raised the state's take to an effective 50% of production by increasing taxes and royalties. Yesterday the government went further by declaring the state owns the gas once it's been extracted and that the companies operating in the two largest fields would only get 18% of the production for themselves.

Translating the Journal's Message Including What They Failed to Explain

A little translation is in order. What the Journal didn't explain and never would is that those "tougher operating terms" are simply Bolivia's right as an independent nation (and all other nations as well) to get the majority benefits from its own natural resources and that foreign investors are there sharing in them only because the country allowed them to. But instead of being grateful, the Journal makes clear, without stating it, that the investors are greedy and want the lion's share and on their terms.

What's also left unsaid or unsatisfactorily explained is nationalization does not mean expropriation. Evo Morales has made it clear that foreign investors will not lose the rights to their investments. What they will lose once Morales' plan is implemented (he's giving them six months to comply) is their unfair share of the profits and benefits they never had a right to have in the first place. Under the Morales plan, a new contract will be made between the government and foreign investors guaranteeing that the people of Bolivia will receive the majority of benefits from its own resources while at the same time foreign investors will receive their fare share but no more than that. It also means the government alone now will decide the terms of revenue sharing and tax obligations due rather than Big Oil dictating them with the long shadow of the US looming in the background, which is still the case, of course.

The Journal then became more inflammatory as it has in its past and recent railings against Hugo Chavez. It claimed high energy prices have sparked a resurgent wave of nationalism from Caracas to Moscow. Of course, it forgot to mention the one country above all others where so-called nationalism and protectionism is a national religion - the US. Here where I live, no outside investors are allowed in (especially from developing nations) to profit except on the ironclad rules we set, take it or leave it. So by US imperial rules (the only ones, no others allowed), what's good for us is not acceptable or allowed for anyone else because we said so.

The Journal went on to say Morales is mimicking measures against Big Oil by "Mr. Chavez" (he happens to be the President and should be addressed that way), and that Morales and Chavez are "both playing a game of chicken with foreign oil companies." It also couldn't resist raising the specter of Fidel Castro and the fact that Chavez and Morales signed a free trade accord over the past weekend with the man the imperial US hates most.

There's more to this story as well which the Journal points out into their long article. The leading Peruvian candidate, Ollanta Humala, in the upcoming presidential runoff election against US choice by default Alan Garcia, has also called for nationalization of the country's natural gas and mining resources. And Evo Morales has made it clear he intends to nationalize Bolivia's other natural resources likely beginning with its forests and mines. Further, to cap off a growing US Latin American nightmare, last month Equador passed a law designed to cut the windfall profits of foreign crude producers (including US based Occidental Petroleum) by giving the government (meaning the people) 50% of oil company profits whenever the international oil market exceeds the prices established in existing contracts.

What These Developments Mean for the US and How It's Likely to Respond

There certainly is trouble for the US in Latin America and in the oil patch there as well as in Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and who knows where else it may spread. So what can we make of all this, and what's most likely to happen going forward. The US is now spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to hold on to the oil treasure it stole by invading Iraq. It's also made it clear it has designs on those same resources in neighboring Iran and may attack that country using nuclear weapons. And if that isn't enough on one plate to digest, it faces a dilemma in Venezuela it's tried unsuccessfully three times to solve.

Venezuela has even greater hydrocarbon reserves than Iraq or Iran (possibly the largest in the world even above Saudi Arabia's) and is led by a courageous man unwilling to surrender his nation's sovereignty (or its resources) to its imperial northern neighbor demanding it and them. And now the heavenly virus of the desire to be truly independent is beginning to spread to Bolivia, Peru if Hamala wins the runoff election, hopefully Equador and significant opposition groups outside the governments in other countries as well like Nigeria and Nepal. These nations, or opposition groups in them, are demanding equity and justice for their people, and are beginning to raise their heads and demand the rights they're entitled to. If they all get them, that's bad news for the US and the dominant corporate interests here that profit handsomely by exploiting the resources of underdeveloped nations and its cheap labor as well. Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales know this and have spoken out and acted courageously against these longtime abuses in defense the rights of their own people. But their doing so is intolerable to the US which will do everything in its power to reverse the loss of its special privilege.

So what can we expect ahead. I have no doubt whatever, and I've written about this several times. When the heat is turned up against US interests, this country won't go quietly into the night. The plans are well underway now for a fourth attempt to oust Hugo Chavez that may include assassinations and possibly an armed assault by US invading forces. Last Sunday VHeadline published a commentary/review I wrote about Noam Chomsky's new book Failed States. In an email I received from Chomsky on April 29 he updated the views he stated in his new book and gave a blunt assessment of what may be in prospect which I'll quote again here: he said he "wouldn't be surprised to see (US inspired) secessionist movements in the oil producing areas in Iran, Venezuela and Bolivia, all in areas that are accessible to US military force and alienated from the governments, with the US then moving in to 'defend' them and blasting the rest of the country if necessary."

I share that view although I'm not privy to what hostile plans my government has in mind. I'll only state my strong belief that something big is planned to oust President Chavez (and now maybe Evo Morales as well) that will only become apparent once the fireworks begin. Today's feature article in the Wall Street Journal only strengthens my view.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog address at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

5/05/2006 7:56 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

[Points discussed: the particular strategies started (i.e., "tested") in Bolivian oil and water 'shared nationalization' strategies of 51% ownership of shares by the state; additionally, the second point about the oil is the monoposony strategy that has been started (all oil sales to the government first; monoposony is the inverse of a monopoly; if monopoly is one seller hegemony, monoposony is one buyer hegemony); very little so far on decentralization and bioregional autonomy of different areas--and a hard rejection so far of "collective use" areas of certain materials; nothing discussed about decentralized revenue sharing as in above; details on the fascinating criminal giveaway ("neoliberalization") plan before Morales which was simply a 'hand over for free' of 51% of all Bolovian state assets without any purchase price to private people! Who said neoliberalism has something to do with economics? It was a political putch in Bolivia since jurisdisction was handed to private people outside the country, completely for free. Then came the social movements that have led to Evo Morales being placed in office to recover some national assets and more local autonomy. Going slow so far. This is a very dry academic piece full of stale phrasings, though you can get the idea.]

summary:

Nationalization without Expropriation?
By Raquel Gutierrez and Dunia Mokrani

Raquel Gutiérrez and Dunia Mokrani are researchers with the Center for Andean and Mesoamerican Studies (Centro de Estudios Andinos y Mesoamericanos-CEAM), in Mexico and Bolivia respectively and analysts on the region for the IRC Americas Program, on line at www.americaspolicy.org.


On May 1, Evo Morales announced “Supreme Decree #28701” that
establishes “the nationalization of Bolivian hydrocarbons.” The
question is: Is this a nationalization that does not expropriate installations, fields, or infrastructure? The answer can be synthesized in a phrase: there can be nationalization of hydrocarbons without expropriation because these resources were privatized without ever being bought from the state-owned enterprise. This apparent paradox can only be understood by recalling the history of the specific forms of neoliberal privatization in Bolivia. It might seem incredible that national resources were transferred from the public to the private sector without any type of sale, but this is exactly what happened. There was no sale, so now there is no expropriation.

The actions taken in Bolivia reinforce the national state, strengthen the Morales government, and modify the terms of relationship between the Bolivian state, its neighboring governments, and transnational corporations.

Analyzing things from the point of view of the relations between governments, and between these and transnational corporations, the “nationalization” restores the decision-making autonomy of the Bolivian state, which in the previous administrations was completely subordinated to outside interests and designs.

However, in terms of “social sovereignty,” or the capacity of the population to intervene in the political and public affairs that
concern it, many voices have expressed inconformity with the way in which the action of national dignity was staged within Bolivia. The “nationalization” was presented as a “gift” from Evo to the population on International Workers Day, when the measure is really no more than cautious compliance with the first step of the citizen mandate that brought him to office and years of indigneous and worker mobilizations.

See new IRC article online at:
http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3309

article:


Bolivia Returns Hydrocarbons to the Public Sector
Nationalization without Expropriation?

Raquel Gutierrez and Dunia Mokrani | June 12, 2006

Translated from: Sobre la nacionalización de los hidrocarburos en Bolivia
Translated by: Laura Carlsen


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Americas Program, International Relations Center (IRC)
americas.irc-online.org

On May 1, Evo Morales announced “Supreme Decree #28701” that establishes “the nationalization of Bolivian hydrocarbons.” The decree is worth analyzing in depth to understand how the Bolivian government is carrying out the measure.
What does the nationalization consist of?

The opening fourteen considerations of the decree can be divided into two categories: political arguments and legal justifications. There are two main political arguments: a recognition of “the historic struggles (in which) the people paid in blood for the right to return our hydrocarbon wealth to the nation, for it to be used in benefit of the country,” and a statement that the measure decreed is inscribed in the contemporary struggle of people all over the world to defend national sovereignty.

The legal justifications are numerous. They begin with a reinterpretation of the results of the referendum held July 18, 2004, which opponents qualified as a trap since although it referred to “recovery of ownership of oil and gas from the mouth of the well” it did not mention de facto ownership of Bolivian oil and gas by transnational corporations. The referendum merely listed the privileges and obligations of the state established in the Political Constitution of the State.1 The legal justifications of the new decree allude to the illegal character of the contracts signed between the Bolivian government and oil companies and ratified by the Constitutional Tribunal on March 7, 2005.

The question of the illegal ways that the contacts were signed between the Bolivian government and the corporations is a matter broadly debated in Bolivia since 1996.

It arose again in 2005 when the Law on Hydrocarbons under the administration of Carlos Meza was approved. The law failed to satisfy anyone and eventually led to his fall as interim president.

By decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, the contracts between the transnational oil companies and the Bolivian government that currently exist are “illegal” according to national legislation and that is why they were shifted from the old “Law on Hydrocarbons” of 1996 to the “new law” of 2005--slightly less favorable to the corporations. The central point of the change between the old law and the Meza law was the amount of taxes to be paid by the transnationals.

In the section of resolutions the new decree establishes first that:

ARTICLE 1: In exercise of national sovereignty, obeying the mandate of the Bolivian people as expressed in the binding Referendum of July 18, 2004 and in strict application of constitutional precepts, all oil and gas natural resources of the country are to be nationalized.

The state recovers ownership, possession and total and absolute control of these resources.

Immediately following this statement, the decree establishes the concrete measures to be taken:

ARTICLE 2:

I. From May, 2006 on, oil companies that currently carry out activities of production of gas and oil in national territory are obliged to deliver ownership to Petroleum Fields Fiscal Bolivian (YPFB, by its Spanish initials) all production of hydrocarbons.

II. YPFB, in the name of and in representation of the State in full exercise of ownership of all hydrocarbons produced in the country, assumes commercialization, defining the conditions, volumes, and prices both for the domestic market and for exportation and industrialization.

What the decree establishes then is that the nationalization will be carried out [as a monoposony] by way of delivery to the state on the part of the oil companies of “all hydrocarbon production.”

It indicates furthermore, that the state-owned oil company YPFB, dismantled under the neoliberal stage headed by Sanchez de Lozada and now reconstructed, assumes the control of commercialization, and therefore of the prerogative to set prices for all hydrocarbons produced in Bolivian territory.

Nationalization without Expropriation

The question remains: Is this a nationalization that does not expropriate installations, fields, or infrastructure? The answer can be synthesized in a phrase: there can be nationalization of hydrocarbons without expropriation because these resources were privatized without ever being bought from the state-owned enterprise.

This apparent paradox can only be understood by recalling the history of the specific forms of neoliberal privatization a la Boliviana, both of hydrocarbons and other companies. In 1996, these mechanisms were called “capitalization.”

Let's look at how they worked:

At the height of the neoliberal era, Sanchez de Lozada dedicated his first presidency (1993-1997) to consolidate the neoliberal reforms he himself had put in place as Minister of the Economy in the administration of Paz Estenssoro (1985-1989). In 1995-1996 the Bolivian government promoted “capitalization” of state-owned enterprises. This measure consisted of converting state-owned enterprises (YPFB, Empresa Nacional de Ferrocarriles/National Train Company, Bolivian Lloyd Airlines and others) in shareholders' societies whose shares were supposedly given out individually to every Bolivian citizen over 18 at the moment the Law of Capitalization went into effect.

Once converted into shareholding societies, the former state-owned enterprises, now converted into anonymous societies, established “joint venture” contracts with businesses and transnational corporations that were bound to commit to investing in them sums up to 100% of the value of shares.

That is, they sought to double the book value of the state-owned enterprises through this new productive investment.

In this way, in the discourse back then, the companies are capitalized by becoming companies hypothetically owned by both parties in the following proportions [though with corporate dominance]: 49% by the “society of individual Bolivian owners,” with 51% of the shares that resulted from the above-mentioned productive investment held by the corporations.

In this way, the ownership of the 51% of total shares owned by the corporations guaranteed them absolute controlling interest in the companies that had been “capitalized.”

It might seem incredible to many that national resources were thus transferred from the public to the private sector without any type of sale, but this is exactly what happened. There was no sale, so now there is no expropriation. If one reviews the press and the laws passed during 1995 and 1996 in Bolivia it is clear that this was the peculiar mechanism of privatization devised in that country to transfer public wealth, national resources, and the state investment accumulated in the thirty years prior to 1990 directly to the private sector.

To sum up, capitalization in Bolivia consisted of [criminally] delivering control of formerly public companies, in particular of YPFB—conveniently converted into anonymous societies, and divided according to the necessities of the “interested partners” in exchange for nothing.

That is, the “fresh money” for new investments, chronically scarce according to neoliberal governments, was the only contribution of the transnational companies.

In this deal, they obtained control, management, use, and earnings of all the Bolivian patrimony converted in powerless “individual shareholders.” The Bolivian government charged 18% taxes on every operation. So a whopping 82% went directly into the pockets of the corporations. [for free]

The now-minority “individual partners,” that is the Bolivian citizens, looked on with a worthless piece of paper in their hands.

For that reason, when the government of Evo Morales decides to “nationalize,” it does not need to recur to drastic actions of “expropriation.” As stated in the second clause of Article 7, all that's needed for “nationalization” in which the state controls 50% plus one of the companies is to collectivize the shares held by Bolivian citizens and value future investments as additional shares needed. So the Bolivian model of “nationalization” consists of unraveling the questionable ad hoc legal framework created for looting national resources in the first place.

As such, the measure is politically and legally astute since by situating the dispute in the terrain of interpreting existing national law, it avoids the possibility of a wave of lawsuits against the state in international tribunals implemented by corporations.

ARTICLE 7:

I. The state recovers its full participation in the entire productive chain of the hydrocarbon sector.

II. The shares necessary for YPFB to control 50% plus one in the companies Chaco SA., Andina SA., Transredes SA., Petrobras Bolivia refinacion SA., and Compania Logistica de Hidrocarburos de Bolivia SA. are hereby nationalized.

III. YPFB will immediately name its representatives and officials in the respective directorships and will sign new partnership and administrative contracts which guarantee the state control and management of hydrocarbon activities in the country.

What the government of Bolivia has done here is reinterpret the terms of the relationship between the state and transnationals based on the legal framework it inherited, and assume the prerogatives and powers that the state had under the same laws of capitalization but giving them a different sense.

This is a major change in political terms and a solid first step. However, it still comes up short in terms of the aspirations of the men and women of Bolivia [who instead of a paper 49%, get nothing directly now] who have been fighting since 2003 to expel the companies that have been looting the nation and to bring about “the social re-appropriation of public wealth.”

ARTICLE 6 of the decree refers to the reconstruction of YPFB as a state-owned enterprise:

I. In application of the terms disposed by Article 6 of the Law of Hydrocarbons, all shares in the capitalized oil companies Chaco SA., Andina SA., and Transredes SA. formerly held by Bolivian citizens that formed part of the Collective Capitalization Fund are transferred without charge to YPFB.

II. So that this transference does not affect payments under BONOSOL, the State guarantees the repayment of the contributions that these companies delivered annually to the Collective Capitalization Fund, as dividends.

III. The shares of the Collective Capitalization Fund that are in the name of the Administrators of Pension Funds in the companies Chaco SA., Andina SA., and Transredes SA. will be transferred to the name of YPFB.

To restore the public company YPFB all that was needed was the political will. The strategy was to endorse the shares of Bolivian citizens, since these were technically held as property but systematically ignored during the administrations of Sanchez de Lozada, Banzer, Sanchez de Lozada and Meza.

Thus the Bolivian nationalization is in reality the state's recovery of “apparent and disperse property”--the so-called individual shares--and in this way new relations are established with foreign partners, by taking advantage of the weak points of the neoliberal legal structure. In particular, by clearing the smoke from the legal smokescreen established when the control, management, and use of hydrocarbon resources were delivered free of charge to transnational corporations for their exclusive benefit, the new law regains control of the companies, while the private sector interests retain nominal property of their shareholder packages.

Dispute on the Meaning of the Nationalization

The political decisions made by Morales last May have raised a chorus of voices, expressing both support and dissent.

On the one hand, are the reactions of neighboring presidents, particularly Lula and Kirchner, whose economies depend to a certain degree on Bolivian gas to provide energy to industry.

After the first signals of surprise and repudiation emitted by the director of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras and Spanish partners of REPSOL who have significant investments in YPF-REPSOL of Argentina, it looks like the waters have calmed a bit. President Morales explained to everyone that Bolivia is simply recovering its property and assuming its prerogatives of ownership--now once again centralized in the state through YPFB and no longer camouflaged as isolated and impotent [divide and conquer of] “individual property”--of 49% of shares of all the oil and gas industry in Bolivia, fragmented in 95-96. It also nationalized an amount corresponding to 2% of total shares to reach a total of 51% under its control.

Instead of an obsolete “residual YPFB,” which is what the company had become during the 90s, now the transnational corporations and governments of other countries with interests in Bolivian gas are obliged to discuss, negotiate, and reach agreements with a reinforced state-owned enterprise that is a full partner in all petroleum deals [and a monoposony as well] and with a government that has stated firmly that it does not want “bosses” but “treatment between equals.” The argument is impeccable, and the actions carried out by the Morales government are without doubt accordant with its pre-electoral discourse and with what has been manifested by Evo Morales as president over the first three months.

The actions taken in Bolivia then reinforce the national state, strengthen the Morales government, and modify the terms of relationship between the Bolivian state, its neighboring governments, and transnational corporations.

Analyzing things from the point of view of the relations between governments, and between these and transnational corporations, the “statization-nationalization” is a move that strengthens and protects national sovereignty, understood as the recuperation of a certain decision-making autonomy of the Bolivian state, which in the previous administrations was completely subordinated to outside interests and designs.

However there is another level of analysis that is worth including--one that puts the emphasis on the relations between the government and the governed.

This perspective focuses on what can be called “social sovereignty” or the capacity of the population to intervene in the political and public affairs that concern it.

The following are some considerations on that point.


First, many voices have expressed inconformity with the way in which the action of national dignity was staged within Bolivia. The “nationalization” was presented as a “gift” from Evo to the population on International Workers Day, when the measure is really no more than cautious compliance with the first step of the citizen mandate that has been repeatedly the subject of public discussion by the organized population since at least Sept.-Oct. of 2003. These voices insist that the decree is a major step forward but it is not a “present” or “something given” to the people; rather it is the minimum achievement that could be expected after the intense indigenous and popular struggle sustained over the past five years.

In this sense, the Bolivian worker population whose sacrifice and strength have been what built the public wealth, formerly delivered to foreign control and now recuperated in part, does not have to “thank” Evo.

This population voted overwhelmingly for Evo Morales last December so that he would begin the necessary steps toward complying with promises to recover all hydrocarbon resources.

And Evo and his government have taken the first important step, which should be recognized as a willingness to comply with the popular mandate. But it is only this--a leader's first step toward full compliance with the popular mandate.

The road ahead will be strewn with obstacles and in the end the solution cannot be found at the tables of discussion among experts but in the strength of the Bolivian people.

Second, it is worth mentioning the concern [i.e., hate] expressed by some social sectors about how Evo Morales and his government are developing the relationship with social movements.

Morales has managed two central ideas in his speeches since he took office: that his is a “government headed by an indigenous person”--sustained above all in the symbolism exhibited in public ceremonies--and that his is a government “of social movements,” as seen in the participation in the ministerial cabinet of some representatives of union and neighborhood organizations.

There are, however, worrying signs perceived and expressed still sotto voce by many leaders within social movements in the sense that Evo is not listening to the multifaceted and broad-based Bolivian working society.

This can be seen in the Law to Convoke the Constituent Assembly, which did not recognize the many political and organizational forms of social movements as subjects of political rights in themselves and therefore did not give them autonomous political representation.2


Another worrisome example is the way the government has handled some social conflicts; in particular, the struggle by Lloyd Airlines of Bolivia (LAB) workers to recover the company, which was formerly state-owned and later privatized.

One of the virtues of Bolivia's social movements has been their in-depth, critical knowledge of their opponents' legal framework.

This has enabled them to not only register documented grievances but also to establish immediate and viable objectives to advance step by step.

In this sense, the path laid out in D.S. 28701 of “nationalization” consists to a certain point in repeating a strategy that has been discussed and implemented many times before over the past years: in the “water war” of Cochabamba to establish the terms for “recovering” drinking water from the private company, and in the second water war in El Alto to build a “public social company for distribution of drinking water.”

In Bolivia, “overcoming neoliberalism” has happened in an impromptu way by answering the question: what has neoliberalism done to us and to our common, collective, and public goods?

From that question, grassroots movements have moved forward by concentrating on undoing what neoliberalism had done, modifying along the way old forms of government management of common goods that could be typified as partisan and biased.

The workers of LAB, supported by the Coordinating Committee in Defense of Water and Life in Cochabamba proposed last March an interesting project of “social recuperation” or “nationalization” of LAB that consisted in, above all, reinterpreting legal modifications of the past decade and in the possibility of utilizing certain “collective use” resources that are currently more a legal fiction than real assets—similar to the “individual shares” possessed by Bolivian citizens under the gas capitalization scheme.

This autonomous civil initiative was not supported by Evo's government, which refused to seriously negotiate with organized workers and in fact repressed the movement using the army and police.

However, in this type of relationship between government and very active social movements, what's at play is the reach that the energetic efforts of the full Bolivian society can attain in transforming the neoliberal “order” through mobilization and in terms of concrete achievements and conquests.

If the goal is to recuperate certain autonomy of the state vis a vis transnational capital, that is, to put the emphasis on public governmental action in the steady recovery of “national sovereignty,” without a doubt Evo Morales is taking effective steps.

But if the goal is also to change the terms of the relationship of rule-obedience between those who govern and the governed by propitiating new means of participation of the poor and working population in the most important public decisions, which is in some ways what social protests have done during the past years, Evo and his government seem to be trying to close off the possibility by consolidating themselves as the only source of political action, like the only “Subjects,” writ large, of political activity, dressed in the discourse of “change.”

It's as if the government were called on to unilaterally interpret a long and polyphonic process of grassroots struggles that seeks to end these cycles, in particular, the cycle of overt struggles since 2000.

They seem to be doing this by choosing a dynamic that seeks above all the adhesion to a “national consensus” to channel, under this slogan, the wide range of social energy released over the past years toward reinforcing a personal leadership instead of strengthening and supporting those forms of politics that made the present political situation possible.

In any case, in Bolivia social and political life appears as something that has not crystallized, as a fluid material that is susceptible to transformation through the participation of the population. For this, one must take seriously Evo's invitation to the Bolivian people: “Push me where you think is necessary.” And hopefully, some of Evo's actions and “grandstanding” that seem to insinuate “applaud me because I am the one and only leader of political action” can be set aside for now. One thing is clear from history—that will never be true.

Translated for the IRC Americas Program by Laura Carlsen.

Raquel Gutiérrez and Dunia Mokrani are researchers with the Center for Andean and Mesoamerican Studies (Centro de Estudios Andinos y Mesoamericanos-CEAM), in Mexico and Bolivia respectively and analysts on the region for the IRC Americas Program, on line at www.americaspolicy.org.


Sources

1. The situation began to be remedied in February 2006 when Bolivia accused Repsol of having declared state-owned gas fields as its own. The accusation produced an abrupt drop in Repsol stock prices.
2. For a complete explanation see Gutiérrez Raquel/Gómez Luis, Bolivia, Las complejidades de un proceso abierto, at http://www.sinpermiso.info/articulos/index.php.


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http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3309

6/22/2006 3:32 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Undermining Bolivia
By Benjamin Dangl, February 2008 Issue

A thick fence, surveillance cameras, and armed guards protect the U.S. Embassy in La Paz. The embassy is a tall, white building with narrow slits of windows that make it look like a military bunker. After passing through a security checkpoint, I sit down with U.S. Embassy spokesman Eric Watnik and ask if the embassy is working against the socialist government of Evo Morales. “Our cooperation in Bolivia is apolitical, transparent, and given directly to assist in the development of the country,” Watnik tells me. [a complete lie to his face, see below] “It is given to benefit those who need it most.”

From the Bush Administration’s perspective, that turns out to mean Morales’s opponents.

Declassified documents and interviews on the ground in Bolivia prove that the Bush Administration is using U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine the Morales government and coopt the country’s dynamic social movements—just as it has tried to do recently in Venezuela and traditionally throughout Latin America.

Much of that money is going through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In July 2002, a declassified message from the U.S. embassy in Bolivia to Washington included the following message: “A planned USAID political party reform project aims at implementing an existing Bolivian law that would . . . over the long run, help build moderate, pro-democracy political parties that can serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS or its successors.” MAS refers to Morales’s party, which, in English, stands for Movement Toward Socialism.

Morales won the presidency in December 2005 with 54 percent of the vote, but five regional governments went to rightwing politicians. After Morales’s victory, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, decided “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” USAID documents reveal.

Throughout 2006, four of these five resource-rich lowland departments pushed for greater autonomy from the Morales-led central government, often threatening to secede from the nation. U.S. funds have emboldened them, with the Office of Transition Initiatives funneling “116 grants for $4,451,249 to help departmental governments operate more strategically,” the documents state.

“USAID helps with the process of decentralization,” says Jose Carvallo, a press spokesperson for the main rightwing opposition political party, Democratic and Social Power. “They help with improving democracy in Bolivia through seminars and courses to discuss issues of autonomy.”

“The U.S. Embassy is helping this opposition,” agrees Raul Prada, who works for Morales’s party. Prada is sitting down in a crowded La Paz cafe and eating ice cream. His upper lip is black and blue from a beating he received at the hands of Morales’s opponents while Prada was working on the new constitutional assembly. “The ice cream is to lessen the swelling,” he explains. The Morales government organized this constitutional assembly to redistribute wealth from natural resources and guarantee broader access to education, land, water, gas, electricity, and health care for the country’s poor majority. I had seen Prada in the early days of the Morales administration. He was wearing an indigenous wiphala flag pin and happily chewing coca leaves in his government office. This time, he wasn’t as hopeful. He took another scoop of ice cream and continued: “USAID is in Santa Cruz and other departments to help fund and strengthen the infrastructure of the rightwing governors.”

In August 2007, Morales told a diplomatic gathering in La Paz, “I cannot understand how some ambassadors dedicate themselves to politics, and not diplomacy, in our country. . . . That is not called cooperation. That is called conspiracy.” Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said that the U.S. Embassy was funding the government’s political opponents in an effort to develop “ideological and political resistance.” One example is USAID’s financing of Juan Carlos Urenda, an adviser to the rightwing Civic Committee, and author of the Autonomy Statute, a plan for Santa Cruz’s secession from Bolivia.

“There is absolutely no truth to any allegation that the U.S. is using its aid funds to try and influence the political process or in any way undermine the government,” says State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey. USAID officials point out that this support has gone to all Bolivian governors, not just those in the opposition. Despite Casey’s assertion, this funding has been controversial. On October 10, Bolivia’s supreme court approved a decree that prohibits international funding of activities in Bolivia without state regulation. One article in the law explains that Bolivia will not accept money with political or ideological strings attached.

In Bolivia, where much of the political muscle is in the streets with social organizations and unions, it’s not enough for Washington to work only at levels of high political power. They have to reach the grassroots as well. One USAID official told me by e-mail that the Office of Transition Initiatives “launched its Bolivia program to help reduce tensions in areas prone to social conflict (in particular El Alto) and to assist the country in preparing for upcoming electoral events.”

To find out how this played out on the ground, I meet with El Alto-based journalist Julio Mamani in the Regional Workers’ Center in his city, which neighbors La Paz.

“There was a lot of rebellious ideology and organizational power in El Alto in 2003,” Mamani explains, referring to the populist uprising that overthrew President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. “So USAID strengthened its presence in El Alto, and focused their funding and programs on developing youth leadership. Their style of leadership was not based on the radical demands of the city or the horizontal leadership styles of the unions. They wanted to push these new leaders away from the city’s unions and into hierarchical government positions.”

The USAID programs demobilized the youth. “USAID always took advantage of the poverty of the people,” Mamani says. “They even put up USAID flags in areas alongside the Bolivian flag and the wiphala.”

It was not hard to find other stories of what the U.S. government had been doing to influence economics and politics in Bolivia. Luis Gonzalez, an economics student at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba, describes a panel he went to in 2006 that was organized by the Millennium Foundation. That year, this foundation received $155,738 from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) through the Center for International Private Enterprise, a nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Gonzalez, in glasses and a dark ponytail, described a panel that focused on criticizing state control of the gas industry (a major demand of social movements). “The panelists said that foreign investment and production in Bolivia will diminish if the gas remains under partial state control,” says Gonzalez. “They advocated privatization, corporate control, and pushed neoliberal policies.”

That same year, the NED funded another $110,134 to groups in Bolivia through the Center for International Private Enterprise to, according to NED documents, “provide information about the effects of proposed economic reforms to decision-makers involved in the Constituent Assembly.” According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by muckraker Jeremy Bigwood, the NED also funded programs that brought thirteen young “emerging leaders” from Bolivia to Washington between 2002 and 2004 to strengthen their rightwing political parties. The MAS, and other leftist parties, were not invited to these meetings.

The U.S. Embassy even appears to be using Fulbright scholars in its effort to undermine the Bolivian government. One Fulbright scholar in Bolivia, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that during recent orientation meetings at the embassy in La Paz, “a member of the U.S. Embassy’s security apparatus requested reports back to the embassy with detailed information if we should encounter any Venezuelans or Cubans in the field.” Both Venezuela and Cuba provide funding, doctors, and expertise to support their socialist ally Morales. The student adds that the embassy’s request “contradicts the Fulbright program’s guidelines, which prohibit us from interfering in politics or doing anything that would offend the host country.”

After finding out about the negative work the U.S. government was doing in Bolivia, I was curious to see one of the positive projects USAID officials touted so often. It took more than two weeks for them to get back to me—plenty of time, I thought, to choose the picture perfect example of their “apolitical” and development work organized “to benefit those who need it most.”

They put me in touch with Wilma Rocha, the boss at a clothing factory in El Alto called Club de Madres Nueva Esperanza (Mothers’ Club of New Hope). A USAID consultant worked in the factory in 2005-2006, offering advice on management issues and facilitating the export of the business’s clothing to U.S. markets. In a city of well-organized, working class radicals, Rocha is one of the few rightwingers. She is a fierce critic of the Morales administration and the El Alto unions and neighborhood councils.

Ten female employees are knitting at a table in the corner of a vast pink factory room full of dozens of empty sewing machines. “For three months we’ve barely had any work at all,” one of the women explains while Rocha waits at a distance. “When we do get paychecks, the pay is horrible.” I ask for her name, but she says she can’t give it to me. “If the boss finds out we are being critical, she’ll beat us.”

Benjamin Dangl is the author of “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia.” He received a 2007 Project Censored Award for his coverage of U.S. military operations in Paraguay.

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http://www.progressive.org/mag_dangl0208

11/25/2008 7:50 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

BOLIVIA: Native People Take First Steps Towards Self-Government
By Franz Chávez

LA PAZ, Dec 22 , 2009 (IPS) - Indigenous people, who make up more than 60 percent of the population in Bolivia, South America's poorest country, are taking their first steps towards self-government under their own cultural traditions that date back to pre-colonial times.

Alongside the Dec. 6 presidential and legislative elections, 12 of Bolivia's 327 municipalities voted in favour of indigenous self-government, which will give them control over the natural resources on their land and a greater say in how to use funds transferred from the central state, as well as redefining how government funds are disbursed.

In addition, legal disputes and crimes in those municipalities will be tried in traditional local courts, and elections will be organised and community leaders appointed according to native customs, which are based on a tradition of consensus-building.

But because the concept of indigenous autonomy is brand new, the details on how it will function must still be legislated by Congress after it reconvenes in 2010.

In the elections, leftist Evo Morales, the country's first-ever indigenous president, was reelected in a landslide victory with 63 percent of the vote, and his Movement to Socialism (MAS) party won a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, which will allow it to move forward with important legislation such as the question of the indigenous right to self-rule.

Although most native people in Bolivia belong to the large Aymara and Quechua communities and live in the western highlands, there are a total of 36 different indigenous groups.

The new constitution that went into effect in February after winning the support of 61 percent of voters in a referendum recognises that Bolivia is a "multi-national" state made up of peoples who have a right to autonomy and the right to preserve their culture.

Since first taking office in January 2006, Morales has accelerated and expanded the country's land reform efforts, granting formal collective land titles to indigenous communities, known as Tierras Comunitarias de Origen or TCOs, a process that also involves recognition of native communities and their collective legal rights.

Provincial autonomy too

Simultaneously with the elections, the departments (provinces) of Chuquisaca, La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro and Potosí voted for provincial autonomy.

Similar autonomy referendums had already been held in 2008 in the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, the so-called "eastern crescent", which account for most of the country's natural gas production, industry, agribusiness and GDP and have a lighter-skinned population of mainly mixed-race and European descent.

The referendums by the "eastern crescent" departments were a challenge to the Morales administration by their right-wing governors, and were criticised as an attempt at secession.

The aim was decentralisation and greater control over the revenues from the natural gas and other resources in their departments by means of the creation of provincial assemblies and local tax collection mechanisms.

Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, the second-largest in South America after Venezuela’s, bring in 1.2 billion dollars a year in taxes and royalties, and are the country’s main source of foreign exchange.

...

1/25/2010 8:09 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

...

The chief support base of Morales and his party are the country’s indigenous majority, based in Bolivia’s impoverished western highlands.

Now that the five remaining departments voted for autonomy, all nine will have the same legal status.

A recent seminar organised by the Centre for Studies of Labour and Agrarian Development (CEDLA) examined the increasing political organisation of the indigenous movement in Bolivia and other countries in Latin America.

Indigenous people in Bolivia have been historically downtrodden and marginalised, only gaining full suffrage rights in 1952. Even today, some Indians continue to work as serfs on large estates owned by the European or mixed-race elite.

But since the 1980s they have become increasingly organised. And the 2001 census, which found that 62 percent of the population identified themselves as members of one of the country's 36 indigenous groups, strengthened this process.


A recent seminar organised by the Centre for Studies of Labour and Agrarian Development (CEDLA) examined the increasing political organisation of the indigenous movement in Bolivia and other countries in Latin America.

Indigenous people in Bolivia have been historically downtrodden and marginalised, only gaining full suffrage rights in 1952. Even today, some Indians continue to work as serfs on large estates owned by the European or mixed-race elite.

But since the 1980s they have become increasingly organised. And the 2001 census, which found that 62 percent of the population identified themselves as members of one of the country's 36 indigenous groups, strengthened this process.


Autonomy in the highlands

In Tinguipaya, a municipality covering 80,000 hectares in the southwestern highlands department of Potosí, the president of the traditional local council, Paulino Menacho, told IPS with enthusiasm that he hopes the town will soon have indigenous self-government under a chief with the traditional title of "curaka" - which dates back to the times of the Inca - a position that would replace the current office of mayor.

According to local tradition, the office of curaka would rotate from family to family under the "muyu" system.

But Menacho is worried about the shortage of farmland for the 16,000 people under his authority, who may be assigned plots of up to just 200 square metres in the land reform process - insufficient to sustain the region through agriculture, since not all of the land is apt for farming or livestock-raising in this highlands region.

The members of the eight "ayllus" or clans in the area want a redistribution of the 1.7 million dollars a year in funds that come from the central government, saying they now only actually receive half of the total and are not sure what happens to the other half.

They would also like to create local taxes and leasing charges - on "fair terms" - for companies exploiting minerals, limestone, water and other natural resources in the area.

The remote northern jungles and plains

Hundreds of kilometres away, in the rainforest and cattle ranches of the northern department of Beni, the secretary general of the Moxeño Ethnic Peoples of Beni (CPEMB), Francisco Maza, says the time for self-government has arrived.

For the small indigenous communities in the remote department, the struggle began in 1990 when hundreds of them marched 640 km from Trinidad, the provincial capital, to La Paz, demanding respect for their right to land, as they faced intense pressure from landowners, ranchers and loggers constantly encroaching on their ancestral territory.

"We are asking for autonomy not only over our territory, but in earning a share of revenues from the exploitation of lumber and other resources in the region," Maza told IPS.

...

1/25/2010 8:10 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

3.

...


The challenge of creating specific legislation on indigenous self-government is made more complex by the diversity of local customs in the country's different indigenous groups, especially among the 29 smaller native communities in the eastern lowlands, which each have their own forms of government.

Much of the land of the Moxeño Indians is rich in biodiversity, natural gas, and a wide variety of timber species. The hope of the indigenous groups is to begin to share in the wealth currently reaped by private landowners and companies.

CEDLA researcher for public policies Juan Luis Espada told IPS that the central government will have to increase funds to autonomous indigenous governments, because few of them will obtain additional royalties for natural gas exploitation, for example.

He also said the autonomous local governments would face a learning curve in terms of administration, the creation of new local and regional taxes, and the division of functions and authority.

"Many political and social challenges lie ahead in the search for a model of self-government that will respond to the long-standing demands of native groups who require continued attention from the government and who want to participate in the administration of the state apparatus," said Espada. (END)

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http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49796

1/25/2010 8:10 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

[COMMENT: Ecuador has already done the same. See here for my critique of these 'centralized rights of nature' as easily made, easily corrupted. The bioregional state supports more localized jurisdictions of people protecting their nature--of which Bolivia has a lot of already--far more regional autonomy than Ecuador's version. So perhaps it may work in practice here better because of the dynamics of greater regional autonomy in Bolivia pressing against any attempt of a co-opted constitutional right of nature (as exists in Ecuador).]

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Law of Mother Earth sees Bolivia pilot new social and economic model based on protection of and respect for nature.
May 29 2012

Bolivia is to become the first country in the world to give nature comprehensive legal rights in an effort...to improve quality of life for the Bolivian people.

Developed by grassroots social groups and agreed by politicians, the Law of Mother Earth recognises the rights of all living things, giving the natural world equal status to human beings.

Once fully approved, the legislation will provide the Earth with rights to: life and regeneration; biodiversity and freedom from genetic modification; pure water; clean air; naturally balanced systems; restoration from the effects of human activity; and freedom from contamination.

The legislation is based on broader principles of living in harmony with the Earth and prioritising the “collective good.” At its heart is an understanding that the Earth is sacred, which arises from the indigenous Andean worldview of ‘Pachamama’ (meaning Mother Earth) as a living being. An initial act outlining the rights – which was passed by Bolivia’s national congress in December 2010 and paves the way for the full legislation – defines Mother Earth as a dynamic and “indivisible community of all living systems and living organisms, interrelated, interdependent and complementary, which share a common destiny.”

Bolivia’s government will be legally bound to prioritise the wellbeing of its citizens and the natural world by developing policies that promote sustainability and control industry. The economy must operate within the limits of nature and the country is to work towards energy and food sovereignty while adopting renewable energy technologies and increasing energy efficiency.Preventing climate change is a key objective of the law, which includes protecting the lives of future generations. The government is requesting that rich countries help Bolivia adapt to the effects of climate change [sic, 'anthropogenic climate change is likely a lie given that the increases of CO2 are completely unhitched to any temperature expansion in the past decade.] in recognition of the environmental debt they owe for their high carbon emissions. Bolivia is “particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” according to an Oxfam report in 2009, with increasing drought, melting glaciers and flooding.

[continued]

6/04/2012 8:01 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

On the international stage, the government will have a legal duty to promote the uptake of rights for Mother Earth, while also advocating peace and the elimination of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Following a change in Bolivia’s constitution in 2009, the law is part of a complete overhaul of the legal system. It represents a shift away from the western development model to a more holistic vision, based on the indigenous concept of Vivir Bien (to live well).

The proposal for the law states: “Living Well means adopting forms of consumption, behaviour and and conduct that are not degrading to nature. It requires an ethical and spiritual relationship with life. Living Well proposes the complete fulfilment of life and collective happiness.”

Unity Pact, an umbrella group for five Bolivian social movements, prepared the draft law. They represent over 3m people and all of the country’s 36 indigenous groups, the majority of whom are smallscale farmers with many still living on their ancestral lands. [Nice.]

The bill protects their livelihoods and diverse cultures from the impacts of industry.

6/04/2012 8:01 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Undarico Pinto, a leader of the social movement Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, said: “It will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional and local levels.”Signifying a fundamental shift away from exploitation of nature, the draft law referrers to mineral resources as “blessings” and states that Mother Earth, “is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos.”

A Ministry of Mother Earth is to be established to promote the new rights and ensure they are complied with. But with its economy currently dependent on exports of natural resources, earning nearly a third of its foreign currency – around £300m a year – from mining companies, Bolivia will need to balance its new obligations against the demands of industry.

Bolivia Rain forest

The full law is expected to pass within the next few months and is unlikely to face any significant opposition because the ruling party, the Movement Towards Socialism, has a considerable majority in parliament. Its leader, President Evo Morales, voiced a commitment to the initiative at the World People’s Conference on Climate change, held in Bolivia in April 2010.


The Law of Mother Earth includes the following:

The right to maintain the integrity of life and natural processes.

The right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

The right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration.

The right to pure water.

The right to clean air.

The right to balance, to be at equilibrium.

The right to be free of toxic and radioactive pollution.

The right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities

The law also promotes “harmony” and “peace” and “the elimination of all nuclear, chemical, biological” weapons.

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http://worldtruth.tv/bolivia-gives-legal-rights-to-the-earth-2/

6/04/2012 8:02 AM  

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