Inventing the Bioregional State in Bolivia: Regional Autonomy Plus an Ecological Bill of Rights Almost in Place
Bolivia's President Evo Morales (R) chats with Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera during celebrations to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the uprising by the Bolivian people against Spanish conquistadors in El Villar some 800 km (497 miles) southwest of La Paz, May 25, 2009.
(Re)Inventing the Bioregional State in Bolivia: Two Pieces Coming Together?
Since 2006, I've been following and posting on this story in Bolivia of the first indigenous government anywhere in the Americas for over 500 years. My interest here is that Bolivia seems the closest case yet of a country through its open politics legitimately reinventing the state toward a bioregional state based on massive green-leaning majorities. I have documented before that such green politics is already a global majority--it simply has yet to be applied in practice. Plus, I have posted that this global green majority is organizing against ecological tyranny in other countries of South America like Brazil and Colombia.(However, one version of this ecological tyranny has gone global and greenwashes itself. Beware of this "ecological tyranny in green's clothing" as well.).
Though of course Bolivia's state structure historically has been European inspired and it has been run for centuries by mostly an European-ancestry minority during the Spanish Empire and its aftermath (indigenous people didn't even have legal rights until 1952), interesting changes to its formal institutions, formal policy, and informal political factions has taken place in the past six years.
This brief six year period has seen the effects of the country voting in its first indigenous movement hegemony for half a millennium. It has had many positives so far. First, it is an interesting cross-ethnic alliance (see picture above), a choice for political alliance instead of ongoing destabalizing ethnic fighting. Some parts of the traditional white ruling ethnic class had had enough of the ongoing dissention and joined the indigenous movement. (See picture above).
The scale of this infighting was tremendous. For instance since Bolivia broke from Spanish rule in 1825, much of its history was a series of nearly 200 coups and countercoups, with an average government duration of less than one year for a regime.
Now however, Bolivia has entered the longest and most stable regime it has ever had in its troubled political history. Morales won the 2005 election with 53.7% of the votes, an absolute majority, and the first in any Bolivian elections. For the legislature, his party was the first ever majority victory by a single party in Bolivia's history as well. In 2005, the first popular elections for its nine departmental governors, known as prefects, took place as well.
Under UNESCO standards, Bolivia was declared free of illiteracy in 2008, making it only the fourth country in Latin America with this status.
Morales won a second unheralded absolute majority in 2009. He was reelected President with an even higher percentage of 64.22% of the vote.
In 2009, the indigenous party movement won even more power with a two-thirds majority in both houses of the National Congress. Constitutional changes began after that, following the pre-existing 2/3rds rule for their changes (at least for most things--there were two riots centered on the Santa Cruz white minority area (where much of the gas supplies are), when Morale's party wanted partial nationalization of Bolivian gas fields and when Morales's government put in items in the constitutional revision draft via only a simple majority though it was still voted on for a 2/3's majority).
In 2009, the new constitution changed the country's name from the "Republic of Bolivia" to the "Plurinational State of Bolivia" in recognition of the multi-ethnic nature of the country and the enhanced position of Bolivia's indigenous peoples.
See the comment thread for ongoing updates at that link--or go learn more about it yourself elsewhere.
And Bolivia is reinventing consumption through its open markets to maintain its slow food society instead of demoting it. For instance, Bolivians rejected McDonald's Hamburgers in 2002. No one banned them. It's just that no one likes them there that much. All franchises went bankrupt. It's against their slow food culture. It's the only country in South America (perhaps the world?) where McDonald's has failed to colonize a food system with its industrial, GMO'ed, homogenized food. There's a recent documentary about this, linked below.
Why do I mention that? The people who rejected McDonald's models of consumption are the very people who are mobilizing on passing a Bill of Ecological Rights for Bolivia. It is mobilized from mostly millions of small scale farmers many of whom have lived on their ancestral lands for millennia.This is the "Unity Pact" a series of five indigenous social movements organizations that are distinct from Morales's Party though allied with it.
Since December 2010, there have been rumors about such a bill coming to fruition because an interim bill outlining the 'ecological rights' was passed then by the Bolivian parliament. A social movement of 3 million poor campesinos formed the "Unity Pact." Likely its membership overlaps extremely with Morale's cocalero-based and indigenous-based Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). Though instead of socialist state centralization or a secular party, MAS's centralizing rule has had its cultural decentralization social movement allies via the "Unity Pact". (This reminds me of the context of the German Green Party's "Fundis" and "Realos" that was such a good dynamic of pro-state and non-state social movement actors for making the German version of green politics one of the most successful. See Dryzek's Green States and Social Movements comparative study, on that point.)
Bolivia with this centralized/decentralized movement of parties and social movements has seen much jurisdictional decentralization (except for (51%) partial nationalization of material resources to find fund wider social programs), respect for indigenous religious concepts and culture instead of destruction of it, and larger public projects for basic education and infrastructural development among the indigenous poor.
This combination of jurisdictional decentralization, embracing the global trading system, and an expansion of welfare state policies (instead of neoliberal austerity demotion of it, so common in globalizing contexts) is similar to bioregional state suggestions discussed here. As noted elsewhere in the world besides Bolivia, social democracy, economic globalization, and wider democratic decentralization is a workable development model. Many of the subjectively happiest countries in the world, like social and economic development marvels of Costa Rica, Mauritius, or Kerala in India have this model. Bhutan does something similar, in its Gross National Happiness model.
(If you want misery, do the opposite like the USA or the EU is doing (particularly the EU-coup government Greece is foisting on them) for instance: demote welfare states in austerity, encourage only service economy localization with or unchecked globalization that removes jobs instead of makes them, destroy infrastructure with a lack of investment, and remove democratic input. Bingo: impoverished, disorganized, oligarchic police state. Happy countries do the opposite of what the USA, the EU, and Greece are doing.)
The Law of Mother Earth: an Ecological Bill of Rights
Back to Bolivia. Regional autonomy in many policy areas was the campaign promise of Moleros in 2006 made good in 2009 with the constitutional changes toward greater indigenous regional autonomy over their ancestral lands and much more. Now the desire is to pass a grass roots pressured, regional autonomy-driven--yet centralized 'Bill of Ecological Rights.' In Bolivia, it is to be called the "Law of Mother Earth" (la Ley de la Madre Tierra) and draws heavily on the indigenous religious concepts of Bolivia. The final version may soon pass national legislature in 2012.
In Bolivia's neighbor of Ecuador there are similar developments. In a previous post, I've talked about Ecuador's earlier similar centralized constitutional rights of nature and critiqued it as missing a crucial decentalization component. That crucial decentralization component seems to better exist in Bolivia with its informal political dynamics, the already established regional jurisdictions of Bolivia, and an ongoing vibrant indigenous tradition now unbowed with full political rights now without previous repression or division of them.
Similar rights of ecological and bodily integrity are in the Ecological Bill of Rights in the bioregional state. The bioregional state additionally has additionally this form of nested decentralization of autonomous jurisdictions without rejecting the central conflict management of the larger state. Social democracy on a universal rights basis is slowly expanding as well--another recommendation. All factors are coalescing in Bolivia. It really does seem that Bolivia is (re)inventing the bioregional state.
This is what I have read recently:
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 [sic, 'anthropogenic climate change' is likely a computer model's mistake instead of a demonstrable fact: given that increases of CO2 are completely unhitched to any temperature expansion] is a key objective of the law, which includes protecting the lives of future generations.....
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 fulfillment 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. The bill protects their livelihoods and diverse cultures from the impacts of industry.
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.
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 [local jurisdictional priority/veto in development decisions.]
The law also promotes “harmony” and “peace” and “the elimination of all nuclear, chemical, biological” weapons.
It seems to have passed in November 2012:
In an emotional ceremony at the Palacio Quemado, President Evo Morales enacted la Ley de la Madre Tierra [the Law of the Pachamama; Mother Earth].
Actual sustainable and representative politics like this frighten the corporate plutocracy of the USA so much, that they are willing to take down democracy to reinstitute their degradative regime of external 'landlord' control from foreign capital. This is from another link:
The Destabilization of Bolivia – USAID in the TIPNIS Park Protests of August 2011?
Note: In late 2011, the Democracy Centre, Avaaz and Amazon Watch, three international NGOs heavily influenced/funded by U.S. interests (Rockefellers, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Ford Foundation and Soros to name a few), led an International campaign in which they denounced and demonized Bolivian Indigenous leader Evo Morales and his government. This destabilization campaign focused on the TIPNIS protests [of August 2011 that were diffused by the Bolivian government by bowing to the peasant protestors demands of 'no highway' through their lands]. [inset on TIPNIS:
Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (Parque Nacional y Territorio Indígena Isiboro-Secure or Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure, TIPNIS) is a protected area and Native Community Land in Bolivia situated between the north of the Cochabamba Department and the south of the Beni Department (Chapare, Moxos, and Marbán provinces). It protects part of the Bolivian Yungas ecoregion. The indigenous people living within the park belong to the Yuki, Yuracaré, and Mojeño-Trinitario peoples. The southern portion of the park has been colonized by agricultural settlers, primarily coca farmers, since the 1970s. The Bolivian government estimates that 10% of the park has been deforested by their presence.
The park was made into a National Park by Supreme Decree 7401 on November 22, 1965 and recognized as an indigenous territory (formally as Native Community Land) through Supreme Decree 22610 on September 24, 1990, following pressure by local native peoples and the March for Territory and Dignity organized by the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East. Following clearing by the National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA), operative collective title to the Isiboro Securé TCO, consisting of 1,091,656 hectares was awarded to the Subcentral TIPNIS on 13 June 2009. Some 124,000 hectares inside the park were adjudicated to agrarian colonists, most in the southern Polygon 7. Another 137,783 hectares are held by ranchers in the Beni department portion of the park.
TIPNIS is home to three indigenous peoples who have ancestrally lived in the region. As of the 2001 Census, there were 12,388 indigenous inhabitants, living in 64 communities: 1.809 from the Yuracaré people; 4,228 of the Trinitario-Mojeño people; and 6,351 of the Chimane people.
In the colonized zone of the south, there are some 20 thousand families belonging to 52 agrarian unions, which are organized into 8 centrales (or union federations). These unions are members of the Federation of the Tropic of Cochabamba (Spanish: Federación del Trópico de Cochabamba), itself one of the Six Federations, the Chapare coca growers' union organization.
The park was slated as the site of the Segment Two (of three) of the proposed Villa Tunari–San Ignacio de Moxos Highway, which would provide the first direct highway link between Cochabamba and Beni Departments. While the highway has been discussed for decades, a $332 million loan from Brazil's National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), approved by Bolivia in 2011, will make construction possible. The project has an expected overall cost of $415 million and extends 306 kilometers, divided into three segments: Segment I from Villa Tunari to Isinuta (47 km), Segment II from Isinuta to Monte Grande (177 km), and Segment III from Monte Grande to San Ignacio de Moxos (82 km).
In May 2010, the a meeting of TIPNIS Subcentral and corregidores throughout the territory stated their "overwhelming and unrenounceable opposition" to the project.
In June 2011, President Evo Morales inaugurated the project with a ceremony at Villa Tunari. However, neither a final design nor environmental approval have been completed for Segment Two. In July 2011, the Subcentral, the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia, and the highland indigenous confederation CONAMAQ announced they would participate in a national march from Villa Tunari to La Paz opposing the project.
A major concern about the impact of the road is its contribution to deforestion: "Empirical evidence has shown that highways are motors for deforestation" concluded a study of the project by the Program for Strategic Investigation in Bolivia (PIEB). The study projected that the road would markedly accelerate deforestation in the park, leaving up to 64% of TIPNIS deforested by 2030. A technical report submitted by the Bolivian Highway Administration (ABC) established that the direct deforestation caused by the road itself would only be 0.03%; similarly, President Morales has spoken of a 180-hectare deforestation, an area equivalent to a rectangle 180 km long and 10 m wide. Morales government officials claim 49 of the 64 communities of TIPNIS are now in favor of the construction of the road.
[August 15 2011] The Subcentral, the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB), and the highland indigenous confederation CONAMAQ carried out a national march from Trinidad, Beni to La Paz in opposition to the project, beginning on August 15, 2011.
[September 25 2011] On September 25, a police raid on the march resulted in the detention of hundreds of marchers, who were later released.
[September 30 2011] Counter-March of Support for MAS Government VIDEO: Sept. 30th, 2011: TIPNIS: Indigenous of Western Bolivia support Government (english subs)
"… political opportunists who have infiltrated this mobilization … they took advantage of it in order to discriminate and criticize the changing process … we will tell these political rascals in their presence … here is the people! Here are the real ones who have struggled to defend the changing process! … 20 or 30 years from now … Bolivia will be truly independent … without the intrusion of neo-liberal parties …"http://multimedia.telesurtv.net/en/30/9/2011/51861/tipnis-indigenous-of-western-bolivia-support-government/
...Andean Indigenous of Bolivia are marching to express their support to the actual government and to the Process of Changing in the conflict it is involved with the Amazonian Indigenous who are defending their territory. The Tupak Katari Federation defends the construction of the road that would pass through the TIPNIS, assuring that it is part of the development that must benefit the majority, while they are a minority. teleSUR
[Early October 2011] In early October, the Plurinational Legislative Assembly passed legislation authored by the MAS authorizing the road following a consultation process, but indigenous deputies and the indigenous movement opposed the bill.
[October 19 2011] The [opposition] march regrouped and arrived in [the de facto capital] La Paz on October 19 to a massive public welcome. During the march, other movements such as the Cochabamba campesino confederation and the colonos union in Yucumo mobilized [against that movement and] in favor of the project.
[October 21, 2011] At the opening of negotiations with the protesters on October 21, Morales announced that he would veto the legislation and support the text proposed by the indigenous deputies.A violent confrontation between TIPNIS protestors (influenced/funded by U.S. NGOs/USAID/CIDOB) and the police was the vital opportunity needed in order to execute a destabilization campaign that the U.S. has been strategically planning for decades. This most recent attempt failed. Unlike westerners, Bolivians are today, far advanced in their intellectual understanding of global politics and carefully orchestrated propaganda, having been on the receiving end of Imperialism/colonialism...for what surely must feel like an eternity.
[October 24, 2011] This text was passed by the Assembly and signed into law on October 24, effectively ending the conflict. Law 180 of 2011 declares TIPNIS an intangible zone and prohibits the construction of highways that cross it.
Read: Declassified Documents Revealed More than $97 Million from USAID to Separatist Projects in Bolivia.
Read: Evo Morales Through the Prism of Wikileaks – Democracy in Danger.
There may be more attempts at subversion of localized democratic processes in Bolivia and other countries in 2013-2014:
FAST FOOD OFF THE SHELF / TEASER #1 // JMT Films Distribution / ¿ Por que quebro McDonald's ? [English Subtitles]
IMPORTANT: the video starts after 19 seconds : 00:00:19:00 !!!
if you wish to skip and reach the first pictures go directly to: 00:01:31:00
FAST FOOD OFF THE SHELF A film by Fernando Martínez; Produced by Producen Bolivia, Azpurua Productions, Lagarto Cine // Bolivia/Venezuela/Argentina 2010; Lifestyle. 52/70 minutes. Spanish. English/French subtitles; SYNOPSIS: Today in Latin American countries, introduction of fast food, such as McDonald's, grows up. There is one exception, Bolivia: a country with a strong indigenous tradition - cooking and popular food. In December 2002, the transnational fast food corporation Mc Donald's had to close its restaurants in Bolivia. Why did McDonald's fail in Bolivia? Through six intimate stories with renowned cooks and a review of popular sayings about the Bolivian food, travel by the variety of its flavor, you'll discover that love is in this home cooking, the market, the barter and the low cost of one of the cuisines that has not been recognized yet.
FAST FOOD OFF THE SHELF / TEASER #2 // JMT Films Distribution / ¿ Por que quebro McDonald's ? [English Subtitles]
Or, do the opposite and make a dystopia: with people miserable in an undemocratic, oligarchic financial police state, like the EU is doing:
UKIP Nigel Farage - Mass Civil Unrest through Greater Austerity and Undemocratic Policies of the EU
UKIP Nigel Farage - Break up the euro and restore human dignity - 22nd May 2012
Surely you see that some countries are choosing something besides USA and EU recommended policies? Only those who are developing these "bioregional state" like polities are working out something better and something more just via greater economic growth, greater sustainability, greater welfare perks, and greater democracy?