Perspectives on Bolivia: Some Writings by Others
In the week since Sunday’s election a good deal of valuable analysis has been written, all from a different perspective, none of it sole owner of ‘the truth’ (including my own), and much of it worth reading.
We thought we would offer introductions and links to four of these – most from friends but not all. I am sure that others know additional sources and we hope you will provide links below in the comments section.
The Street and the Ballot Box: Voices From Bolivia's Recall Vote
Alex van Schaick, Luis Gonzales and Teresa Carrasco
Published by Upside Down World, a web site that works hard and provides a solid collection of articles on not just Bolivia but Latin America as a whole (edited by our friend Ben Dangl).
Cochabamba, Bolivia - On August 10, leftist President Evo Morales, won a resounding victory in Bolivia's recall referendum. The vote invigorated Morales' mandate in what was a broad endorsement from his base and beyond. As Toribio Terrazas, a farmer from outside Comunidad Mamenaca explained, "I want the president to continue because he is forging a good path for all Bolivians in the country."
In the week before the recall referendum, and on the day of the voting, we interviewed number of voters, and political and social movement leaders about the importance of the referendum, the changes it might produce, and what they thought about president Evo Morales and prefect Manfred Reyes Villa.
Article, interviews & photos here.
Putting the Political Battle in Context
Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval
Published by The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a solid research organization based in Washington that marries technical investigations with a progressive perspective, and a special interest in Latin America.
This past Sunday’s recall referendum was of course just the latest episode in the ongoing political battle between the MAS-led national government and an opposition movement in the Eastern lowlands that counts several prefects among its members. But what’s this struggle all about?
Control over resources, including land and natural gas deposits, is at the heart of it, according to a new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. The paper, “The Distribution of Bolivia's Most Important Natural Resources and the Autonomy Conflicts, shows that the concentration of land in Bolivia - among a very small group of landowners - appears to be among the very worst in the entire world. The paper also notes that even though Bolivia distributes its hydrocarbon revenues more than any in the world to provincial and local governments, the Eastern lowland states are advocating that they should receive even more of this money.
Read the full paper here.
"Change Comes from Mobilization,” An Interview with Oscar Olivera
Interview conducted by Sarah Hines
Published by the Socialist Worker, which offers a socialist analysis of issues and events often ignored by the mainstream media but still vitally important.
An August 10 recall referendum confirmed Bolivian President Evo Morales' tenure in office with a 68 percent vote--but also saw right-wing prefects, or governors, win big in four eastern departments that have been pushing for autonomy.
Meanwhile, the problems facing ordinary Bolivians remain unsolved, according to Oscar Olivera, the Secretary General of the Federation of Factory Workers of Cochabamba. Sarah Hines interviewed Olivera in Cochabamba shortly before the referendum vote.
What is the significance of the recall referendum?
The recall referendum--a measure that we have demanded for a long time--can mean a deepening of democracy. When the Water War took place here in Cochabamba in 2003, we organized a referendum around the issue to allow the rank and file to make their voice heard regarding this imposition [of the privatization of water] by the government.
At that time, the referendum was illegal--it was not thought of as a democratic norm. I believe that a referendum serves to deepen democracy a bit more, in that the citizens are asked once in a while if the rulers are doing their job well. But I see it as having more of a symbolic value than being useful as such. While a referendum can be a signal from the people, I believe the only way to change how the politicians govern is the mobilization of the people.
Read the full interview here.
New York Times Editorial
All sides are claiming victory in last weekend’s competing referenda to recall the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, and rival governors. But the continuing political warfare is leading the country to a destructive impasse.
More than two-thirds of Bolivians voted to keep Mr. Morales in power. His four main rivals in the gas-rich eastern lowlands also won by large margins. Mr. Morales claims that he now has the mandate to call a national referendum on constitutional reforms that would give even more power to the presidency and allow him to seek another term. All four governors have rejected those changes and insist that their wins mean they must now be given more autonomy.
The proposed reforms are already legally dubious. Virtually all opposition delegates were excluded from the constitutional assembly proceedings that approved the changes. Before the recall election, protesters blocked Mr. Morales from visiting the provinces of Tarija and Santa Cruz.
Read the editorial here.