Thursday, 2 October 2008

Bolivian democracy under threat

When Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia in December 2005, it was a watershed in Bolivian politics. Not only was he the first indigenous President in a country whose political system was monopolised by the wealthy white elite, but his victory was not simply that of a well fought election campaign, but was on the back of the massive growth in social movements in Bolivia. The victories these movements had clocked up included kicking private water company Bechtel out of Cochabamba and taking the water system back into public hands. Those movements, whilst supporting Morales in the main, have not dissolved themselves into his Movement towards Socialism political party, but remained mobilised.

Bolivia is also internationally significant. As an ally of Venezuela's Chavez in particular, at the radical end of the new spectrum of left-leaning governments in Latin America, Morales' role in starting to find alternatives to neoliberalism is crucial. The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a co-operation agreement between Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Dominica, has seen trade agreements between individual countries in the alliance based not on business interests, but on mutual social benefit. In many ways, Bolivia is at the heart of the hope for the world for those on the left.

Just like in Venezuela though, a shrill wealthy minority have been kicking up a stink. They haven't tried a coup yet, like they did in Venezuela against Chavez, but in the regions where they are concentrated there has been widespread political (and racist) violence. Bolivia's landowners don't want the poor, the indigenous to reclaim Bolivia, and the USA agrees. USAID, the United States' overseas development organisation has been pouring money into the coffers of the opposition. It spent $89 million in Bolivia in 2007, a massive amount considering Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, but it won't disclose what on.

There's lots more to be said about this and two places to read more are the open letter to the US State Department written by US activists, and analysis from Jim Shultz at the Democracy Center. But its also time we did something to defend one of the most progressive governments in the world. There was a protest at the US embassy in London the other week, but we need to step up our efforts. WDM's online action is a start, not least because the silence of our own government has been deafening. Bolivia is a beacon to the world; let's ensure it is defended.

3 comments:

Kevin said...

Good artiole James.

BTW, have you seen this:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/hugo-chavez-and-venezuela-questions-of-leadership

Seems to have caused some heated debate.

Kevin

Green Gordon said...

Sorry, couldn't find an email address...

Hi,

I've added your blog to GreenFeed at http://www.greenfeed.org.uk/feeds/

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Green Party England Scotland and Wales

James said...

Thanks Gordon!