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Andean Multitudes Prevail Over Neo-Liberal System

Andean Multitudes Prevail Over Neo-Liberal System

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Centuries of colonialism have implied the existence of two states: the formal colonial state and the underground clandestine Indian state. They collide from time to time. This is one more collision.
Centuries of colonialism have implied the existence of two states: the formal colonial state and the underground clandestine Indian state. They collide from time to time. This is one more collision.

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Published by: Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas on Sep 05, 2013
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Andean Multitudes Prevail Over Neo-LiberalSystem
“We won! For the first time we Aymarás, Quechuas, Chiquitanos,and Guaranies are President” (Evo Morales)
“In my country for things to get better, first, they have to get worst” 
 
Coco Manto
1
 
BY MARCELO SAAVEDRA-VARGAS
Echoing the voices of millions, Evo Morales, running on a platform based on what iscalled the October Agenda, won the 2005 national elections in Bolivia in absolute termswith 54 percent of the vote and became the first Indigenous union leader to be elected achief of state in the Western Hemisphere. His political party, the Movement TowardsSocialism (MAS) not only won in an electoral system imposed by decree in 1985 but alsodefeated a powerful electoral fraud apparatus brought in from the US
2
. Now Evo Morales has before him the monumental task of deconstructing more than fivecenturies of exclusion, discrimination, dependency and the imposition of foreign modelsand economics programs.
Numerically deciphering a crisis
In what is now known as Bolivia, Indigenous Peoples represent between 80 and 86 per cent
3
of the population. It is a country where poverty indices show that the poor make upalmost 63 per cent of its people
4
. Of these, 60 per cent live in urban areas while anastonishing 90.8 per cent of the poor live in rural areas. Not surprisingly, rural areas areoverwhelmingly inhabited by Indigenous Peoples. Ninety-five per cent of the poor areextremely poor and 90 per cent of those identify themselves as Indigenous
5
. According toofficial statistics
 ,
only 2.05 percent of rural households have network sanitation services.
1
 
Jorge Mansilla Tórres (Coco Manto) is now Evo Morales Ambassador to Mexico. Taken from “Breverías:Aforismos bolivianos a más no joder,” La Razón, December 2005.
 
2
 
Resemblances between the Florida electoral filtering and the Bolivian ‘purging’ are ju
st too many. For 
more information see: EU: “Preparativos de fraude” by Pedro Miguel, in La Jornada
)and “Our Brand is Crisis” a documentary
showing US consultants at work in internal politics in Bolivia in the 2002 elections:http://www.filmforum.org/films/ourbrand.html. 
3
Bello & Rancel, 2000 and Mamani, 2005.
4
Social Watch Report 2005: Roars and Whispers. Instituto del Tercer Mundo, 2005, p. 78.
5
Jesús González Pazos. Algunas notas sobre Bolivia, in www.revistapueblos.org. 
 
Yet Bolivia is also a country of plenty. It has 14 ecological floors, four hydrographical basins and probably the densest biodiversity index in the world. And it is a countryknown since mythical times for its mineralogical treasures: silver, tin, gold, lithium, petroleum, natural gas, iron, among others.
Bolivia is also a country in debt. For 2004, the country’s external debt amounted to 88
 per cent of gross domest
ic product (GDP). “Privatization of state companies, promoted by the discourse of ‘capitalization’, was the hardest blow to the national economy and theState.”
6
 Inequality distinguishes Bolivian society. According to the World Bank, the GINI indexincreased from 0.52 in 1985) to 0.61 in 2003
7
. The wealthiest 20 per cent receive almost58 per cent of total labour income while the poorest 20 per cent receive 3.15 per cent of it. Although formal unemployment has remained very high in the last decades, realunemployment is extremely high. About 60 per cent of the economically active population belongs to the precarious informal sector 
8
. And 90 per cent of productivelands are in the hands of fewer than 200 families.
Wealth as sources of poverty
A major iron deposit is located in Bolivia. Its reserves
 — 
40 billion tons of iron and 10 billion tons of magnesium
 — 
represent 70 per cent of world total, or US$ 100 million inannual income.Bolivia has the second largest deposit of hydrocarbons in the Western Hemisphere.Translated into currency these deposits represent US$100 billion. They were in the handsof transnational corporations under an economic plan that was the ultimate expression of neo-liberalism.However, on May 1, 2006, this resource was nationalized by the Morales government.Although it is too early to see what this nationalization really means for Indigenous
Peoples, according to Evo Morales “(t)he pillage of our natural resources by foreigncompanies is over.”
 
Is this a turning point?
A predecessor the political change that was to come to Bolivia was a widespreadrebellion in 2000 against the privatization of water. In October 2003, in what is called the
“first gas war,” a grassroots mobilization of the people demanded the nationalization of 
their natural resources for the benefit of the impoverished majorities and rejecting what
has been called the “dictatorship of the subsoil”
9
.
6
Social Watch Report 2005: Roars and Whispers. Instituto del Tercer Mundo, 2005, p. 160.
7
World Bank, Country Assistance Strategy 2004, p. 2.
8
 
CEDLA, “Dossier de estadísticas de empelo, condiciones laborales y dimensiones de género”, 2004.
http://cedla.org/pubs/slideshow/inicio.htm.
9
 
E. Galeano. “El país que quiere existir”, Rebelion.org.
 
 
In February 2003, then President Sanchez de Lozada issued a decree imposing directtaxes to pay down the huge fiscal deficit. It was a surreal situation. Here was animmensely rich country giving away rights to its huge natural gas deposits and complyingto every demand of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And, at the same time, it wasannounced Bolivian hydrocarbons were to be exported to provide energy to Californiadevelopment projects.On October 18, 2003, La Paz is a paralysed city, besieged by hundreds of thousands of  poor people,
campesinos
10
and miners marching to city, as well as urban proletariatfamilies and even middle-class groups who saw the perilous evolution of events.
From 2000 onward there was a succession of ‘wars’, as the insurgent multitudes have
accurately called them: the water war defending water as a human right in Cochabamba;the war defending the ancestral coca leaf in January 2003; the war against direct incometaxes in La Paz in February 2003; the first gas war in September and October 2003, andthe second gas war in May and June 2005 that brought the country to the brink of separation and civil war.
The October Agenda and a turning point
The October Agenda is a direction and a turning point. The MAS faces colossalchallenges and almighty enemies, inside and outside the country. As well, the enemy stillwalk the halls of the state itself. With the legacy of five centuries of resistance by theBolivian people, the new government has gigantic challenges and uncertainty is the only
certain aspect of this “revolution in democracy”.
Prospects
What lies ahead is the beginning of a difficult new era, filled with enormous challengesand plenty of high hopes for Indigenous populations in Bolivia and everywhere else inthe world. We are a nation with our own culture, our lands and great political experiencein building harmonious relationships among ourselves and with our Mother Earth.Indigenous movements face unique and crucial challenges in this new century. We needto find new meanings, and to redefine concepts, principles and processes. We need tocreate a state that not only truly represents majorities but also reflects a view of theuniverse that is in concert with natural laws. Those changes call for a real paradigmaticshift for all humanity.The greatest opportunity and challenge for this new administration is to redefine thesociety and t
he state, moving from what is called liberal democracy into a “revolutionarydemocracy”, characterized by a more just, equitable, inclusive, participatory, popular,
Indigenous, and sovereign state.
10
In rigor, though, peasants (
campesinos
) is an economical objectivization. In fact peasants in that regionof the world are Indigenous peoples.

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