The Critical Moment for Bolivians – by Author Juan Carlos Zambrana

The critical moment for Bolivians

Cambio- September, 30 2011

Juan Carlos Zambrana Marchetti

Recent events concerning the conflict generated by the construction of the highway through the TIPNIS require a stop along the road to attempt an act of reflection. The media hurried to condemn what it called the brutality of the violent police repression of the march of indigenous people, the death of a child, and a large number of disappeared. Public opinion, including the government’s, swallowed the news without questioning it, because it was not easy to detect such malice in the description of the events.

“Disappeared” is not a term for those who went into hiding or headed out into the wilderness. The term applies to the 30,000 young people who were thrown into the River Plate in Argentina during the right-wing dictatorships. The death of a child was not confirmed, either, but that did not stop the dissemination of the report like a trail of gunpowder. Emphasis was placed on the words “repression” and “brutality,” in order to evoke the memories of the dictatorships and neoliberal governments. With emotions exacerbated, public opinion was detoured from rational analysis and trapped in deceit.

No one recalled, for example, that the indigenous president, yielding to the demands of the marchers, had sent his highest-level diplomat, also indigenous, to negotiate under pressure within a march in which there were indigenous people armed with bows and arrows, and whose attitude was in no way diplomatic; that they acted threateningly towards him and forced him to march along with them, using him as a shield to break the police blockade that had been set up to avoid a confrontation with other indigenous people who waited in their path to stop them.

Under those circumstances, the police, among whom there were surely indigenous officers, were threatened by the marchers. There was no exaggeration in the frequent use of the word “indigenous” in the recounting of these events. The fact is that, since Morales rose to power, giving a leading role to the indigenous and recognizing their rights, their autonomy, and their 36 nations within the new Plurinational State, the Right, unable to defend its postulates, has “discovered” its own indigenism, politically opposed to Morales. The transnationals, the NGOs, the power sectors, the church, the media, and every political aspiration, are now indigenist.

The golden dream of the opposition to Morales is to force a confrontation among indigenous people, obtain a few deaths, and expel the president like Sanchez de Lozada was expelled. So prepared were they for the effort that one of the opposition parties hastened to bring charges of genocide against Morales without there being a single shot, a single killing, or the slightest grounds to support the crime mentioned. They know that the complaint has no possibility of moving forward, but that has never been the objective, which is continuous and sustained disinformation to promote discontent.

Nothing justifies the excess of violence, but one cannot help but notice the sophisticated opposition lattice of plans designed to provoke it, blame it on Morales, exaggerate it, and publicize it. That could explain the government’s fear of committing any violence, due also to the high standard of respect for life and to civil rights to which it is committed. Without a doubt, there is an enormous campaign against Morales, because, while from Chile to Europe and by way of the United States, far less provocative protests are daily repressed with much more violence, the international media concentrates on exaggerating and taking out of context the case of Bolivia.

The conflict, nonetheless, goes far beyond what is seen, for it has at its heart an element too dangerous to remain unperceived. Perhaps due to idealism, and to the opposition’s strategy of calling him “dictator” in order to neutralize his overwhelming majority, Morales committed an error much like that which weakened president German Bush: nullifying the legitimate parliamentary force that supported him. Morales did not shut down Congress, but did reduce enormously its power, making it submit anew, directly and constantly, to the will of the people, not taking into account that fragments of that people remained largely trapped by the same transnational powers that had just lost the elections. Politically defeated, but economically powerful, the Right invested fortunes in the manipulation of that “people” and set off the chaos that has never ceased to strike back at Morales.

Now, if we believe the media, we would get the impression that the people have turned their backs on the president, or even worse. Blockades, strikes, marches, protests and more protests, as if they faced a government that has betrayed the national interests and subjugates the people in order to loot them. That takes place because, by legislating inadequately the mechanisms of consultation and protest, a popular government with two-thirds of parliamentary power has allowed itself to be reduced to the will of its defeated opponents, who act covertly in the name of the people in order to destroy the government’s agenda. It is not the people who protest, as hard as that may be to understand because the disinformation has gained ground and confused various segments of society. The manipulators are few, but very powerful, and know how to broadcast their discourse.

Bolivians must rapidly internalize all of the power that they have achieved with Morales, in order to understand that a government based on the sustained respect of the people requires the participation of a people who think and are free of the ties of colonialism. The moment is critical, therefore, not for Evo and his government, but at bottom for the Bolivian people and the future that it is betting while marching like automatons toward the destruction of their own emancipatory process. Their dilemma is whether to open their eyes to see who is hiding behind the parapets of organizations that tempt some of their leaders with power, or to go off the cliff playing useful fools in a regressive political change that would place the government in the hands of their historical enemies.

The country has been many times in situations where, because of excessive demands from the Left, power ended up in the hands of the Right, which only restored immediately its full structure of looting and illicit enrichment, without the least regard for the indigenous people nor the misguided Left that supported it in subversion. That happened with the governments of Gualberto Villarroel and of Juan Jose Torres, among others.

It is now up to the Bolivian people to make an effort to overcome the old patterns of conduct, and to add political clarity to the courage, tenacity, and extraordinary capacity to organize with which they have won such a grand conquest. That missing element would consolidate indigenous Bolivians not only as formidable combatants, but also as a thinking people capable of sustaining their own success.

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