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Flashback: Declassified Documents Revealed More than $97 Million from USAID to Separatist Projects in Bolivia

“USAID’s work in Bolivia is not just oriented towards strengthening the opposition to Evo Morales and promoting separatism, but also involves attempts to penetrate and infiltrate indigenous communities, seeking out new actors to promote Washington’s agenda that have an image more representative of the Bolivian indigenous majority. One declassified document clearly outlines the necessity to give ‘more support to USAID and Embassy indigenous interns to build and consolidate a network of graduates who advocate for the US Government in key areas.'”

Press conference by US researcher and investigative journalist, Jeremy Bigwood in La Paz, Bolivia, October 11, 2008. Reveals proof and documents to the press and public that show US intervention in Bolivia. (English subtitles | Running time: 7:17)

Below is an article by Eva Golinger. Golinger is a Venezuela-based award-winning Attorney and Author. You can follow her on twitter.

Newly declassified documents reveal More than $97 million from USAID to separatist projects in Bolivia

May 22nd, 2009

Eva Golinger

Recently declassified documents obtained by investigators Jeremy Bigwood and Eva Golinger reveal that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested more than $97 million in “decentralization” and “regional autonomy” projects and opposition political parties in Bolivia since 2002. The documents, requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), evidence that USAID in Bolivia was the “first donor to support departmental governments” and “decentralization programs” in the country, proving that the US agency has been one of the principal funders and fomenters of the separatist projects promoted by regional governments in Eastern Bolivia.

Decentralization and separatism

The documents confirm that USAID has been managing approximately $85 million annually in Bolivia during the past few years, divided amongst programs related to security, democracy, economic growth and human investment. The Democracy Program is focused on a series of priorities, the first outlined as “Decentralized democratic governments: departmental governments and municipalities”. One document, classified as “sensitive”, explains that this particular program began when USAID=2 0established an Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI) en Bolivia during 2004. The OTIs are a division of USAID that function as rapid response teams to political crises in countries strategically important to US interests. The OTI only address political issues, despite USAID’s principal mission dedicated to humanitarian aid and development assistance, and they generally have access to large amounts of liquid funds in order to quickly and efficiently achieve their objectives. The OTI operate as intelligence agencies due to their relative secrecy and filtering mechanism that involves large contracts given to US companies to operate temporary offices in nations where OTI requires channeling millions of dollars to political parties and NGOs that work in favor of Washington’s agenda. After the failed coup d’etat against President Chávez in April 2002, USAID set up an OTI in Venezuela two months later, in June 2002, with a budget over $10 million for its first two years. Since then, the OTI has filtered more than $50 million through five US entities that set up shop in Caracas subsequently, reaching more than 450 NGOs, political parties and programs that support the opposition to President Chávez.

In the case of Bolivia, the OTI contracted the US company, Casals & Associates, to coordinate a program based on decentralization and autonomy in the region considered the “media luna” (half-moon), where the hard core opposition to President Evo Morales is based, particularly in the province20of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Casals & Associates was also charged with conducting a series of training seminars and workshops to strengthen oppositional political parties that were working against then presidential candidate Evo Morales in 2004 and 2005. After Morales was elected president at the end of 2005, OTI directed the majority of its funding and work to the separatist projects that later produced regional referendums on autonomy in Eastern Bolivia. Their principal idea is to divide Bolivia into two separate republics, one governed by an indigenous majority and the other run by European descendents and mestizos that inhabit the areas rich in natural resources, such as gas and water. After 2007, the OTI, which had an additional budget of $13.3 on top of USAID’s general Bolivia program funding, was absorbed into USAID/Bolivia’s Democracy Program, which since then has been dedicating resources to consolidating the separatist projects.

USAID’s work in Bolivia covers almost all sectors of political and economic life, penetrating Bolivian society and attempting to impose a US political and ideological model. The investment in “decentralization” includes all the support and funding needed to conform “autonomous” regions, from departmental planning to regional economic development, financial management, communications strategies, departmental budget structures, and territorial organization designs – all prepared and implemented by USAID representatives and partners in=2 0Bolivia. As part of the program titled “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” (SDI), USAID describes its work to “enrich the dialogue on decentralization; improve management of departmental budgetary resources; and promote regional economic development.” Through this program, USAID has even created “territorial organization laboratories” to help regional governments implement their autonomy successfully.

In one document dated November 30, 2007, just months before the separatist referendums held in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija during early 2008, the Democratic Initiatives Program of OTI/USAID worked closely with the Prefects (regional governments) to “develop sub-national, de-concentrated” models of government. In those regions, those promoting such “sub-national, de-concentrated” models, or separatism, have made clear that their objective is to achieve a political, economic and territorial division from the national government of Bolivia, so they can manage and benefit solely from the rich resources in their regions. It’s no coincidence that the separatist initiatives are all concentrated in areas rich in gas, water and economic power. The multi-million dollar funding from USAID to the separatist projects in Bolivia has encouraged and supported destabilization activities during the past few years, including extreme violence and racism against Indigenous communities, terrorist acts and even assassination attempts against President Morales.

Strengthening political parties in the opposition

Another principal priority of USAID in Bolivia as outlined in the declassified documents is the extensive funding and training of oppositional political parties. Through two US entities, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), both considered international branches of the republican and democrat parties in the US that receive their funding from the Department of State and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID has been feeding – with funding and strategic political aide – political groups and leaders from the opposition in Bolivia. During the year 2007, $1.250.000.00 was dedicated to “training for members of political parties on current political and electoral processes, including the constituent assembly and the referendum on autonomy.” The principal beneficiaries of this funding have been the opposition political parties Podemos, MNR, MIR and more than 100 politically-oriented NGOs in Bolivia.

Intervention in electoral processes

An additional substantial part of USAID’s work in Bolivia has been devoted to intervening in electoral processes during the past few years. This has included forming a network of more than 3,000 “observers”, trained by USAID grantee Partners of the Americas, a US corporation that also receives funding from major companies and entities that form part of the military-industrial complex. The creation of “networks” in “civil society” to monitor electoral=2 0processes has been a strategy utilized by Washington in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua, to later use such apparently “independent” observers in an attempt to discredit and delegitimize elections and denounce fraud when results are not favorable to US interests. In the case of Venezuela, for example, the organization that has implemented this strategy is Súmate, a Venezuelan NGO created with funding and strategic support from USAID and NED, that has presented itself in the public opinion as “apolitical” but in reality has been the principal promoter of the recall referendum in 2004 against President Chávez and later the leader in denouncing fraud after every electoral process in Venezuela lost by the opposition, despite that such events have been certified as legitimate and “fraud-free” by international institutions such as the Organization of American States, European Community and the Carter Center. These “networks” function as centers for the opposition during electoral processes to strengthen their position in the public opinion and through the mass media.

Penetration in indigenous communities

USAID’s work in Bolivia is not just oriented towards strengthening the opposition to Evo Morales and promoting separatism, but also involves attempts to penetrate and infiltrate indigenous communities, seeking out new actors to promote Washington’s agenda that have an image more representative of the Bolivian indige nous majority. One declassified document clearly outlines the necessity to give “more support to USAID and Embassy indigenous interns to build and consolidate a network of graduates who advocate for the US Government in key areas.” The document further discusses the need to “strengthen democratic citizenship and local economic development for Bolivia’s most vulnerable indigenous groups.” Per USAID, “this program shows that no one country or government has a monopoly on helping the indigenous. The program shows that the US is a friend to Bolivia and the indigenous…”

http://boliviarising.blogspot.com/2009/05/newly-declassified-documents-reveal.html

Peak Hypocrisy | U.S. Backed Organizations Exploit Crisis in Bolivia

September 30th, 2011

by Cory Morningstar

In their scathing “open letter” (whereby they appoint themselves judge, trial, jury and executioner – advising people that Evo Morales is essentially corrupt and has lost all support), The U.S. Democracy Centre states:

 “The events of the past week represent something new rising in Bolivia. The people – who have now listened to many Morales speeches about protecting the Earth and guaranteeing indigenous people control over their lands – have risen to defend those principles, even if their President has seemingly abandoned them. Ironically, Morales has now inspired a new environmental movement among the nation’s younger generation, not by his example but in battle with it.”

The Democracy Centre would do well to listen to their own admonitions.

If The Democracy Centre’s mandate was, in reality, to protect the Earth, guarantee Indigenous Peoples control over their land, rise to defend these principles, and inspire a new environmental movement among their nations younger generation, The Democracy Centre would (as would the U.S.-funded NGOs such as Avaaz and Amazon Watch who are exploiting this horrific crisis to its full potential) be endorsing, promoting and campaigning on the People’s Agreement of Cochabamba (in which over 20,000 Indigenous Peoples participated).

They have not.

And finally, is it not completely egregious for any U.S. organization (funded with foundation money via corporations and plutocrats) to have the audacity to dictate the values of human rights and non-violence to any country, when U.S. bombs are “reigning” down on occupied countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, while covert U.S. wars are underway in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. These wars are murdering untold numbers of men, women and children – all in the name of resource exploitation, all under the grossly false auspices of democracy and liberation. The elite, institutional left take no issue in denouncing the Morales government yet remain silent on the war crimes committed by the U.S. – the biggest imperialist power in the world.

Bolivia is and will remain a country who desperately struggles to resist Imperialism and fight for their autonomy – against all odds.

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Read more about The Democracy Centre and their “open letter”: http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2011/09/29/about-the-u-s-democracy-centre-an-open-letter-to-our-friends-about-the-current-situation-in-bolivia/

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U.S. Influence | 2010 Ecuador crisis

“The script used in Venezuela and Honduras repeats itself. They try to hold the President and the government responsible for the “coup,” later forcing their exit from power. The coup against Ecuador is the next phase in the permanent aggression against ALBA and revolutionary movements in the region.” – Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger

“Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger claimed that the coup attempt was part of a systematic, US-supported plan to destabilise member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). She alleged that US ambassador Heather Hodges was sent to Ecuador by former US President George W. Bush “with the intention of sowing destabilization against Correa, in case the Ecuadoran president refused to subordinate himself to Washington’s agenda,” and that Hodges increased the budget of USAID and the NED for social and political groups that “promote US interests.” Golinger claimed that certain “progressive” social groups received “financing and guidelines in order to provoke destabilising situations in the country that go beyond the natural expressions of criticism and opposition to a government.” According to Golinger, USAID’s 2010 budget in Ecuador $38 million. Golinger referred to the indigenous political party Pachakutik Movement’s press release on 30 September asking for Correa’s resignation on the grounds that his “dictatorial attitude” had generated “serious political turmoil and internal crisis.” In the statement, Pachakutik leader Cléver Jiménez said that the “situation” of the police and armed forces in the coup attempt “should be understood as a just action by public servants, whose rights have been made vulnerable.” Golinger alleged that Pachakutik was funded by NED and USAID and that its call for Correa’s resignation and its support for the mutiny was an example of the US plans to destabilise ALBA member states. Pachakutik strongly denied having “any relationship at all with the organism known as USAID, previously NED, not today nor ever” and accused the Ecuadorian government of having accepted USAID/NED funding. Golinger responded by referring to a National Democratic Institute (NDI, one of the four institutes funded by NED) report from 2007 describing Pachakutik being trained by the NDI in “Triangle of Party Best Practices and strategic planning methodologies” as part of NDI’s Latin American/Caribbean Political Party Network of over 1400 individual members, funded under NED Core Grants 2000-031, 2001-048, 2003-028, and 2004-036.” [Source: Wikipedia]

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A must watch documentary which clearly illustrates why extreme care and caution is so incredibly important during such a crisis. The stealth and deceit can be nothing less than staggering.

The War On Democracy

The story of the manipulation of Latin America by the United States over the past 50 years, including the real story behind the attempted overthrow of Hugo Chávez in 2002 (with English subtitles)

Versión en español

‘The War On Democracy’ was produced and directed by John Pilger and Christopher Martin and edited by Joe Frost. The film, John Pilger’s first for cinema, explores the current and past relationship of Washington with Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile.

Using archive footage sourced by Michael Moore’s archivist Carl Deal, the film shows how serial US intervention, overt and covert, has toppled a series of legitimate governments in the region since the 1950s. The democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende, for example, was ousted by a US backed coup in 1973 and replaced by the military dictatorship of General Pinochet. Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador have all been invaded by the United States.

John Pilger interviews several ex-CIA agents who took part in secret campaigns against democratic countries in the region. He investigates the School of the Americas in the US state of Georgia, where Pinochet’s torture squads were trained along with tyrants and death squad leaders in Haiti, El Salvador, Brazil and Argentina.

The film unearths the real story behind the attempted overthrow of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez in 2002 and how the people of the barrios of Caracas rose up to force his return to power.

It also looks at the wider rise of populist governments across South America lead by indigenous leaders intent on loosening the shackles of Washington and a fairer redistribution of the continent’s natural wealth.

John Pilger says: “[The film] is about the struggle of people to free themselves from a modern form of slavery”. These people, he says, “describe a world not as American presidents like to see it as useful or expendable, they describe the power of courage and humanity among people with next to nothing. They reclaim noble words like democracy, freedom, liberation, justice, and in doing so they are defending the most basic human rights of all of us in a war being waged against all of us.”

‘The War On Democracy’ won the Best Documentary Award at the 2008 One World Awards.

The panel’s citation read: “There are six criteria the judges are asked to use to select the winner of this award: the film’s impact on public opinion, its appeal to a wide audience, its inclusion of voices from the developing world, its high journalistic or production standards, its success in conveying the impact of the actions of the world’s rich on the lives of the poor and the extent to which it draws attention to possible solutions. One film met every one of these. It was the winner of the award: John Pilger’s ‘The War on Democracy’.”

Read John Pilger’s article about the making of ‘The War On Democracy’ which appeared in the Guardian in June 2007.

http://www.johnpilger.com/videos/the-war-on-democracy

ABOUT THE U.S. DEMOCRACY CENTRE (An Open Letter to Our Friends About the Current Situation in Bolivia)

The Democracy Center, in the U.S., dismayed by what has happened in Bolivia, bitterly critical, and holding “the highest levels” responsible – and that, precisely because of the reputation of the Centre but also its powerful reach, is now issuing an open letter being circulated around the world, with this posting having been made from India.

Their open letter is found below.

The Democracy Center:Current Foundation Support

  • The Wallace Global Fund, Washington, DC: General operating support.
  • The Open Society Institute, New York, NY: Support for The Center’s investigation and publishing work related to Bolivia and Latin America.
  • The Shadow Foundation, Portland, OR: Support for The Center’s investigation into the Transredes (Shell/Enron) Bolivia oil spill and its aftermath.

The Democracy Center: Other Major Foundation Support over the Past Decade

  • The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, New York, NY
  • The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Los Altos, CA
  • The California Wellness Foundation, San Francisco, CA
  • The David and Elise Haas Fund, San Francisco, CA

http://democracyctr.org/blog/about/our-funders

September 28th, 2011: A leading activist of REDES (Social Ecology Network), in Uruguay, responded / reacted to the posting by The Democracy Center by forwarding an article by Federico Fuentes, to give what he stated is “a more balanced and nuanced picture of what is happening than what we are getting via email and the news”: Bolivia : Crisis deepens over disputed highway

No wonder Jim Shultz (The Democracy Centre) recently wrote: For a decade many environmental activists have focused their climate efforts on the doomed goal of getting the world’s governments to bind themselves to some form of enforceable planetary speed limit on the growth of carbon emissions and atmospheric temperature. It was a surrender of national sovereignty that was
never to be. The fights in Washington and Bolivia are taking on the climate crisis where we will most need to wage the fight, at the national and local level, policy-by-policy, project-by-project. Shifting our best efforts from global summitry to decisions closer to home also links the climate debate to more immediate concerns like oil spills and forest destruction that might drawbroader support.”

While we must all support local struggles, the idea that we can win this the oncoming ecological collapse by NOT taking up the fight at the international level is exactly the kind of thinking his funders/sponsors would support and which the Bolivian government correctly understands is a strategy for defeat.

Below is a Bolivian solidarity response to the article written by Jim Shultz titled “From Disillusionment to Direct Action: A Tale on Two Continents.”

I think there is a major flaw in Jim’s portrayal of symmetry [“profound commonality”] between the Tipnis standoff in Bolivia and the Keystone XL pipeline protests in North America.

I would argue that there is a profound lack of commonality.

Bolivia is an extremely impoverished country struggling against powerful imperialist forces and penetration – led by the world’s only superpower. It is still in the initial stages of decolonizing and nationalizing its own state, one that had been largely gutted and stunted through foreign domination and the apartheid exclusion of indigenous peoples from public affairs and governance. Over recent decades NGOs with international funding came to fill the vacuum and to offer some of the attributes of stable governance, and in the process creating a special middle class, a clientel middle class. This was the flipside of foreign domination by transnationals.

The Morales-MAS indigenous government is leading a revolution, a long march, against this heritage. Not surprisingly, it is meeting stiff resistance from many NGOs and new NGO-based middle class layers. No surprise, also, that US and European destabilization schemes have found fertile soil in this NGO web of networks.

Washington has at its beck and command many arsenals of divide-and-conquer strategies and tactics, some first developed and honed in the settlement wars against North American indigenous peoples.

The defeat of the first indigenous anti-imperialist government in the America’s is a vital strategic necessity for US imperialism.

Now, can any such powerful foreign factors be said to be at play in Keystone XL pipeline protests?

I realize that the Bolivian government has made errors in its handling of the Tipnis dispute, but it is a vanguard force in both the struggle for indigenous self determination, and in the global struggle to save the planet from environmental meltdown. On both fronts Washington and its imperialist system is the principal enemy.

Jim’s article obscures this fundamental divide, and for that reason strikes me more as part of the problem than the solution.

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An Open Letter to Our Friends

About the Current Situation in Bolivia

Dear Friends,

Over the past few days we have received many emails from friends outside of Bolivia, long-time supporters of the struggle for social justice here, asking for our opinion and analysis about the turbulent events of the past week. In particular, people want to understand what led to the government’s

of the indigenous march protesting construction of a highway through the TIPNIS rainforest. As many of you know, a year ago the Democracy Center stopped its ongoing reporting about events in Bolivia and we intend to return to that role. However, given recent events neither can we be silent. Our analysis and views are represented in the article below. Please share it with others who might be interested.

Jim Shultz

The Democracy Center

The Morales Presidency Takes an Ugly Turn

In 2005, Sacha Llorenti, the President of Bolivia’s National Human Rights Assembly, wrote a forward for our Democracy Center report on an incident here two years previously, known as ‘Febrero Negro’. The IMF had demanded that Bolivia tighten its economic belt and President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada complied by proposing a new tax on the poor. His action set off a wave of protest and government repression that left 34 people dead. Llorenti wrote of the government’s repression, “Those days refer to an institutional crisis, state violence, and her twin sister, impunity.”

Only months after Llorenti wrote those words, that era in Bolivia’s history seemed swept away in a wave of hope. The nation’s first indigenous President, Evo Morales, rode into power on a voter mandate unmatched in modern Bolivian history. He proclaimed a new Bolivia in which indigenous people would take their rightful place in the nation’s political life, human rights would be respected, and a new constitution would guarantee autonomy for communities ignored by the governments of the past. Overnight the people who had been attacked or ignored by Bolivia’s leaders suddenly became Bolivia’s leaders. Llorenti eventually rose to the most powerful appointed position in the nation, Minister of Government. The rays of optimism that spread out from Tiwanaku and La Paz extended worldwide and Morales become a global symbol of something hopeful.

It is a sad measure of how deeply things have changed that it was Llorenti himself who stepped behind the podium at the Presidential Palace last Monday to defend the Morales government’s violent repression of indigenous protesters on September 25th. Five hundred police armed with guns, batons and tear gas were sent to a remote roadside to break up the six-week-long march of indigenous families protesting Morales’ planned highway through the TIPNIS rainforest. Llorenti’s declarations echoed the tired justifications heard from so many governments before: “All the actions taken by the police had the objective of preventingconflicts and if cases of abuse have been committed they will be punished.”

Men, women and children marching to defend their lands were attacked with a barrage of tear gas, their leaders were beaten, women had bands of tape forcibly wrapped over their mouths – all under orders from a government that had promised to be theirs. How did it come to this?

The Highway Through the Rainforest

The indigenous families that were attacked by police on that Sunday left their lands in the TIPNIS on August 15th to march nearly 400 miles to their nation’s capital and press their case against the road that would cut through the heart of their lands. President Morales had made it very clear that he was not interested in hearing any more of their arguments against the mainly Brazil-financed highway. In June he declared, “Whether you like it or not, we are going to build this road.”

Morales argued that the highway was needed for “development,” creating new economic opportunities in parts of the country long isolated. In the name of those goals he was willing to ignore the requirements of community consultation and autonomy in the new Constitution that he had once championed. He was willing to abandon his own rhetoric to the world about protecting Mother Earth and to ignore studies about the likely destruction of the forest that the new highway would bring. What could have been a moment of authentic and valuable debate in Bolivia about what kind of development the nation really wanted instead became a series of presidential declarations and decrees.

As the march of some 1,000 people crept slowly onward toward La Paz its moral weight seem to grow with each step, drawing growing public attention that Morales couldn’t stop. The march became the lead story in the country’s daily papers every morning for weeks. Civic actions in support of the marchers grew in Bolivia’s major cities. More than sixty international environmental groups, led by Amazon Watch, signed a letter to Morales asking him to respect the marchers’ demands.

From Morales, however, each day only brought a new set of accusations aimed at stripping the marchers of their legitimacy. First, said the government, the march was the creation of the U.S. Embassy. Then the government declared that the marchers were the pawns of foreign and domestic NGOs. Last week while in New York for his speech to the U.N., the Morales entourage announced that it had evidence that it was former President Sanchez de Lozada who was behind the march. The litany of ever-changing charges began to sound something akin to a schoolboy scrambling to invent reasons for why he didn’t have his homework.

When the charges failed to derail the marchers’ support, the government and its supporters decided to try to steer them off their path to La Paz in other ways. They blocked the arrival of urgent donations of water, food, and medicine gathered and sent from throughout the country. But this only added yet again to the moral weight of humble people walking the long road to the capital.

Tear Gas at Dusk

Just after 5pm on Sunday, September 25, five hundred police dressed in full battle gear descended on the encampment (

) where the marchers had pitched themselves for the night. Running at full speed they began firing canisters of toxic tear gas directly into the terrified groups of men, women, and children. Then the police began forcing them, screaming and crying, onto buses and into the backs of unmarked trucks for unknown destinations. Television footage captured the police knocking women to the ground and binding their mouths shut with tape. Many others ran to escape into the trees and fields so far from their homes. Children were separated from their parents.

Later that night those who had escaped the police began to take refuge in the small church of the town of San Borja. Early Monday morning government planes tried to land on an air strip in the town of Rurrenabaque, where more than 200 captured marchers were to be forcibly put aboard and returned to the villages where they had begun their trek so many weeks and miles before. The people in the community swarmed the runway to keep the planes from landing and were met with another attack of tear gas by the police sent there by the government.

Hours later the country’s young Defense Minister, Cecilia Chacon, announced her resignation. She wrote in a public letter to President Morales, “I can not defend or justify it [Sunday’s repression]. There are otheralternatives in the framework of dialogue, respect for human rights, nonviolence, and defense of Mother Earth.”

She became the latest in a string of former Morales allies who had dramatically split from the government over the TIPNIS highway and the government’s abuses of the marchers. Morales’ former ambasador to the U.S., Gustavo Guzman, and the President’s former Vice-Minister for Land, Alejandro Almaraz, had not only left the government but also gone to join the marchers.

Over the course of the following Monday public denouncements poured out against the police attack on the marchers – from the National Public Ombudsman, the U.N., women’s groups, human rights groups, the Catholic Church, labor unions, and others, including many who had once been fervent Morales supporters.

By that Monday evening, with his public support in freefall, Morales finally spoke to the nation. He began by denying any involvement in Sunday’s police violence, blaming it on unnamed subordinates. But after years of arguing that his predecessors should be prosecuted for the abuses of soldiers and police under their command, it was a defense that convinced no one. Several key government officials told journalists that such an aggressive police action would never have taken place without orders from the government’s highest ranks.

Morales then announced that he would put the highway to a vote by the two Bolivian states, Cochabamba and Beni, through which the project would pass. Almaraz, the former Lands Vice-Minister, and others, quickly pointed out that such a referendum was unconstitutional, a direct violation of the provisions allowing local indigenous communities to decide the fates of their lands.

If Morales thought he had plugged the political leak in his weakened Presidency, it became clear Tuesday morning that the anger against him was only growing. Larger marches filled the streets in the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Sucre. The country’s labor federation (C.O.B) announced a strike. By nightfall the nation’s transportation workers announced that they too would stage a work stoppage Wednesday in opposition to the highway and in support of the marchers.

Just after 7pm Tuesday night Sacha Llorenti appeared at the Presidential Palace podium once again, this time to announce his own resignation. It appeared not so much an act of conscience, in the mold of Ms. Chacon’s the day before, but more a man being tossed overboard in the hope that it might afford the President some political protection.

Then Morales took to the airwaves to add an announcement of his own –

the temporary suspension of construction of the disputed road. But by early Wednesday news reports revealed that the Brazilian firm happily bulldozing the highway had received no such order.

A People Rising

Wednesday morning Evo Morales woke to a nation headed for a transit standstill, with new marchers headed to the streets, schools closed and a nation deeply angry with its President. The cheering crowds of his 2006 inaugural had become a distant memory.

What is behind Morales’ devotion to a road through the heart of the TIPNIS? Is he simply a stubborn believer in a vision of economic development filled with highways and factories, in the style of the North? Is it a matter of Presidential ego, of not wanting to make the call to his Brazilian counterpart (Brazil is both the financier and constructor of the road, and eager to gain access to the natural resources it would make accessible), admitting that he can’t deliver on a Presidential promise? Are his deepest supporters, the coca growers, so anxious for a road that will open up new lands for expanding their crop that Morales has been willing to push things this far? Only President Morales knows his true motivations. But what is a certainty is that he has paid an enormous political cost for sticking to them.

The events of the past week represent something new rising in Bolivia. The people – who have now listened to many Morales speeches about protecting the Earth and guaranteeing indigenous people control over their lands – have risen to defend those principles, even if their President has seemingly abandoned them. Ironically, Morales has now inspired a new environmental movement among the nation’s younger generation, not by his example but in battle with it.

In my interview with Sacha Llorenti for our report on Febrero Negro, he also told me something else. He told me that the 2003 repression was, “the moment in which the crisis of the country was stripped down to the point where you could see its bones.” Today in Bolivia a different crisis has laid bare a new set of political bones for all to see.

Evo Morales, in his global pulpit, had been an inspiring voice, especially on climate change and on challenging the excesses of the U.S. In Bolivia on economic matters he has often been true to the world, raising taxes on foreign oil companies and using some of those revenues to give school children a modest annual bonus for staying in the classroom.

But the abuses dealt out by the government against the people of the TIPNIS have knocked ‘Evo the icon’ off his pedestal in a way from which he will never fully recover, in Bolivia and globally. He seems now pretty much like any other politician. What has risen instead is a movement once again of the Bolivian people themselves – awake, mobilized, and courageous. The defense of Bolivia’s environment and indigenous people now rests in the hands, not of Presidential power, but people power – where real democracy must always reside.