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(en) Workers Solidarity #79 - Restlesness in the Andes Popular uprising in Bolivia against neo-liberal privatisation of gas resources forces government out

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 2 Feb 2004 10:04:30 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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The history of Latin America is one of revolt, hope and resistance.
Its most recent chapter was written by the Bolivian people in the
turmoil of September and October last year. The Bolivian people
suffer from one of the most blatant and shameless exploitations in
the world by both their local and foreign rulers. They have a long
tradition of organisation and direct action. That means solving the
deep problems that affect their impoverished society with struggle
by their own means and forces.

For centuries they've been robbed of their natural resources and
their labour, and as the silver from Potosi[1] was filling the palaces
of the aristocracy and the rich bankers' wallets in Europe, misery,
starvation and death in the mines[2] was the reward for Bolivian
slaves and workers. But the straw that broke the camel's back
came a couple of months ago, when the government lead by
Sanchez de Lozada (El Gringo[3]) wanted to sell the natural gas
(of which that country has the biggest resources in the world) to
the USA at a ludicrous price. Only 18% of the profits were staying
in Bolivia. The people were angry because of the fraudulent way the
Gas was sold, because the decision was made by the president
alone without consultation with the people and because they
wouldn't stand for their resources being sold before their own needs
were satisfied. Was it logical for the Gas to be sent to the US,
while many people in the Bolivian countryside still heat their homes
with cattle excrement?

The people's anger was first expressed by the union leadership.
Then, on the 15th of November, marches and strikes started to be
made by the unionised rank and file. The peasants united with the
movement in the cities, and the roads were blocked in protest. That
movement soon spread over all the country, but it was especially
strong and militant in the Aymara[4] regions, particularly in El Alto
(La Paz). The country went on general strike on the 28th of
November, and all the voices of Bolivia became one single yell:
"Down with the President." They've had enough with the corruption
of the ruling class, with their robbery, and with capitalist policies.
Now the general demand was to attend to people's needs before
serving the market.

The media lied about the real cause of the struggle, and tried to
show that the people in the streets simply opposed the Gas being
sold through Chilean ports[5]. To oppose this narrow view - useful
for capitalist interests - the popular slogan was that the Gas should
be sold neither from Chile nor Peru[6]. Instead it should be
processed in Bolivia itself and then could be sold and used to bring
gas to the households which lacked it. A miner in Potosi told me
they (the politicians and the media) say that Bolivia is poor
because of Chile; but the rich men from both countries share
business. The Bolivian army called experts from the Chilean army
to help slaughter Bolivian people protesting in the streets; they all
behave like old good friends, while the people of both countries still
distrust each other.

El Gringo's government accused the whole mass movement of
being infiltrated by a bunch of "evil agitators" and replied in the
traditional way to the just demands of the people: repression. The
military came on to the streets and shot participants in the people's
struggle, leaving in their wake at least 85 victims. The people
fought back with courage, consciousness and organisation. Bolivia
has a very well organised working class, with high levels of
unionisation and it was the unions and indigenous groups who were
the leading forces in the struggle. It was a real rank and file mass
movement that after many days of strike, direct action and struggle
forced the unpopular president to quit and go back to the USA, on
the 17th of December.

It is true that changing the president is no real solution to the deep
problems of Bolivian society. It remains a country with an enormous
concentration of capital and property in the hands of a tiny elite and
there has been no change in a system that excludes the majority
from the decision-making. But El Gringo's fall from power
strengthened the people's awareness of their capacities. And it is
also true that the movement continues with growing demands
among the people for stopping the looting of their resources and
labour, for developing local industry, against the bosses
dictatorship, for bottom-up rule, expressed by some through the
Constituent Assembly but more clearly expressed in the direct
democracy forms of mass organisation and by the Aymara
independent movement, which utterly rejects the current system in
favour of an egalitarian and non-hierarchical society. As long as
exploitation and misery persists, there is going to be struggle.

by Paddy Rua


[1] mining centre during the Spanish colonial times

[2] it's estimated that around eight million indians died in works
related to the mines of Potosi during Colonial times.

[3] He's called that, because he has lived most of his life in the
USA common feature of many Latinamerican politicians- and,
having a perfectly fluent English, he can barely speak Spanish, and
no Aymara nor Quechua at all, the three languages in the country!!!!

[4] Aymara is a native language of the Andean Region, spoken in
southern Peru, northern Chile and western Bolivia. It is spoken by
many ethnic groups who recognise themselves as part of a huge
nation, divided by frontiers of States absolutely alien to them.

[5] In 1879-1883 a bloody war between Chile and Peru-Bolivia, left
the latter country without any sea, as Chilean military forces
occupied its shores.

[6] Peru was the other option for exporting it.

See also

* Anarchism and the fight against Imperialism
* Against capitalist globalisation
See also
* Anarchism and the fight against Imperialism
* Refugees & Asylum seekers in Ireland
* Anarchism and Religion

This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
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