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(en) Britain, *Organise! #62 - HOT IN CHILE, ON THE BOIL IN BOLIVIA

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 3 Mar 2005 08:24:03 +0100 (CET)


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On August 13, 2003 Chile had its first general strike since the
Pinochet dictatorship. It was supported by 80% of workers in
both the public and private sector.
The anarchists of the CUAC- Congress of Anarcho-Communist Unification- have
been among those agitating for this general strike over the course of the
last year. There is a massive level of unemployment in Chile, many jobs are
short term and there has been a general impoverishment among the working class.
Privatisations and a massive debt have contributed to these miseries. Alongside
this is a massive anger among the people against the widespread corruption
within the governing class. The government of Ricardo Lagos and his
Socialist Party are implementing laws and a neo-
liberal economic plan developed under the
Pinochet regime. As well as workers, students,
various women's organisations, artisans and the
unemployed have been involved in the unrest.
Whilst it was officially led by the main trade
union organisation, the CUT, it still represented
a general wish to get rid of the old Pinochet
codes of work and the old Pinochet political
constitution.
The strike was most massively supported among
the copper miners, health workers and teachers
in the public sector. In the private sector the taxi
drivers were the most militant. Also noticeable
was the participation of the lorry drivers, who
were used by the military in the run up to the
coup of 1973. But the situation has changed
considerably and 90,000 of them are
unemployed.
Nearly a million people demonstrated in the
main towns. The police viciously attacked these,
and in Santiago, there were 200 arrests.
Workers, unemployed and students responded
bravely and the riot police were forced to retreat
under a rain of stones. The copper miners
physically confronted the police in northern
Chile. The socialist government is using the
sinister political police against the unrest. At the
same time, the Socialist Party said it was
supporting the strike! Outside the workplaces
there is a growing movement in the
neighbourhoods and shanty towns, which is now
beginning to coordinate throughout Chile. The
mass movement in Chile is at its first stage
compared to the movements in Argentina and
Bolivia.

On the boil in Bolivia

The history of Bolivia is marked by a long
tradition of struggles. In 1952 a popular
insurrection ended the military dictatorship and
workers took control of the mines. To head off
genuine socialisation, the government of Paz
Estenssoro nationalised the tin mines.
In 1978 Bolivian women opposed to the
dictatorship started a hunger strike which ignited
a general strike leading to the fall of the dictator
Hugo Banzer.
In 2000 the population of Cochabamba, the
second town of the country, rose against the
privatisation of water and the British
multinational that owned the water distribution
network had to withdraw from its concession.
This lead to the municipalisation of water.
The popular uprising of September-October
2003 which led to the fall of president Sanchez
de Lozada mobilised 70 % of the population but
did not raise the question of changing society
radically.
There was massive unrest in Bolivia in
opposition to the export of gas to the USA in
those months. The Western media put the
accent on this as the cause of the unrest, but
really it was a catalyst for general discontent over
widespread privatisation, the cutting of pensions,
education "reforms", and calls for the
redistribution of the land and the determination
of the government, under pressure from the
to destroy the cultivation of coca leaf.
Already during a revolt of 12-13 February
2003, the government had fired on the
crowd, killing 35 and wounding 210.
The September uprising was ignited in the
Altiplano region. There the peasants
blockaded all the main routes to the
capital, La Paz. As a result there were hard
struggles with the forces of order, leading
to 6 dead including a child of 7. In the
town of El Alto, with a population of
650,000, a "civic strike" organised by the
neighbourhood associations paralysed the
town and spread through the La Paz valley.
The army surrounded the town with tanks.
As a result of struggles with the military, at
least 30 people were killed. In response,
electric power stations and gas pipelines
were attacked. Another child, aged 5, died
in the confrontations. Rumours circulated
of mutinies in the barracks and police
stations.
Three thousand miners marched from
Huanuni to La Paz to join the protests.
The army blocked their route on 15th
October a hundred miles from El Alto.
Another vicious attack took place, leading
to 2 dead and more than 15 wounded by
rifle fire. The soldiers used the situation to
rob the miners of their personal
possessions. On the 15th also, the military
closed down several daily papers that
criticised the Sanchez de Lozada
government. The television studios were
also attacked by the military, but huge
assemblies outside them caused the army
to retreat. This was not the case with
various radio stations, where the army
dynamited the studios.

Goni has gone

people set up "hunger strike pickets" in
various regions, demanding the resignation
of Goni. He was forced to resign, to be
replaced by his vice-president, Carlos
Mesa.
Both the workers movement and the
movements of the Indian tribes were
decisive, but equally important was the
mobilisation of young people, the citizens
assemblies, and above all women.
Women were the driving force in setting
off hunger strikes in 20 provinces of La
Paz region. They were in the forefront of
the road blockades. They inspired and
gave courage in all the confrontations with
the police and army. The mobilisation of
women was massive but was passed over in
silence by the political organisations,
unions and struggle committees involved
in the uprising. Men monopolised the
platforms during the marches on La Paz.
Women were relegated to domestic tasks
like the preparation of meals.
At the presidential elections in June 2002,
48% of the population abstained and Goni
owed his winning of the presidential post
to an alliance of circumstance of all the
political parties opposed to the Radical
Left of the Indian leader Evo Morales,
who came second.
Carlos Mesa has the support of the USA.
The ruling class remains in place. The
opposition does not want to go beyond the
overthrow of Sanchez Lozada. Morales
and Quispe, the Aymara Indian leaders,
want to take power so they can convene a
sovereign constituent assembly and push
through a programme of nationalisation.
But beyond these reformist measures are
moves to federate the popular
organisations that sprang out of the
insurrection, to link together workers,
peasants and Indian committees.
The anarchists in Bolivia do not have the
capacity to exert much influence at the
present time. Some are active in the
revolutionary syndicalist minority of the
COB (Bolivian Workers Central) others
have been very active in the youth
movements. They constitute the
revolutionary elements that tomorrow, we
hope, will give birth to a current capable of
inspiring a new revolutionary movement in
Bolivia.

Various ministers began to resign, but
"Goni" Sanchez de Lozada then appeared
in public surrounded by fascist and far
right leaders and proposed a referendum
to "consult" on the question of gas sales.
This was meant to calm things down, but
only led to larger demonstrations, where
the subject of 75 murdered by the regime
in the confrontations, and avoided by
"Goni", was put on the agenda. Goni
referred to anyone opposing the
government as "terrorists, drug traffickers,
enemies of democracy, anarchists and
delinquents".
The military panicked more and began to
destroy TV aerials in the working class
areas. On the 16th October enormous
demonstrations converged together on the
administrative capital. More confrontations
with the military took place leading to
more deaths. The vice-president broke
ranks and said he was opposed to the
government's policies. Seven hundred
======================================
* Buletin of AF - Anarchist Federation - Britain


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