The U.S. Embassy will try to impose a "democratic" regime in Bolivia defined by its concept of "democracy," that which ironically kills, represses, obliges, starves, and imprisons
January 12, 2004
Democracy is that which we construct, what the people construct when we see the unjust and ignominious conditions under which we live. A blockade is democracy. Demonstrations are democracy. Democracy is the voice of a people that rises up against those who harm it. Democracy is found in the acts of history that we have taken that enable us to defend her. Those are the acts that have driven her existence. That which a people construct: that is democracy.
Popular pressure is the base upon which our democracy is defended in the face of her conquest. Hunger strikes and armed resistance are important tools, the means by which those who have arrived in the Bolivia of today now count with a Congress that includes indigenous and "minorities," who are, in reality, majorities.
The capitalist system, under which we find ourselves, when it is not in danger of being overwhelmed by the public, cedes to us a supposed democracy, promoting it as a gift so that we behave ourselves. However, the Bolivian people have bypassed this charity, which explains why we have had so many coup d'etats in our history, which have been no more than a reactionary response to our truly democratic and progressive spirit. We do not speak of representative democracy, but, rather, we propose, feed, and fight, for a real democracy.
One of the greatest goals that confronts the Bolivian people is the discrepancy in ideology: while a few assure that democracy is constructed from the halls of Congress, written in documents, by means of a deaf and blind obedience to the Yankee Embassy, accepting without any other option a "peaceful" and imposed democracy, the people fight for their democracy from the streets, by means such as blockades, hunger strikes, and demonstrations. They fight to be heard. They are those who Jacques Ranciere, in his book, La Mésentente ("The Disagreement"), named as "those without a stake," those who have taken account of their condition and who, by means of litigation and complaint demand to be heard and to be taken into account.
Lamentably, the government treats this democracy as a crime, as terrorism, as illegal, using ridiculous arguments, as well as through the imposition of laws that protect a small few from these "terrorist" movements. Such is the case with Bolivia's new Citizen Security Law.
Nevertheless, Bolivia has yet another enemy to confront when it comes to true democracy. Ironically, it is an enemy that preaches democracy, one that is only valid, and viable as long as it follows its own standards and definition of democracy: the American Embassy. The American Embassy has a long history of interventions in Bolivia’s politics, and today the situation turns Bolivia into a country in which U.S. meddling is far from unusual, for it is they who decide what democracy really is. Today, democracy, according to the imperialist country up north and to USAID is the political party named MNR (National Revolutionary Movement), thus discriminating against other political parties as undemocratic, terrorists, and even drug dealers, such is the case of MAS (Movement Toward Socialism) There are documents that prove this. A State Department cable from La Paz, Bolivia to Washington, DC # 2002LAPAZ2723, uncovered by journalist Jeremy Bigwood through the Freedom of Information Act, reveals:
In other words, USAID, which is NOT a political party, is now deciding what democracy is and which party represents “true democracy” in Bolivia, thus blatantly attacking legitimate Bolivian political parties who represent a great majority.
The Bolivian Security Law criminalizes the act of calling for, or conducting, a blockade of highways: punishable by two to eight years in prison. The crimes of robbery, inciting of crime, causing injury, and extortion, as applied to blockades, are punished with longer and harder prison sentences. "The legislation hardens the penalties of eleven crimes in the Penal Code: inciting the public to commit crime; attacks against the security of transport routes; attacks against the security of public safety services; serious injury; serious and light injuries; injury followed by death; evasion; manufacture, commerce, or possession of explosive substances; robbery, aggravated robbery, and extortion. According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, a person can't be detained in jail if the crime for which he is accused carries a penalty of less than three years. In this case, the elevation of the prison terms of these eleven laws will lead, in some cases, to the accused being brought directly to jail: That is, in effect, a return to the inquisitional system." (Source: La Prensa - La Paz, Bolivia - Edition of August 1, 2003 http://126.96.36.199/20030801/politica/politica05.htm )
To put this in less formal and less legal words, the proposed Law of Citizen Security is no more than the obstruction of the true democracy by those who have no stake, and it brings the unjust and deliberate impeding of their rights.
If we look to the past, to the Revolution of 1952, Bolivia's political life took a turn from the conquest toward democracy. Then, fighting against the oligarchies of the tin barons, who had the power, including to impose laws upon Congress, and of a regime that conserved the stains of feudalism and slavery, we passed to a democracy won by the people, with arms in hand, defeating the most important bastions of that society. It was the people who succeeded in defeating the army, confronting them with their own arms. In this, the ex-combatants of the Chaco War, with their combat experience, from the working class and with the same cause, assumed the role of vanguard. Years passed and saw that the government of Victor Paz Estensoro and the MNR party betrayed the workers' movement, showing their capitalist teeth, and little by little they pulled away from true democracy to take on roles defined by the most dogmatic capitalism and servile to the United States.
The people, upon realizing this, demanded their rights more and more and the deepening of democracy, with the Thesis of Pulakayo, stating the rights of workers and miners of Bolivia. Under these circumstances the forces of reaction took on roles in the affair, and provoked the coup d'etat of November 4, 1964, headed by General René Barrientos Ortuño. This aviator with a populist gloss imposed a dictatorial regime that brought repression to high levels. It was in this context that the guerrilla of Che Guevara, polarizing the class struggle, and calling upon the workers' vanguard to comply with its historic role, surged.
The internal struggles inside the same Armed Forces provoked a series of unnatural governments, which was the case with the "co-governing" between René Barrientos Ortuño and Alfredo Ovando Candia, who shared, apparently, the Presidency of the Republic. And, on the other side, the most reactionary sectors of the Army, who killed him, to take power and achieve the implantation of a regime of a more pure capitalism. That's how we got to the guerrilla of Teoponte, which provoked a major polarization in all the sectors of the nation. To culminate all this, the coup by Juan José Torres, brought a new vision of populism in which great freedoms were given, and that which got farther and farther from the most retrograde concepts of the Army, but without truly building a government that tried to represent the popular sectors.
The Assembly of the People, the liberation of Regis Debray, and of the ex-combatants from Che's guerrilla that were still prisoners, are some of the examples of the popular character of that government. But since it could not do it by other means, the U.S. Embassy, with all its ability to break and manipulate national politics, with a conspiratorial character, provoked the most fascist coup d'etat known in our modern history, installing Colonel Hugo Banzer in the Government Palace to have the most repressive and savage regime in our history. That it was for a nascent democracy: below a de facto regime it was aborted by all the repressive methods imported by those who were in Panama, being trained for that work. Seven years of resistance in every form - unions, armed, and finally with a massive hunger strike, achieved in imposing democracy, one more time won by the people, through much pain, suffering, and blood. Thousands of victims were left behind in the path. And only today, at the beginning of 2004, are they recognized as the heroes of democracy.
When the people attempted to enlarge its democratic spaces, led largely by Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, and a popular movement grew day by day, another military official came to impose his repressive policy, and it did not matter from where he got the money to finance his fascist regime. That is how General Luis Garcia Mesa rose and imposed his narco-dictatorship. However, the people were stronger and ended his attempt to rule for twenty years. The people obligated the return to democracy, and through smaller coups d'etat the government of Hernan Siles Zuazo arrived. It was a highly difficult situation from the socioeconomic point of view, governing with all kinds of sabotage and boycott by the businessmen and the entire rightwing. There were attempts to topple it, as occurred when he was kidnapped. But the people, knowledgeable that it had to conserve democracy, mobilized, avoiding the fall into new dictatorships. There was a lot of hardship in this epoch, and as the right's response we found the end of the road with the return by Victor Paz Estensoro to the Government Palace, who is the artifice of neoliberalism, with his accomplice, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. In this atmosphere they imposed Law 21060 and the entire model that even today destroys the popular classes and that has created a divide, still wider, between rich and poor.
After the passage of Law 21060, there followed tepid and mediocre governments, like that of the MIR party that certainly did not leave many direct deaths in its term. But, in reality, the deaths added up to the thousands, because they were deaths from hunger and misery. The government of Hugo Banzer and Jorge Quiroga did nothing more than administer death - by hunger, and misery, and by bullet - filling the prisons with fighters for the people, whose only crime was to rise up against injustice.
Returning to the government again, Sánchez de Lozada, weakened for his lack of real substance, took little time to be seen obligated to the pressures of the International Monetary Fund to take measures that he knew would cost him his defeat, as in the case of the mega-tax. He thought himself invulnerable because he was backed by the Embassy on Arce Avenue. The people took to the streets fighting, rather than die of hunger. The streets once more were dressed in red, but we succeeded in reversing the project with pure power and unbreakable will, sentencing it to death if it continued impeding the rights of the people. From this came last October, and a united people took to the streets, not only fighting for gas, but also to change the model that, for twenty years, squashed every one of the Bolivian people without mercy. It is a triumph, but we must remain alert, because in any moment, the reactionary forces ARE going to try, again, to reverse our victories.
The history that we have lived is no more, today, than a pure warning of what will come. On one hand, we continue having those that by means of their support from the U.S. Embassy will try to impose a "democratic" regime defined by its concepts of democracy, that which ironically kills, represses, obliges, starves, imprisons, and tries to destroy what our people have constructed with our blood. But on the other side are the brave ones, those who have the true concept in their possession, those without a part, those who by the means of litigation, complaint, armed struggle, of stones, of blockades, of hunger strikes, of humanitarian and just thinking and feeling, will not be defeated, because they believe "hasta la victoria, siempre," because they have "the nerve to defeat the enemy, the nerve to live without having a price."