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Bolivia’s Radical Realignment
W ith the nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas and petroleum resources, President Evo Morales is dramatically reshaping his country’s destiny. On May 1 he proclaimed “an historic day has arrived. Now the gas and oil that flows from our land will no longer belong to foreigners.” This came just after his return from Havana, Cuba where he signed the People’s Trade Agreement with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Until these dramatic steps, it was somewhat unclear in what direction Morales was moving during his first three months in office. He and his foreign minister held at least four talks with U.S. Ambassador David Greenlee in which both sides seemingly extended the olive branch. As Greenlee said in March after one meeting, “We have a constructive dialogue with the government of Bolivia over a wide range of themes and mutual interests.”
Two factors compelled Morales to seize the country’s national resources and to realign the country internationally: (1) the militancy of the country’s peasant, worker, and indigenous movements, and (2) the decision of the U.S. to foist “free trade” agreements that would damaged Bolivian exports to other Andean nations.
Morales and his political party, MAS (the Movement for Socialism), took power in January with a clear popular mandate. Until May 1 some of the country’s popular movements felt that Morales had reneged on his campaign promises as he did little more than state that Bolivia already “owned its resources.” His approval ratings dropped from 80 to 68 percent. But as one observer in La Paz notes, “Evo is a masterful politician. Morales chose this moment to act because of the elections for the Constituent Assembly that are scheduled for July. The assembly will have the power to redraft the country’s constitution and reshape its political institutions.”
As Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linares has noted, the goal of MAS is “to achieve hegemony” and the Constituent Assembly is central to this process. Bolivia has been unstable for years because of poverty, military revolts, and the conniving of the country’s political elites as they loot the public treasury. As in Venezuela, prior to Hugo Chavez’s election, the traditional parties are viewed as bankrupt.
With the government’s expropriation decree, 15 corporations have been nationalized, along with foreign capital from a wide variety of nations, including the U.S., Spain, Great Britain, Brazil, France, and the Netherlands. Seizing control of these enterprises goes hand in hand with Bolivia’s audacious steps in the trade arena. MAS and Morales view neo-liberalism, U.S. trade agreements, and corporate-driven globalization as major obstacles to their country’s development. This year Colombia signed a so-called “free trade agreement” with the United States that is particularly harmful to Bolivia. Sixty percent of Bolivia’s major agricultural export, soy beans, currently goes to Colombia. The U.S.-Colombian accord means that subsidized U.S. grains will flood Colombia, driving out Bolivian soy production.
Peru has also signed a trade agreement with the U.S. that will have an adverse impact on Bolivian exports to Peru. These accords have ruptured the 37-year-old Andean Community of Nations, a trade pact that included Venezuela and Ecuador, as well as Bolivia. Chavez announced in April that Venezuela was withdrawing from the pact because the U.S. had “fatally wounded” the community. Morales has also stated that Bolivia is reconsidering its membership.
This trade agreement and the nationalization of Bolivia’s natural resources mark a dramatic shift in hemispheric affairs. Morales is serving notice that he is becoming part of a radical bloc of Latin American nations that are no longer subservient to the United States.
Roger Burbach is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas in Berkeley. His recent books are The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice , and Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire, both from Zed Books .
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.