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Bolivian Crisis in a New South America
On September 15, Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived in Santiago, Chile for an emergency meeting of Latin American leader convened to seek a resolution to the recent conflict in Bolivia. Morales said, "I have come here to explain to the presidents of South America the civic coup d'etat by governors in some Bolivian states in recent days. This is a coup by the leaders of some provinces, with the takeover of some institutions, the sacking and robbery of some government institutions, and attempts to assault the national police and the armed forces."
As Morales spoke, the smoke was still rising from a week of violent right-wing government opposition that left the nation paralyzed, at least 30 people dead, and businesses, government, and human rights buildings destroyed. During the same week, Morales declared the U.S. Ambassador in Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, a "persona non grata" for "conspiring against democracy" and for his ties to the Bolivian opposition.
Massacre in Pando
On September 11, in the tropical Bolivian department of Pando, which borders Brazil and Peru, 1,000 pro-Morales men, women and children were heading toward Cobija, the department's capital, to protest rightwing governor Leopoldo Fernández and his thugs' takeover of the city and airport.
According to press reports and eyewitness accounts, when the protesters arrived at a bridge seven kilometers outside the town of Porvenir, they were ambushed. Shirley Segovia, a Porvenir resident, told Bolpress, "We were killed like pigs with machine guns, with rifles. The campesinos had only brought their teeth, clubs, and sling shots, they didn't bring rifles. After the first shots, some fled to the river Tahuamanu, but they were followed and shot at." Days later the death toll rose to 30, with dozens wounded and over 100 still missing.
Fernández denies orchestrating this violence. However, in 2006 he was denounced by then government Minister Alicia Muñoz, who said the governor was training at least 100 paramilitaries as a "citizen's protection" force. These paramilitaries are believed to have participated in the massacre. Fernández is one of the opposition governors that form part of the National Democratic Council (CONALDE), an organization that includes governors from Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija, and Chuquisaca who are organizing for departmental autonomy against the Morales government and his Administration's redistribution of land and natural gas wealth and other socialistic policies.
After the massacre, Morales declared a state of siege in Pando, sent in the military, and by September 15 a tense peace had reportedly returned to the region. Fernandez was arrested and taken to the Bolivian capital.
The massacre took place just weeks after an August 10 national recall vote in which Morales won 67 percent support nationwide. In Pando, Morales won 53 percent of the vote, an increase of 32 percent from the 21 percent he received from Pando residents during the presidential election in 2005.
A few key political developments led to this recent increase in regional tension. On August 28, Morales announced a presidential decree establishing a constitutional referendum on December 7. This vote would apply to the constitution which was re-written and passed in a constituent assembly in December 2007. On September 2, 2008 the electoral court said it opposed the referendum because it had to first be passed by Congress. As the opposition controlled the Senate, the debate revived existing conflicts and opposition leaders began to block major roads and seized an airport in Cobija on September 5.
Congress ratified yet another draft of the Bolivian constitution on October 21. A national referendum of whether or not to make the document official is scheduled for January 25, 2009. If the constitution is approved in the January referendum, a new general election will take place in December 2009.
In the days leading up to September 11, anti-government protesters ransacked businesses and attacked human rights organizations across the country. On September 10, an explosion reportedly set off by opposition groups disrupted the flow of gas lines to Brazil from Tarija, Bolivia.
U.S. Ambassadors Expelled
Following these tumultuous events, Morales demanded that U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg leave the country. Morales said, "The ambassador of the United States is conspiring against democracy and wants Bolivia to break apart."
The announcement came after a private meeting between Goldberg and the right-wing governor of Santa Cruz on August 25 and a later visit to the opposition governor of Chuquisaca. Throughout Goldberg's time as ambassador, which began in 2006, the Morales government had accused him of orchestrating U.S. funding and support to opposition groups in the eastern part of the country. Before coming to Bolivia, Goldberg worked as an ambassador in Kosovo from 2004-2006 and a consular in Colombia. At a final press conference in La Paz, Goldberg said: "I want to say that all the accusations made against me, against my embassy...against my country and against my people are entirely false and unjustified."
Following the U.S. ambassador's expulsion from Bolivia, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that the U.S. ambassador in his country had to leave. The U.S. responded by asking the ambassadors of Venezuela and Bolivia to leave the U.S. This all took place during a tense few months in U.S.-Latin American relations in which the U.S. Navy reinstated its Fourth Fleet in the Caribbean after decades of inactivity, Chavez announced joint exercises with Russia in the Caribbean, and Bolivia strengthened its ties with Iran.
On November 1, weeks after the meeting in Santiago, Morales accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of spying and supporting the anti-government groups that were involved in the September violence. He suspended the DEA's activity in the country, stating that the Bolivian government would continue anti-drug trafficking efforts without the DEA's involvement.
Bolivian Military Alliances
Though the threat of a "civic coup d'etat" still looms, the Bolivian military is unlikely to back the opposition. Kathryn Ledebur, a human rights specialist and director of the Andean Information Network (AIN) in Cochabamba, said, "CONALDE is trying to set Morales up, drive a wedge between him and the military. But in spite of their frustrations, they [the military] have received more materially and in terms of a positive discourse from the Morales government than any other civilian one and that makes a huge difference.
"CONALDE has intentionally created a messy catch 22 for the Morales administration, a tense, provocative violent situation, in some cases targeting the security forces," Ledebur explained. "If Morales orders repression or there are clear cut violent acts by the security forces, his legitimacy as a socially conscious president erodes. But if the security forces don't [act], as they didn't for a long time, the vandalism escalates, and the military and police get humiliated and attacked, which in the long term erodes what, at least for the armed forces, had been a mutually beneficial marriage of convenience, with friction along the way."
This past June the AIN released a report analyzing the Bolivian Armed Forces' growing mission in the country under Morales. According to this report, part of the military's support stems from the fact that Morales has given the military popular and lucrative jobs such as "enforcing customs regulations and confiscating contraband at the borders, including authorization to arrest offenders." The AIN report explains that "traditionally military officers look forward to border postings as 'the most profitable part' of their careers." In addition, "under the Morales government, the armed forces are in charge of baking subsidized bread (the regular price has gone up 270 percent in the past year), as well as passing out bonuses to schoolchildren and senior citizens." Improved wages among some officials and better equipment have also kept the military on Morales's side.
The AIN report stated that the Bolivian military "will continue to categorically reject aggressive regional autonomy initiatives or threats of secession as risks to both national sovereignty and the budget they receive from the national government." As one high ranking officer explained to AIN, "The only way the military would even remotely consider a coup, is if they took away most of our budget; at the core, we're really a bunch of bureaucrats."
The current crisis in Bolivia and the ongoing diplomatic drama between the U.S. and Latin America says a lot about the future of the region and its cooperative handling of economic and political questions. In an interview via email, Raúl Zibechi, an Uruguayan journalist, professor, and political analyst who writes regularly for the Americas Program, said he believes the expulsion of U.S. ambassadors and the regional leaders' response to the conflict in Bolivia "is the manifestation of the fact that the USA can no longer impose its will on Latin America, and very concretely in South America." He says there are two reasons for this change: "The birth of a regional power that seeks to be a global player, such as Brazil, a capitalist power, but with different interests from the USA, and the existence of governments born of the heat of the resistance of social movements in countries that are large producers of hydrocarbons, as in Venezuela, Bolivia, and perhaps Ecuador."
Zibechi emphasized Bolivia's importance as the leading supplier of gas to Argentina and Brazil, and how this contributes to the support Morales receives from these nations. "Brazil has big stakes in much of Bolivia and it already announced that it would not permit a destabilization of the country," Zibechi explained. "The key alliance in the region is between Brazil and Argentina. They have problems, but in this topic they are very united."
On September 15 in Santiago, Chile, the nine presidents within the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), including Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, and Chile, met to come to a resolution on the Bolivian crisis. This organization is one of the newest in a series of regional networks that are making increasingly collaborative political and economic decisions throughout South America. After six hours of talks, the UNASUR group issued a statement which expressed "their full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales, whose mandate was ratified by a big majority." In the statement, the leaders "warn that our respective governments energetically reject and will not recognize any situation that attempts a civil coup and the rupture of institutional order and which could compromise the territorial integrity of the Republic of Bolivia." They also decided to send a commission to Bolivia to investigate the killings in Pando.
Though attempts to overthrow leftist governments are unfortunately nothing new in South America, region-wide cooperation between left-leaning governments is new. As Morales and other regional leaders forge ahead with progressive policies, the geopolitical map of the hemisphere is being redrawn, in large part by the new alliances between South American nations and the region's increased resistance to Washington's political and economic interference.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
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 scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated 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 on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.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 University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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 throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
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 branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, 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.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.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 in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.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.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.