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Bush Squares Off with Bolivia and Venezuela
E arlier this year George W. Bush had some harsh words for the governments of Bolivia and Venzeuela. “Let me just put it bluntly—I’m concerned about the erosion of democracy in the countries you mentioned,” Bush said in response to a question put to him about Venezuela and Bolivia. “I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries,” he added.
While Bush’s hostility towards Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is well known, his critical comments about Bolivia came as somewhat of a surprise, given that Evo Morales had served only four months as the country’s first Indian president and had done nothing to thwart the democratic process. As the Bolivian foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, noted: “We are creating a participatory democracy and the world knows it. I don’t understand how the United States can say democracy is eroding.”
A change is taking place in South America as Morales and Chavez move to exert greater control of their energy resources and challenge U.S. plans for a hemispheric “free trade” zone. As the president of the Bolivian Senate, Santos Ramirez, noted: “Bolivia and Latin America are no longer the servile democracies that tolerate...poverty and the surrendering of sovereignty.”
Early in May Morales announced that Bolivia would nationalize its energy resources, particularly its natural gas exports. While no foreign corporations were expropriated outright, Morales made it clear that “the looting of our natural resources by foreign enterprises is over.”
At the same time Morales moved to reshape the country’s commercial relations, particularly with Venezuela. In May Hugo Chavez flew to Bolivia, declaring, “We are going to concretize the People’s Trade Treaty,” an accord that was signed between Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba. It is openly pitched as an alternative to the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area (FTAA) of the Americas, a trade zone that facilitates the expansion of multinational corporations.
Bolivia and Venezuela have signed 8 different accords dealing with 200 different projects concerning energy, mining, education, sports, and cultural exchanges. Most importantly, Venezuela has agreed to invest over $1 billion to help industrialize Bolivia’s natural gas production, including construction of a petrochemical complex.
Venezuela is also providing diesel fuel, which Bolivia does not produce, in exchange for the sale of soybeans. This comes at an opportune moment for Bolivia as most of its soy exports have gone to Colombia which just signed a free trade agreement with the United States.
The U.S.-Colombian accord means that cheap, subsidized U.S. grains will flood Colombia, driving out Bolivian soybeans.
The burgeoning economic alliance between Venezuela and Bolivia also helps offset the difficulties that have arisen with Brazil and Argentina over Morales’s determination to exert greater control over natural gas exports. Both neighboring countries have significant investments in Bolivia’s gas fields and both are importing gas for domestic use at prices well below the world market. At a recent international gathering of Latin American and European leaders in Vienna, Austria, Morales and President Lula da Silva of Brazil exchanged harsh words over efforts to draft a new accord over natural gas. While the two leaders formally made up before they left Austria, there is little doubt that Chavez’s support provides Bolivia with leverage in its negotiations with its two more powerful neighbors.
Venezuela is also signing a financial accord aimed at bolstering Bolivia’s banking and monetary system. This is intended to strengthen Morales’s hand vis-vis the United States and international financial institutions. The Bolivian government at the end of March announced that it would not solicit any new loans from the International Monetary Fund.
Chavez’s visit to Bolivia coincided with the opening of the Exchange Fair, a project of the People’s Trade Treaty. Enterprises from Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela participated with the goal of expanding commerce and sharing technical expertise. At the fair the vice-president of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera, criticized the U.S. neo-liberal trade regime, asserting: “It is not necessary for small producers and entrepreneurs to subordinate themselves to financial capital…. There are other forms of interdependence, other forms of globalization, other ways to generate regional exchanges of products, ideas, and necessities.” Garcia Linera concluded, “Bolivia needs the world and it will produce for the world.”
T he government of Evo Morales began tackling the explosive issue of agrarian reform less than three weeks after nationalizing Bolivia’s natural gas and petroleum resources. In a country with glaring land inequities, Vice-President Garcia Linera proclaimed that large tracts of agricultural land would be redistributed to “peasants and indigenous communities.” While “productive lands” will be exempted from expropriation, Garcia Linera stated that this would not be the case for large underutilized holdings, “the latifundias that are gangster-like systems of extortion based on commercial, mercantile and political coercion.”
Outlining a series of sweeping proposals for changes in the country’s agrarian reform laws, the Morales government is taking on elite economic interests located in the eastern region of the country. This is where most of the large landed estates are located, many of them acquired through political corruption and land speculation over the last three decades. According to Miguel Urioste, the director of the Land Foundation, an independent research center in La Paz, “Bolivia has a dual land system, the minifundias and subsistence agricultural plots in the west, and the capitalist enterprises tied to the latifundias in the east.” The prosperous estates produce soy beans, cattle, and other agricultural export commodities that have enriched a bourgeoisie based in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s third largest city.
The devastating poverty that afflicts South America’s poorest country is bound up with this dysfunctional land system. Out of Bolivia’s 9 million inhabitants, 3.5 million people live in the countryside with about 80 percent subsisting at the poverty level. Garcia Linera noted in his address on agrarian reform that 40 percent of the country’s peasants and inhabitants of the indigenous agricultural communities live in conditions of extreme poverty, earning less than $600 a year. Indian women suffer the most at the bottom of this chain of exploitation. The vice president stated that, “Women will have special treatment” in the impending land redistribution program.
Even before Garcia Linera publicly stated the government’s position on agrarian reform, virtually all the business and entrepreneurial associations in Santa Cruz, under the leadership of Branko Marinkovic of the Federation of Private Businesses, issued a proclamation expressing their “deep concern with the measures of agrarian reform that are coming from the administration of Evo Morales.”
While many peasant and indigenous organizations are roundly applauding the changes in the agrarian reform law, a few leaders express reservations. Felipe Quispe, the former head of the Union Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia, who has often challenged Morales from the left, said, “The government is committing an error because it is offering to discuss the agrarian reform plan with the large landowners who have historically exploited the peasants.”
Militant indigenous movements are already staking out their intent to take over large estates. The Coordinator of Ethnic Peoples of Santa Cruz announced its determination to seize 14,000 hectares owned by Branko Marinkovic. “This land will automatically be taken because it is ours,” declared a representative of the ethnic groups. An official of the business coalition shot back, “This is an abusive assault and we are going to defend our private property with determination.”
The dye is cast with the historic initiatives taken in May. Evo Morales now faces two potent adversaries—foreign energy corporations and the Bolivian bourgeoisie in Santa Cruz.
Roger Burbach is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas based in Berkeley, California. He is co-author, with Jim Tarbell, of Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire (Zed Books) .
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.