Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
International Noise Conspiracy
Z Papers On Strategy
Dan La Botz
Mark t. Harris
Rank & File
Top Lies About Iraq
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
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
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/.