Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bolivia on May 4th- The Next Latin American Crisis Because You Know Making Up is Hard to Do....

....Especially when you are trying to let oil cartels build oil pipelines through Bolivia. But is is necessary if the United States wants to make any progress in its Pan-American policies with the center-left governments of South America. And, as an added bonus, develop friendly relations with the rest of the governments of the Americas.

When I asked about the proposed constitutional referendum in Bolivia I was surprised by the diversity of answers I received.

This is only one interesting article on the issue, from Al- Jeezera:

Bolivia to hold constitutional vote

Morales supporters celebrated on Thursday the decision by congress to hold a referendum [AFP]

The Bolivian congress has decided to hold a referendum in May on a new constitution, proposed by Evo Morales, the president, granting greater political power to indigenous groups.

Members of Morales' Movement Towards Socialism party approved the referendum on Thursday in a disputed session marked by the absence of many opposition legislators.

The opposition had demanded amendments to the constitution aimed at reducing the central government's influence and strengthening self-rule in six of the country's nine eastern provinces.

These areas are the wealthiest in Bolivia.

If approved by voters, Morales' constitution would outline a detailed bill of rights and considerable autonomy for the country's 36 indigenous groups, who say they were shut out of power by the white population.

Alvaro Garcia , the vice-president, said that Morales is expected to sign the referendum into law on Friday.

Contentious charter

Opposition politicians say the charter favours the native communities over the rest of the population and fails to address demands for autonomy from the eastern states.

They are fighting Morales' land and wealth redistribution plan and want to keep more of the region's gas revenues.

Morales has called for a May 4 referendum - the same day that the eastern state of Santa Cruz, home to his fiercest opposition, will hold a vote on a proposal to declare autonomy.

Three other opposition-controlled eastern states are expected to follow suit later in the year.

Opponents blocked

The vote took place on Thursday while hundreds of pro-Morales farmers and miners demonstrated for three days outside congress in support of the referendum.

Most opposition legislators were blocked from attending the session by a crowd of flag-waving Morales supporters and miners in hardhats who seized the plaza outside the congressional building.

Riot police largely abandoned the plaza in front of the congress on Thursday afternoon, granting control of the building's access to the pro-Morales crowd.

Immediately after the referendum passed, however, riot police reappeared to clear the congress steps.

I also received a variety of interesting answers to my questions about the constitutional reform from people within Bolivia and other states in South America.

I would say that what I discovered surprised me, but given the behavior of the Bush Administration toward Latin America and given the influence Colombia and its extreme right wing narco-traffickers are trying to excerpt on Bolivia it is not too surprising.

Unlike the opposition parties in the United States, in Bolivia the regional governor of Santa Cruz (which I call Santa Cruz de los muertos for the number of people that the fascist governor has killed each year) has formed a group called the "Juventud CruceƱista" with money from (apparently but not for sure) USAID under the direction of Ruben Costas el jefe and governor of Santa Cruz, who wants regional autonomy and who is hoping with the assistance of the oligarchy of Bolivia to "attack" Evo Morales the president of the country.

Note I did not say he wants to attack the policies of Evo Morales' "Movement Toward Socialism" party, the clique of Rueben Costas, Branko Marinkovik, and Carlos Dabdub with a few very wealthy landowners are threatening the life of the president and also allowing their "youth group" to roam the streets and threaten the people and their families with such political tools as "knives, daggers and pistols." Screaming that this is the "death of democracy," these groups are going about intimidating or threatening to kill all the social democrats, democratic socialists and moderate republicans, not to mention the poor libertarians.

This is because they are afraid that the predominantly socialist government will re-distribute land to landless peasants.

That is, and I want to be very clear here, their fear comes from the fact that the government is proposing to do exactly what Solon did for the Athenians in the 6th century BC, to bring about a true democratic reform.

The prospect of independent enfranchised farmers has frightened the entrenched Spanish aristocrats since they sent O'Higgins into exile in Peru and Bolivar came and kicked some of their ancestors off the land and back to Spain. Since the days when Teddy Roosevelt and the Americans broke up their latifundia's in the Philippines, all the way through to today.

The revolutionary force of liberty is irresistible when it is coupled with equality in the the way that Solon or Jefferson understood it. Every time this phenomena occurs anywhere in the world, oligarchs tremble. But despite what you may hear in the news, this is not anything new.

Let me repeat that, it is nothing new and nothing really revolutionary.

Deliberate change in the way agricultural land is held or owned, the methods of its cultivation, or the relation of agriculture to the rest of the economy is not a new phenomena. The most common political objective of land reform is to abolish feudal or colonial forms of landownership, often by taking land away from large landowners and redistributing it to landless peasants. Other goals include improving the social status of peasants and coordinating agricultural production with industrialization programs. The earliest record of land reform is from 6th-century-BC Athens, where Solon abolished the debt system that forced peasants to mortgage their land and labour.

Solon, is who we see the Bolivian government imitating. The very first Republican-Democrat in the world, Solon, is not a bad model for reform.

Solon who even the most ardent right wing classicists note created a unique monetary and land system without acknowledging his particular genius to bring about land reform without violence, is the great-godfather of all real democracy everywhere.

The same Solon who later Greeks noted achieved greatness by "The cutting off of debts, which was peculiar to Solon: it was his great means for confirming the citizens’ liberty; for a mere law to give all men equal rights is but useless if the poor must sacrifice those rights to their debtors, and if the very seats and sanctuaries of equality, the courts of justice, the offices of state, and the public discussions, be more than anywhere at the beck and bidding of the rich."

And with the number of landless laborers and displaced farmers in Bolivia at somewhere near or around between 75,000- 120,000 this would be a good thing for social stability and the national re-integration into the world economy.

But as always, and as in Greece, the oligarchs oppose it violently. While this number is significantly lower than the million Mexican farmers displaced from NAFTA in 2003 which has now ballooned to over 2 million, in Bolivia there is a much larger and more substantial number of landless and excessively poor people with "no land" who have no way to make a living, most of whom are Native Americans, while a tiny minority are "allowed to benefit from globalization" because they control everything from the local restaurant to the Coca-Cola franchise and cooperate with the Colombian narco traffickers and blame it all on the indignant "coca eating Indios."

This style of political strong arming is alarming and even more so that it is being facilitated by right wing movements all over Latin America but is particularly encouraged by Colombia's government and apparently funded in part by USAID.

It is not in the libertarian tradition, the republican tradition, or the democratic tradition, instead it goes back to the days of the Spanish colonial Latifundia that gives large feudal lords control over and excessive power within unapproachable government bureaucracies.

I think that given these circumstances, the United States should send a clear message with the OAS to the oligarchs of Bolivia, "If you kill that Indian, Evo Morales, or hurt the people you disagree with you are going to be cut off. Forever. And this exile from the international community will continue for as long as you continue to use violence and right wing terrorism as a political weapon. No oil, no nothing, Embargo on Reuben Costas and Embargo Santa Cruz until you stop using violence to achieve political goals." The same goes for extreme left wing violence.

Let's hope that before it reaches that point, the OAS intercedes to avert another Latin American crisis for the sake of Pan-American unity.

All you need to do to see how the United States is helping fund opposition groups within the country as part of a covert "aid" program is read the very desperate letter below and you will see how your tax dollars are being used to subvert another legitimate government on behalf of drug cartels and oil companies.....

Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice
U.S. State Department

Dear Secretary Rice,

We, the undersigned, write with concern about U.S. foreign policy towards Bolivia. It is important that the United States appreciate the historical context of changes currently underway in that country and the tensions created. At such a sensitive time, the U.S. must be careful not to appear biased, and should support a peaceful and constitutional resolution in Bolivia.

We ask that USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy stop funding regional government initiatives and opposition groups in Bolivia.While it may appear good in Washington DC to help regional initiatives, in Bolivia this appears to be partisan at a time when six of these departmental governments are the principal opposition to the national government. During these tense times, the U.S. should re-evaluate its misguided “democracy” initiatives.

Recent reports and unclassified documents indicate that the United States appears to support organizations working to undermine national dialogue, the Constitutional reform and other changes.

While the Office for Transitional Initiatives functioned in Bolivia, it provided “support to fledgling regional governments” with the bulk of its financial support going to departmental governments opposed to the national government. USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have supported key opposition organizations and leaders in the eastern states of the “Media Luna”. During the year starting March 2006, USAID provided 116 grants worth $4,451,249 to “strengthen the institutional capacity of departmental governments.[see http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/cross-cutting_programs/transition_initiatives/country/bolivia/rpt0607.html]

In 2008 the Department of State budgeted $10,092,000 to Bolivia under the “Govern Justly and Democratically,” category and the budget request for 2009 is $28,492,000 for the same program area. We are concerned that this near tripling of spending will be used to support opposition groups or departmental governments, erode democracy and increase destabilization of the country.

This targeted support for opposition groups and departmental governments combined with the recent scandal of a U.S. Embassy official asking Peace Corps and Fulbright members to spy on Venezuelans and Cubans in Bolivia, have negatively impacted the image of our country and our citizens currently residing there.

This policy makes the valuable work of researchers, human rights, church and development organizations more difficult.

We ask you to see that the United States stop supporting opposition forces so that a peaceful and constitutional resolution to proposed national reforms and policies can be achieved.

Historical Background

In 2005, Evo Morales won a landslide election victory to become Bolivia’s first indigenous President. His election was a direct result of a growing movement among Bolivia’s indigenous majority that called for a redistribution of a natural resources and the recognition of indigenous self-determination and autonomy through a new constitution.

The Morales government renegotiated contracts with energy companies leading to a large increase in income for the Bolivian people, resumed a stalled agrarian reform process begun in 1953, and instituted an assembly to draft a new constitution to be voted on in a national referendum.These reforms are bitterly opposed by the business and media elite, particularly the large landholders of Bolivia’s lowlands where natural gas reserves and millions of acres in under-productive cattle ranches are concentrated. Meanwhile, the majority of Bolivia’s indigenous poor lives in the Andean region.

The lowland elite are fanning the flames of racism and regionalism, determined to split Bolivia rather than allow a just redistribution of resources. While the proposed constitution recommends a decentralized government that recognizes both indigenous and regional autonomies, the lowland elite fight for control over gas revenues which could result in further impoverishing Bolivia’s Andean indigenous regions.

Bolivia is trying to settle very difficult internal problems. In light of a long history of intervention, it is important that the United States do everything possible to be neutral and so that a peaceful resolution can be attained.

Now is the time to stop funding regional government initiatives.


Cc: Mr. Thomas A. Shannon
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Mr. Howard L Berman D-CA
Chair, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Mr. Eliot Engel, D-NY
Chair of the subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Mr. Joseph Biden, D-Del
Chair, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Mr. Richard Lugar, R-In
Minority Chair, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

It is time to stop wasting my tax money to support drug dealers and oil cartels Condoleezza......And it is time for the OAS/ OEA to get the "cajones" to stand up to this type of direct and indirect pressure and interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations.

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