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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why Bolivia Matters by Fred Fuentes

Evo Morales

To outsiders, Bolivia's upheaval may seem like merely the latest in a
seemingly endless series of conflicts in a tiny nation known for
political instability.

The corporate-controlled media in the United States have carefully
crafted an image of a relatively ignorant and violent populace running
rampant over hopelessly weak institutions. These distorted images
persist even though the deep changes proposed by the government have
been conducted largely through legal channels and it has been the
conservative opposition that has sought to undermine those processes.

The indigenous character of Evo Morales's leadership and popular
support plays like a subtle but palpably racist sub-theme in the
international press, with the Wall Street Journal taking the lead in
Evo-bashing. An Indian president, Morales is persistently portrayed as
a pawn of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and his deep ties to
traditional coca growers are recast as nefarious drug lord activities.
Numerous press reports portray indigenous organizations as mindless
mobs intent on dismantling the remains of Bolivia's dubious democratic

The viciousness of these attacks on the Morales government best reveal
the potential global impact of what it's trying to do. Bolivia
matters, to everyone seeking more just and stable societies, for two
reasons that Vice President Garcia Linera describes as the "two
conquests of equality"—political justice and economic justice.

The government's attempt to establish conditions for the full exercise
of citizenship for indigenous peoples goes beyond equal access to
limited forms of representative democracy. Recognizing the rights for
the 36 peoples mentioned in the new constitution implies devising
concrete mechanisms to harmonize communitarian and liberal forms of
justice and government that have very different logics. Every nation
in the Western Hemisphere where indigenous peoples have survived the
genocidal campaigns of the past five centuries faces this challenge.

The second challenge, the effort to harness the sustainable use of
natural resources for the public good, tests the limits to change
imposed by the global neoliberal system. Can a country climb from
poverty to equitable development through constitutional reform?

The answer will depend in large part on the dynamics of Bolivian
politics and the ability of the political leadership. But it will also
depend on the extent of external limitations. In assessing those
limitations, Mexican political analyst Adolfo Gilly points out "the
inelastic limits that those who govern run into, whether it be the
ferocious resistance of the classes that have been displaced from
power, and their political and economic representatives, foreign as
well as domestic; or the steel cage in which the new global neoliberal
order encloses possibilities of action, along with the imminent
presence of its powerful material base—the Pentagon, the military
force of the United States; or the material limits of scarcity,
national isolation, and poverty.".... rest at
(also check out the great short video put out by the Bolivia Support
Group in Canada at
also check out the great short video put out by the Bolivia Support
Group in Canada at

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