An article from Do or Die Issue 10. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 178-179.
One death per week, one wounded per day, dozens of reports of tortures, dozens of persecuted unionists, a hundred political prisoners, and the closing of radio stations related to social and union movements. In less than six months, that is the balance of the regime, more atrocious than it has been in Bolivia since the fall of the military dictatorships 20 years ago.
The tone of these days is complemented by the media attacks, which criminalise all social protest, orchestrating the state's imposition of an economic and political system on society. Everything is under the rule of capitalist imperialism, which exerts a rapacious incursion of geopolitical domination, which clashes with the mobilised wrath of the Bolivian proletariat.
The working class, which has been on the ascent since 2000, is progressively fortifying its unity and clarifying its objectives. The push of the working masses has forced union leaders to join the ever more radicalised fight of the class which is freeing itself in Bolivia.
Facing the violence of the state and capital, the proletariat is defending itself. In the last month, three soldiers and a policeman have been finished off in Chapare; while in Sucre a group of small debtors, defending themselves from foreclosure, threw gasoline at a squad of police and set them on fire. In the locality of Pocitos, thousands of border workers made a group of elite police flee and burned the border post with Argentina. On 2nd February 2002, a march of thousands of workers, cocaine farmers, college students, small debtors, teachers, health workers, water workers and workers without retirement, ended up throwing stones, firecrackers and paint at the police station in the city of Cochabamba, in protest at the ferocious repression exerted by the elite forces, the 'dálmatas', who are accused of torturing political prisoners with electrical charges applied to the gums. Finally a group of young people dressed in black threw a homemade bomb, which injured five policemen, including a senior officer.
Over the last 2 weeks, Cochabamba has become the epicentre of the protests, with thousands taking to the streets; raising barricades, making bonfires, setting vehicles on fire and attacking shops selling luxury goods, as well as the court building. They laid barbed wire and glass to stop the passage of the brutal body of police, which when it finally arrived, captured even children of 11 years of age and used heavy arms. This fact was cynically accepted by the government minister, who explained it by saying that they had finished their supplies of gas.
The social movement in Cochabamba, which includes coca growers, demands the abolition of parliament and the formation of a popular assembly. The disturbances exploded after the expulsion of a member of parliament, the farmer Evo Morales. He is the union leader of the coca producers; the so-called cocaleros, who are spread over the whole Chapare region and engage in the growing of coca leaf, the buying and selling of which the government recently decreed illegal in the zone, thereby condemning over 35,000 families to hunger. All this is under the orders of Washington and in the frame of the phoney war on drugs.
Traditionally, coca has been used for over a thousand years, and at present large sectors of indigenous and mestizo people use it habitually as a part of their culture. This is why the movement of coca growers has described the campaign of eradication and commercialisation of coca as like a cultural genocide. So, the troops of the military and police have assassinated more than eighty coca growers in this region alone, shooting and torturing several hundred, besides pillaging and burning whole towns.
The true intention of capitalist imperialism, the financier of this campaign, is the control of the Amazon and Andes regions, and is one part in the strategy of eliminating any social resistance in the region. The iron resistance of the cocaleros movement is partly explained by the flexible organization it practices, being based on the horizontal communitarian traditions of the Ayllu and Ayni, who have a self-managing tradition.
A similar organisation has also been developed by the natives of the plateau, who have added to the mobilisation by cutting the road routes, demanding among other things the expulsion of ENRON from the country. Transport routes of almost all regions of Bolivia appear to be blocked to different degrees. While the great majority of routes are cleared by the soldiers by noon, they quickly become re-obstructed. The significance of the interruption is not in the permanence of the barricades, but that it deters people from using the roads as they can't be relied upon. Several peasant organisations and those of indigenous people have warned that the battle for land will be more serious than that for coca, because it will favour the large landowners of the east as a result of the reforms of the political constitution of the state.
The social movement in struggle involves many sectors - four days ago even the police of Santa Cruz rebelled, demanding food vouchers! Although it does not act in a very premeditated and coordinated manner, solidarity between the different sectors is a constant and is challenging the government and the faith in bourgeois democracy.
The government of President Quiroga is a corpse that continues to govern thanks to the support of the American Embassy. Its existence is paradoxical in a convulsed country with such a great tradition for coups. It is an expression of the times that Latin America is living in, under the capitalist imperialistic yoke. The presence of an opposition which is rooted in the proletarian movement is imperative, one which is directed towards burying not only the corpse of the Quiroga government, but also the state and capital. None of the leaders of the different movements that are shaking the country are directing their fight beyond the level of revenge, against a regime that unloads the weight of its crisis onto the backs of the workers. These leaders just look after their own privileges. The bureaucracies must be overcome, otherwise we will become victims of the capitalist crisis that lies on the horizon and whose consequences we have already felt. Only a social revolution and the construction of a new society can offer a future to the workers who fight, not only to solve their immediate problems, but also to construct their self-managed, horizontal, libertarian communist future..
Juventudes Libertarias, Bolivia
Guillermo Rivera, PO Box 479, Sucre, Bolivia