Round III: Jim Hickman lives in Bolivia…
Most of your articles and information are very reliable and appreciated for what they are. This time, however, it is a mix of good research (Chellis’s article) and a bit of exaggeration (your friend of a friend memo.) Chellis’s article was published several months ago after she did a very thorough job of discovering the facts and assembling the story in an
engaging way. She definitely understands the political dynamics here in Bolivia, especially the role of racial identity in the process. I am glad you have circulated it. It is important that the Evo fans around the world
understand that, like Obama, his promises and his actions are far removed from each other.
However, the introductory rant is obviously by someone recently involved here in Bolivia. While most of the comments are drawn from Chellis’ article, he/she makes two significant errors.
1. The sentence about new laws affecting the press is exaggerated. The regulation itself was justified at the time it was passed because the media before Evo had used its power to abuse, insult and demean the indigenous majority here. Partly that regulation is a law against racism, the intent behind a set of regulations passed at the time. It does not include the power to close papers, radio stations, etc. because of politically
dissenting opinions, though we all know that governments have the capacity to reinterpret regulations to fit their needs when the opportunity arises.
2. People being afraid to protest because of the fear of the right is not true either. It was the protests against the right, beginning with the 2000 Water War that actually brought Evo to power and gave the people the
inspiration that they could give voice to their discontent on streets of Bolivia. The demonstrations that are happening now are mild compared to the battles fought in the streets during the water wars of 2000 and gas war of 2004, both of which built the political base for Evo’s presidency. Those several years before Evo’s election were actually a very dramatic example of “direct democracy”, the term used here for the power that lies with the people, not with the government.
It is true that, after Evo’s election, political street action diminished significantly except for the minority right wing that resisted Evo’s recovering natural resource wealth from foreign financial interests. Again,
like the Obama experience in the US, for several years after Evo’s election people still felt hope that things were going to change while the government was slyly coopting many of the social movements that were Evo’s political base. That was reversed dramatically last year when Evo put a new gas policy into place that promises expanded development with foreign capital investment. Now the mobilizations are once again a regular part of the political landscape here because Evo has strayed from the vision that inspired voters to elect him.
What is important about both Chellis’ article and the attached comments is that people outside the country have been misled in their belief that Evo’s roots are giving birth to new political sensitivities about the human
relationship to nature. In practice, Evo has clearly demonstrated that he regards environmental concerns as a threat to national sovereignty and economic development. Sadly, the deeply embedded global financial
structures and philosophies have displaced the indigenous commitment to the health of Pachamama in which Evo was spawned.