April 25, 2004

Must, Bolivian Democracy, be defended by the military?

MABB is a registered TM.

During the 41 anniversary ceremony of the Bolivian Navy (Fuerza Naval Boliviana), the current commander, Hormando Vaca Diez verbalized the intentions of the armed forces to "defend" the weak Bolivian Democracy.

I ask myself, does the Bolivian democracy need to be defended? Of course, when there is a serious threat, such as an invasion by a hostile country, terrorists, people who's aim is to destabilize and further weaken such Democracy and other threats of that nature. In this case, however, from whom will, the Bolivian armed forces, want to defend the democracy?

The answer, I think, points to all the politicians who are practically highjacking the democratic process and to those social movements who follow them without rationally questioning the motives these so called "leaders" might have. In the last few weeks, there has been a frightening rumor saying that a coup d'etat is on the way. The well known indian activist, turned politician, Evo Morales (deputy in congress' lower chamber representing his party MAS) has denounced, what he calls, a conspiracy to take over the government by the deputy defense minister, Jorge Badani. Demagoguery such as this serves to destabilize the country and put in serious jeopardy the democratic process. (more about Morales)

How is one man capable to highjack democracy? Well, it helps to have a substantially large constituency and a well organized party. But, what helps Morales the most is its appeal to the general indigenous populace. Only then, can he get away with threatening the President of Bolivia saying that he better do what "the people" want or suffer the consequences. This is exactly what he did, in the past few days, threatening president Mesa not to travel to Argentina to sign a natural gas sales contract. If Mesa were to sign such a contract (which he already did) then the trouble would begin. (read here)

At the moment, various organization and groups are threatening to demonstrate against, what they call, the illegal sale of Bolivian patrimony. The regional worker's organization from El Alto, COR (in Spanish, Central Obrera Regional), is set to begin pressuring the government on Monday 26 April. On the same day the Bolivian worker's organization (COB), the Bolivian Confederation of Indigenous People (CIDOB), and various university students' organizations are also set to begin demonstrating.

This does not end there. It is a vicious downward spiral taking Bolivia through a road full of conflict and many times violent. Once the demonstrations start, they tend to go on for many, many, days. But, it is when the road blocks start, when the troubles begin. If the demonstrations would stay peaceful and, as according to law, not interfere with the daily life of the general population, there would not be much confrontation. The road blocks are set up, as directed by the leaders, as an effective way of coercion, essentially forcing the government to intervene. This sets up a losing game for the governmental forces because such demonstrations are almost never peaceful. All too often, there are casualties as a result of the repressive actions of the police. The more casualties, the more the general population gets angry at the police and the government. The leaders (people like Evo Morales) play a psychological game, inciting more and more violence. It is a winning game for these leaders, because they are always with the population, claiming to be fighting for their rights.

In the last crisis, there were many losers. Among them, the victims of repression; the families of the victims; the police force; and the government. However the biggest loser of all was the Bolivian democracy. The end result was many people dead, a democratically elected president forced out of office, a short period of time of uncertainty and caos, the undermining of every Bolivian citizen's votes and the further weakening of Bolivian credibility in the eyes of the world.

This is how these, so called political leaders can highjack the democratic process and manipulate it to their advantage. They are the only double winners. First, they are seen as the champions of the people, fighting for their causes. Second, they further their own personal agendas, essentially getting what they want. They take advantage of the trust placed in them by the populous.