June 10, 2005

Talking About the Dictatorship of the Social Movements

MABB © ®

Today's editorial of La Razón made me think hard about what really goes on within the social movements in El Alto and why do they have such following. The editorial begins by reminding us that in any totalitarian regime, regardless of ideology, the favorite tool to control people is intimidation by terror (coercion). The dictators make themselves then the only sources of truth and life. As examples it cites, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.

In the same manner, the article continues, the city of El Alto, a vibrant city with around 800,000 inhabitants, is under the control and intimidation of the local civic leaders. These leaders are taking it on their own hands to decide over the lives of the inhabitants. The article argues that the citizens of El Alto (altenos), are being threatened into submission and are being obliged to block streets and roads, as well as attend marches and the occasional braking of the windo, burning of tires, etc., in the city of La Paz.

To control this, a sheriff visits every house in the neighborhood making sure that at least one member of the household is taking part in the marches and protests. If the people resist, he paints a cross on the door. That means an open invitation to other sheriffs who later will help themselves to the household's belongings. Another intimidation method is the charging of fees. These fees can be very high to people who live with just a few dollars a month.

The article asks three important questions. Why is this money being collected? and What does the FEJUVE (the organization exerting control in El Alto) do with all the money it collects? Is this not a falacy when the social movements (e.g. FEJUVE) say that the marches and protests are a product of the people? The article concludes by wondering whether all these protests and marches aren't just a way for the leaders to take control of power.

Here is the editorial in Spanish.

The aforementioned situation is being described by many alteno citizens who are being brought to the verge of desperation, because they don't have either any freedom or anything to eat.

Here is another translation of an email I got to be reproduced with permision of the author. His name is Mario R. Duran C. and he lives in El Alto. He asks, what is happening in El Alto?

He tells us some things he and other people are living through in the city in the Andes. For example, he says that tranportation throughout the city is forbidden. The FEJUVE people have tied a metal wire that runs accross the road, blocking any kind of transport. In the evening, a biker had a terrible accident due to the wire. He did not see it in the dark. Moreover, apparently there are some entrepreneurial people who are charging money to transport people and small cargo on their bikes. That is also a dangerous business, because it is not permitted to specualte. Some guy got beaten up by FEJUVE people for trying to survive.

Mario also says that Abel Mamani, president of FEJUVE, has forbidden the supply of fuel and food to anybody. That means no gas to cook and no, well, food. People are slowly running out of supplies. Moreover, ther are renewed threats to cut the supply of electricity and drinking water. Mamani has said that the decision to starve the people of El Alto was taken in consensus with the leaders of the local neighborhood federations.

Mario continues by telling us the situation in the local markets is dramatic. Meat and eggs are non existent, bread and vegetables are sold at a 250% markup, the constant threat of looting is ever present in the ears of the merchants, Mario says. Also, the much needed liquid gas for cooking, has disappeared. The local leaders in district 8, where the tanks of liquid gas are produced, have prohibited its distribution (only the leaders allow themselves a little bit) and have threatened the workers with communal justice if they even attempt to turn on the factory.

Mario ends his account by expressing his frustration about the lack of food for the really poor families in El Alto and the indifference whith which the FEJUVE is starving these families and the citizens of El Alto.