January 29, 2006

Evo Morales, the Staunchest Ally of Hugo Chavez?

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As it turns out, it might be that Evo Morales is not the staunchest ally of Hugo Chavez in Bolivia after all. That title would have to go to the new Energy Minister, Andres Soliz Rada. Thanks to an interview conducted by the online magazine Green Left Weekly before the December 18 national elections, Soliz Rada spells out his hopes and beliefs on Bolivia. Moreover, he talks about how important it is that Chavez's plans are backed by the Bolivian government.

Below you'll find an excerpt of the interview:

Yet Bolivia’s gas, Soliz Rada said, can help resolve this issue, “because finally there is an idea” — the nationalisation of Bolivia’s gas — “that can unite the dispersed social sectors”. The national mobilisations in May-June of 2005 not only threw out a president, but were the first truly united mobilisations of the social movements, from the east to the west, behind the demand for nationalisation. “Rather than demanding on behalf of Aymaras, Quechuas, Guaranis or for the people of Oruro or Chimore, they are now in agreement that the gas has to be recuperated for Bolivia. It is a banner that unites Bolivians.”

Bolivia’s gas “also has an extraordinary importance in external politics, because Bolivia could participate in [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez’s idea of forming a consortium of state petroleum companies in South America — with Petrobras [from Brazil], Enarsa [from Argentina], YPBF from Bolivia and PDVSA [from Venezuela]” — which Chavez has named Petrosur.

“The state companies, united, could confront the grand consortiums such as Repsol from Spain, Amoco from the United States and British Petroleum. It could become a strong force of defence [against these corporations], and importantly we could begin to elaborate a development plan of big projects, of big dimensions for South America as a whole.

“The division of our peoples is a permanent form of domination. This idea of division has been overturned by Chavez. Just as internally the issue of gas can be a point of unity for Bolivians, there is now a point of unity for Latin America ... which could generate serious concerns for the US, because you are generating a resistance of the national states.” According to Soliz Rada, this resistance will be strengthened through Petrosur, as the issue of energy “will not be brokered by the US, but rather negotiated among the South American states”.

Together, South America has around 15% of the world’s energy resources, making Petrosur a potentially powerful player in global politics. “It is a project that will be very difficult, but I am convinced that we must go in that direction”, added Soliz Rada.

The first steps were taken the day after Morales’ inauguration. PDVSA opened an office in La Paz on January 23. That same day, an agreement was signed by Chavez and Morales for cooperation between PDVSA and YPBF to develop projects for infrastructure, processing and refining of gas and petroleum.


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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Miguel, I think the article posted is very illustrative. I wonder which will be the bloggers reaction, it strikes me a bit that none has commented on it yet.

Miguel said...

It would certainly be interesting to read some reactions. I take it, it would most likely be in the lines of left vs. right, neoliberal vs. anti-neoliberal, etc., etc.

Speak up people! :-)

Jonathan said...

You are right Miguel, and that's why many haven't commented on the article, it just reads pale and lacking of any creativity or sense of innovation. I've read, heard and talked about the left vs. right since my teens, and you older folks probably before the fall of the Berlin wall. "Resisting imperialism" "reversing neoliberalism" and "resistance to IMF rule" are the sort of calls to action that conduce to nothing.

As far as these phrases coming out of Soliz Rada's mouth..what else is new? You are talking about a man who hasn't refreshed his ideological stances since 1989.

Jonathan

Anonymous said...

Thanks Johnatan, I was actually foreseeing (and no, i am not a psychic...) that some of the reactions will be like yours. Can your response be read as a liberal critique of the old-traditional-leftist discourse, as something that is immanent and, therefore, has not changed at all? or as a neoliberal reaction that aims to dismiss elements on a discourse that, without being new, constitute a reconfiguration of this very old structure? I am not sure, maybe both, maybe neither. The point is that even when Soliz Rada may be and old folk, full of outdated rethoric, is also part of a peculiar situation. Within this context, it seems to be the first time that, as he said, there is an idea (Chavez will probably call it Movimiento Bolivariano and Washington will probably call it a sedisious threat) but the idea is there. What is new? the whole context... I would say.
You are right though, some old phrases like 'resisting imperialism' and others are still there, however, regardless how young you are or how old we are (the 'you' and the 'we' doesn't matter much), these phrases were there way before 1989 (or any other wall's falling for that matter). The thing is, in none of these cases such configuration happened (i would say that not even the EU is comparable with what this could be) but, being cautious and avoiding romanticism, I would prefer to wait...

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jonathan said...

You are reading too much into my words, I try not to box myself into being liberal or neoliberal or what not.

As far aas the issue at had, you talk about context... and that would be the rise of "leftist" governments throughout South America in the age of globalization wouldn't it? and in this context folks like Evo and minions like ASR are useful in furthering and "idea" or a set of ideas, contrary to Washington's best interest but allegedly favorable to South America's poor.

Now I don't question your beliefs, but have my own concerns about where is Venezeula and this whole Bolivarian thing going. Has there been a strong simultaneous wave of leftism/nationalism in South America in the past? yes, Velasco Alvarado in Peru, Allende in Chile, etc. Have there being regional attempts to form trading blocks (which with time and relaxation of sovereignity naturally evolve into unions such as the EU) in the past? yes, and we have a number of them functioning today.

Now in our context are Chavez and his Bolivarianism and his ahijados in Bolivia or elsewhere going to be the force to put two and two together and create a union ("not even comparable to the EU") in South America?

No.

And I don't have to wait and see to tell you that.

Boli-Nica said...

Soliz Rada is really repeating some outdated rhetoric.
In fact there is a term for this kind of union: "Old Regionalism", as exemplified by the Old Andean Pact, and currently Mercosur.
It is nothing more than import substitution at the Continental level, where State bureaucracies will somehow coordinate with each other.

Chavez can't fix roads in his capital, and PVDSA is so inefficient it can't meet its OPEC quotas. There is no way that they can create a mini-OPEC in the continent.

Anonymous said...

Since I have visited Bolivia 4 times over the last 5 years, I'd like to add some perspective to this discussion. Maybe the rhetoric being used sounds very old and stale to your guys, but you have to put in into the Bolivian context where it is very vibrant and does fill people with hope and empowerment. People in Bolivia describe the multinational corporations, IMF, the war on drugs, and the Washington Consensus as forms of "imperialism" and "colonialism". When Morales says that he wants to end colonialism in Bolivia, it is an idea that reasonates with the Bolivian republic who see the multinational corporations like Repsol, Suez, and Bechtel as draining the wealth from their country. With 250 billion in gas reserves, but 60% of Bolivians living in poverty, it is easy to see why Bolivians respond to an anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism message that may sound like something straight out of the 1960s radicalism.

Bolivians believe that many of their problems would be solved if they can follow the Chavez model from Venezuela: Use the profits to finance a wide program of social reform and redistribution which will benefit the lower classes and give them education, health care, land reform, etc.

When you are sitting on a 250 billion dollar reserve and the price of natural gas is continually rising because it is a cleaner energy source in high demand, it makes a lot of sense to talk about nationalization of the gas and to use anti-colonial and anti-imperial rhetoric to do it.

But what is happening in Bolivia is far more complicated than recycling old marxist platitudes or even 60s anti-colonial rhetoric. MAS intellectuals like the Vice president are talking about a new kind of socialism. They are talking about harnessing a broad coalition of social movements under the banner of a big-tent MAS party. This is a party which doesn't claim to be race blind as the old socialist dogma claims, but to be multicultural in the sense of reaching out to all Bolivians, but also race empowering to the Aymara and Quechua. MAS has the ability to appeal to ethnonationalism without becoming exclusive or rejecting whites as Felipe Quispe and Katarismo in La Paz has done. The Coca grower unions in the Chapare are appealing to an indigenous form of socialism which is a radical challenge to neoliberalism, but it is also a radical challenge to the notions of "modernity" of most traditional leftists.

I have no idea whether this stuff will work, but MAS is far more than a recycling of old rhetoric. The way they have mobilized support from a broad array of social movements, and the way that they are seeking to rewrite the constitution to give more power to dispersed and local institutions is very different from traditional marxism or even traditional anti-imperialism.

The idea of a Petrosur that makes a sort of South American energy block is actually not a bad idea. One of the problems is that Bolivia can't try to retake control of its gas fields without funding and expertise. If they can get it from Venezuela (and Brazil?), they might be able to actually carry out a nationalization program. At any rate, banding together does give them a measure of protection against being isolated and attacked.

--Amos Batto