November 08, 2007

An Article on Bolivia

MABB © ®

I found this article and I wanted to post it here. It has a historical overview on Bolivian revolutions. Most of all, it has references to two recent books on Bolivia.

It concludes on "We’ll have to see if the current stalemate leads to new political mobilization in Bolivia. If things do heat up and take a new radical turn, we might see the US administration adopt a more aggressive role. I don’t see this as imminent, and any such move would depend on the balance of forces in the region as a whole. In the meantime, the US government will put up with Morales, count on him to behave himself, and continue to provide low-profile support for right-wing opposition."

15 comments:

galloglass said...

Miguel: ZMag?? Come on! Invariably, whenever I do google news searches for Bolivia, zmag, prensa latina, and various left-wing or communist sites are foaming at the mouth about the oligarchs in S.C. I often have to ask myself what color the sky is in their manichean world.

miguel (mabb) said...

LOL!

I see what you mean, but I do try to remain neutral and get both sides of the argument. Besides, filtering the political colors, I thought the historical overview was not bad.

galloglass said...

You're right Miguel, it wasn't that bad given their political lens. But according to their world view, everything is economic or class based, and they know nothing of the cultural dynamics in Bolivia. It's hard to explain to those Americans that support MAS or Evo that the opposition is not comprised solely of oligarchs. I know many crucenos from humble backgrounds who are autonomistas.

mcentellas said...

On the surface, this seems very similar to the kinds of arguments James Dunkerley also recently made in a 2007 JLAS article.

I also hope this book isn't too similar to mine ... ouch ... gotta get those chapters out the door, pronto!

Boli-Nica said...

Thomson (& Hylton) is pretty radical, but he knows Bolivian history - and his scholarship can be interesting. As far as the present situation, I say it is a must-read to figure out what the hell is going on within MAS, and the indigenous movements.

Dunkerley rocks. He comes out of the scholarly left - but you can't pigeonhole him. "Rebellion in the Veins" is a must read. And his analysis of the current situation , really factors in current thought by Bolivians not named Garcia Linera.
Plus, he can be pretty funny sometimes.

miguel (mabb) said...

The thing is, I think Bolivia attracts this kind of scholarly. Most people I know (not all) have roughly the same approach, when it comes to Bolivia.

I kind of perceive a bit of romanticism in this approach! :-)

Boli-Nica said...

^^ to some extent you are right in certain fields. But there also is stuff that development bank put out, that are more sober and technical. And in all the fields, people still need to come up with data to get published. If its poking through old Colonial archives or doing fieldwork, interesting things can turn up no matter how nutty the professor.

Interesting in this interview is showing the conflicts in the constituyente between MAS and the social/indigenous movements, with MAS controlling the debate. Which means that the 'excluded majorities' 'who voted for change'
are not really represented - if you believe these groups represent the indigenous peoples as a whole. Or is it special interest groups on each side, squaring against each other? Could it be that the "base" of Evo movement in rural Andes and urban areas, really doesn't care too much about the assembly?

So you are left with MAS forcefully trying to impose its own agenda. And this interview seems to confirm the substance of that "agenda for change" "state capitalism" of the old MNR type: a centralized government administration, strategic resources held by the state, "industrialization", private sector allowed but regulated. The indigenous part is mainly symbolic gestures, making a Whippalla the second flag, or whatever. Almost reads like 21st Century Boliviariasm. Simply go to the blank, fill in (indigenous) where it says (Boliviarian)

mcentellas said...

This recent conference paper of mine:

http://users.dickinson.edu/~centellm/papers/lasa2007.pdf

Makes a similar argument: that there is a "romantic" trend in a certain body of literature (the others are "historiographical" and "institutional"). I don't actually think the "romatic" view is the dominant, at least not in the more prestigious journals -- though it is the most dominant view in third (and lower) tier journals (like Z-mag).

Anonymous said...

You speak of the MAS government's tendency toward centralization. There is the danger that any government will attempt to centralize and otherwise overstep it bounds, but I think you are seeing a fairly (if not always skillfully) functional majority (50+% and sometimes 2/3rds). You think it's about greater centralization. But the MAS platform for the CA is for more autonomy than the civic committees advocate. And the Plan Dignidad would give greater power to more local governments.

It's worth commenting on but not surprising that the MAS coalition has competing interests within it. That's the La Paz vs. Sucre story. But of course, the opposition has weaknesses within its strengths as well.

Regarding Centellas' LASA question about why did the crisis occur in 2003, Bolivians have some sense of how to bargain. Wasn't it in large part that it became clear that they were being ripped off for gas? Hasn't the last year shown that? Brazil and Argentina would be happy to buy much more gas at the newly negotiated prices. Now the real fight is over how to divide the money, at least as much as over imaginaries, economic theories, or theories of autonomy and federalism. Not very romantic.

Anonymous said...

"Ripped off"? Those gas contracts were reasonably fairly negotiated and tacitly approved by the Senate.

miguel (mabb) said...

Two points:

I do see a strong tendency from the Morales government to centralize. I think their definition of decentralization or autonomy is different from the conventional. You can see many examples of the bigger role for government. It is no secret.

I think it's always been about the distribution of gains. In Bolivia there is an unwritten truth, that the natural resources have to be exploited by Bolivians. That is what has been driving the many nationalizations (not just in the last years). So therefore, it is not that they just became aware or got the idea that they were being ripped off, but just that the political momentum (pendulum in this case) was in the right position.

Obviously, it is not just distribution. The problem is much more complex. One has to consider issues of equality and social justice, to mention but two examples.

Boli-Nica said...

MAS government's tendency toward centralization. There is the danger that any government will attempt to centralize and otherwise overstep it bounds, but I think you are seeing a fairly (if not always skillfully) functional majority (50+% and sometimes 2/3rds). You think it's about greater centralization. But the MAS platform for the CA is for more autonomy than the civic committees advocate. And the Plan Dignidad would give greater power to more local governments.

-- Very debatable, if not downright wrong. The MAS platform is vague on departmental autonomy and even on how it would define "indigenous" autonomy. Current law - PPL and INRA - already define municipal and indigenous local autonomy, and provide for budget allocation to them, and oversight processes. Most important though is the simple fact that this is the system more or less in place throughout the country. In key departments like Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, La Paz they are factored into the Prefecturas budgets and planning. Under the 2005 decree, the Prefectures, are supposed to disburse a part of what they get directly to the Municipalities. Santa Cruz Prefectures for example has its own formula of how to filter IDH funds to the municipalities, that was determined through consensus..


"worth commenting on but not surprising that the MAS coalition has competing interests within it. That's the La Paz vs. Sucre story"

No its sectarian arguments sometimes not quite clear in a coalition that includes indigenous & societal movements and radical leftists. Some indigenous sectors & social movements claim they were shut out. According to Hylton it is due to MAS wanting to dictate the agenda, and act as a "vanguard" The Democracy Center sees it as more "politics" resulting from a pact of "parties" between MAS and Podemos, so they could get "their" people in the assembly. Soliz Rada, on the other hand, thinks that their still are enough "indigenista" "fundamentalists" within the assembly, acting in a "sectarian" manner as to block MAS real "objective" which is to build a Indo-Mestizo Bolivian nationalist movement. Soliz Rada sees this as turning off the highland (and valley and lowland) nationalist middle class vote MAS should be reaching out to.
The key here is that these groupings, are all between small "single-issue" interest groups who voted for Evo.

Gringo said...

Miguel: have you seen the recent news about
take the money and run?

“Un alcalde del departamento boliviano de La Paz se fugó con los 45.000 dólares procedentes de la cooperación venezolana que le había entregado el presidente Evo Morales, informó hoy el viceministro de Movimientos Sociales, Sacha Llorenti.”

Hat tip: Devil’s Excrement blog ( Venezuela)

miguel (mabb) said...

Corruption is a real problem too. It hits every government.

Thanks for the tip.

Boli-Nica said...

^^^ LOL....one cynical argument that all that was decentralized in Bolivia was corruption.

Then you have Evo personally handing out Chavez checks directly to municipalities. While on the one hand it is hard to fault directly giving money for critical human needs in some poor municipios, on the other the opposition does have a point that it is government spending off the approved budget - and outside of congressional scrutiny. We know about the checks, past history also shows Chavez also favors suitcases of money. With Evo also raising hell about NGO's & local governments receiving foreign donations - it is extremely hypocritical. Some of the Chavez money is going to the military - which is scary. In the end, the bigger issue is Evo buying municipal support through "compadrazco" or "clientilism" to shut out the prefectures and centralizing power in La Paz. centralizing control. Chavez is doing something similar in Venezuela - in the Constitutional "reforms". Since it is "Chavez Checks" it is likely that the "tutor" himself advised Evo to do this.