Above Photo: Luis Arce.
Bolivia’s President Luis Arce used his platform at the United Nations General Assembly to propose a revolutionary 14-point socialist program to transform the world.
“Today we find ourselves facing a wide-ranging, systemic capitalist crisis that increasingly endangers the life of humanity and the planet,” he warned.
Arce continued: “We should not only reflect on the economic, social, food, climate, energy, water, and trade crises, but also identify with clarity the origin, in order to change a system that reproduces domination, exploitation, and exclusion of the large majorities, that generates the concentration of wealth in a few hands, and that prioritizes the production and reproduction of capital over the production and reproduction of life.”
“Alongside the wide-ranging, systemic crisis of capitalism, we see the final gasp of the unipolar world,” the Bolivian leader added, warning of the dangers of war.
“But unfortunately we are seeing the gradual deterioration of the multilateral system, because of the whims of the capitalist powers that will not accept the existence of a multipolar world with a balance of power.”
Luis “Lucho” Arce represents Bolivia’s Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party. A trained socialist economist, he served as economic minister under former President Evo Morales.
Morales was overthrown in a violent coup d’etat in 2019, which was sponsored by the US government and led by far-right extremists. But after nearly a year of popular rebellion, Bolivia’s social movements defeated the coup regime, and Arce won October 2020 presidential elections in a landslide.
At the UN, Arce delivered a comprehensive 4000-word speech outlining his ambitious vision for changing the global capitalist system, with 14 concrete proposals.
1. Declare the world to be a zone of peace
Many armed conflicts are “promoted by transnational war corporations, but also by the desire to impose a political and economic order that serves the interests of capitalism,” Arce said.
He called for a concerted campaign to ensure world peace. The Bolivian leader emphasized the importance of “reaching a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine, making sure the historic rights of the state and people of Palestine are respected, and that NATO stops thinking about expansionist plans.”
2. Substitute the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction with just compensation for the poor people of the world
Nuclear weapons threaten life on the planet, Arce warned.
He proposed to “substitute military spending on the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction with a just economic compensation that the countries at the core of capitalism owe, morally and historically, to the countries of the periphery and the poor people of the world.”
3. Against the commercialization of health care, systems of universal health care
The Covid-19 pandemic “exposed the vulnerabilities and inequalities in the health systems of all of the world, as well as the global financial and economic system,” the Bolivian leader said.
He insisted that the state has an “obligation to protect and guarantee collective rights” and “reduce the effects of the world economic crisis on the most vulnerable sectors of the population.”
4. Global program of food sovereignty, in harmony with Mother Earth
World hunger is getting worse, not better, Arce warned.
In 2021, 828 million people suffered from hunger, representing 9.8% of the world population.
He proposed a program to strengthen food sovereignty by supporting small-scale agricultural producers, giving peasants and farmers all the seeds, fertilizers, technology, and financial support they need.
5. Rebuild the productive and economic capacities of the country of the periphery hurt by the logic of the unrestrained concentration of capital
The Bolivian president warned of the damage being done to the world by the inflation crisis and the rapid increase in the price of energy, fertilizers, and raw materials caused by the proxy war in Ukraine.
He called for debt relief for the Global South, maintaining, “The restructuring of the world financial architecture is vital for the relief of external debt on the global scale, so that we developing countries have the space to implement sovereign social policies from the perspective of integral and sustainable economic and social development.”
“And, as has always been a cry from the countries of the South, we must balance the trade relations that currently keep benefiting only the North,” he said.
Arce then explained how his government helped to stabilize Bolivia and recover its economy after the chaos of the US-backed far-right 2019 coup d’etat.
“Following the recovery of democracy in 2020,” he recalled, Bolivia returned to its “social, communitarian, productive economic model, a sovereign economic model in which we don’t accept and we will not accept impositions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”
Arce explained that this economic model “is based on the active role of the state in the economy, in the nationalization of our strategic natural resources, the articulation of all forms of economic organization, the strengthening of public investment, import substitution industrialization, the dynamization of the internal market, productive diversification, security with food sovereignty, redistribution of revenues, the struggle against poverty and inequalities.”
He added that this economic model is also influenced by Bolivia’s Indigenous communal traditions.
Arce boasted that this model has been so successful that Bolivia had a rate of just 1.6% inflation in August. The country has the lowest inflation rate in all of Latin America, and one of the lowest in the entire world.
“We regret that, while the countries at the core of capitalism gamble on war with large sums of money, negligible contributions are made for integral and sustainable development, for decolonization and depatriarchalization, for the eradication of poverty and economic and social inequalities,” he said.
As an example of this irresponsible behavior, Arce pointed out that, in just a few months, 20 times more financial resources have been spent on the proxy war in Ukraine than have been invested in the Green Climate Fund in a decade.
6. The climate crisis requires responsibility, solidarity, and harmony between human beings and nature, not usury
Arce warned that the climate “crisis is passing into an ecological collapse.” But he lamented that “the countries that have the means to change their patterns of production and consumption do not have the political will to do it, and those of us who have proposed ambitious goals have not received the means of implementation pledged in the [Climate] Convention and the Paris Accords.”
The Bolivian leader also pointed out that the international climate agreements that do exist do not “take into account the historic responsibilities of the developed countries, or the capacities and limitations of developing countries.”
On a sarcastic note, he added, “Perhaps the historic climate debtors want us all to worry only about the future, to avoid discussing in the present the broken promises made to developing countries about financing, technology transfers, and strengthening capacities.”
The “centuries of bad capitalist development” have done a lot of damage, Arce lamented.
“We are convinced that a future low in emissions and resilient to the climate is not possible if we keep concentrating wealth and incomes in a few hands,” he asserted. “Therefore, to reverse the climate crisis we need to resolve the economic, social, and political contradictions caused by the capitalist model, as well as those that exist between human beings and nature.”
7. The industrialization of lithium, for the benefit of the peoples and a fundamental pillar for the energy transition
Noting that Bolivia has the largest reserves of lithium on the planet, Arce pledged to use those resources “with much responsibility,” “guaranteeing that its use is of benefit to humanity, as a fundamental pillar of the just global transition to a future low in emissions, respecting Mother Earth.”
“We want our lithium reserves not to follow the path of other natural resources that, on the conditions of colonialism and capitalist development, only serve to increase the wealth of a few and make the people hungry,” he said.
“In this sense, we affirm the sovereignty over our natural resources such as lithium, its industrialization, and the benefit oriented toward the well-being of the peoples, not of transnational corporations or a small privileged group, and the sovereign appropriation of the economic surplus to be redistributed, especially among the low-income population,” the Bolivian leader promised.
Citing a statement by the commander of the US military’s Southern Command (Southcom), Arce warned that South America’s “Lithium triangle,” made up of Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, “is in the sights of the United States.”
8. From nationalization to regionalization of the struggle against drug trafficking
Early in the day on September 20, a few hours before Bolivian President Arce spoke at the United Nations, Colombia’s first ever left-wing President Gustavo Petro used the General Assembly to declare that “the war on drugs has failed.”
Petro criticized the US government’s violent approach and its militarization of Latin America, as well as its internal system of racist mass incarceration of Black Americans.
When Arce took to the podium at the UN, he made similar comments.
“It remains clear that the war on drugs, principally the one unleashed by the United States, has failed,” the Bolivian leader said. “Therefore there is an imperative need that this country [the US] does a deep analysis about changing its policy, with attention to the fact that it has become one of the main consuming countries, which has resulted in the lamentable death of more than 100,000 people by overdoses and drug addictions inside of its territory.”
“We must change the focus in the approach of the struggle against drug trafficking. To keep emphasizing supply and not demand has only served as a pretext for militarization and for the waging of the international war on drugs,” Arce added. “That has affected peasants in the South, and left absolute impunity for the large criminal groups, never publicly identified, in the countries whose populations largely consume all types of drugs.”
“The international war on drugs criminalizes and leads to unilateral sanctions against countries of the South, but it shields money laundering and facilitates drug trafficking and other crimes connected to the countries of the North. It can no longer continue this way.”
Arce proposed the “regionalization” of the struggle against drug trafficking, with an “integral focus that is less militarized and more socio-economic.”
9. Strengthen international mechanisms for preferential treatment for landlocked countries
In his UN address, Arce proposed the idea that countries have a “right to the sea.”
For landlocked nations like Bolivia, “We face grave difficulties in accessing the sea and using its resources, keeping in mind that marine spaces make up zones of great potential for the development of countries, especially developing countries,” he explained.
“All countries have the right to access and utilize oceanic space and marine resources,” he argued. And to protect those habitats, “We should ensure the just distribution of rights and responsibilities with respect to marine wealth.”
10. Widen our restricted vision of human rights and democracy
“We need to widen our restricted concept of human rights and their relation with democracy,” Arce implored.
“Neither one of the two exists,” he argued, “when the preservation of the privileges of a few is done at the cost of the effective unfulfillment of the economic, social, and cultural rights of the majorities.”
As an example of how this can be done, Arce held up Bolivia’s plurinational model, which provides equal representation for the 36 Indigenous peoples that make up the country.
11. Intergenerational solidarity
The Bolivian leader also called to protect older populations who are sometimes forgotten by society.
“This vibrant and productive generation must show solidarity with those who built the first foundations of our houses,” he said.
“One cannot assure equity with future generations if we do not show equity between the present generations.”
12. Declare the decade of depatriarchalization to struggle against all forms of violence against women and girls
Arce condemned “the persistence of violence against women and girls, and in particular Indigenous women and girls who are in poverty.”
“The pandemic and the structural crises of capitalism are deteriorating the conditions of life, especially of women, of the countryside and the cities,” he said. “Those women continue confronting complex and intersectional forms of violence.”
The Bolivian government officially declared 2022 to be the “Year of the Cultural Revolution for Depatriarchalization: For a life free of violence against women,” Arce noted.
“We are advancing policies oriented not only at strengthening regulatory goalposts but also attacking the structural causes of violence, from education, strengthening economic autonomy of women, and also through cultural processes, to transform that lamentable reality, rooted in patriarchy, as the oldest system of oppression, that has a feedback loop with colonialism and capitalism.”
13. Reject unilateral sanctions
Condemning the imposition of sanctions, Arce declared, “It is inconceivable, in a world rocked by crises and the pandemic, that unilateral coercive measures are still applied with the goal of subduing governments, at the expense of people’s hunger and suffering.”
The Bolivian leader denounced the US government’s “inhuman and criminal commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, that puts at risk the lives of millions of citizens.”
“It is a crime against humanity to maintain that type of measure,” Arce said, blasting Washington for adding Cuba to its list of so-called sponsors of “terrorism.”
Every year, more than 95% of the 193 member states of the United Nations vote to oppose the unilateral US blockade on Cuba, yet Washington has maintained it for six decades.
The impunity that the United States enjoys despite these illegal forms of aggression show “how the decisions taken by the majority each year in this [General] Assembly are not fulfilled by certain countries,” Arce lamented.
14. Guarantee the full validity of the UN charter and the principle of multilateralism
“The multidirectional crisis that the planet is going through as a result of capitalist ambition, far from being overcome will get even worse if urgent measures are not taken,” Arce warned at the end of his speech.
“Only through a strengthened multilateralism will we be able to reach greater dialogue and cooperation in search of solutions to that crisis.”
The Bolivian leader affirmed that his country is waging a “revolution” that is dedicated “to overcome the current polarization of the world architecture, to overcome the capitalist order that has put us in dizzying, dangerous, and limitless race of consumerism that puts humanity and the planet at risk, and to instead build a more just, inclusive, and equitable world, for everyone.”