Bolivia: ‘Beyond The Elections We have To Recover The State’
The situation in Bolivia is still volatile, especially after the decision of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to postpone the elections announced for early September until October 18. It is within this framework that we have interviewed Antonio Abal, who was a consul in Argentina and a sharp analyst from the revolutionary left on the reality of his country.
Do you think that the dictatorship’s government will finally hold these elections? And if it does and it loses, as the polls indicate, will it hand over command to Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca?
Everyone is asking that question in Bolivia because the first intention of postponing the elections failed. So now they are seeking to disqualify Luis Arce’s candidacy because of the statements he made. It is circulating in social networks the acceptance of the demand, by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of this period, of the suspension of the legal status. If it is true, in 48 hours, the fate of the elections would be defined. That is, according to the deadlines, in 48 hours the MAS would have to present a discharge to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and, in the course of next week, the Court would issue its ruling. The pressure is very strong from the sectors that were involved in the plot from October to November in Bolivia, political parties, civic organizations, business entities, intellectuals, university professors, we have the whole range that made up the block that supported the coup. So next week is decisive for knowing if the elections will indeed be held in September with MAS. This is a very important issue, because if the strategy of keeping the date with the popular will, of moving forward and with MAS on the stage, it is possible that there will be elections.
It is conceivable that if the MAS is outlawed and cannot present itself, there will be a significant response in the streets from its followers, especially the Central Obrera, the peasant union that is supporting the MAS in this whole process.
It is common to quote Marx to say that history repeats itself twice, we are witnessing a repetition of what happened with the MNR in 1964. The MNR fell to a coup by its vice president after winning the elections and was outlawed for 15 years. Then there was an armed resistance by the militias that remained standing. The case in the city of La Paz, Cerro Laikacota, is famous, where the armed people resisted the coup, but the military intervention put an end to that resistance. This scenario could be repeated in the case of the suspension of the legal status of the MAS. With the ingredient of this fear induced by the issue of the pandemic.
It is hard to think that in the face of the advance of imperialism, taking advantage of the pandemic or promoting the pandemic, one can really expect a peaceful solution where a dictatorship does what it is doing in Bolivia. In that sense, do you see that the bases of those who are politically confronting the dictatorship are sufficiently organized for circumstances that are harsher than the current ones?
I’d say we’ve run out of state. We have a government, but we have no State. Beyond the elections, we have to regain the State. This is a more general conflict and no work is being done in that direction. We have been stripped of all the mechanisms that the state has to protect rights, as reactions to the pandemic. All of those instruments generated by a State, although liberal, should have measures to react to the pandemic. And all that action has been dismantled. So, there have been organic signs from the native peoples that are very strong, the mobilizations of northern Potosi of millennial warrior tradition have been impressive. Unfortunately, it has not been echoed elsewhere and has not been reflected in the media. This call for mobilizations has been a good thermometer to see that there are articulated levels of social movements that can respond with mobilization to an eventual conflict or cancellation of the legal status of MAS. So, it is a very delicate scenario, surely the changes that have occurred in the leadership of the armed forces have to do with this scenario. That’s why it was done quickly, without complying with the formalities contemplated by the law and the constitution, there are signs that also tell us that there is a predisposition to resort to force.
In an interview, we had with Evo Morales, shortly before the pandemic and the quarantine began, he told us that he was talking to sectors of the armed forces, that there were some sectors of the armed forces that had patriotic characteristics. Is this so? Are there military factions that could at some point join the people and respond to the dictatorship?
It is evident that in the bloodiest coups we have had, such as the case of Luis García Meza, there have been sectors within the armed forces that began with a series of pronouncements and internal organization of a counter-coup. They were detected, they were exiled from the country, but yes, the army has maintained those contradictions typical of Bolivian society. Because in ’52, after the army was overthrown, it allowed a new army to include popular sectors in the military career, and this expanded much more with the Movement Toward Socialism and the new Constitution. So, this means that there are surely, not those who have superior commands, but surely there are people committed to the popular project and who want to give it back the role that the armed forces were playing, a specific role of collaboration, of health, of service education in the disadvantaged middle sectors. There are these contradictions within the army.
I wanted to ask you about Minister Arturo Murillo. Every time we see him talking, expressing ideas, he reminds us of the current Brazilian president, he looks like the “Bolivian Bolsonaro”. To whom does Murillo respond, who is behind it to support him despite the verbal outrages he utters and the repressive action he encourages?
Mr Murillo has a pathological problem. He is a hotel businessman who had his investments in the Chapare tropics and was always at the center of the storm. In the Chapare he was always against the movements of the coca producers. So, he has been gaining a figure of hard, of strong, of speaking clearly in personal terms, of his own personal projects, and he has found in the parliament, in politics, that way of expressing not only rational, but other emotions, against the Chapare. There are declarations to begin with, such as the eradication of national parks, like Carrasco Park in the Chapare, so that is clearly an offensive against the coca growers’ sector, which is the central nucleus of the MAS forces. Politically it is aligned, to a free enterprise economy, it has the training of any Bolivian businessman. Lately there has been speculation in the networks that it is linked to the famous Croatian migrant families who have a very strong power group in Santa Cruz, so it has ramifications in La Paz, in Oruro, there are families who belong to that nucleus and this would give it a decisive presence as a spokesperson and executor of the interests of these power groups.
Finally, I want to put you into post-pandemic times, if we ever get there. What do you think could happen in Bolivia? That it is used, in its peasant and indigenous bases, to issues such as self-management and food sovereignty in spite of the fact that they have always been hindered in this. We are seeing this as a way out to confront this new normality that is coming upon us. That people will turn to the land with everything that they will return to cultivating what they eat and that in some way they will be able to sustain themselves in a period that is going to be very difficult.
I suspect that in the near future we are going to have a battle in the field of economics as there are big interests. Bolivia does not yet have the great infrastructure of concentrated supermarkets, there are one or two lines of supermarkets that are mainly in the central axis and we know the logic with which these large chains operate. They are concentrators, price-setters, and have, practically, a monopoly.
For them, a community economy, or popular markets, are of no interest. In fact, the economic model was fighting over who will be the hegemonic group in food. For example, during the period of Evo Morales, these chains were consolidated. New chains have appeared, with large investments and that is the scenario, and now, whatever the government is, it will have this problem. The communities are going to strengthen the issue of self-management and food security because in recent years there have been summits of an economic nature where this line has been strengthened, there are documents where they have even asked the government of Evo Morales to ratify some state policies. This is not going to change in the movements of the native peoples, because these economies have always maintained a large part of the population on the issue of food. Now they are becoming aware of the type of food that we have to have. The return of traditional medicine also exists in many places, you are going to see that there is more sale of local medicines, eucalyptus, muña muña, makyco, in short, a series of natural medicines and that the population is strongly demanding it.
It is going to change the course of the economy and let us hope that this is a scenario that allows these so-called solidarity or community economies to grow and that all this has its respective political correlation, let us hope that this is the case. The Unity Pact is meeting constantly, it is first defining the electoral scenario and a deep communication strategy regarding the COVID, it is having meetings to consolidate that and surely there is food security and sovereignty. So, this will define a new presence of the communities and native peoples in the field of the economy. This process is interesting because it will go beyond the presence it had in this period of 14 years.
Thank you, Carlos. Warm greetings to Resumen Latinoamericano that is one of a few media that allows us to have certainty in the information that is provided, that is important here the news in networks and the digital newspaper are very appreciated. There will soon Resumen Latinoamericano from Bolivia.