is a struggle underway in Bolivia which has been largely overlooked
or misrepresented in the mainstream circles in the USA. For the
first time ever in Bolivia, the majority of the population exercises
its rights as fully recognized citizens through electoral and civic
participation. Efforts to battle poverty and illiteracy, the largest
societal ills, are underway. Indian families, who for centuries
suffered the consequences of racist policies, including economic
deprivation, and physical violence, (much like African Americans,
Latinos, Asians and Native Americans in the USA) are finally respected
and recovering their dignity.
one would have hoped for enthusiasm here at home, the response to
Bolivia’s efforts within establishment political circles in the
USA has been less than welcoming. Under the leadership of Evo Morales,
that country's first Indian president, Bolivia is pursuing a national
economic development plan to uplift all of its citizens. According
to a 2005 United Nation Development Programme report, at least six
out of ten Bolivians have incomes below the poverty line, and wealth
polarization is very significant between those at the bottom, and
the rich elite which has traditionally dominated Bolivian society.
The infant mortality rate fares no better and is one of the worst
in the region. Faced with this reality, the Bolivian government
understands that rectifying its historical inequalities is no small
feat, but nevertheless, a necessary one for the nation to advance.
North America in the late 1800's, the Confederate States of America
seceded from the United States of America and waged a bloody civil
war against the North. Wealthy landowners plotted to keep the wealth
of the South to themselves and out of the hands of Northern industrialists
who were developing the nation at a rapid pace. While the retention
of economic and political power by Southern elites was the real
issue at hand, racist arguments and slavery (the basis for their
wealth) were used to justify their treasonous actions to the world.
an analogous secessionist movement is underway in Bolivia's wealthiest
region, Santa Cruz. After a referendum vote recently ratified Evo
Morales as Bolivia's democratically elected president by an overwhelming
majority, there should be no more support given to such illegal
measures. This province holds abundant natural resources and much
of Bolivia's wealth is derived from its natural gas, farmland, iron
ore, water and forests. As their constitution reads, these riches
should be used for the development of the entire society, not for
the benefit of a few.
democracy is on the line as a small sector of opposition actors
known to use racist violence against the poor, have called for the
overthrow of the president and for secession. They have done so
by utilizing the national media which has mobilized the most radical
right-wing sectors to take to the streets and engage in civil disobedience.
Unfortunately, these actions have been all but civil, including
the instigation of violence. Although the Bush Administration has
chosen to stand by those calling to secede and in so doing support
the most racist and backward elements of Bolivian society, it is
the hope of fair and genuinely democratic-minded people that Bolivia's
right to sovereignty and respect for its constitution will be honored
by the United States.
and the balkanization of Bolivia would be a disaster for the people
of Bolivia (and the region), just as such processes have been disasters
in Eastern and Central Europe, Africa and Central Asia. The nation-state
is tasked with helping to redistribute the wealth of a country.
In those countries with enlightened leaders, such redistribution
pays attention to historic injustices that must be repaired. For
this reason, we in the USA should be very careful before responding
favorably to abstract calls for democracy that actually hide the
ambitions of the wealthy elites. After all, in our own history the
Confederate States of America claimed that they were fighting a
war against Northern alleged aggression and oppression. Most histories,
however, tell a very different story.
in the USA should respect Bolivia's right to self-determination
and refrain from unhelpful interference. Just as the struggle against
secession in North America between 1861-65 was an internal matter
for the people of the USA to settle, so too is it for the people
of Bolivia today.
Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is the Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com,
a Senior Scholar with the Institute
for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum
and co-author of the book, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and
a New Path toward Social Justice
(University of California Press), which examines the
crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.