Bolivia: Indigenous and Campesino Organizations Reconvene, Reject their Movements’ Politicization

In public communiqués, several indigenous and peasant organizations in Bolivia summoned the social, environmental and indigenous movements, which suffered divisions after several years of politicization under the government of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party and Evo Morales, to continue to resist extractivist policies of the old and current government. After proclaiming herself president of the republic, with a bible in hand, Jeanine Áñez entered political prominence from a crisis that would leave the country convulsed and Evo Morales exiled. The world learned of the coup in a rapid succession of events, marked by protests, threats, police riots, violence, militarization, repression, resignations, power vacuum, and the sudden interruption of the Evo presidency that officially should have lasted until on January 21, 2020. Despite the coup, however, the MAS party recently legitimized the presidency of Jeanine Áñez to expedite a law that calls for new elections in less than five months. This happened not without serious divisions within the party. Under that law, Evo Morales will not be able to participate in such elections, but he was elected by his party as campaign manager, according to the Movement to Socialism Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the MAS-IPSP Peoples, in a statement dated December 7.
The right understands perfectly that the next few months will be their opportunity to cement, in a dizzying way―in a shock doctrine style―any power acquired under the Evo government and to reverse the advances of the indigenous and peasant movement.
The right understands perfectly that the next few months will be their opportunity to cement, in a dizzying way―in a shock doctrine style―any power acquired under the Evo government and to reverse the advances of the indigenous and peasant movement. It started with inserting the bible and the Catholic church as protagonists in the government, followed by racist measures such as prohibiting public employees from using indigenous garments, the desecration of the whipala, and the continuing repression documented by human rights organizations, all clear signs of a neocolonial agenda. Among the most serious, it is worth mentioning Decree 4078 that grants impunity to all personnel of the armed forces in acts of “defense of society and public the order”, as well as the creation of an “Anti-Terrorist” Group (GAT) to “disarticulate subversive actions.” The transition government is taking advantage of the political moment to consolidate many of the agreements that the Evo Morales government itself initiated with transnational corporations for megaprojects. The social movements have denounced the privatization of institutions while political positions and leaderships are distributed among large business owners, particularly large agro-exporters, which had already achieved important public-private agreements with the Morales government that promoted soy monoculture, among others.

Indigenous and Peasant Movements Regroup to Fight Extractivism and Racist Policies

Indigenous and peasant movements, critical of Evo’s extractivist policies, are working to reconcile divisions created by the politicization of social movements under Evo’s government, which sought to create loyalty to its party rather than supporting multidimensional leaderships and proposals. The current crisis has opened doors for them to analyze challenges and future actions. On December 4, the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) representing 16 different indigenous nations (Suyus), made a call to convene on December 20 with the objective of creating “Unity and Political Independence” to strengthen their core leadership. After years of divisions, they managed to retake the premises from which they had been evicted in 2013 by Evo´s government, and have hereto prohibited representatives of the MAS party to intervene in their organization.
Similarly, the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the East, Chaco, and Bolivian Amazon (CIDOB), representing 34 indigenous peoples and nationalities, in a statement on December 5 announced the suspension of the functions of Pedro Gonzalo Vare as president of the organization, for promoting “the division of the CIDOB directory … and dividing people of the Regional [offices].” As early as 2012, CIDOB denounced suffering serious divisions within its organization, promoted by the Evo government to promote the TIPNIS highway. Back then, Pedro Gonzalo Vare already gained prominence for being expelled by the Central of Indigenous Peoples of Beni (CPIB) for promoting a “strategy of division, blackmail and intimidation.” Both CIDOB and CONAMAQ had made public their warnings that the persecution of indigenous leaders critical of Evo’s policies in relation to the TIPNIS, the use of GMO products, the exploitation of natural resources in indigenous territories, in particular of mining projects , was undermining and dividing the movements. Additionally, at a press conference on November 29, the National Coordination for the Defense of Indigenous and Peasant Territories and Protected Areas (CONTIOCAP), announced its great concern and declared itself in emergency because Áñez transition government are continuing extractive policies that began under the Evo’s government. In a public statement they demand the moratorium of all projects in protected areas and indigenous territories that violate their rights and act in a predatory manner on the environment. CONTIOCAP does not recognize Evo’s departure as a coup d’etat “because there was no military intervention” and has warned how corporations are taking advantage of the situation to push for control of Bolivia’s natural resources.
Meanwhile, the Bartolina Sisa organization, representing the movement of indigenous women in nine departments around the country, also declared a state of emergency, in defense of human rights and are seeking to reassess the situation, calling for unity against the coup. Bartolina Sisa achieved great prominence for Aymara women at the state level during the Evo Morales government and have traditionally supported the “process for change”. Therefore, they highlight the need to protect the changes achieved in the last 14 years, in particular the intercultural gains of the socialist revolution, recognizing that their sudden exclusion from state institutions is putting extreme pressure on their organization.
The political crisis in Bolivia has weakened social and indigenous movements but now, more than ever, they need our support, particularly if we want to promote a participatory democracy that survives beyond and even over politics and electoral results. It remains to be seen if the climate crisis will allow them to converge their efforts into a common vision. (Below we share the three official communiques we mention above) Bolivia-declaraciones