Bolivia, The Disaster Solution

Awasqa has the honor of sharing an article by a Bolivian writer, philosopher and director of the Bolivian Decolonization Workshop, Rafael Bautista, author of the book El tablero del siglo XXI. Geopolítica des-colonial de un orden global post-occidental (The gameboard of the 21st century. De-colonial geopolitics of a post-Western global order).Some clarifying points. First, it was written before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Bolivia decreed that there would be no second round of presidential elections. Since then, the opposition has called for protests, road blocks, and accused Morales’ administration of an “illegitimate election”, rejecting a possible audit of the results. In support of Evo Morales, there have been also massive marches in several cities.

At Awasqa we believe that the election of Evo Morales in 2006, represented a milestone in the history of Bolivia, as the first indigenous President in a country with deep historical social, cultural, economic, political, educational and racial inequality. His election in 2006 undoubtedly represented a very important political turn of decolonial power for indigenous peoples.

Rafael Bautista presents an important criticism of the extractive development policy of the Evo Morales’ government, and also speaks of a shift to the right of certain intellectual leftist sectors. In Bolivia there has always been a systemic racism, currently exacerbated by the post-electoral confrontation. Rafael Bautista warns in October of the denial of the “other”, the lack of a true political “people’s” project, and racism as a possible trigger for a civil war. His prognosis is already reflected in the recent confrontations. The footnotes are our own, for English-speaking audiences.

Originally Published by Bolpress

The “disaster solution” has never been a solution for anyone. Not even for those who promote it (who are never only on one side). This is the radicalism that works for those interests that only become manifest when the disaster is consummated and betrays a logic not calculated by the useful fools: “We are not interested in the disaster but how many profits the disaster generates”.

The promotion of a hellish context in a polarized country, began with the fires in the Chiquitanía. That, which should have served as a symbolic alert―in telluric language―was unhappily instrumentalized by the most sinister political calculation. [1]

The rain did not appear by chance but to teach something that was not learned (neither by the government nor the opposition): the conflict was not going to be overcome by giving it more attention but by purifying the belligerence. To yield is to understand. The belligerent believes that only he is right. But every conflict involves two parties and none is completely innocent. Only when mutual responsibility is accepted, policy becomes effective; the opposite situation leads us to war, where each one fights to impose their own version of reality: the triumph is decided by force, not reason.

In that sense, the electoral “battle”―already contaminated by fermented hatred―became literal. Not only did the opposition use local governments with premeditation to inflame the post-electoral context but also the government, in its usual autism, failed to reverse a situation that was emerging as an obvious dead end. Previous polls not only confirmed the wear and tear of the official candidacy but the wager considered by the opposition as the perfect argument: second round or fraud. The current “defend the vote” slogan was not a spontaneous product but an ideal discursive resource to manipulate the “democratic spirit” already abducted by the right.

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Let’s make some history. Since the “democratic system” appeared as an institutionalist fetish, voting has become the only merchandise admitted by the imperial cosmogony. Not even the “process for change” could overcome this political design (produced by the Trilateral Commission in 1970), because when one confuses liberation with inclusion, one ends up subordinating the expectations of transformation to an adaptation to the prevailing order. But this does not qualify “democratic” in a real democratization of society, rather it functionalizes any attempt of the democratization process to the institutional needs of the repositioning of an established order, precisely designed to make full democratization impossible.

Because if we are talking about “demos”, the conceptualizing aristocracy (which today is represented by the US mythology of democracy) understands this concept as representation fought for only those groups with “bargaining power”. A concept of democracy is designed as an “institutional system,” that is, an ideal, perfect, functioning mechanism; that is why those who believe this (and promote themselves as analysts) end up believing in the institutional creed of preserving an “established order.” Democracy ends up being the establishment of an order that can do without subjects. They consecrate institutional inertia over human decisions, and imagine a divine order that makes them act as perfect inquisitors when that order is threatened. Democracy becomes a fetish that, inevitably, demands human sacrifices (meaning, neoliberalism, which promotes a demonization of the State to prevent any type of intervention to the divine order called “market”).

But a democracy without subjects makes no sense, because that means giving privilege to the “kratos” at the expense of the “demos”, that is, power at the expense of the people. That is why they can only understand “demos” as groups with bargaining power, that is, “demos” becomes corporate groups that seek more power. In that formula the possibility of clientelism appears as a political culture. That is why political scientists also end up only as administrators of governance and make “political science” a mere act of public management. They no longer think of the subject, that is: the essential milieu of all politics and all democracy: the people. They reduce the people to voting. The practical consequences are the consecration of an act, every five years, that as a religious act becomes a “democratic Easter” where the whole society bows to the golden calf of the plebiscite.

But the vote can be manipulated and even bought (and even ignored) and this proves the fetishism, as a systematic cover-up of democracy’s essence, reduced to a mere “democratic system.” Well, when you fall into this cosmogony, even with rhetorical claims of liberation, nothing is democratized; instead, favorable conditions are restored to expedite the inertia of the institutional system, that is, of the established order. That which had to be changed ends up domesticating the revolutionaries and the revolution. “The people” only serve to bring in like a herd every five years to endorse what has already been decided in previous negotiations with power groups.

Policy is then defined by the power groups that have access and that also define the wagers placed. In this way, the people disappear from the revolutionary project and the same project design is reduced to a mere continuation of power as the only political horizon. Corruption does not start by stealing public money but by ignoring the real power’s sovereignty―that is, the people―and making “delegated power” as the only power.

That’s what happened with the “government of change.” To include itself in the prevailing order and within its institutional system also leads it to place all bets on the myths that support capitalism itself: development and “infinite progress”. That is why it also restores the conditions that only and exclusively promote a “growth economy” (which is precisely what goes into exponential contradiction with the finite condition of Nature). And that means accelerated modernization as a life project; in that sense, the alternative indigenous horizon, such as “living harmoniously” (vivir bien), no longer makes sense and, in this way, the left itself has shifted its options to the right because it’s revitalizing the conditions that make developmentalism as the only outcome possible. A developmentalism that needs to emulate the wealth of the first world (and thus also restores the conditions that promote the inequality necessary for development as a program for life).

That is why the banner of “the struggle” is being transferred as an “empty signifier” to the highest bidder who, moreover, can already place any content to it, even its opposite. The people are left without the aura of liberation and everything for which they had fought for no longer belongs to them but it is stolen as a banner that is handed out promiscuously (even to the most perverse right-wing).

That is why the vote can become an ideal vessel where disenchantment is emptied, but already mixed with hatred and racism of a stately speech that can now reap the abandonment of the people’s government, for its own benefit. It is through the transfer of legitimacy, which is produced by the “government of change,” that the opposition on the right anoints itself with a democratic spirit. That is, the famous “catastrophic judgement” of [Evo’s] vice presidential running mate is not an objective fact but something produced by the loss of a sense of utopian reference of the governmental political project.

Thus, the anti-Evo and anti-MAS vote is the decantation of seignorialism racism that, by a transferred legitimacy, can now summon all the disenchanted ones in its favor and functionalize them to justify a total shift to the right of democracy. Carlos Mesa appears here to help history repeat itself and, moreover, in October. [2]

In October 2003, the people, in a “state of rebellion”, having been able to depose the imposed colonial order, delegated that responsibility to those in charge of restoring that same order. Mesa was the US embassy’s candidate to replenish the “democratic system” (his manoeuvre―to distance himself from Goni―is understood by that endorsement). Moreover, it can be said that thanks to Mesa there is an Evo.

If he had only accomplished cleaning up the State’s corruption, the liberal political culture would’ve been legitimized (praised by his colonial idiosyncrasy) and no one would have thought of refounding the State. Today he returns to finish an unfinished task: put an end to the national sovereignty. That is the “disaster solution.” Thus begins a “colors revolution” and everything indicates that the region itself is already placed to reissue the famous “Arab Spring” and produce an extended Syria throughout the South American arch.

Playing with fire is easy and that was demonstrated in the Chiquitanía. Since we did not learn the lesson, now we continue playing with fire, but not in the countryside, in the cities. The opposition claims to have been ignored in the 21-F referendum [3], but now they ignore the other part of the country. It almost seems like a fight between a couple, where both want to be heard but neither wants to listen. None can deny the other pole. Disqualification is not something that will overcome conflict, rather exacerbate it. Even though they say the vote is only against Evo, what he represents is an undeniable part of what has been historically excluded at the national level and, even if they were blind―which could also be attributable to the opposition―they cannot be ignored. Eliminating the other is the highest price paid by all generations.

The “disaster solution” is ideal for a geopolitics that promotes a hell disguised as the “recovery of democracy.” The triangulation is not accidental. Under the umbrella of popular insurrection in Ecuador and Chile, in Bolivia the protests are identified mechanically with a popular uprising, serving as a justification for even the OAS to spread rumors of applying the Democratic Charter in our country. The identification should be done instead with Venezuela. And if Mesa “self-proclaims” [as the winner] in the whitedog-Guaidó style, then the picture is complete: the protests seek to provoke the government to use its coercive forces and use the dead to apply a decisive card of a “colors revolution”: the “democratic coup.”

The coup in Honduras, the dismissal of Lugo in Paraguay and Dilma in Brazil: it is well known how to overthrow a government “democratically.” And we say implode because a “colors revolution” requires that the government itself transfers the legitimacy to the opposition so it becomes the sole depositary of what is “democratic.” That is to say, it is the government itself that gives the best arguments to empty the people themselves of the spirit of change and transfer it to a middle class reserve contingent that activates the seigniorial speech.

Testimonies are already circulating within the government itself, where a right-wing process is evident crossing decision-making areas that work against the “process of change”; which is not unforeseen, when last agreements promoted from the inside no longer have the popular sector as interlocutors but power groups, such as the Santa Cruz agribusiness.[4]

In Bolivia something unprecedented worldwide took place: “Lobbying and influence occurs with operability from the popular.” The agro-industrialists of the eastern region, linked to the largest employer groups such as the CAO (Chamber of Agriculture of the East), approach the president through peasant leaders (who are promoted within CAO itself, wooed by government actors, such as the vice president and some ministers). This already shows signs of a pact that manifests a contradiction in the allegedly revolutionary processes: the peasant becomes the bourgeoisie because the government’s left wing, believing the myths promoted by capitalism, promotes a social ascent of the poor that ends up turning them into potential capitalists.

That way, everyone ends up fighting for their own private interests and nobody remembers the common good. This shift to the right of the government’s social base makes the people, as an actor of liberation, disappear and become a competitor of spurious power. The people no longer become a subject, that is, they no longer appear as the embodiment of the new way of life, which was precisely its potential entrance into history.

The Chiquitanía was a wake-up call from Mother Earth herself. And not only to the government but to the “productive model” that embodies the agroindustry of Santa Cruz; the famous “model camba” heralded by the “locomotive of the country” in the largest business fair in Bolivia: Fexpocruz. All social and cultural events in Santa Cruz revolve around this fair (reason why all there is is show business, that is, the city’s elite that when it comes to throwing up their hands in horror for the burning of the Chiquitanía, never question the origin of the wealth its society celebrates so much).

The fire of the Chiquitanía was skillfully functionalized to activate the anti-colla feeling, that is, anti-indigenous, but never to question that “productive model” based on the most crude type of extractivism. Now that land, after the burning, is ready for the introduction of extensive monoculture of soy, sorghum, corn (also transgenic) to feed ethanol production. But the confluence of interests of power groups in Santa Cruz transferred the blame of the fire to the inhabitants of the highlands, thus leaving their interests and power intact and laundering their responsibility through the mediation of the local government (the richest families of Santa Cruz, the Kuljis and the Monasteries among them―owners of Red UNO and UNITEL―who own millions of hectares available for ethanol in the burned lands).

The local government of Santa Cruz, in that way, already indicated a directionality that was followed by La Paz, Cochabamba and Potosí, because it was not just about social protest but a curious amalgam of clearly anti-government agendas that, from the claim of federalism and a call for a permanent national strike, came down to the only official plan the entire political right could articulate: remove Evo, one way or the other (and activating anti-indigneous racism, as was demonstrated in the current mobilizations of the opposition).

Photo: ABI

In that context, the government’s strategists and political operators, accustomed to ignoring the other, have failed to restore any type of trust, especially in an Electoral Body plagued with mistakes in its actions. Unfortunately, this self-reliance and infallibility, flaunted in particular by the vice president, has been the worst sign of indifference of what was to come after the elections. The government has led itself to a dead end and dragged the people to it, which requires immediate decisions that demonstrate, before the world, a real desire to stop transferring arguments that galvanize the right towards a greater conflict, with a likely outcome of a civil war.

That should include, first, a magnanimous resignation of too much of a questionable electoral victory and agree to a second round (even if the 10% margin had been consolidated). It’s time to give in, because giving in is understanding, moving from the emotional to reason. The best conditions are in place to impose a victory that will see resistance, even in a senseless way. Additionally, it is no longer possible to provide arguments for the right-wing to draw more sectors into an anti-MAS sentiment, which is being translated into an anti-indigenous racism, reviving the city-based seignorialism that has not understood and much less been able overcome that racism in the past thirteen years.

We must point out to the political and social base behind MAS (which we don’t want to confuse with the government): if one can translate defeats into triumphs, this is the best opportunity for―if you want to ensure a victory in a second round―to condition the vote by means of a “redirection of the process of change”. Nobody ignores in the MAS, especially in the bases ―which are the ones that must face the streets and put their bodies on the line―that the government has been filled with opportunists who have distorted the flags behind the original vision and are placing democratic viability itself at risk.

The so-called whitish circle or “q’ara”[5], from the “gasolinazo” and the TIPNIS, has been wearing down the figure of its leader to uselessly immolate him during the 21-F. Now they may think of exposing him to a sudden removal and, with that, they would be risking a stability which was the envy of neighboring countries. If President Evo gave real signs of a necessary turnaround in transcendental matters, which have already worn down his own image, he could have guaranteed a new mandate and bewildered the opposition, and end his term in grand style (if that would have happened before the referendum, as we already suggested, he would have won comfortably).

The other solution means paving the road for a rise of the right, so that in less than six months it can destroy our entire economy as Macri did in Argentina. But the Bolivian people are not Argentine and a neoliberal government here would not survive half a year; popular gains and achievements are already common sense and the people will not give up any of these. The irresponsible radical left scribes do not realize that, because they are angry at Evo, placing their bets on Mesa just because he would be “easy to kick out”, means betting on a civil war (playing with the lives of others is easy).

It is curious that today, the middle class sector, especially “transgenic intellectuals” (because before the university use to produce “organic intellectuals” and now, under the banner of “autonomy,” it even includes people with presidential aspirations) are postulating Mesa. These were the same people who promoted, directly or indirectly, the romantic figure of the academic-guerrilla as the complement of the first indigneous president. Because as heirs of the seigneurial usufruct and the power of discursive enunciation, they never knew how to question their own seigneurial self-perception that turns them into a feigned elite.

Now, instead of doing self-criticism, they simply choose to support a different “dauphin”. They criticize the caudillo but bet on another caudillo, an “enlightened” one. While discharging their own responsibility in the fiery indictment of the “mathematician” [Alvaro García Linera] and forgiving him nothing, they say nothing about the makeshift historian [Carlos Mesa] who also does not hold an academic degree and whose sea of ​​knowledge has never passed 10 cm. deep (only a good-for-nothing would think to ask for a useful vote). His shameful failed presidency [2003-2005] is reliable proof of a glimpse of the tragic outcome of his future administration: where he will lecture us, every day, between resignation and resignation, from his balcony like Evita, singing “don’t cry for me Bolivia”.

The top leader of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, Luis Fernando Camacho, screwed up (and discovered his subordination to a well-known script) by just reaffirming the constant of the imbecility of the Bolivian right: he just proclaimed, before cameras and before his audience, that Mesa could “self-proclaim” himself as president in Santa Cruz (also the current governor of Santa Cruz, Rubén Costas, on October 2003, invited Goni, after 80 people were killed in El Alto, to govern from Santa Cruz), in the purest gringo style of Venezuela. Let’s hope the cruceño [Camacho], with civic pride, does not also proclaim that whitedog-Guaidó should be the “Bolivian” representative before the Empire, in vertical decline, and that Corina Machado should become the Bolivian first lady.

[1] Baustista is talking about the fire that consumed 4 million hectares of the Chiquitania region, including protected areas, and that only ceased after a welcoming rainfall. The uncontrollable fires soon became an electoral issue, exploited mostly by the right-wing, but also seen by environmental organizations as emblematic of an extractivist model of development.

[2] Carlos Mesa took over the presidency in October 2003 (called black October for the “Gas Wars”), when “Goni” Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was ousted, fleeing to Miami, after several weeks of violent protests against neoliberal policies rocked the country.

[3] 21-F refers to a constitutional referendum on February 2016 to ask if the president and vice president run should be allowed to run for a third term, which was voted down by a 51,3% majority. A year later, in September of 2017, the Supreme Court of Bolivia abolished presidential term limits, allowing Evo to run for reelection in 2019.

[4] Santa Cruz is the largest city in Bolivia, has always been politically conservative, and the point of convergence of economic power.

[5] The “q’ara” circle refers to an elite group of non-indigenous people who surround Evo Morales, including vice president Álvaro García. “Gasolinazo” refers to the government’s decision in 2011 to end gas subsidies and the subsequent protests that forced Evo Morales to retract on that decision. TIPNIS refers to a national indigneous mobilization that forced the president to scratch plans to build a highway through the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS, acronym in Spanish).

Rafael Bautista Segales has written thirteen books on philosophy, political theory, epistemology, geopolitics, short stories, and poetry. He directs the television program "La Bitácora". His political analisis are published in Rebelión, ALAINET, Argenpress, Bolpress, etc.