Evo Morales’ Vice President believes that regional backing neutralized the most radical sectors among secessionists.
The 10oC “summer” weather in Bolivia’s capital city is strongly felt in Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera’s house, which has no heating, like nearly all the houses in La Paz.
For almost an hour we went over the conjuncture of a week of uncertain negotiations between the government and opposition, in search of an anxiously awaited national accord. “The media inflate political tension,” he said.
Clarín: Is a political accord close?
Álvaro García Linera (AGL): On the part of the government there is an open, frank, and determined search for an accord. We have demonstrated great flexibility and broadmindedness regarding the issue of the distribution of the hydrocarbon taxes and the reopening of discussion on the new constitutional text in order to correct errors and see how we can make it compatible with the sensible proposals of regional autonomy. But there are opposition sectors that are reluctant to accept this.
Clarín: Not long ago you spoke of a “point of bifurcation.” How do you negotiate in these conditions?
AGL: I took the idea from the Nobel physicist Ilya Prigogine, the idea of an order arising out of chaos. A system can evolve towards one of two possibilities: it can return to the original state of equilibrium (in the political terrain, to the old state) or else it begins to self-organize until it constitutes a new structure.
A point of bifurcation is a point of tension between forces, which in 1952 occurred in the form of a civil war. In 2008, President Evo Morales is wagering on resolving it by the ballot box (a constitutional and revocation referendum) and an agreed-upon solution.
Clarín: And if no accord is reached, how tense could the situation become?
AGL: It is difficult to predict. But some are betting on regionalized entrenchment, violating laws with a de facto autonomy by means of an illegal referendum. And if they accompany this with the occupation of institutions, they will enter into the path of illegality without exit. If that is the case, the government will use the constitutional means available to guarantee institutionality.
Clarín: There has been even talk of civil war — do you consider it possible?
AGL: It was thought that on 15 December [when the four eastern departments declared autonomy] the civil war would erupt. The media greatly inflate political tension. Stop watching the media for a week, and you can size up the real dimension of the confrontation.
Today there is a common sense, whether you are from the Left or the Right, about the protagonist role of the state in economy, redistribution of wealth, equality between peoples, and decentralization and autonomy. There are a national project and regionalized resistances. There are no longer two national projects. In this process of replacement of elites, those who used to have national power are today bunkering down in the regions.
Clarín: Could secessionist ideas tempt some radical rightist groups?
AGL: There is a democratic right wing and a fascist right wing that burn houses, draw up blacklists. . . . Within the authoritarian Right, there are small minority groups of a secessionist character, with a desperate intent to preserve their privileges. They don’t constitute a real danger, but they are there.
Clarín: Do they have influence on regional governors?
AGL: Yes, but a very marginal influence.
Clarín: On what must Santa Cruz yield?
AGL: People voted for autonomy in the referendum, but the statute establishes a federal and more than federal regime. They must respect what was voted on 2 July 2006.
Clarín: How do you evaluate the importance of regional support for the stability of Bolivia?
AGL: Very important. Brazil and Argentina, and also Chile, gave a very strong message of support for democracy and hope in the transformations. I believe that this has temporarily neutralized the most extremist sectors that perhaps thought they could find some external support for their adventurist plans. The signal was very clear.
Clarín: Does the recent change in the commander of the armed forces have any significance?
AGL: Institutionally, this is meant to occur after the second year. This is the first military general staff in decades that has resulted from observance of the norms. The rotation between forces is custom and usage of the armed forces, and we have respected it by naming a member of the air force.
Clarín: Does the government have confidence in the institutional fidelity of the armed forces?
The interview originally appeared in the 13 January 2008 issue of Clarín. Translation by Federico Fuentes and Yoshie Furuhashi.