The Right respects legality only when legality favors it. The history of our America has shown that a thousand times. The confrontation that is convulsing Bolivia today is no exception.
The Santa Cruz autonomy referendum is just the tip of the iceberg. To limit the debate to a question of legal pettifoggery would be a very serious error. It is an open secret that the bourgeoisie of the “Media Luna” (the half-moon-shaped region composed of the Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Tarija departments), white and racist, lumpen and dependent, are planning to overthrow Evo Morales. That’s not all. They are advised and directed by US Ambassador Philip Goldberg (who worked in Kosovo between 1994 and 1996. . .).
The CIA is implementing a predictable plan in Bolivia. Combine a Kosovo-style secessionism, psychological warfare, and incitement to internal counterrevolution as it did yesterday in the Chile of Salvador Allende and is doing today in the Venezuela of Chávez. Goldberg is following a textbook scheme. Use foundations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other agencies to transfer money to “independent” NGOs and rightist groups, just like in Venezuela. Since 2005, the USAID has given $120 million a year to the supposedly “democratic” opposition.
The central plaza of Santa Cruz is full of young Mormons — blue-eyed blonds in white shirts — who barely speak Spanish and warn against “the devil.” . . . To suggest that Evo Morales in this context sit down and dialogue meekly with this warrior bourgeoisie funded by the United States is not only unrealistic and hardly pragmatic. It is simply suicidal.
As Morales himself acknowledged in an interview that he gave in La Paz in March 2008 (see <amauta.lahaine.org>), the MAS has arrived at the government, but it has no power. That is precisely the problem. If we wish to transform Bolivian society from the bottom up, we cannot avoid the problem of power at risk of losing everything.
The current dilemma of Evo and the MAS is whether it is possible to restrain the Right by making concessions or preferable to confront it and advance the process. The answer is complex because the Bolivian government is not homogeneous. It is pulled between two poles: the option of its moderate advisers (where some officials of the old political class turned progressives today and some academic fellow travelers of the process are ensconced) and the option of its most radical activists and social bases. The latter propose to radically push the process of reforms to the point of breaking the implicit pact that ties the hands of the government and will slowly weaken it. If this option ends up prevailing, Evo must not only intensify the confrontation with the “Media Luna.” He should also impose price controls to curb inflation (the slogan that, as we have been able to hear firsthand, his own bases have cried out to him in some demonstrations) and accelerate the process to regain the full — not just partial — control of natural resources.
There is little time left to choose between these two alternatives. History is cruel and does not forgive indecisions. The people left behind, humiliated and exploited, are waiting. Bolivia is in its decisive hour. The outcome will affect the entire region, from Venezuela to Argentina.
Néstor Kohan is a teacher at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) and coordinator of the Colectivo Amauta-Cátedra Che Guevara. The original essay in Spanish was published in Bolpress on 5 May 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).