Over the last month the oligarchy of the Media Luna 1“The half moon region” as the eastern lowlands are called from the shape they make on the map. have launched a series of regional lockouts, blockades and provocations, under the pretext of “civil resistance”demanding more autonomy for the region and the recovery of the Direct Tax to Hydrocarbons (IDH)
Over the last days the offensive has increased, looking like an ultra reactionary coup attempt that spreads from Pando to Tarija, having Santa Cruz city as its epicentre and strong hold, with a series of “regional coups” orchestrated by the ‘civic'2The ‘civic sectors’ are committees that are demanding more autonomy for the Media Luna region. sectors and governors in order to impose their plans and assure a relation of forces in their favour. The ‘vanguard’ of this attack are the white fascists and the shock troops of the Union Juvenil Cruceñista (the oligarchs’ Youth Union, fascist white thugs from Santa Cruz) and from Tarija, Pando, etc. These groups, like rabid dogs acting with unleashed rage, are composed by upper class university students and white lumpen sectors organised and financed by the “civics” and the governors.
Protected under the immunity of businessmen and local authorities they have stormed and occupied dozens of governmental premises, hydrocarbons premises, TV channels, beating up and brutally attacking women, indigenous communities, working people and leaders of the MAS.
On Thursday, September 11th, a pacific demonstration of peasants and indigenous people in Cobija was attacked by pro-autonomy shock groups and as a result 8 people were killed and 30 injured. This massacre is the most terrible exponent of the methods and aims of the extreme right wing.
The aims of the “civil” offensive
Opposition groups are demanding that the government cancel a planned constitutional referendum on 7 December, by appealing to the popular votes on January 25, 2009, an initiative that the government wants to discuss and agree in the Parliament.
The right win knows that it is difficult to impose their aim nationally – in fact, they are unable to go beyond the limits of the Media Luna region because the right win is weak in the western region and it seems that the military do not fully support them – the right is trying at least to advance by imposing “autonomous regions by fait accompli”, digging a deep trench defending their interests, in case they are not able to stop the MAS project, and with the aim of holding on their lands and privileges.
Their actions are also trying to dismantle the national state apparatus in the eastern region “seizing” national offices and buildings in order to open the road by creating their own autonomies. The self-designation as governor of Costas (in the Pando region) and/ or the attempt to make illegal appointments of authorities in the seized national institutions are examples of this.
As the fascists assaults to the Plan 3.000 (a settlement of poor people in Santa Cruz), to the Peasants’ Market and to the Massacre in Pando showed, by using terror methods the right is trying to intimidate and crush the popular sectors that are resisting the oligarchic demands or sympathize with the MAS, in order to assure the social and political control of the “departments rearguard”, a control that is being eroded but that they want to reassert regardless the means.
Although the government has insisted hundred times their willingness to “get a compromise” on the new constitution and the standing orders of the autonomic states that the right wing wants to impose, what is behind their rage is the fear of not being able to prevent the new Constitution from establish a limit of between 5,000 to 10 thousands hectare to the private ownership of land. This does not liquidate the big landowners by any means, but it affects the interests of the big landowners clans of the eastern lands, for whom the free and unlimited stockpiling of land to the expenses of the peasants and indigenous community and the super exploitation in almost slaves conditions of the labour force (as in Parapetí) are essential. Rather than being scared of the Constitution words they are afraid of the dispossessed and oppressed masses’ actions in order to achieve their demands of land and territory.
The policy of the MAS
The government, which has made many concessions and has been open to dialogue with the right wing many times, is obliged to be firm, since to give in the demands of the right will represent an unconditional surrounding, in particular following its recognition after getting 67% of the votes at a national level in the referendum on August the 10th, . This support will allow at least opening the consultation on the CPE
That explains why Morales has hardened his position, denouncing the movement as a “coup promoted by the civics and the governors”. He has ratified the cabinet (De la Quintana, Rada among others), during the recent reshuffling of the cabinet, spite the campaign launched by the opposition and the media. He has also expelled the US ambassador, Mr Golbert, in an elemental action of protecting the national sovereignty, when the links of the ambassador with the governors and sectors demanding more autonomy from the central government became too obvious.
The Government has pledged the Army and the National Police Force to hold on some control over the insubordinate regions and prevent the assaults to the institutions. Nevertheless, as reality has shown, the uniformed so far have withdrawn on the face of the fascists attacks, although when they were small. In same places, as in Guayaramerín, they have simply clear the way for the occupation of the national buildings.
So far, senior officers and the government are boasting about that they have acted in a “responsible” and “intelligent” manner in order “not to respond to the provocations”. But the truth is that it is a policy that avoids putting to the test the cohesion of the army against the local bourgeoisie – something that could divide the army giving the multiple connections of the officers with the opposition – and keeps the army as guarantor of bourgeois order and arbitrator as a last resort if the crisis gets out of control. The latest declarations by the Commanding Officer of the Army, General Trigo, announcing that “we are not going to tolerate any longer the actions carried out by radical and violent group that are confronting Bolivian people”, adding that “we are telling to the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and the international community that the army strongly rejects foreign interference wherever they came from”, could be showing that giving the magnitude of the national crisis, the army is taking a stand in order to play that role.
The government has a “calm and determine” attitude to the opposition, nevertheless it is covering the MAS strategy of conciliating with the representatives of the bosses and big landowners – the ones that are called “pro-coup faction” and “fascists” by Morales himself. The aim of the government is not to defeat the opposition but to convince it to restart talks. For this reason, spite of some isolated expressions, mainly warnings to the opposition, Morales and his close allies want to prevent the mass movement from taking the streets to confront the right with their own methods. In fact, they are “ignoring” some actions that emerged from bellow (as the blockades in San Julián, Yapacani and Cochabamba) but they do not want an outburst of social unrest that could hamper their strategy of conciliation.
The masses are starting to confront the reactionaries
The better organised sectors of the mass movement are resisting the racist and fascist attacks very courageously, as the clashed about the Plan 3,000 in Santa Cruz and the defence of the Peasants’ Market in Tarija have shown. The sectors that are on the “line of fire”, as the organisations of colonizers of San Julián and Yapacani, have also organised a counter-blockade against the Santa Cruz opposition. In the Chapare region the coca growers have blockaded the routes to Santa Cruz, Bulo Bulo and other cities.
In La Paz and the western region, worries among workers and peasant are growing. The “red ponchos” (“ponchos rojos”) from Omasuyos have insisted in their willingness to mobilise themselves. In ‘El Alto’ region, hundreds of youth have taken the street to protest against the Mercantil Banco of Santa Cruz and other private companies associated to the Media Luna region.
Unfortunately, the CONALCAM (The National Coordinator Body for Change), subordinates itself to the government, holding back the disposition for struggle among the rank and file, so far, the main measure that this body has called is …. a march from Caracollo to La Paz for next week, that is a pacific and exhausting demo when what is needed is a big national protest with strikes, blockades and marches in order to give solidarity to our brothers and sisters of the Plan 3,000, Pando, Tarija, San Julián, etc. and to start the counteroffensive until we crush the right. Meanwhile, Pedro Montes, and the COB leadership, are playing a shameful role, leaving the workers completely unprepared for the crisis, when what it is needed is an urgent call for action.
Only the workers, peasants, indigenous community and popular sectors’ strength can put an end to the autonomist reactionary plans and their fascist groups!
Tarija Governor Mario Cossio’s announcement that the governors were willing to dialogue was enough for Morales to call them to restart negotiations today in La Paz.
Behind this umpteenth call for dialogue lays the pressure exercise by the “international Community” and ruling class sectors that are afraid that the crisis may go out of their hands.
Brazil government has put pressure to send Alan García as likely negotiator, fearing that the conflict in Bolivia could risk the gas supply to Brazil. The Argentinean president and other governments in the neighbouring countries are also trying to put pressure to end the conflict.
The UN “offered to facilitate the dialogue” and a representative of this organisations, by the US initiative, has held a meeting with Pando governor Costas.
The Church, institutions of the civil society, the media, etc. are all calling to restart the dialogue. The government is more and more willing to negotiate. However, what can be achieved through dialogue? On one hand the right is talking about negotiations, but on the other hand they are still organising actions, like the closure of valves (to stop gas supply) in Samaiopata and new attacks by the shock thugs. The only way to achieve an agreement with the ‘Civicos’ is to accept their main demand and to recognise the “autonomist regions” as a result of the increase of violent actions and fascist attacks over the last weeks. But this will only be achievable to the expenses of the workers and peasant and sacrificing their most essential expectations and interests. Moreover, the dialogue and any possible agreement with the governors, far from “isolating” the “pro-coup right wing”, as the MAS hopes, will only serve to legalise their aggressions, so they will redouble their forces and came back to the offensive, feeling bolder as it has been happening over the last two years.
It is time to act! National mobilisation and Self defence Committees!
Although everybody is calling for calm and dialogue, the crisis still open and the right still advancing and attacking through the Media Luna region. We support the legitimate self-defence actions that are taking place in Santa Cruz, Tarija and other cities organised by the population against the fascist attacks. The autonomist offensive and the events in the Media Luna have put back on the agenda the setting up of Self defence committees as an urgent task. They need to be centralised by workers and peasant militias at national level. Several voices have started to get heard even among MAS supporters, announcing their decision to march to Santa Cruz and asking Evo Morales to give arms. Instead of believing the official calls to trust the army and the police to stop the fascist groups, something that they cannot do, the “social movements” want to defend the government – that they consider their own – have to demand arms and training and to open the barracks!
The peasant and indigenous organisations, as the coca growers’ federations of Yunga and Chapare, the Eastern Block organizations, the CSUTCB, the neighbourhood councils, along the COB and other workers and masses organisations have to trust on their own force and methods of struggle in order to confront and crush the right. In order to do so, we say: do not subordinate yourself to the demobilising instructions of the government, urge to your own leaders to call for an immediate national demonstration, with general strike, blockade of roads and popular rallies through the whole country in order to face and crush the oligarchy, to end with the big landowners large states, imposing the demand for land and territory for our peasant and indigenous brothers and sisters and mobilising the petrol and agro industry workers, in order to expropriate the big bosses like Marinkovic, Dabdoub and other bourgeois clans and big land owners and put them to produce to the benefit of the people.
A mass united front is needed and the COB must call for it; this should be the way to start preparing a Popular Assembly that concentrates the workers, peasant, indigenous and popular forces in struggle to crush the right and to impose the workers, peasant, indigenous and popular demands.
We, socialist and revolutionary workers and students of the LOR-CI, will participate without imposing conditions in every progressive action using mass mobilization aiming to confront the right. We are at the disposal for the broader unity of action of the workers, peasants, indigenous community, respecting and understanding their expectations in the MAS promises, but without giving any political support to the government and maintaining our criticism to its class collaboration actions, that is only allowing for the right wing to be more defiant and postponing the workers and peasants’ demands.
We repeat our call to the miners of Huanini, to the teachers of La Paz and other combative unions, the youth that wants to confront the right wing, to the left that claims itself socialist, to move forward without delay a fighting bloc defending an independent policy for workers and moving urgently that tasks in the factories, mines, neighbourhoods, communities and colleges.
Bolivia at the cross roads
The Bolivian crisis is on the front pages of the international media and a central convulsive focus of the Latin-American political situation that has started to tense by economic and political turmoil. The intention of the ruling classes is to move the political scenario towards the right, relying itself on the development of the “new right” as the sector that is claiming for more autonomy for the Media Luna region, resulting in social instability and polarisation within the region.
The American right wing plays an important role. It sees itself in withdrawal at the end of the Bush administration, and by supporting the right is looking to score some points, as the meeting between governor Costas and US ambassador Goldberg and industrialist Marinkovic trip to Miami show.
Against this background, the decision to expel Ambassador Goldberg is a basic act of self-defence by Morales, that Washington has responded by throwing out envoys from Bolivia and Venezuela until the new administration gets to office in the White House. Meanwhile the Organisation of American States has backed Evo Morales, Lula and other neighbourhood leaders’ concerns, with the aim of holding back the crisis in Bolivia to avoid greater risks to the regional order, so far, the governments have favoured this tactic as a solution to the most convulsive processes.
The outcome of the current events in Bolivia will have great impact in the region. Solidarity with the Bolivian people and against the right through the continent is urged!
We call upon the workers and people in all Latin America and through the world to acted in their defense.
La Paz, September 12, 2008
Liga Obrera Revolucionaria por la Cuarta Internacional