Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Latest in Bolivia | The rich want it their way

Carl Packman / Beatriz Iglesias Tolosa

Two more Bolivian departments since Santa Cruz have now voted yes in referendums to be autonomous. Beni and Pando voted yes in the illegal referendums by 78% in the former and 83.2 in the latter. Tarija will be the fourth department to hold a referendum on 22nd of June.

Some believe that in 2 months there will be an election by Morales' own decision. Even though his Presidency should last until 2010, by his own admission, with the conflict of opinion in Bolivia, he must let the people decide his fate as President. ''I am not afraid of the people, that they tell the truth and judge us,'' Morales said on hearing the results.

One person we spoke to summerised the yes vote as, not because the rich are rich, but "because Morales is giving too much money to the poor, by those, once poor, who have managed to make something of themselves". This couldn't be more wrong, 2 months ago Santa Cruz, Bolivia's richest district voted yes in a referendum to be autonomous, feeling it wasn't their duty to pay more in tax to bring more people out of marginalisation. But more than this, Santa Cruz, by being autonomous, were allowed to feel distinct from the marginalised districts of Bolivia and drew an affirmative line across solidarity with them. The separatism in the other districts falls in to the same hands. The oligarchs know it simply isn't possible for the people to be free when they hoard a high proportion of the wealth. If the person we spoke to was right, that Morales' policies do not favour those who were once marginalised and find themselves within a higher tax bracket now, then those people should feel some sympathy towards those who are only now being looked out for since Morales' election win in 2005. But he is not right, the rich feel that their wealth does not have a knock on effect on the marginalised, and forget that concentrated wealth is paid for in the marginalised departments, who lack the privileges of the rich. The rich have also managed to use their status as influence on the voters of this referendum.

Another person we spoke to, Waldo, a Tour driver, pointed out the benefits of Morales' policies. The small villiages of the altiplano (South Bolivia) have around 3-4 hours of energy in their town due to solar panel systems. Morales plans to make it possible for 24 hours of energy in these towns, and also to pave their mountainous roads with concrete. "These are happy people" Waldo told us, and so long as Evo Morales remains premier, needn't be felt sorry for anymore. Policies the rich are opposed to are ones like these, 24 hours of energy for the hard working, distant Indiano communities. And if the other person we spoke to realised the hard work that these communities put in, he wouldn't have told us that some people "make something of themselves" deserve not to be taxed fairly, hard work does not obviously mean things pay off, Morales realised this, informing his condemnation of the plans for some districts to be autonomous.

Morales and his team are going to have to work hard to keep their governance, but the President realises that 4 districts cannot remain isolated. Bolivian Socialists are going to have to try their hardest to challenge the influence of the rich on the elections, justifying the rights of communities who have been downtrodden in the past by Governments who don't have their interests at heart. Morales does have their interests at heart and doesn't ask a lot to provide basic needs to his people. It is in the interest of us as Marxists to support Evo Morales as President and endorse his radicalism, discouraging short-term reformism with a complete overhaul of the capitalist system which only aims to curtail the voice of the people.

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