COLECTIVO BOLIVIANO CANADIENSE


WHAT IS PODEMOS IN BOLIVIA?

Posted in Uncategorized par colectivoboliviano sur 14 septembre, 2007

by Alejandro Saravia

I had the occasion to listen to former Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga during a conference in Montreal, speaking about the theme “The Impact of « Populism » on Social, Political, and Economic Development in the Hemisphere”. Expressing himself in English, the representative of the Bolivian right-wing political party PODEMOS offered a coherent vision of what he wants for Bolivia. What he presented to the audience did not reflect the transformation that is occurring in that country.

His organization Poder Democrático Social (PODEMOS), a misleading name with the words “social” and “democracy” in it, appeared on the political landscape when the traditional right-wing party Acción Democrática Nacionalista (ADN), founded in 1979 by ex dictator Hugo Bánzer, lost the support of the electorate and dissapeared after the death of its founder in 2002. Contrary to what happened to the Argentinean or Chilean military that participated in the dictatorship in those countries, Banzer never had to face justice for the murders, kidnappings and human rights violations committed during his dictatorship. The Banzer regime was a flourishing period for the landowners in Santa Cruz. Supporting his dictatorship (1971-78) meant for them massive access to credit and the appropiation of land in the eastern region of the country. Currently, ADN has become a defunct political party, replaced by Quiroga’s new PODEMOS organization, although its structures, ideology, and supporters remain basically the same. In the last Bolivian election, Quiroga finished a distant second place, receiving 28.6% of the vote. On the walls of Bolivian cities, popular wisdom has changed the name PODEMOS for ROBEMOS, which in Spanish means “let’s rob”.

Today, when Bolivians are trying to have a working Constituent Assembly to discuss the kind of country in which they want to live in, PODEMOS proposes the status quo; that is, it wants the Aymara, the Quechua and other native people to remain subject to conditions of servitude, oppressed by the mestizo middle class and upper class. Indigenous males are to continue being our “aparapitas” (porters) and native women, our servants, our domestic “empleaditas”. PODEMOS also wants the economic structure of white-collar robbery, which fattened the banking accounts of the private mining sector, to remain untouched (Comsur, which was the property of Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada, is the best example of the ransacking of government mining companies). This political party wants to keep the landowners as masters of vast properties in the east of the country, profiting from ill-acquired lands and fortunes.

Jorge Quiroga and PODEMOS want Bolivia to remain a State administered by and for the benefit of transnational corporations. After all, most of the Bolivian private sector, (pro-American by nature, with very few exceptions) is so exploitative that it cannot be considered a national bourgeoisie. The bourgeois will make sure that his labor force can reproduce itself socially. As Henry Ford put it, any entrepreneur with a minimum of vision would pay sufficient wages so that his workers can buy the products that they themselves produce. But in Bolivia this has rarely happened.

Considering the current situation in Bolivia, it appears that PODEMOS wants the closure of the Constituent Assembly at all costs. The Bolivian right wing wants the elimination of any other initiative that seeks to reform the State. It doesn’t want a country that works with justice for the benefit of all its citizens. Jorge Quiroga and his acolytes want a Bolivia that remains subject to the blackmail of foreign investors, a Bolivia whose natural resources continue to be plundered for the benefit of transnational companies, leaving behind nothing but poverty, pollution and environmental degradation.

The tragedy in all this is that Jorge Quiroga has amassed behind this project a sector of the middle class, poor in comparison with the middle class in other Latin American countries, but with sufficient ambitions to meet the levels of consumption of the First World. These Bolivians want to live like the middle classes in the suburbs of Miami or Atlanta. This middle class that supports PODEMOS bitterly regrets living in Bolivia. They would give everything in order to live the American Dream (which in fact does not exist, as millions of hard-working yet poor Latin Americans living in the United States can testify).

Now, this Bolivian middle class is upset because Quechuas, Aymaras, Guarayos, and many other First Nations people want a country that recognizes the fullness of their rights, including their cultural identity.

Former dictator García Mesa is still in jail, and we hope he never leaves Chonchocoro. But this representative of the Bolivian militarismo was just the brute killer, a rented hitman in uniform that could be discarded and sent to jail if things got complicated, or if people started to demand justice and democracy. Now, who has taken advantage of the dictatorships to steal state companies and public assets? They are the Gasser, the Bertero, the Sanchez de Losada families, the landowners. It was that pompous collection of important frogs in control of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz (Comité Cívico Pro-Santa Cruz).

Now, this committee of right wingers and racists is sending to the streets of Santa Cruz the United Youth of Santa Cruz (Unión Juvenil Cruceñista). Young people who, instead of being sent to the streets with batons in their hands to enforce the will of the oligarchy, would be better served if they were given books about the dangers of racism and fascism, and learned about human rights and pluriculturalism.

The United States is not going to invade Bolivia like it did with Iraq. PODEMOS and Jorge Quiroga make this option unnecesary. They will do the job of selling off the country. And for those who believe that Bolivia is small peanuts in Washington, they should ponder for a moment: why did George W. Bush send Philip S. Goldberg to Bolivia as ambassador, a person with the expertise in the violent division of countries like the ex-Yugoslavia?

The White House cannot allow that a few million indigenous voters choose as their government a party that embodies a Movement towards Socialism in a country with the second largest gas reserves in Latin America. In order to prevent this, there are marines stationed in Paraguay, and in Bolivia, Washington can count on PODEMOS as its political arm. All this to ensure that Bolivia does not cease to be a cultural, political and economic colony of the United States.

And let’s discard those simplistic narratives suggesting that Bolivia will become a new Cuba or that a bunch of wild-eyed child-eating Communist will seize the country. That is nothing more than propaganda. It repeats the language that has become a business in Miami, where the so-called “anticastristas” repeat their old discourse because it has become a way of living, a way to make ends meet and take cash from the Republican coffers. The same rethoric is being used against the government in Venezuela. And the same platitudes are being repeated by some confused Bolivian bloggers.

PODEMOS and Jorge Quiroga may possibly take the presidency in Bolivia, unless the process of change in Bolivia is reinforced and deepened. The government must take the initiative to remove the economic foundations of the oligarchy, including limits to their access to the airwaves and media. That’s why the majority of the indigenous people voted for Morales, to change the history of the country. To accomplish this, it will be necessary that the middle class stops dreaming about its McDonald’s hamburgers and watches itself in the mirror of history. This middle class behind PODEMOS needs to discover that it owes more to the Aymara and the Quechua worlds. This middle class needs to discover than it has more indigenous blood running in its veins than any white middle class of any American suburb. Bolivians must understand that they have more to gain following the path of dignity and respect for each other than accepting the submission that has been demanded and imposed for decades on the majority of Bolivians.

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