by Andy Pollack
Nationalization is the only way forward to create more sources of employment, to end the hunger and misery that is killing us. The only solution is for us workers to take power. — Francisco Quispe, head of La Paz Factory Workers Federation
Here are three comments I have in response to a report sent by Jorge Martin to the “Marxmail” discussion list on June 11. His excellent report is reproduced below. But first, my comments:
(One) Nationalization of the
Bolivian gas and oil industry, the main demand of the mass organizations in
This situation is an argument for
using the breathing room now afforded, whether of weeks or (hopefully not)
months, to urge Brazilian militants to start campaigning to demand that a
cooperative relationship be established between Bolivia and Petrobras, the
publicly owned Brazilian oil company that operates in Bolivia—a cooperative
relationship like the one that now exists between Venezuela and Cuba. If the Petrobras
management refuses, then Petrobras should be reorganized, just as
(Two) Key to the tasks of the
coming weeks is a point made in the June 11 statement by the Coordinadora del Agua y el Gas in
(Three) We in the imperialist heartland can use this time to organize events on what just happened and prepare for mobilizations against the imperialist intervention that will surely be attempted as the Bolivian workers and peasants move to establish their own power and control over their national resources.
The more radical leaders in Bolivia have stated explicitly that the struggle continues for nationalization (and for some a Constituent Assembly, for others a People’s Assembly).This gives us here in the U.S. an opportunity—and a responsibility. Certainly any activist we know will be wondering what the Bolivian people have just been through, and it should be easy to get people to forums explaining that. While it will be hard in most cities to find a Bolivian to speak, or even someone active around Bolivia, we should all be able to find someone from our own groups able to give an articulate account of what has happened—and what might come. Perhaps such forums could be combined with speakers on such issues as the Venezuelan revolution and the present campaign led by Fidel Castro to expose U.S. government support for terrorist activity as revealed in the Posada case. (Luis Posada Carriles is a counterrevolutionary terrorist from Cuba and Venezuela and former CIA employee, who entered U.S. territory illegally a couple of months ago and who is facing demands that he be extradited to Venezuela to face trial for his terrorist activities, including blowing up a Cubana airlines plane near Barbados in the 1970s, killing all of the nearly 80 innocent civilian passengers on the plane.) In any case, if we begin preparing forums now to take place in the next few weeks, we’ll be in a good position to mobilize for other kinds of actions when things jump off again. (Incidentally, the Cuba Solidarity Network in New York is considering the launching of a Bolivia solidarity campaign.) The report by Jorge Martin follows (edited slightly for Labor Standard).
I will try to just relate some of
the latest developments from
On June 9 Vaca Diez tried to get
parliament to elect him as president after the resignation of Carlos Mesa (whose
resignation had to be accepted by parliament in order to be effective). A
government of Vaca Diez would have meant bringing the army out to “restore order.”
This seemed to be the preferred option of the
In order to prevent the
installation of Vaca Diez, who had moved the parliament to the “safer” location
This maneuver by the
At a demonstration in
Francisco Quispe, leader of the La Paz Factory Workers Federation, said: “If there is no nationalization, we will continue with the mobilization. Nationalization is the only way forward to create more sources of employment, to end the hunger and misery that is killing us. The only solution is for us workers to take power.”
By the time the parliamentary
Then in the afternoon news came of the death of a miner [assassinated by police special forces, urged on by Vaca Diez]. Tension increased even more. Vaca Diez went to hide in a military barracks, while the parlamentarians returned to the safety of their hotels.
Finally in the evening the attempt
to impose Vaca Diez as president collapsed. In a very short session Vaca Diez
and Cossio resigned and Rodriguez was elected as president. The ceremony
reflected very well how this was done under the pressure from the streets; any
semblance of constitutional pomp was lost. The choir which sang the national
anthem was out of tune and the few MPs present could not do it any better. The
new president did not receive a presidential sash nor the presidential “stick” (I
don’t know the English word for it), since these were still in the hands of
The masses in
On June 10 an emergency assembly in
El Alto decided to continue the struggle. “Regardless of who is the president
we will continue the struggle. We were not asking for
“The aim of nationalization has not been achieved. Nobody in power wants to even deal with it. Not even Evo, who only mentioned it right at the end when his own ranks were already surpassing him,” said Patana of the El Alto COR.
“El Alto has already lived through
this kind of political transition, when
“We should not let ourselves be
fooled by the bourgeois maneuvers that have put into power [Rodriguez,] a
former adviser to the
The emergency meeting agreed to give Rodriguez a 72-hour deadline to nationalize oil and gas.
The cooperative miners in
Representatives of the peasants and
indigenous peoples in the 20 provinces of the
The Coordinadora del
Agua y el Gas in
The MAS peasant leader Loayza gave the new president a 10-day deadline to respond to the demands of the movement. Meanwhile MAS leaders, and particularly Evo Morales, gave speeches that were broadcast over radio and TV appealing to the masses to lift the road blockades and end the strike.
In the next few days it will become more clear which one of the two strategies wins more support in the movement: the one favored by the MAS leaders, of granting a truce and placing confidence in [or allowing some time to] the new government of Rodriguez; or that of the COB and El Alto of no truce and continuation of the struggle as it is.
My impression is that probably the first one will gather more momentum. They have in their favor the support of the media, the Catholic Church, etc., the authority that Morales still commands, particularly outside of La Paz and El Alto, and among important layers of the masses (coca farmers, cooperative miners), and finally the natural feeling of tiredness among the more radical sections, which are at the same time the ones that have been out for the longest.
However, this is unlikely to be a lengthy, protracted process like with Mesa (who managed to stay in power for 18 months), but rather a shorter one, since this time the demands of the movement are clearer and more focused, with a higher political content, and they have already gone through the experience with Mesa.
I think it was Fred Feldman (sorry
if I got this wrong) [actually, it was Nestor Gorojovsky, an Argentinian
contributor to the “Marxmail” discussion group] who argued that maybe
nationalization was not the right slogan, since
[Note: A later version of Jorge Martin’s report, posted on June 13 (with photos from Bolivia Indymedia), may be found at the web site www.marxist.com]
[Additional Note from Labor Standard: A detailed account of the police killing of mineworkers’ leader Juan Coro at Sucre, and the reverberations of that police murder within the Bolivian military, was posted on the Narco News web site June 12 (in an article by Al Giordano; see www.narconews.com). Some excerpts from the Narco News account follow:
Narco News reported (the first to do so in English) that the Bolivian Congress had not succeeded in convening at as planned [on June 9].
Before lunch hour, [Narco News reporter] Luis Gómez predicted that Congress may not be able to meet at all in order to coronate Vaca Diez as president:
“Copublisher Jean Friedsky and this reporter doubt that they will pull off a session today. There was a general pre-agreement to begin work by , but it is far from certain whether that will happen.”
At Gómez broke a major story: that disgraced and exiled Bolivian president Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada’s son-in-law had arrived in Sucre, riding on the same airplane as aspiring dictator Vaca Diez, and traced the facts showing that Goni and the U.S. Embassy were collaborating in the attempt to impose Vaca Diez upon the throne.
Sixteen minutes later, at Gomez informed the world that the
day’s conflicts had brought the first martyr: Juan Coro, a Bolivian mineworker,
who had been shot by police while he sat on a bus on his way to the protests in
Rumors quickly spread throughout the World Wide Web that Bolivian Military soldiers had assassinated him. If true, it would have been even graver, for all prior indications (including in Narco News reports) were that the Armed Forces were refusing to act violently against the Bolivian people in this conflict. It was a moment when we all got a collective lump in our throats, and worried intensely while also mourning a fallen American.
At , Gómez
came in with an
earthshaking report that changed the course of history: “
The assassination had been committed by police who had, according to
Gomez’s famously accurate sources, been ordered by aspiring president Hormando
Vaca Diez to stop the mineworkers from reaching the Congressional meeting in
“Vaca Diez ordered the Commander in Chief of the National Police, David Aramayo, to block the passage of all demonstrators who were marching toward the capital to surround the session of Congress.
“It was members of the [police] special forces group known as ‘The Dalmatians,’ known for their brutal participation in the Water War of 2000 in Cochabamba, who repressed the mineworkers’ march. Now, with this information confirmed, we can correct (the facts), for the peace of mind of all the world…”
Apparently Vaca Diez (also in constant contact with his advisers,
utilizing many of the same cell phone-to-Internet communications systems that
are part of the new landscape for newsmakers as well as news reporters) was one
person to whom this news did not cause “peace of mind.” He immediately fled
from the Congressional session – claiming he was going to meet with a police
officer – and ran directly to the military base in
In his report for the next morning’s daily La Jornada
“The Bolivian military, which on
this day had deployed troops in various cities of the country, especially in
“’It was nothing more nor less than an ‘invitation’ to consider that
the Armed Forces were not going to resort to bullets, contrary to what he and
others believed,’ the high-ranking military official continued. ‘And [Vaca
Diez] was also reminded that we had said that Congress should listen to the
voice of the people, to the popular demands.’ That made the difference. And
Vaca Diez, a capable politician, opted to return to the Congressional meeting
But at that same hour, on Thursday afternoon, many news organizations, including activist sites, had jumped on the news of the death of mineworker Juan Coro, and pointed the finger at the Bolivian military. Narco News alone corrected the story and brought the true facts up for air.
At the moment that bulletin came in from Gómez, I had been chatting on IM
with various collaborators, including Teo Ballve in
“It’s over for Vaca Diez,” I replied. “He can’t survive this latest revelation.” I turned to Gómez and asked, “Can we publish that as a fact yet?” Gómez said we needed to do more investigating, and we all went back to work contacting sources.
The sources spoke, the facts rolled in, the news updates came flooding via the Narcosphere: At 5:50 p.m. Gómez confirmed that Vaca Diez had suspended the Congressional session – forty-two minutes after Narco News had reported the information about his role in the death of the mineworker. By Gómez and other news agencies widely reported that Vaca Diez had withdrawn his bid to become president. Then at , the world knew: Bolivia Has a New President, Eduardo Rodríguez, whose first act was to call for new elections.
In twenty-one hours, a likely wave of terror was transformed into another hopeful step toward authentic democracy.
The feared wave of repression promised by Vaca Diez and his “Doctrine of
Authoritarian Government” had been stopped in less than a day by the social