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Nationalise the hydrocarbon reserves in Bolivia -

Call a constituent assembly

Bolivia Solidarity Campaign

           If it had been in a country of the old Eastern Bloc, the newspapers would have celebrated it as "the multicoloured revolution" and we would have been treated to interviews with learned right-wing academics talking about a new liberty, people power and similar tired clichés. But his was an uprising of a different stamp. For four and a half weeks, an alliance of trade unions, farmers associations, neighbourhood committees and indigenous peoples' organisations paralysed Bolivia with strikes, demonstrations and blockades and finally drove the President from office.

            The reason, of course, that the western media have tried to ignore the situation is that the main demand of the demonstrators is for the nationalisation of the county's gas reserves with no compensation and they fear that this demand could become popular with the people of other poor countries that are equally rich in natural resources but who have been systematically robbed by multinational countries from Europe and the United States.

 

Water war

            For, while Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, it has the second largest reserves of oil and gas in the continent after Venezuela, however, it is still suffering from "restructuring" imposed on it by the World Bank and the IMF which forced the privatisation of many of the country's basic services. In 2000, the people of Cochabamba, the third largest city, rose up against the privatisation of their water supply and forced it to be taken back into public ownership. This inspired others, and when the question of the gas reserves came to a head in 2003, the example of Cochabamba was followed by the poor people of El Alto who, drove the then President, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, from office in protest at his slavish following of neo-liberal policies, albeit at the cost of 80 dead and 400 wounded.

            The new president, Carlos Mesa, promised a new law on hydrocarbons and a constituent assembly to rewrite the countries constitution in a manner that would empower the Bolivia's majority indigenous population, currently largely excluded from the political process.

 

Alliance

            He was a disappointment, and when he tried to veto a fairly moderate law that would merely have taxed the gas in the hands of the multinationals rather than renationalising it, the uprising began. The social movements that formed the alliance represent the overwhelming majority of the people of Bolivia and, through their determined blockade of La Paz, the seat of government, they forced Mesa to resign, prevented the conservative businessman who should have succeeded him from even being considered and eventually allowed the head of the supreme court to be sworn in as interim president to oversee elections within 150 days.

 

Truce

            The protesters accepted this and dismantled their blockades and suspended the general strike that now gripped the country declaring a truce. But this will only be a truce, rather than a settlement, the question of who owns the gas is still not resolved, the constitution has not been rewritten, the Free Trade Area of the Americas lies like a shadow over the country and the land distribution is still manifestly unfair.

            The Bolivian people have set us an example of resistance and determination that we cannot ignore, the Bolivia Solidarity Campaign exists to campaign for support for the rights of the Bolivian people and to bring that example of resistance to Europe, please get in touch with us for a speaker so that we can spread the word of this important struggle and overcome the media blackout.


 

 

June 2005

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Further details from:

Bolivia Solidarity Campaign

53, Fladgate Road. London E11 1LX

http://www.boliviasc.org.uk

 

For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism