The cases of Bolivia and Argentine as discussed at the Anti-imperialist Camp in Assisi, August 2002
The main target of US interventionism in Latin America is Venezuela and Colombia, or generally speaking the northern countries of Southern America including Ecuador that is a highly unstable region. Bush spoke of a "Axes of the Evil" in Latin American, that is Cuba, Venezuela and the Colombian FARC. In October last the US organized a conference in Central America to elaborate the plans for the "War on Terrorism" in Latin American. The immediate consequence of this was a) the break of the peace talks in Colombia 21st
of February and b) the coup d`etat in Venezuela 17th of April. The paradigm of fighting terrorism is now becoming the main apology for intervening in those countries where the US are facing the biggest problems (Colombia and Venezuela), while the war against drugs is still an important pretext for the presence of US troops in the Andean Region (Peru and Bolivia).
In the field of military activities the US operate first through military financial aid and advisers, second through extending their military bases in Latin America (Ecuador, Peru) and third in preparing a possible "multilateral armed force" mainly supported by Peru and Argentina for a possible intervention in Colombia. The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is still operating together with the local military in the southeast of Bolivia (Chapare) and in Peru.
Politically the USA is flexible: In Colombia and Venezuela as the main points of conflict, they support the most reactionary and brutal faction of the ruling class who doesn`t hesitate to use paramilitary forces against the popular movement. In the South of the continent (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil) they seem to accept the centre left as an instrument of control and stability. But the situation is something unclear after the events in Argentine that are now spreading to Uruguay.
On the economic level US penetration is done through regional and continental treaties, mainly the Free Trade Agreement for the Americas (ALCA) - the continental continuity of the NAFTA Agreement, for Central America the Puebla-Panama-Plan and for the Andean countries the so called "Andean Initiative". These plans include generally liberalization of the markets, austerity and stability programs, projects for infrastructure to have access to natural resources but also geo-strategic control and last but not least support for the local military or police to guarantee stability.
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries due to the collapse of the miners sector in 1985 when neo-liberalism destroyed the state miners sector. A lot of the mine workers went from the highlands to the central eastern region of Cochabamba, particularly the region of Chapare where coca is planted (in Bolivia the coca leafs are legal). Bolivia is a country with a majority of indigenous population (the three main groups are Quechua in the centre and east, Aymara in the highlands and Guarani in the south). The traditional mode of production consisting in rural communities that conserve partially common property (called Ayllus) is still strong and explains a strong political-cultural resistance. This identity together with the militant tradition of the miners and the US intervention in the coca region made the Chapare a highly explosive area. The leader of the Chapare peasant movement is Evo Morales (his envoy at the Anti-imperialist Camp was Wilbert Villca Lopez, who is member of this movement and responsible for the international relations).
Last year the privatisation of water, that should be sold to a Spanish trans-national enterprise, provoked a general uprising in the Chapare region, including the urban popular masses of Cochabamba, the capital of the department. The main form of protest of the indigenous movement are blockades of the main roads to stop the transport to the main cities. During this uprising, the main roads to the capital La Paz - in the east as well as in the west - was blocked up to the point that La Paz experienced shortage of the basic products. The local police and military camps were assaulted by armed peasants. Finally the government had to retreat and privatisation of the water was stopped.
The second important movement after Evo Morales, is the Aymara indigenous movement of the highlands led by Felipe Quispe. Quispe comes from the armed struggle of the 80ties (Guerilla Army Tupac Katari, EGTK). He fights for a kind of independent and socialist republic of the Aymara people. Evo Morales also defends self-determination of the indigenous people, but still in the form of autonomy within a democratic Bolivian nation. That`s why he launched a political national movement called "Movement towards Socialism" that was the second party in the recent elections. However, the electoral participation is generally considered as subordinated to the mass struggle.
Armed struggle up to now is only discussed as a last option in case of a generalized military repression against the popular movement. The particular political question in the Bolivian case is that of self-determination of the indigenous people. (A historic discussion where the Bolivians accuse the communist movement to have ignored systematically the indigenous question; and partially this accusation is correct.) The crisis of the proletarian movement after the defeat of the miners made the indigenous movement the main force in social and political struggle. The Bolivian movement strategically prepares to paralyse the main regions of the country (1. Western highlands through the movement of Quispe, 2. central region through the movement of Morales and 3. the East through the Movement of the Landless peasants; this last region with the main city Santa Cruz is the weakest point and the political and economic stronghold of the bourgeoisie and oligarchy). Together with their force in parliament and some support of local trade unions (COB) - the leadership is controlled by social democracy (a party called MIR) - they hope to be able to paralyse the country and overthrow the government. There are some doubts about this strategy, but anyway the bourgeois system in the Andean countries is not very strong as we could see in Ecuador where a popular and peasant movement overthrew the president twice. If this strategy will not succeed, the project of the "separatist" forces like Quispe will grow and become the main axes of popular and indigenous struggle.
Re-studying the main Marxist intellectual and founding member of the Communist party of Peru, Jose Carlos Mariategui, is recommended, as he was one of the few to study the political meaning of cultural contradictions in the Andean countries, contradictions that are obviously sharpened again by imperialist globalisation and capitalist modernization.
The comrade Daniel Straga comes from a movement called CORREPI (Coordination against Police and Institutional Repression). They are the lawyers of the main movement of unemployed ("Piqueteros") and a point of crystallization for a new political organization of the revolutionary left.
The rebellion of 20th of December was the expression of a complete failure of the economic model imposed by the IMF, namely the model of a stable exchange rate of the Argentine peso to the US dollar. This stable exchange - together with the selling out of all the industry including the petrol industry - led to a continuous deficit because of the growing distance between import and export (export simply was to expensive because of the high peso). This notorious deficit led to the collapse of the province governments who was no more able to afford maintaining the basic infrastructure of the state apparatus and to a general pauperisation of huge sectors of the population, including the middle classes. Local and than regional uprisings of the impoverished masses, led by the unemployed, began in the midst of the 90ties during the Menem government and escalated during the centre left government of De la Rua. This rebellion has gone hand in hand with a political emancipation of important sectors of the popular movement, mainly among the unemployed, from Peronism. Peronism controls still the main trade union called CGT. A first split happened in 1991 when a left wing of the Peronist trade union opposed the neo-liberal politics of Menem (who represents the "technocratic" wing of Peronism). This split formed a new trade union called CTA led by a transport worker called Moyano. CTA is left Peronist and very opportunist towards the mainstream Peronism. Another important force of the workers movement that includes parts of the unemployed is called Combative and Class Current (CCC), founded by a Maoist organization. They are the continuity of left Peronism and always follow the CTA that again follows the mainstream Peronists of CGT. The "independent" left is led by the Trotskyites from the Workers Party (PO) and their mass movement Workers Pole (Polo Obrero), however, with a certain electoralist tendency. The movement of the unemployed, who was the main social force in the upraising of 20 December and paralysed the country by blocking the main roads to Buenos Aires, has formed a national coordination called Assembly of the Piqueteros (Piqueteros is the word for those who block the roads). Within this national coordination the most radical forces are gathered in the Movement of the Unemployed Anibal Veron. The comrades of CORREPI are near to them.
To understand the events of 20th December, three factors must be considered: 1. The general economic crisis that affected the middle classes (the immediate reason for the mobilization of the middle classes was the freezing of their bank accounts to avoid a financial breakdown of the state) 2. A kind of hunger revolt headed by an independent and well organized unemployed movement 3. A systematic destabilization of the government by the Peronist opposition and the Peronist trade union CGT through a number of general strikes.
The events of 20th December however were not headed by the Peronist trade union as they feared a movement that is uncontrollable. The Peronist party offered a coalition government to stabilize the situation, but it was too late. The severe repression led to a complete isolation of the government and finally to its overthrow. But the movement still doesn´t have a common political project, let alone a political leadership. That`s why the populist fraction of the Peronist Party headed by the today´s interim president Duhalde could take power, supported directly or indirectly by the trade unions of CGT, CTA and the "Maoist" CCC.
However the situation is not very stable, the economic crisis is still without any solution but also the popular movement still has a long way to go until having a hegemonic political organization and a common project for a revolutionary solution of the crisis. We will face a prolonged period of social clashes, political and economic crisis and different proposals of solution - from a right wing authoritarian one to a revolutionary left.