Bolivia Is Facing Meltdown So Can a Solution Be Found?
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent – SEOUL TIMES – SOUTH KOREA
|President Evo Morales of Bolivia|
President Evo Morales of Bolivia faces a major internal crisis because his left-wing ideology is not going down well amongst the elites of this nation. Therefore, the most wealthy parts of this nation desire to obtain autonomy and this is clearly a threat to the Bolivian nation state. Because five out of nine states which make up Bolivia desire to obtain greater autonomy in order to control their own respective internal fiscal policies? However, can Bolivia afford such a patchwork system and will both sides abide by such major differences? Or will the internal political dynamics of Bolivia unravel and create mayhem?
If President Morales does not either seek a “genuine” compromise or clampdown on the pro-autonomy regions of Pando, Beni, Tarija, Chuquisaca and Santa Cruz, then surely events will only get worse? You can not have two governments within a nation and obviously for tax reasons, Santa Cruz is vital because of rampant poverty within Bolivia. Given this, President Morales must respond in either a positive and compromising way or if they decline this offer, then he must clampdown on this serious threat to Bolivia. His options, therefore, could be forced if the opposition is unwilling to seek a solution because both sides need to take a step back in order to solve this tense crisis.
However, does President Morales have the power to do this? After all, it is clear that in the past the extreme rich often paid for private militias in many nations throughout South America. Also, the armed forces were nothing more than a military unit which looked after the extreme rich and strong families who dominated society. This applied to the Somoza family in Nicaragua before the Sandinista Revolution and this same scenario was played out in other nations during the Cold War period. At the same time the judiciary may also cause political mayhem alongside the military and the police because these institutions may challenge the power base of Morales? So it is clear that divide and rule based on massive economic disparity was often the way in this part of the world and Morales must be getting worried.
Also, the issue of racial politics is very serious because the indigenous people have been marginalized since the Spanish conquest. Martin Arostegui wrote in the Washington Times (June 24, 2005) that “A growing indigenous movement has helped topple successive governments in Bolivia and Ecuador and, angered by the destruction of Andean coca crops, now threatens the stability of other countries where Indians are in the majority.
Drawing support from European leftists and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the long-marginalized Indians are tasting political influence for the first time since the Spanish conquest and beginning to wrest power from South America’s white elites…” This statement highlights the natural divisions within Bolivia, Ecuador, and other nations throughout the region. So it is clear that you have ethnic factors, economic reasons, and others, which have been fused together with the theory of socialism but the real underline cause of this is both economic and social alienation.
The only major difference between now and the past, is that in most nations it is left-wing forces which are in power, therefore, regional nations may assist President Morales? Also, he does have a strong power base amongst the poor and marginalized, and he will surely take some comfort in this reality. However, wealthy leaders who are against him could easily cause havoc but some may fear retribution if they fail. Therefore, divisions may emerge within the five regions which desire greater autonomy or self-rule?
For now the situation is very delicate and President Morales must act in a brave way but he must not be naive because if he shows any weaknesses, then he may lose power? This situation needs to be solved quickly because the death total keeps on rising. Therefore, Bolivia needs a strong unitary state which can function but which allows some concessions in order to placate the leaders of Pando, Beni, Tarija, Chuquisaca and Santa Cruz. Yet “a new Bolivia” needs to be open to all the people of this nation and not just the rich elite like in the past.
Also, America must not meddle in this crisis because this will make the situation even worse. Therefore, regional leaders have rebuked past negative forces and the leaders of Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, have also pointed the finger at America and this feeling is shared in other nations. For example Brazil is also very unhappy about the current crisis and the presidential aide, Marco Aurelio Garcia, stated Brazil “…will not tolerate a rupture in Bolivia’s democratic order.”
But the struggle within Bolivia goes on between the western Andean half of this nation, which is mainly populated by the marginalized indigenous population, and the more prosperous and conservative eastern lowlands which is dominated by the ruling European and mixed descent population. Also, economics and the desire to control the lucrative gas fields is also at play and of course Morales needs to exploit this wealth in order to develop a more equal and just society. However, the traditional ruling elites do not want to relinquish their economic and political power base, therefore, the current crisis is very complex and Bolivia is on the brink of meltdown. So can a compromise be found in the near future given the huge gaps in thinking?
Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA