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Adolfo Pérez Esquivel

Bolivia has always dealt with social and structural violence. The struggle of miners, farmers and other social sectors reveals the serious situation that has faced Bolivia due to the apathy and complicity of Bolivian administrations, which have benefited the elites and have intentionally forgotten the population. The people have reacted through social resistance when they have been faced with increasing impoverishment, since additionally, they must withstand the absence of policies and programs aimed at meeting their basic needs and providing them with resources for health, education, work and a decent life; they are the people that have seen how hunger, poverty and social exclusion have been increased while resources have been taken away. When they react to injustices, they are accused of practicing subversion and violence for their social complaints, while the response of the government is repression.

The governments of many countries are implementing the so called “antiterrorist laws” which justify that any social protest be associated with terrorism and not with the rights of the people.

The Bolivian people know that the wealth and the resources of their country belong to them, but they don’t benefit from them for they are plundered by transnational companies and the oligarchy that accumulate and don’t distribute profits.

The resignation of President Carlos Mesa shows the severe pressures that led the country to ungovernability and the rise of tensions generating chaos and violence along with the threat of a possible military strike, backed by the United States, to put in power someone who can protect their political and economic interests, such as hydrocarbons and above all gas.

Unfortunately, one person has been killed and two have been victims of institutional violence.

In the context of such a situation, one of the worrisome facts is the agreement between the United States and the government of Paraguay to authorize the entrance of American troops in this country with total immunity. The intervention of the American ambassador in Bolivia is a sign of alert for the intention is to prevent the arrival of Evo Morales, leader of Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), to the presidency of the nation.

There are quite risking precedents; for example, the Bush administration “ordered” the general secretary of the Organization of American States (OAE) to closely follow the development of events in Bolivia and, if necessary, to take the “right measures.” It wouldn’t be strange if due to the proximity of the American troops in Paraguay that he could think of a military intervention similar to the invasion of Haiti, with its serious consequences for it has to withstand the occupying forces, violence and the growth of poverty.

The Parliament, where no decisions have been made yet, is debating a call to a constituent assembly and advanced presidential elections that the very same Catholic Church has been promoting with the purpose of achieving the constitutional stability and normalization of the country.

After severe tensions in Parliament and the resignation of Hormando Vaca Diez and Mario Cossío, Eduardo Rodríguez, the Supreme Court Chief Justice of Bolivia, became the president of the country and should call for advanced elections in a period of 90 days.

Leader of MAS Evo Morales advocates for the nationalization of resources that belong to the people, hydrocarbons and gas; but he has met with the opposition of the allied-with-the-American-government-business sector.

The social and structural violence has severely damaged the living conditions. Therefore, the demands of the people in favor of their systematically-violated rights are legitimate.

The events change quickly. We hope that common sense, which has become the less common of all senses, allows political leaders and social organizations to find ways and alternatives to respect the sovereignty of the Bolivian people and demand profound changes in the institutions of the State. We hope these changes that the people are demanding can be achieved without violence, through dialogue and considering the common good as its main concern.

Bolivia is not an isolated case in the continent which has suffered from the imposition of neoliberal policies by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the State Department of the United States, which demand the privatization of national enterprises, services and natural resources.

The big problem now is to analyze the kind of democracy the people are living in, more formal than real, delegable and not participatory.

Once the people vote they are abandoned. By delegating power to those who govern, the citizens are excluded from the decisions of the State.

The imposed democratic system is in crisis and it must be changed so as to lead the people to defenselessness and subjugation, foreign debt, privatization of national enterprises and natural resources which, at the same time, lead to dependence and the loss of sovereignty.

As our indigenous brothers from Cauca in Colombia say, “the word of the resistance must be heard” to recover the true meaning of words, the establishment of participatory democracy where big problems and topics about the present and the future of the people be solved through plebiscites, referendums, as well as having the capacity to revoke leaders and officials who do not fulfill their duties.

There are not isolated facts in the continent. There are social consequences due to the resistance and the social participation of the peoples in fighting injustices. The uprising of the Bolivian people is an example.

Other events have taken place in several countries, such as the recent popular rebellion in Ecuador to fight a government that betrayed its people, as well as the popular uprising in Argentina to deal with an incapable government that led the country to an economic debacle and the growth of poverty.

The continent is in a deliberative state and it should promote actions to bring about the changes the people need. Meanwhile, the neoliberal policies try to globalize poverty, marginalization and domination.

Throughout its history, the Bolivian people have proved to be resistant and honorable. Today, they raise their voices again to prevent the plundering of their resources for it affects the present and the future of the country.

The nations of the continent must be alert to face the policies imposed by the dominant powers and develop solidarity and mutual support. Today, it is Bolivia; tomorrow, it can be other nations.

Reproduced with due authorization from the author and Mexican magazine La Jornada.