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Home > English > Website archives > Globalization, resistance, immigration > Bolivia advances with dignity toward its second foundation


Bolivia advances with dignity toward its second foundation

Monday 3 November 2008, by Alex Contreras Baspineiro

The old clock on the legislative palace of La Paz marks 12:55, (on October 21). The president of the republic, Evo Morales Ayma cannot contain his emotions and cries. Leaders from various social movements join in a hug as thousands of marchers shout for joy, flags and “wiphalas” blazing (scarves with the colors of the indigenous movement). The miners set off small fireworks and the farmers make their pitutus heard. It is a historic day for Bolivia because the National Congress approved by two thirds of the assembly, a call for referendum on the New Political Constitution of the State for January 25, 2009.

“From this moment on we all start the campaign to obtain a hundred percent approval for the new political constitution of the state,” said the Head of the State, before thousands and thousands of people who after marching, held a night long vigil in the plaza Murillo.

The President of the Republic emphasized that with a new constitution, various benefits will be constitutionalized like Income Dignity, the Juancito Pinto bond or the Nationalization of Hydrocarbons.

The departments’ autonomy -as well as municipal and indigenous autonomy- is guaranteed and constitutionalized and, in an act of justice Bolivia is recognized as a Unitary Social State of Law, Multinational, Communitarian , Sovereign, Intercultural and with Autonomies.

As he saluted the struggle and commitment of the social movements, Morales Ayma stated “The new foundation of Bolivia has united us… I applaud the decision of the COB to join with the CONALCAM."

The march from Caracollo (Oruro) to La Paz was headed by the main leaders of the Central Bolivian Workers Union (Central Obrera Boliviana–COB) and The National Coordinator for Change (la Coordinadora Nacional para el Cambio–CONALCAM); and together with them, more than 95 social organizations participated nationally.

The Road is Made as you Walk it

After walking 190 kilometers in eight days, enduring hunger and thirst in communities located four thousand meters above sea level, sleeping in the frigid temperatures of the altiplano, and facing a media campaign demonizing them as the "cercadores" (besiegers) of democracy, thousands and thousands of Bolivians arrived the day before in La Paz.

As if waking a sleeping giant, proud of their culture, wearing their garments and accompanied by their music and traditions, the representatives of the social movements received as they walked, not only food and beverages, but above all, solidarity.

This march, the largest in the democratic history of the country - at the heart of Bolivian politics - became a multicultural and multi ethnic festival that dazzled natives and foreigners alike.

A week ago, no politician, showed any interest in finding a negotiated solution to bring the state together. Instead, they sought – once more - to polarize the country so there would be more clashes and greater division but the steps of the marchers demonstrated the only way: dialogue.

“This it is a great triumph for Bolivia because we are building a project that includes everyone.… This is not a project of the government or of the opposition, but a project of the Bolivians", affirmed Raúl Lagos the delegate of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Through a special interpretive law of article 233, the National Congress agreed to call for a constitutional referendum on January 25, 2009 and general elections for December of the next year.

"The indigenous, rural, and native peoples, as well as all the social movements are not going to attack any parliamentary representative nor any citizen, as the autonomists did with racist actions. We defend the culture of life", said the leader of the CONALCAM, Fidel Surco.

Marchers came to La Paz all the way from Santa Cruz and Oruro, Tarija and Potosi, Beni and Chuquisaca, Pando and Cochabamba, representing rural and urban organizations who seek and support the process of change.

More than one hundred articles

The difficult, but firm step of the marchers, made both the opposition and the ruling party put aside their personal and political interests to arrive at a concrete agreement.

The congressional session spanned for more than 16 continuous hours.

The intransigent positions of days ago were left behind, such as “Not a letter will be changed from the constitutional text, except for the chapter of the autonomies" or "we will not approve the constitution stained with blood."

According to the vice President of the Republic, Álvaro Garcia Linera, there are more than 100 modified articles, some in shape and others in form.

“The political forces have agreed on more than 100 corrections that apply to the new above-mentioned, constitutional text, referring to electoral themes, autonomy, ordinary and communitarian justice, among others" he emphasized.

Among the agreements reached, the theme of land is at the center, an issue that is a great concern for the productive sectors. It was agreed that the results of the special referendum that will fix either 5 thousand or 10 thousand hectares as the maximum size of a land-holding, will not affect those who owned the land before the consultation as long, as they comply with social and economic ends.

Regarding autonomy, a much more complete and solid chapter was achieved, with greater ties to the expectations of the regions of Tarija, Beni, Santa Cruz and Pando.

In these four regions referendums on autonomy were carried out were deemed illegal.

“Bolivia won. This victory was the culmination of two years of our political life. We are satisfied for many reasons, because this is the end of an era, of a country that fought for decades for social inclusion,” says Garcia Linera

Although there still exists regional dissent among the parliamentary representatives of Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca, the majority of the four political groups (MAS, MNR, UN and PODEMOS) have established an agreement which, in the end, strengthens the Bolivian democratic system.

Digging their Graves

Because of the strength of the social movements, the opposition was not only pressured but weakened and, in the end, defeated.

Up until the day before, the opposition was unfolding communication strategies through the commercial media, stating that “only over their dead bodies would the masista constitution pass.”

Today some mourn the defeat, some still cannot yet accept the hard blow and the others try to justify the unjustifiable.

The prefect of Chuquisaca, Savina Cuéllar, a former masista, said: "Those who supported the referendum in the National Congress are traitors. We cannot pass that Venezuelan constitution, we will campaign for ’no’.” "We were not taken into account. The issue of jurisdictions and functions of the autonomies were not fully defined", argued the opposition representative, Pablo Klinsky; the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz rejected the agreements and declared a state of emergency and the leader of PODEMOS, Jorge Quiroga, accepted that in his party discrepancies exist.

"The neoliberals should dig their graves to be buried. The Bolivian people have succeeded and we should organize and prepare ourselves to govern and take power for the next 20 years” asserted the leader of the COB, Pedro Montes. The parliamentary representatives of the opposition that once ran this country according to their whims have been defeated, the social movements that support the process of change are empowered: Bolivia is walking toward its second foundation. (Translation ALAI).

 Alex Contreras Baspineiro is a Bolivian writer and journalist, and ex spokesperson of the government.