Full Moon Over Bolivia

EDITORIAL, 17 Nov 2008

#36 | Johan Galtung

La Paz-Santa Cruz 17/Nov/08

A full moon illuminates the mountains, the altiplano, and that vertical capital La Paz, as well as the plains around Santa Cruz, center of the four (of nine) departments of the medialuna, half moon shaped, part demanding autonomía from La Paz, and for municipalities. Deep polarization and serious violence. Why?

History, say some; massively pre-colombian Indian high up, less so in the lowlands. More Spanish high up, more generally European with a wave of right-wing immigrants from Nazi Germany and Yugoslavia after the Second World War, say others. Mestizos all over. The medialuna has the hydrocarbons, say most. All of the above, adding shared climatic disorders, with inundations in the lowlands and delayed rains high up, caused by hydrocarbons.

New is democracy, after centuries of white rule both as colony and free: an Aymara, Evo Morales, one of 62% indigenous, won the elections with 54%, confirmed in a referendum at 67%.

Like an Obama with 53%. Two charismatic non-white men; fighting white oligarchies; strongly attached to change-cambio; dedicated to better livelihood for common people; visionaries. However, Morales much more so than Obama. His speech to the VIIth UN Indigenous Forum in April launched a new decalogue:

1.  Drop the capitalist model, North pays its ecological debt.

2.  Put an end to War, invest money saved in the Earth.

3.  Drop imperialism-colonialism, promote dialogue-coexistence.

4.  Water is a human right, and must never be privatized.

5.  Develop clean energies, put an end to waste and agro-fuels.

6.  Respect for Mother Earth, learn from indigenous peoples.

7.  Basic services–education, health, energy, transportation and communication–are human rights not to be privatized.

8.  Promote local production, end consumerism, waste, luxury.

9.  Promote cultural and economic diversity, include all races.

10. Build communitarian socialism in harmony with Mother Earth.

These Ten Commandments of Morales sound like the morals of the future, unlike the outdated imperialist foreign policies on Obama’s agenda. And yet their five similar traits may prevail.

One is presiding over a dying empire, the other declared the US ambassador, Philip Goldberg–golden mountain–persona non grata for what looked like efforts to yugoslavize Bolivia. Out he went, the USA no longer in a position to impose its will. Fighting Morales, Obama would be fighting himself (and Michelle would never permit it). The two presidential clones should meet, and with the third member of the 5 Traits Club: Mandela.

As should Morales with president Bachelet of Chile put an end to the horrors of the Guerra del Pacífico (1879-84), of Chile against Peru and Bolivia, depriving the latter of salida al mar, the access to the Pacific. Time might have come for a:

tripartite zone with Tacna, Arica and a corridor on both sides of the border up to the point in the Andes where the three countries meet. The zone would be administered by the three countries together, maybe with the participation and assistance of the OAS or the UN, including the UN Economic Commission for Latin America, given considerable economic interests involved (50 Years: 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives, ch. 14, from 1965, see www.transcend.org/tup).

Bolivia is living in a context of a dying US empire, and a growing Latin American region, Estados Unidos de América Latina y el Caribe. The major impediment is dying. Telesur is the regional Al Jazeera. UNASUR, Unión de Naciones Suramericanas, is taking shape with 12 members; fighting drugs, for instance, but not as a CIA operation. Cuba provided Bolivia with 260,000 free eye operations, liberating them from the double exclusion of blindness and misery, paid for by oil to Cuba from Venezuela. An economic basic needs-oriented practice substituting for some of the geo-fascism of neo-liberalism upheld by most economists.

There are more Morales achievements: illiteracy down by 80%, street children returning to schools, schools teaching, and teaching in, Aymara and Quechua, free health care for half of the Bolivians, “dignity” pension for those over 60, Millennium Development Goals within sight, as USA-EU neo-liberalism recedes.

And the fault-lines inside the country? They are real. And the medialuna is not alone in attachments to autonomy; so were the indigenous some time ago, with marches, demonstrations.  There is so much of value to preserve and promote all over, and much fear, justified or not, of being overrun by others, like the indigenous indeed were. There is racism and fear of racism in reverse. In Santa Cruz the green-white-green of the department is run side by side with the red-yellow-green flag of Bolivia.

The answer is federalism for Bolivia, like in 25 countries with 40% of humanity, even if some Bolivian history throws a shadow over the word. With the economic-cultural diversity of Morales’ ninth commandment and shared foreign-security-financial policies. And the capital in non-medialuna, historical Cochabamba?

With Aymara-Quechua reflected on money bills and street names. With proceeds from resources shared with a municipal-department-Bolivia-regional key, like 10-20-60-10, to eliminate misery, and create green energy in Bolivia and Latin America; regionalizing some of the proceeds, to build the region. Triple identity, municipal-departmental-national, like in Switzerland.

Add nature. Add Latin America. Add humanity. Like the decalogue.

A both-and solution, combining the vision of a Morales with the autonomy provided by federalism, carried by NGOs like the fine UNIR, unite. And by the solidarity with the country that provided immigrants with A New Beginning. Prognosis: the Evo Si will increase further, passing the Evo No also in the medialuna.

A memory of myself late 1963 on a beach in Dakar–after years in the region–where planes from Latin America, headed for Europe, overnighted those years. The moon was full. And I wrote in the sand, América Latina, te quiero. As now. With llena luna, full moon, over Bolivia. And over Latin America.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Nov 2008.

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