Over 3,000 Bolivian and Peruvian indigenous activists recently marched in El Alto in commemoration of the March 13th, 1781 siege of
After the nationalist confetti of the January 25th constitutional referendum blew away, and the busted water balloons and foam of Carnival washed down the streets with the rain, political scandals filled the Bolivian airwaves. Besides the challenges of applying the changes in the new constitution, recent cases of government corruption, shaky relations with
The Corruption Scandal
In late January, Santos Ramirez, a key architect and member of the Movement Toward Socialism party, (MAS, the political party of indigenous president Evo Morales) and director of the YPFB – the state oil and gas company – was hauled off to jail on corruption charges. Investigations showed that Ramirez asked for a bribe in order to provide an $86 million contract to Argentine-Bolivian Company Catler Uniservice for a natural gas plant. The investigations started when a manager at Catler was murdered and robbed of $450,000 – money that was apparently going to Ramirez’s aide, according to Reuters. Ramirez is now in San Pedro jail in
Ramirez’s arrest struck a harsh blow to the MAS administration which has always pledged to put an end to the country’s legacy of corruption. The difference this time around however, compared to what was the norm in previous administrations, is that Ramirez actually was actually sent to jail; under past governments some of the most corrupt politicians remained free.
After the Ramirez scandal blew up, Morales said, "It’s been totally proven that foreign agents, CIA agents, were infiltrated (in YPFB) … Maybe that’s the way the (
Alfredo Rada, the Minister of Government, accused Francisco Martinez, a
"There is clearly a connection in the activities that the former ambassador Philip Goldberg, USAID, the DEA and now
"We reject the allegations," the
In a press conference on March 13, Tom Shannon, the
Meanwhile, the Santos Ramirez corruption case is far from closed. On March 13, Ramirez demanded that he be let out of jail because he says no evidence has been produced that proves that he harmed the Bolivian government with his actions, as the supposed irregular contract with Catler has not yet been terminated.
Cárdenas’ House Occupied
On March 7, 350 people took over and occupied the country home of Victor Hugo Cárdenas. Cárdenas was vice president in the Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada administration of 1993-1997 and a harsh critic of
Mario Huaypa, a representative of the group that occupied the house, told the Agencia Bolivian de Información that a general meeting was held within the community in which it was decided that the house should be expropriated because the land it was built on was illegally acquired by Cárdenas. The group said they will continue the occupation until the official Bolivian justice system looks into the case. The people who occupied the home introduced the supposedly eight legitimate owners of the land, who said that the land and house should be taken over and converted into a retirement home for the area’s elderly.
Cárdenas, an Aymara intellectual, governed in the 1990s with Sanchez de Lozada speaking on behalf of the indigenous population and their rights, while at the same time pushing through repressive and neoliberal policies that led to economic depression and state violence against indigenous people. To this day, public appearances by Cárdenas are regularly met with protests. The locals who occupied his house were also protesting the fact that Cárdenas campaigned against the new constitution. It is rumored that Cárdenas will run as a possible presidential candidate for the general elections in December.
The occupation of Cárdenas’ home has rightly been condemned throughout
Misinformation and Decolonization
In other news, the US State Department recently released a human rights report on
On the media front,
Though the MAS has made plenty of mistakes and Morales is far from a perfect president, Barclay’s article leads the reader to believe that the country is brimming with people who hate the MAS government. The fact is that Morales, in his 2005 election, August 2008 recall referendum and recent constitutional vote, received significantly more support from the population than Barack Obama did in the 2008
One example of the positive policies of the MAS government was demonstrated on March 14, when Morales redistributed some 94,000 acres in the eastern part of the country to small farmers. The
While the Atlantic Monthly misled their readers, on March 14th, the NY Times did publish an Op-Ed by Evo Morales on his demand for decriminalizing coca, a leaf widely used throughout the
Indeed, symbolism, history and identity have taken center stage in today’s
Benjamin Dangl is currently based in Bolivia, and the Spanish edition of his book "The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia," including a new epilogue on current events, will be published shortly in
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