Bolivia

Bolivia’s social movements confront a state that pursues resource extraction while espousing the rights of Mother Earth, and a party they brought to power that turned to coopting, dividing and repressing them.

Tupak Katari’s promise lives on
“In 1781, the indigenous rebel leader Tupak Katari laid siege to colonial La Paz for over three months. As Katari and his army held their ground in what is now El Alto, on the rim of the valley that cradles La Paz, the Spanish below were helpless. The rebellion rocked the Andes for both its political and symbolic impact. Spain’s colonization of the Andes, and indeed, of much of Latin America, depended on the subjugation and enslavement of the indigenous people in the silver mines and the estates. At the same time, the Spanish were vastly outnumbered by indigenous people, so the threat of an indigenous uprising constantly haunted the colonizers. Katari made that threat a reality, and his cry for justice and a return to indigenous rule resonated across the Andes, and indeed into modern-day Bolivia; before the Spanish, empowered by reinforcements, captured and quartered Katari, the rebel promised, ‘I will return, and I will be millions.’
“This promise is present in the streets of El Alto today, where the largely indigenous, working-class population has risen up time and time again against neoliberal governments and foreign corporations—Latin America’s new colonizers—laying siege to La Paz in acts of protest reminiscent of Katari and his army. The long-postponed dream of indigenous self-rule took on a new dimension with the 2005 election of Evo Morales….
“The interviews you will find [in this book] come from…a left dispersed among various social movements that seek to build a better world outside the political umbrella of the MAS [Movimiento al Socialismo, Morales’ party]. Many of them may have looked hopefully on Morales’ election, only to realize that a truly emancipatory route could be found outside of the ballot box, and in the vibrant social movements, autonomy and forms of everyday resistance that characterized the period of upheaval from 2000–2005 and before. In these revolts, the logic of the political party died, and a new vision for Bolivia came into focus. This vision put the collective power of the community over the power of the president and the state itself. From the neighborhood assemblies in El Alto to the promise of Tupak Katari, this dream is still very much alive in Bolivia.”
—Ben Dangl, from his introduction to the Bolivia chapter of Until the Rulers Obey

 

Demonstration in La Paz, Bolivia, September 2008. Photo by Clifton Ross. Protesters were denouncing the massacre of campesinos by paramilitaries linked to the prefect of the department of Pando, and efforts by the wealthy "Media Luna" region to secede from the rest of Bolivia.
Demonstration in La Paz, Bolivia, September 2008. Photo by Clifton Ross. Protesters were denouncing the massacre of campesinos by paramilitaries linked to the prefect of the department of Pando, and efforts by the wealthy “Media Luna” region to secede from the rest of Bolivia.

Until the Rulers Obey includes four interviews from Bolivia:

Pedro Portugal Mollinedo, Eeditor of Pukara, an independent indigenous monthly
‘Andean ideology includes oppositions but also complementarity’
Interview and translation by Clifton Ross, April 2006

Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, scholar and activist
‘To do micro-politics is to act for ourselves’
Interview by Ben Dangl, May 2012; translation by Clifton Ross

Julieta Ojeda, Mujeres Creando
‘We’re just a little rock in the shoe…’
Interview by Ben Dangl and April Howard, May 2012; translation by Clifton Ross

Oscar Olivera, writer and activist
‘Transnationals use the states as vehicles to continue plundering’
Interview and translation by Peter Lackowski and Sharyl Green, January 2012

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