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Bolivia – stand up for democracy and social progress

NEU activist LOGAN WILLIAMS writes on the need for international solidarity against far-right attempts to destabilise Bolivia’s elected government

IT IS vital now more than ever that we in the British labour and progressive movements stand firmly in solidarity with the Movement to Socialism (MAS) government in Bolivia, and all the popular organisations fighting for a better society in the face of a rising tide of violent acts committed recently on the streets by the right-wing opposition within Bolivia. 

This rising tide of right-wing violence is led by Governor of Santa Cruz Luis Camacho, who had previously played a key role within the 2019 coup attempt that succeeded in causing the collapse of the Evo Morales government in 2019. 

Camacho announced on September 30 an anti-government campaign of indefinite duration beginning on October 22. 

Camacho’s anti-government campaign has seen key factories within the region forced to close by right-wing forces, barriers placed across major highways causing huge amounts of disruption, in some cases wire strung across roads in order to injure travellers and the destruction of the Trade Union Federation of Peasant Workers headquarters within the region.

These violent acts have been denounced by the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights in Bolivia which stated that “the campesino and union leaders in the city of Santa Cruz are being threatened, intimidated, persecuted by fascist hordes of the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee, by people who want to promote a rupture of the democratic order in the country.”

Alongside this, Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo stated: “The violence is not going to win, the violence unleashed today only tries to satisfy the personal appetites of Mr Luis Fernando Camacho and those responsible for the burning of private property and the attacks on Santa Cruz citizens and the Bolivian police. They will face justice.” 

However it is spun both in Bolivia and in the international media, Camacho’s campaign is designed to destabilise the democratically elected government in Bolivia and potentially provide the foundations of another coup attempt to reverse the progressive strides taken by the MAS governments led by both Morales and Luis Arce. 

These progressive strides include significant strengthening of the mechanisms to protect women and children in contemporary Bolivia from the crimes of femicide and infanticide. 

The MAS-led government strengthened these protections while declaring 2022 to be the Year of the Cultural Revolution for De-patriarchalisation in Bolivia due to the high number of crimes committed against women across every community which, they argue, is a legacy of the decades of colonialism within the country. 

Another key stride taken by the MAS government in Bolivia can be seen in its economic policies, which have seen a reduction in urban unemployment from 8.1 per cent in March 2021 to 5.3 per cent in March 2022, which has in turn led to a 13.7 per cent drop in the number of adults living in moderate poverty. 

In addition it has been working with the national trade union body the COB (Bolivian Workers Centre, akin to the British TUC) to raise the national minimum wage by 4 per cent. 

The policies pursued by the MAS government have drastically aided thousands of households across Bolivia to deal with the cost-of-living crisis following the Covid-19 pandemic and have been partly funded by a wealth tax. 

As well as taking progressive steps domestically, the Arce-led MAS government in contemporary Bolivia has sought to reorientate Bolivia’s international relations following the coup government’s orientation towards Washington, in favour of governments which fight for social progress and in defence of the people. 

This reorientation has seen Bolivia enter agreements with fellow progressive Latin American nations including Mexico which has seen the two nations sign an ambitious agreement to form a joint public enterprise for lithium industrialisation, the agreement to participate in co-operation agreements in the commercial, tourism, energy and consular sectors with Venezuela, committing to further integration with Argentina and standing in solidarity with the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela which had been excluded from the Summit of the Americas in May 2022.

It is within the context of these radical and progressive changes to both Bolivia’s international and domestic policies that the violent right wing, led by Camacho, has sought to use violent acts against both the popular organisations seeking to support these changes and members of their local community to destabilise and disrupt the progressive steps undertaken by the MAS government. 

Therefore the British progressive and labour movements must continue to build support for the people of Bolivia in the face of these despicable acts through building and supporting initiatives such as Friends of Bolivia, the passing of motions at branch, regional and national levels in support of comrades in Bolivia facing violence and harassment daily. 

It is vital that our movement continues to urge both our political representatives and unions to forge links with their Bolivian counterparts and to raise awareness of the horrendous acts currently perpetrated against those fighting for a world organised for the many, not the few.

Follow Friends of Bolivia at www.twitter.com/BoliviaFriends and www.facebook.com/BoliviaFriends.

You can add your name to the Stand with Democracy and Social Progress in Bolivia — No to Anti-Democratic Violence and Destabilisation statement at bit.ly/standwithdemocracy.

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