«by Kirsten Francescone A thesis submitted to the Faculty o f Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the ...»
Pero, yo creo que mas que un analisis del Pacto como tal yo creo que ha habido un proceso de desfragmentacion, de descomposicion, de desconfianza, division, producto yo diria... des absoluta subordinacion en base a prebendas, de los dirigentes al gobiemo y una politica gubemam ental tambien de cortar a estos dirigentes para..
0 0 : Desmovilizar los movimientos sociales,,no?2 1 When the march descended on the vigil, and people began to see the sheer volume o f marchers, primarily women o fpollera and cooperative m iners, it was a devastating moment. Immediately people began saying that they had all been paid to march, that Evo had sent buses to bring entire communities into La Paz to show the highway and the MAS still had support. In part, this is true. Later that afternoon the national news channels were claiming that the public officials who had previously received their lOOOBs bonus were told that one o f the conditions o f this bonus was to fund their expenses to march. Further, the cooperativistas, who were marching in full force, had ju st negotiated deals242 with the MAS government regarding their work and contracts the day before. The contra marcha provided a window into which we could begin to see the sheer complexity of the political conjuncture at hand; the power o f the hegemonic consensus among the subaltern and popular classes which equated the proceso de cam bio, not as 241 From interview. Oscar Olivera.
242 The deals 1 am referring to are the tw o decrees that were passed by the government in favour o f cooperative production, the central bank w ould buy gold from cooperatives in La Paz, and cooperativistas would be exempted from paying an internal tax on their production.
situated from within, but something that was contingent on the survival o f the MAS government.
4.5 Political consciousness and the constraints of hegemony
It appears that MAS popular support is slowly disintegrating. The series o f controversial law developments throughout my fieldwork, culminating w ith the TIPNIS conflict have resulted in increased criticism from within, not only among “indigenous” organizations but also within the popular and working classes. This culminated on D ecem ber 21st when CONAMAQ announced that they would be de-ratifying from the Pacto de U nidad in order to distance themselves with the M AS government, arguing that the MAS is not heading the proceso de cambio. This is significant in that it represents a fracture or rupture in the political conjuncture in Bolivia at this time. For the country’s “ first indigenous government”, it is difficult to see the ways in which hegemony has been 243 Gramsci, Selections from the P rison N o teb o o k s, 239.
244 Almaraz, O bras C om pletas, 455.
maintained among such organizations that identify as indigenous when CONAM AQ and the CIDOB have made public moves to remove themselves from the M AS and Pacto de Unidad.
It is extremely important to remember the sheer volum e o f political w eight and power that propelled the Morales administration into pow er in 2005, and its roots in the subaltern and popular classes o f Bolivia. It is common Evo-centrism to attribute the advances that have developed in Bolivia to the M AS administration, but we cannot forget that it was the sheer and undivided resistance o f his support bases that elected the MAS.
Evo has become a symbol o f hope, continuing to maintain that hegemonic presence as president in maintaining a discourse that is anti-neoliberal and anti-colonial, at home and to the international arena. Further, as W ebber reminds us, he emerged from a popularized resistance, a cocalero from the Chapare, indigenous and militant. He climbed his way up the ranks, which meant that he held a central antagonistic and early on radical presence in the past political upheavals.
Politics is expansive and deeply seeded in the history o f collective social m em ory o f Bolivians, and since, as we have already seen, the construction of a new ‘better w ay o f living’ has continued to gam er speed and support in the recent years. The unrelenting resistance to the sheer political, economic and cultural violence that Bolivians, especially poor indigenous Bolivians faced during the last years o f neoliberal governm ents is clearly marked in the memory o f all o f those with whom I worked and collaborated with. That is what complicates the strength o f hegemony and unrelenting support for the MAS. People constantly informed me that they fought, and lost some companeros to the political repression in the 1990’s and 2000’s- this was a constant reminder o f how things were, and how things could be again, very quickly. This complicates the sim plicity o f saying that all masistas are co-opted, have been purchased, or are ignorant. It does not m ean that those are not also realities, rather that the issue cannot be removed from its historical context. And ju st like the popular uprisings which brought Evo into pow er in 2005 arose from the culmination o f years o f historical political repression and resistance, so too will continue the construction o f a counter-hegemonic project.
Today, the MAS government clearly is struggling to maintain hegemony that unifies the national-popular and de-colonialists, resulting in the ebbing and flowing o f popular eruptions but also evident in the intra-class struggles that have continued to emerge and take on a racialized presence. This stems from the increasingly visible “cracks” in the political conjuncture which at times have revealed the discontent between the “cultural” and the “economic and political” changes that have been occurring. Gramsci asks “can there be cultural reform and can the position o f the depressed strata o f society be improved culturally without a previous economic reform and change in their position to social and economic fields?”245 To which he responds no, there cannot, hegem ony can only maintain the illusion for so long, before consent is ruptured. In the event that hegemony is ruptured, and the dominant social group has exhausted its consent-garnering function, “the ideological bloc tends to crumble away; then ‘spontaneity’ may be 24' Gramsci, Selections from the Prison N otebooks, 133.
replaced by ‘constraint’ in ever less disguised and indirect forms,”246 aka: coercion. Since the strength o f the survival o f the dominant class is measured by its ability to m aintain hegemony, we have seen the M AS begin to exercise “constraint in ever less disguised and indirect forms” through the repression o f the TIPNIS march in Septem ber 2012. The movement towards coercion in and o f itself implies the weakening o f its hegemonic hold over its bases. One has to question how much longer the ideological stronghold o f the MAS can be maintained within its popular masses.
Such mobilizations, as well as the continued revival o f conflict reveal some key tensions that are emerging in terms o f where Bolivia will go from here. Despite some significant changes in the cultural terrains, the centrality for both conflict and change lies in the relationship that campesinos, indigenous communities, and the popular classes have to the land and resources. This relationship regardless o f the rhetoric com ing from the MAS has yet to be revolutionized. In spite o f advancements made in the NCPE surrounding the rights o f indigenous people to be consulted over territorial resource claims, time and time again, when fronted with the interests o f capital, these “constitutional rights” go unnoticed.24 The final chapter will explore the ways in which, the national-popular and indigenous alliances are continuing to emerge and strengthen to re-ignite popular mobilizations that have been slowly erased from the political landscape. W hereas we have observed a turn to a demobilization o f institutional politics, we are presently witnessing the re-emergence o f popular dissent, protest and construction.
247 V illegas, “Puede haber Consulta Previa?” Chapter 5: Strategic Alliances and a Politics of Possibility
Various attempts were made at bridging and expanding alliances for the re-m obilization o f the popularized politics as the two conflicts unfolded. The following chapter will identify the successes and failures o f these alliances, and the ways in which they have contributed to an opening o f the possibilities for a more sustained m obilization in the years to come. In the following chapter I will primarily focus on the TIPNIS m obilization and the LRPCA will fall into the backdrop. Although the law became lost in the political upheaval that emerged with the TIPNIS conflict, the foregrounding o f the alliances that emerged between highland and lowland indigenous organizations came from the catalyzation o f the LRPCA in July.
The TIPNIS conflict erupted over indigenous communities opting to protect their land, with Justa Cabrera, indigenous leader for the TIPNIS, aptly summing “hay dos cosas que nunca he tenido, plata ni miedo. Si tengo que marchar hasta la muerta para proteger mi territorio, lo haria con gusto.”249 With the governm ent’s continued inability or unwillingness to protect and preserve land and environment in the face o f capital investment and extraction, the mounting tensions led to the political conjuncture, the TIPNIS conflict, whose conclusion has yet to be resolved.
248 El Opinion, ‘‘Conamaq inicia preparativos para la marcha en defensa del TIPNIS”, El O pinion, A ugust 1st, 2011. This quote is from Tata Walberto Baraona G am ica, Maltku del Medio A m biente, C O N A M A Q.
249 From a television press interview she gave in September, prior to the police repression.
solidarity with the CIDOB at the anti-GMOs general leadership meetings in July, there rose an important alliance between highland and lowland indigenous groups against the TIPNIS project and GMO seeds. On July 29th CONAM AQ announced their participation in La Gran Movilisacion en D efensa de la Consulta Previa Vinculante de la M adre Tierra with their official press release stating “las naciones originarias de tierras altas y bajas...nos llama a la UNIDAD para defender el derecho a la consulta previa libre vinculante, la madre tierra, y en contra de los trangenicos.” 250 With CONAM AQ, CIDOB and other smaller regional indigenous organizations, and individuals m arching in solidarity with the TIPNIS, the government began to take action to stall, quell, and demobilize the growing civil society support that was rapidly increasing.
The MAS government launched a propaganda campaign in favour o f the San-Ignacio de Moxos- Villa Tunari highway and sim ultaneously launched an anti-indigenous campaign in the process. These two campaigns becam e increasingly colonial and racist as time went on, with a final television commercial claiming "asi vive los TIPNIS" a sepia commercial showing naked children with bloated bellies, suffering in poverty which was aired on both public and private stations for over two weeks. The government was arguing towards the end o f the campaign that the TIPNIS did not know what was best for them, that these communities were living in poverty, and as such the government was going to make the decision for them, with this being in their best interest. The com m ercial was 230 Declaracion de U N ID A D del C O N A M A Q, the 29th o f July, 2011.
reminiscent o f something you would see for W estern viewers from an organization such as World Vision and not something that would emerge under the "first indigenous government" o f the Plurinational State o f Bolivia. It became common that when talking about the highway and the governm ent’s unwillingness to even dialogue that, si o si, la carretera pasard p o r los TIPNIS.
Aside from propaganda campaigns, the government also took to practical ways o f stalling the march, including sending out two or three ministers at a time into the m arch to give the indigenous marchers their "consulta previa." When leaders like Adolfo Chavez and Raphael Quispe expressed that the pre-consultation process could not take place during the march since the contract had already been signed, they claimed they would negotiate only with the president (nuestro hermano Evo Morales) and only upon their arrival in La Paz. The government, however, argued that the marchers w ere being unreasonable. On several accounts Vice President Garcia Linera appeared in national press conferences claiming that the government was doing everything in their power to m eet with the indigenous communities. And so this process o f ministers arriving to the m arch, artificial meetings, and then ensuing slander campaigns continued to stall the m arch, slowing it down and making its anticipated arrival date the longest in the history o f this march.
To further solidify CONAMAQ's and highland indigenous support o f the m arch, and to support their "hermanos de tierras bajas," the women leaders o f CONAM AQ made the decision to set-up a vigil in La Paz. W hen it was revealed that the governm ent had gone so far as to stop and stall the entry o f food and support to the march, the w om en took matters into their own hands. On the September 16th, over a month after the m arch set o ff from Trinidad the women authorities set up camp, consisting o f a tarp-tent approxim ately 20 X 10 feet in size and moved in with the CIDOB in protest o f the highw ay.2 1 The CIDOB-CONAMAQ-TIPNIS alliance did not falter despite attempts to create divisions to delegitimize their cause. In fact, it appeared as time went on, the M A S’ inability to truly engage in a free and informed pre-consultation process was revealing their intentions behind the highway,2 which weakened their ability to m aintain consent within the popular, urban and intellectual classes. The vigil became the m ost important physical and symbolic space throughout the escalation o f the political mobilizations that took place nationally in the weeks following the police repression for and against the TIPNIS conflict, and its impact on mobilization o f the paceno population cannot be understated.