«by Kirsten Francescone A thesis submitted to the Faculty o f Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the ...»
the Manifiesto did not, in this case, provide practical knowledge that would result in catalyzing popular mobilizations around the issues that they were raising in the Manifiesto. For Almaraz, the middle classes in Bolivia have always been important swing players in massive mobilizations,266 and in fact, the middle class played a key role in October of 2003. Even if these intellectuals were not in that moment capable o f mobilizing the popular classes, these conversations continue to stimulate academic debate, which is centrally important to the continued construction, popular or not, o f the Bolivian proceso de cambio. Perhaps what the manifiesto lacked was a m ore popularized use o f tactics. One movement leader voiced her concerns o f the tactics o f the M anifiesto
at one o f their meetings:
...tam bien he conocido a los nombres, hermano Alejandro A lm araz, hermano Oscar Olivera. Pero hermanos, hermanas, yo... dos preguntas tengo ^1 0 ? 1° ultimo es reflexionar a todos ya estoy volviendo muy triste, preocupada. Ya bastante hemos hablado; Hemianas, hermanos, es muy triste aqui estamos mayoria profesionales, tambien ^no? No me gusta, llegar a petjudicar al tiempo, hablar igual discursos, discursos y despues para nada hermanos, herm anas...267 Instead o f producing knowledge that was disseminated am ong the subaltern classes, the work that the intellectuals engaged in served to re-ignite debates that had been bubbling since the election o f the MAS. Asunta recognized the importance o f these discussions but was concerned o f how they would be implemented practically; how would this be dispelled to her community outside o f the city? She went on to say that rural com munities answer to their member unions: that was where politics occurred in rural areas. But, no one had been invited to come out, and less, no one was m aking an effort to travel out to work on informing those bases. There appeared to be a disconnection between how to 266 Almaraz, O bras Com pletas.
267 Asunta Salvatierra, President ofM S T -C B B A. Speech given at M anifiesto M eeting, July Is', 2011.
tactically mobilize the middle and urban classes, and how to expel those linkages to the rural and subaltern populations- work that required much more attention.
Although the manifiesto had begun to tackle transgenic seeds as yet another indication o f the wavering o f the proceso de cambio, or capitalist tendencies of the MAS, this group o f intellectuals did not use their expertise to generalize or popularize that knowledge.
Perhaps more effective tactics to that end involved the active popularization of knowledge which some member o f the M anifiesto engaged in to their own initiative.
Some individual members continued to w ork for their respective institutions and organizations, some in ways that were m ore organizationally important than others.
Moises Torres, the vice-president o f the M ST with the MST-Mujeres o f Cochabamba, proceeded to organize a weekend inform ation session for all o f the leaders o f MSTTierras Altas to inform their campesino producers o f the potential dangers o f genetically modified seeds. These meetings were important for engaging leaders who could take information back to their respective communities and discuss actions.
I am not attempting to suggest that “ intellectual” work is unimportant or does not serve a purpose in Bolivia. In fact, the intellectual production o f information is extremely important for battling out these ideas that ultim ately will define the ways in which this proceso de cambio continues to contest and re-create the political sphere. Intellectuals can be very important for moving beyond the “mom ent-ness” o f a conflict, capable o f linking the tendency/longevity o f politics to its temporal specificity. However, in the Gramscian sense o f “organic intellectual”, some institutions were more effective in using their “intellectual” capacities for disseminating knowledge that mobilized solidarity within distinct sectors. From these actors we can see the ways in w hich the production o f “academic knowledge” can be generalized to contest the dominant hegem ony and spread to dirigentes, bases, and communities who mobilized against the TIPNIS highway.
5.3 “Ahora es la epoqua de los mineros”2 8 As support for the march grew we began to see the re-emergence o f popular sector solidarity. One o f the m ost important expressions o f solidarity came out o f the XXXI Congreso de la Federacion Sindical de los Trabajadores Mineros de Bolivia (FSTM B) on September 11, 2011 when the miners union o f Huauni announced;
Apoyo y solidaridad activa y militante a los companeros del Teritorio Lndigena del Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure, por ser atentatorio contra los bolivianos, que no favorecera en nada a nuestro Pais, mas al contrario a las transnacionales por lo tanto exigimos que el Presidente del Estado Dn. Juan Evo M orales Aym a atender las demandas e persona a nuestro companeros a la brevdad possible y dar solucion definitive a este conflicito.269 Support from the national mining union was significant and yet revealed the complexities o f inter-popular sector alliances and the difficulty o f forging alliances w ithin communities that have internal tensions and complex histories of struggle.
268 Tata M iguel, leader o f C ONAM AQ from Chichas province, Potosi.
269 pST M B. R esolucion E xpresaN o.3: A poyo y solidaridad con los companeros del TIPN IS. September 10, 2 0 1 1.
The relationship between mining communities and indigenous communities is a difficult and tense one. Often it is the case that when mining companies enter into communities they engage in a destruction o f the surrounding environment, which ultim ately translates into a degradation of the community.270Agricultural producers suffer, as do the community members at large as they experience the degradation o f their livelihoods, and the environment.2 1 For miners, especially in a country like Bolivia, where work is scarce and essential to survival, work is work. Despite the rhetoric o f the M AS, transnational mining companies still have little accountability to environmental preservation and extraction practices, and have continuously failed to enter into true environmental repair contracts with communities who have experienced environmental destruction.272 So, workers become pitted against communities, which is favorable for the company who has set up shop in that area, with the weakening of alliances and resistance to that company.
Ultimately the TIPNIS conflict provided an arena for the discussion o f these issues, and the emergence o f potential alliances between workers and indigenous communities.
After its initial support for the TIPNIS march, the FSTMB began to distance itself from the conflict. The reasons for this are complicated but lie in some of the demands that the C1DOB/T1PNI S/CON AM AQ m arch produced surrounding the stoppage o f extraction 270 Vladimir Diaz. “La mineria bajo el dom inio de las transnacionales,” P etropress 25 (2011).
271 Presentations by various South American researchers, 9-11 N ovem ber. Jornadas so b re la m egam in eria
boliviana. (Cochabamba: CEDIB, 9-11 o f N ovem ber 2011). Slides available online at:
272 Jorge Campanini, “Environmental Impacts o f M egam ining, ” Jorn adas sobre la M egam ineria.
(Cochabamba: CEDIB, 11th ofN ovem b er, 2011).
projects in mining communities273, the infiltration o f some Right-W ing opportunist groups and some internal/organizational conflicts that they too were facing at the time.
And so, as a union, despite their participation in the COB general m anifestation following the repression, and a few select meetings, their active engagement and support was limited. However, the topic o f miners and the political economy o f mining in Bolivia was a reoccurring discussion point within the vigil, especially within the m em bers o f CONAMAQ. On several occasions, the mama and Tata autoridades would enter into talks as to whether or not they should accept the support o f the miners based on some previous history and experiences o f conflicts between miners and indigenous communities, some o f which had turned violent in the past. Instead o f w riting o ff the FSTMB, however, various communities o f CONAM AQ engaged in very rich and important discussions regarding the importance o f political alliances. M am a Catalina argued that miners are their indigenous brothers too, and that their support only made them stronger. She also claimed that inter-sectoral support, not only from the m iners but also from the COB and maestros was crucial for building alliances, something the
government was attempting to dismantle:
Other Xatas in the vigil argued that this time was “la epoca de los m ineros” in Bolivia, and that if the miners could think like indigenous people, as indigenous people, then alliances 273 3 o f the 10 points which the CIDOB released prior to the pol ice repression as their dem ands revolved around the cancelation o f existing or pending extraction projects, which essentially m eant for the F ST M B ’s m embers the potential for losing work.
274 CEDIB, “Entrevista: Las vigilias por el TIPN IS.” could emerge which could prove beneficial not only for indigenous com m unities but for miners who live in those communities as well. The national-popular discourse even emerged within these discussions with an authority o f CONAMAQ arguing for nationalization and expropriation o f existing transnational mining interests. A ccording to him, “...porque frente a los transnacionales, ni los trabajadores, ni los indigenas tienen cuenta. Aunque hay la posibilidad con el gobiem o de tener un voz, de controlar la m anera de explotar, para proteger nuestros territorios.” This sentiment was echoed and continued to surface during the popular-sector support for the march, which escalated after the violent repression, (or massacre as it is now referred to) by those who lived in the vigil, on September 25.
5.4 Popular sector alliances and the re-ignition of the national popular and indigenous sectors Not only were the indigenous highland and lowland organizations uniting against the MAS government and the TIPNIS highway, but the conflict also catalyzed a popular based support movement against the capitalist tendencies o f the MAS.
After the oppression o f the march on September 25, the political tension around the issue moved from tense to volatile. The move from consent to coercion around the project by the MAS government caused many MAS supporters to question the acts o f the government. It also served to catalyze the popular-working class sectors o f society who immediately began calling general assemblies to discuss the TIPNIS. Following the repression, the COB called for a national general strike to support the TIPNIS, and on September 28 the two-day national general strike began w ith nation-wide m arches and manifestations in 6 major cities. In La Paz, various sectors marched in solidarity with the TIPNIS and against the M AS’ immediate decision o f violence against a peaceful indigenous march.275 The COB and the national teachers union emerged at the forefront o f popular-sector solidarity. These sectors, especially the maestros had an unrelenting support and presence following the repression o f the march in La Paz. They held forums, organized manifestations, and participated in the COB general strike, which was launched, somewhat unsuccessfully, following the police repression across the country. The TIPNIS conflict provided opportunity for the working class and urban sectors to gather and discuss as well as collaborate with the indigenous leaders of CIDOB/CONAMAQ/CEPLAP. The vigil became the space where leaders o f the maestros, for example, would show up to strategize, in addition to show their support.
Following the general COB mobilization and strike, the “m itin” (a public speech giving forum) was held directly in front o f the vigil, and members o f CONAMAQ and CEPLAP were invited to speak in conjunction with miners, teachers, and other public sector workers. Although there was not complete agreem ent within or between these sectors, a broader ideological and political support bandage was maintained against the M A S’ 273 ER.BOL, “Masivas m ovilizaciones en 9 regiones repudian violencia policial contra indigenas,” Erbol, 28th o f September, 2011.
capitalist politics. These were seen as dangerous and threatening to the popularly imagined proceso de cambio and the demands, although particular to each sector, converged around - the de-neoliberalization o f the M A S’ political tendencies, - the expulsion o f ministers who were viewed as corrupt or dangerous, - as well as the cancellation o f TRAMO II of the San-Ignacio de Moxos- Villa Tunari highway, the section which would pass through the TJPNIS territory. None of these groups, including the TIPNIS-CIDOB-CONAMAQ were against the highway per se, rather against the way in which the highway was to be implemented, the process o f its conception, and the particular section that would pass through the TIPNIS territory.
For the mamas o f CONAMAQ, the presence and persistent support o f the COB and the
popular working class sectors was a key motivator. For M am a Katalina:
Nosotras hemos luchado con toda la conciencia, con toda la verdad y hemos luchado con razon; y luchando asi, buscando la verdad, buscando la justicia, hemos ido a visitar alia a su oficina tanto a la COB, como al M agisterio y con otros sectores que nos demostraban apoyo y solidaridad. Y hemos ido con ellos a discutir por que y para que la marcha y tambien hemos coordinado m archas y acciones y hemos tambien recibido informacion de ellos y de sus demandas, nos hemos dado cuenta que ellos como nosotros los indigenas tambien tienen demandas justas, y ellos como nosotros tambien necesitamos apoyos, apoyam os.
The C O B’s support was critical for giving political and economic weight to the demands of the TIPNIS/CIDOB. Despite the fact that the XIII Marcha had continued to persevere against all odds, and despite the fact that the vigil had remained a central organizing space, the fact remained that really the TIPNIS had little political or economic power against the Brazilian government, against the M AS, or against the corporation URSA.