By Virginia Gonzales Salguero on December 22, 2020
The direction and advances of democracy in Latin America in the last 40 years has been contested between conservative strategies linked to foreign domination and peoples’ movements that seek emancipation and liberation of the people. In the case of Bolivia, we must also be aware of the influence of those countries in the region that are economically and politically strongest, which tend to establish general tendencies and influence through historical cycles.
The situation in Bolivia within this context of the regions of Latin America and South America in the last 40 years can be divided into 3 stages:
The decades of the 1980s and 90s, with the consolidation of neoliberalism as the only possible option for a society, supported by the End of History concept of Fukuyama, who proposed that humanity had arrived at a level of political and economic development that did not permit any further political action. It was proclaimed from a position of power that the “best possible means of social organization” had been arrived at. During those years, the ferocity of dominant countries’ neoliberalism was demonstrated by maximum expansion and cruelty, in order to achieve easy access to the natural resources of the whole planet. The great proponents in Latin America of crawling and handing over their country for merciless looting was; Menem, Sánchez de Lozada, Cardozo, Gaviria, Aylwin, Pinochet, Salinas de Gortari, and Fujimori, among others.
The second stage in this region, and especially in Bolivia, begins with the Water Wars at the dawn of the 21st Century, and continues with the Gas War in 2003. This stage was characterized by questioning the neoliberal models that had wrecked the economies of the Latin American countries and left them with an untenable foreign debt acquired in the free market blowout.
In these years, social movements emerged, with a forceful defense of sovereignty, natural resources, and the rights of the indigenous peoples. This was accompanied by a very relevant fact for the policies and democracies of the continent, which was the strong movement toward integration/unification of Latin America and especially South America with the creation of ALBA, CELAC and UNASUR spearheaded above all by Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and other presidents like Evo Morales, the Kirchners, Lula DaSilva, Rafael Correa, Fernando Lugo, Daniel Ortega, Pepe Mujica, as examples of those who were most important. Meanwhile Colombia, poor abused Colombia, continued in its role as an enclave of U.S. imperialism, and, during those years, had presidents as abject and traitorous to their own country as Uribe, for example.
In this context, the achievements of Bolivia were enormous, in terms of economic well-being, social gains, recognition of indigenous peoples, struggles against racism, and drives toward the formation of a nation and regional consciousness placing peoples’ movements and the indigenous population as central movers in the actions of this historic anti-colonial and anti-imperialist process.
The third stage is the current one, in which both the options described above are engaged in a fierce conflict over which shall become the official policy of the countries of the region, in the international context of the U.S. losing world hegemony with the rise of giants Russia and China. With all this, the scene is complex and diverse:
Brazil had regional elections, and the people voted for centrist options and, to a lesser degree, for candidates of Bolsonaro’s PSL party, nor did they elect Partido Trabajador (PL) candidates. Argentina, on the other hand, with Alberto Fernandez, is trying to implement measures to help the people and to achieve recovery of the national economy in a very adverse economic climate, with a huge foreign debt caused by the Macri government that basically put the country up for auction.
Mexico, with Lopez Obrador, is trying to transform a complex situation in which a powerful oligarchy has deep and widespread roots that place it in an almost untouchable situation of privilege. Peru is experiencing large civil disturbances protesting the tremendous corruption of its rulers. Uruguay took a regrettable turn to the right in the last national election.
With the last two years of massive civic and anti-capitalist mobilizations, Chile achieved the realization of the goal of a national referendum in which they approved the drawing up of a new constitution to get rid of the Pinochet legacy. Meanwhile, Venezuela, blockaded by U.S. imperialism and with a ragged economy, has defended its sovereignty with determination and has vigorously confronted international aggression and sabotage. In the elections in Venezuela, Maduro’s party, the GPP, won with 72% of the votes.
Colombia, in its confirmed role as the country of U.S. military bases, with Ivan Duque as president, puppet of Uribe and servant of imperialism, is keeping the people of Colombia in a disastrous social and economic situation. Ecuador, with Lenin Moreno, has been dedicated to turning over body, soul, and natural resources to the requirements of international neoliberalism. In contrast, Cuba has been sending armies of medical workers everywhere they are needed to relieve the effects of the pandemic now assaulting humanity, and, in Latin America and the Caribbean, striking hardest at the poorest people.
This is the regional political panorama of dispute and confrontation in which Bolivia will have to defend and strengthen its popular democracy recovered in 2020 with the committed tenacious fight of the people, headed by the Bolivian Workers Central,(COB – Central Obrera Boliviana ), the Unity Pact (PU – Pacto de Unidad), and the Movement to Socialism party (MAS – Movimiento Al Socialismo.) It is an ambiguous, uncertain, and difficult situation, with, on one side, support by the regional progressive governments for the process of emancipation and social achievements, while, on the other side, these processes may be damaged and undermined by the U.S. and also through countries allied to “the northern giant.”.