Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More information about Bolivia

On May 4th, there will be a referendum in Bolivia which will decide two issues. The first measure limits the maximum size of an estate to either 10,000 hectares or 5,000 hectares. The second measure is the approval of a new constitution which, controversially, states that the government should have exclusive ownership of all natural resources.

This referendum has produced a political crisis in the land-locked nation that threatens to divide the country into two. The wealthy provinces and traditional power holders are situated to the East while the poorer and ethnically indigenous populations are to the West. For obvious reasons, the wealthy territories have no desire to give up land or resource rights that they have “earned” from previous administrations and it remains to be seen what actions they would take if President Morales wins this resolution. It should be noted that Morales has pledged that there will be no violence or militarization, although that statement was based on his “confidence” on the opposition to accept vast reduction in their personal wealth.

As I previously mentioned, getting reliable, English language news about Bolivia is not an easy proposition. So the story that I told above may very well have some inaccuracies. I have not the time at the moment to search through Spanish language sources to confirm it. Case in point, Forbes is reporting that the May 4th constitution vote has been delayed “indefinitely”. I presume that the vote on estate size will go forward.

At any rate, one issue that does seem clear is that the US government is intimately involved in the proceedings. Morales is an anti-US leftist who has closely aligned himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. And he has accused the CIA of trying to bring him down. Normally I would suggest that such talk is just that…talk. But then comes this bit from the Washington Note:

In a little covered speech at the UN earlier this week, Morales denounced the rich in his country for trying to stop his social programs and foreign companies which put their products before people's lives. So why is the CIA so interested in what happens in Bolivia on May 4th? Why are there so many American agents scurring around La Paz these days? (Bold Mine)

Given the long history of US CIA led involvement in controlling leftist politics and promoting the right, no matter how brutal and unwise such a move might be combined with a minimal level of confirmation from a legitimate foreign policy player in DC, I’d say this rumor has legs. Is the Bush administration playing Peter Piper again? Are they trying to stick their fingers in the eye of a legitimate political process which might actually be in the best interest of the country involved?

There can, obviously, be no clear answer to those questions. But given US history, this president, and the way American “interests” are so narrowly defined, I’d suggest that it’s likely the US is using all of its covert might to block and/or forestall any vote on the new constitution. After all, anything that threatens US business is a de facto threat to our national security these days, isn’t it?



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