Bolivians move toward elections

Over the past weeks and months Bolivians have been protesting against their government. The protests have been intense, but largely peaceful. It has been mainly students, farmers, working people and indigenous people railing against the governments

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Unfortunately, I do see these protests as something of a harbinger of things to come. There is no secret what these protests were about.

Oil.

I found an article from a Canadian oil consulting company named Petrel Robertson, that speaks exactly to what the Bolivian people are protesting against.

As the poorest and least-developed nation in Latin America, Bolivia is in dire need of the investment capital that could be offered through privatization of various state companies, foreign investment, and expansion of the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas production from Bolivia’s largest fields has begun to decline, and the government lacks the funds required to maintain production. As a result, the government is considering legislation designed to establish a more balanced participation between Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) and foreign contractors. President Sanchez de Lozada, elected in June 1993, is committed to privatizing many industries, including oil and gas, and hopes to attract $6 billion US in investment during his four year term.

That commitement has led to the protests that we see today. Instead of driving Bolivias economy upwards and helping improve the overall well-being of all Bolivians, the privatization has turned working and poor Bolivians against the Business elite.

Now Bolivians want to take back their oil industry and nationalise it once again.

Bolivia has proven reserves of more than 110 milion barrels of oil (15 years) along with huge reserves of natural gas, making it the second largest petroleum product resource in South America.

It is no coincidence that Venezuela and Bolivia share much the same recent history. Strikes, protests, left leaning governments taking power in the name of the poor.

Hopefully now that the head of the Supreme Court has taken over the Presidency and promised elections by the end of the year, the protests will die down and Bolivia will return to a more normal state. And after those elections, the oil industry will reconcile not only with the needs of foreign countries for Bolivias oil, but *also* with the needs of it’s own people.

Nothing can be gained by stealing from the poor and alienating those who are the lifeblood of a country. If the West wants access to the last precious reserves of oil then it must ensure that the poor are not exploited and dismissed out of hand.

4 thoughts on “Bolivians move toward elections”

  1. Since I was worried about my niece and her family who live in Bolivia, I called her the other evening. She said they feel safe and are monitoring the situation but that nothing was happening anywhere near her home. She indicated these protests which don’t always make the news in North America happen almost every two or three months. This one seems more serious as it has caused the resignation of the president.

    She indicates the true cause is poverty and lack of representation of the Indians. the government and wealthy class are made up of White European ancestry and the Indians have not benefited as you point out from any economic progress made, just the elite.

    Also, the leader of the Indians, Morales, is determined to encourage the Indians to grow as much cocoa as they want in order to get in on the cocaine trade. Morales preaches that growing cocoa isn’t illegal in bolivia and that the poor Bolivians are missing out on the opportunities to sell this stuff to the rich drug addled North Americans and Europeans. They want to prosper like columbia has.

    In addition, the Indians hate Chileans and don’t want to pipe their gas and oil through northern Chile in order to sell it to the US or anybody else. Gas is the main energy product and the Bolivians (peasants) seem to be irrational on this subject. Chile supposedly stole this bit of coastline from Bolivia about 100 years ago or so and the Indians are adamant that their gas cannot be piped through this “stolen” passage to the Pacific ocean.

    So I see many issues in this political unrest. Potentially the haves will use the military to try to suppress the peasants. What needs to be done is for the ruling class to accept the fact that the fat days are waning for them and start looking for solutions to share the wealth of the country with the have nots. I’m not too optimistic that such a change will take place peacefully. If war is the result, then more than likely democracy will not flourish in Bolivia in my life time.

  2. PS I’m a little puzzled that you link us to an outdated report dated 1995. And you appear to be drawing some sinister relationship to Bolivia’s…OIL and the rest of the world. Have you found any evidence that outsiders are causing the problems there? Other than Chavez over in Venezuela? If so, I’d be interested in learning more.

    My niece who lives there believes this is a completely internal conflict between the upper class and the peasants. Perfect combination for political upheaval – a classic situation abounding in the third world. Democracy is the only environment where a strong middle class can be developed and where justice is applied evenly.

  3. Absolutely I think there are likely outside players at work here and I would not only include the US in the list. When you talk about Oil and Cocaine exports I think it would be naive to think that the US and other Western nations are likely playing a roll somehow.

    Here’s a post from an activist website on US intervention in Bolivia.. I don’t necessarily share their views.. this is just stuff I’m running across on the web.

    In a mass meeting held Monday to demand a constituent assembly to unite and transform Bolivia, Morales condemned continous threats and accusations by George W. Bush administration officials against the popular movement in this nation.

    There was also this report by CNN from the OAS last week about plans by the US to intervene in Western Hemisphere issues.

    “There needs to be a dialogue rather than an intervention,” said Brazil’s foreign minister, Celso Amorim. “Democracy cannot be imposed. It is born from dialogue.”

    The United States has not established how or where the OAS should intervene, but one likely target is Venezuela. The OAS also is concerned about political instability in Ecuador and Bolivia.

  4. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the links to work in the CNN story so I’m short on more of the details.
    I think it’s interesting and telling that encouraging real democracy and all that that brings with it is somehow a bad thing in today’s upside down world. Surely one Cuba is enough for the Americas…a human rights nightmare and a place people are literally “dying” to get away from. Americans, not just George Bush, are not eager to see replicas of Castro’s paradise develop in our hemisphere.

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