Published on countercurrents.org, 27 February, 2007.
The Threat Of Balkanisation And The Role Of The Military, by Alberto Cruz, analyst at the Center of Political Studies for International Relations and Development. Translated from Rebelion.
Excerpts: … The government of Morales has maintained a more pragmatic behaviour and has not given the state company, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales de Bolivia (YPFB), the predominant role that, for example, Venezuela’s PDVSA has been playing, to push forward a drastic change in the improvement of the living conditions of the great majority of the population. A lost opportunity, where one has to point out the important role that Lula’s Brazil has played in “moderating” the application of the nationalisation. Regardless of this, it is not just a few voices who are asking for a “refoundation” of YPFB so that production and exploitation of hydrocarbons is really in the hands of this state institution.
The oligarchy’s game plan: The moderate nationalisation of hydrocarbons did not expressly disturb the oligarchy (according to the polls 90% of the Bolivian population supported the nationalisation), but what did was the passing of the new agrarian reform law which if applied to the full extent would suppose the redistribution to campesinos of some 123,000 kilometres squared of idle and unproductive land, a size equivalent to two countries, Austria and Switzerland put together.
For now, only 11% of the idle land in the hands of large landowners has been handed over to campesinos. It is not a frontal attack on the large landowners, nor less so, but it is a measure that the oligarchy considered a vital threat to its status quo, given it is where their power is situated: the actual Episcopal Conference of Bolivia considers that 90% of productive land in Bolivia is in the hands of 50,000 people.
Since then the attempts to overthrow the Morales government have been continuous, only changing in form, amongst which the latest is the demand of “autonomy” from a series of departments: Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija. The oligarchy’s proposal for regional autonomy only won in these departments, and was abruptly defeated in the rest of the country, but the US ambassador in this Andean country, Phillip Goldberg, is playing a crucial role in the plans for what is now occurring. This man has occupied important positions in the US diplomatic missions in ex-Yugoslavia and in Kosovo, which is why his naming was not coincidental, given it occurred only months after the failure in the referendum on autonomy pushed by the oligarchy. In Bolivia the trajectory of this ambassador has been followed in great detail and they speak openly of the dangers of the “balkanisation” of the east of the country.
Since that moment, the objective has been to overthrow Morales. The so-called opposition and the economic elite consider that the reforms put in march are a threat to their way of life and they are using all the means possible to impede them being consolidated. It is also a racist struggle: “if us cambas [white, majority inhabitants of these departments] don’t unite, the collas [indigenous peoples] will want to ruin us, given that unfortunately we have an indigenous president”. It could be said louder, but not clearer than this.
Following the partial failure at that moment to impede the passing of the agrarian reform law – and although it is moving forward very slowly – the oligarchy has opted to agitate around the banners of autonomy for what in Bolivia is know as the “half moon”, the most eastern departments which hold the largest reserves of gas in the country and where the most fertile lands exist. During the months of November and December, the oligarchy launched various ultimatums warning the government that if it did not attend to its demands it would declare “de facto” autonomy, to which Morales responded with a call to the armed forces to defend national unity.
Campesino-military alliance: (full long text).