Ecuador Calls foreign Debt 'Illegal,' Defaults on Payments

Daniel Denvir
December 15, 200
Daniel Denvir (daniel.denvir [at]gmail.com) is an independent journalist from the United States in Quito, Ecuador and a 2008 recipient of NACLA's Samuel Chavkin Investigative Journalism Grant. He is the Editor-in-Chief at www.caterwaulquarter
d reluctantly blogs at www.glocalcircus.blogspot.com.
The default totals $9.937 billion, 19 percent of the country's GDP.

President Rafael Correa declared on Friday that Ecuador would not make a $30.6 million interest payment on $510 million in bonds due in 2012, calling the debt illegal.

The default on the Global Bonus 2012 bonds means that Ecuador is also defaulting on Global 2015 and 2030 bonds. The default totals $9.937 billion, 19 percent of the country’s GDP. Ecuador has assembled a legal team to fight expected lawsuits and hopes to use the default as leverage to renegotiate the debts.

Civil society organizations have long criticized foreign debt as a means of exploiting impoverished countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The anti-debt organization Jubilee USA says “countries are paying debt service to wealthy nations and institutions at the expense of providing these basic services to their citizens.” In addition, lending institutions often use indebtedness to force cuts in social spending and impose business friendly economic policies.

The Confederation of Ecuadorian Kichwas (ECUARUNARI), the powerful Andean branch of the country’s indigenous peoples movement, has long called the foreign debt illegal and illegitimate. “We have not acquired any debt. The so-called public debt really belongs to the oligarchy. We the peoples have not acquired anything or been benefited, and thus we owe nothing.”

Mainstream analysts immediately predicted the move would hurt Ecuador economically, cutting off access to international credit from banks and multilateral institutions like the World Bank. Enrique Alvarez, head of research for Latin America Financial Markets at IDEAglobal in New York, told the Associated Press, "They were already sort of headed into isolation. Essentially now they've drawn shut the gate." Critics also say that financial institutions will see Ecuador as risky and may be reluctant to loan to the country’s private sector.

But Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that those claims are exaggerated. He says that the government does not currently require foreign funds and that any decision to not lend to Ecuador’s private sector would be purely ideological. "Ecuador doesn't need to borrow right now, especially if they're not paying the debt. They haven't been borrowing on international markets recently."

Osvaldo León of the Latin American Information Agency (ALAI) in Quito says that international banks and businesspeople are defending a corrupt and unjust system. “Of course the establishment is going to come out and protest this. This is going to affect the interests of capital. There’s going to be an offensive from both inside and out.” He charges that business friendly economists and financiers unfairly frame their arguments as scientific and opponents’ views as ideologically driven. “Ecuador has decided on a political response to a political problem. They always want things like this to be seen as a technical issue, a problem that only economists can deal with.”

Although Ecuador currently has the capacity to pay, dropping oil prices and squeezed credit markets are putting President Rafael Correa's plans to boost spending on education and health care in jeopardy. Correa has pledged to prioritize the "social debt" over debt to foreign creditors.

Ecuador is undertaking a diplomatic offensive in an effort to win political support. Correa will be attending a summit in Brazil next week with presidents from throughout Latin American and Caribbean. Ecuador has called on Latin America to forge a united response to foreign debt. Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay have recently created debt audit commissions. Ecuador has also asked the United Nations to help develop international norms to regulate the foreign debt market.

But relations between Brazil and Ecuador have been tense since the September expulsion of the Brazilian firm Odebrecht over accused accusations of shoddy work on a hydroelectric plant and contract violations. Most recently, Ecuador filed suit in the International Chamber of Commerce to stop payment on a $286 million debt to The Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), credit that was allotted for Odebrecht’s hydroelectric project. Many activists in Ecuador see Brazil as a regional bully.

Last month, a special debt audit commission released a report charging that much of Ecuador's foreign debt was illegitimate or illegal. The commission found that usurious interest rates were applied for many bonds and that past Ecuadorian governments illegally took other loans on. The report also accused Salomon Smith Barney, now part of Citigroup Inc., of handling the 2000 restructuring without Ecuador's authorization, leading to the application of 10 and 12 percent interest rates. Ecuador's military dictatorship (1974-1979) was the first government to lead the country into indebtedness.

Commercial debt, or debt to private banks, made up 44% of Ecuador's interest payments in 2007, considerably more than the 27% paid to multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


Video on U.S. Workers' Republic Occupation

*Click here to see on YouTube:*

When the workers at Republic Windows and Doors were notified their factory would close in three days, they took matters into their own hands. The union work force seized control of the factory for 6 days to demand the severance they are owed by law. On the sixth day of their occupation, they won all their demands, and showed the world's working class a classic example of people power (something not seen in the USA for decades). This short video from Labor Beat represents a fraction of our overage of this historic event. The full 30-minute episode,* "Workers' Republic,"* will be uploaded soon.

Copyright 2008 Labor Beat. Produced by Labor Beat. Labor Beat is a CAN TV Community Partner. Labor Beat is affiliated with IBEW 1220. Views expressed are those of the producer, not necessarily of IBEW. For info: lduncan@igc.org,www.laborbeat.org. 312-226-3330. For other Labor Beat videos, visit Google Video or YouTube and search "Labor Beat".


Uprising in Greece: Protests, Riots, Strikes

Democracy Now online Radio
December 11, 2008

Protests, riots and clashes with police have overtaken Greece for the sixth straight day since the fatal police shooting of a teenage boy in Athens Saturday night. One day after Wednesday’s massive general strike over pension reform and privatization shut down the country, more than a hundred schools and at least fifteen university campuses remain occupied by student demonstrators. A major rally is expected Friday, and as solidarity protests spread to neighboring Turkey, as well as Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Denmark and the Netherlands, dozens of arrests have been made across the continent. We speak to a student activist and writer from Athens.

Guest: Nikos Lountos, Greek activist and writer. He’s with the Socialist Workers Party in Greece and a graduate student in political philosophy at Panteion University in Athens.

Rush Transcript.

AMY GOODMAN: Protests, riots and clashes with police have overtaken Greece for the sixth straight day since the fatal police shooting of a teenage boy in Athens Saturday night. One day after Wednesday’s massive general strike over pension reform and privatization shut down the country, more than a hundred schools and at least fifteen university campuses remain occupied by student demonstrators. A major rally is expected on Friday. And as solidarity protests spread to neighboring Turkey, as well as Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Denmark and the Netherlands, dozens of arrests have been made across the continent.

On Wednesday, two police officers involved in Saturday’s shooting were arrested, and one was charged with murder. But anger remains high over the officers’ failure to express remorse at the student’s death. The police officers claim the bullet that killed Alexandros Grigoropoulos was fired in self-defense, and the death was an accident caused by a ricochet.

The unrest this week has been described as the worst since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 and could cost the already weakened Greek economy an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s also shaken the country’s conservative government that has a narrow one-person majority in Parliament. The socialist opposition has increased calls for the prime minister to quit and call new elections, ignoring his appeals for national unity.

I’m joined now on the telephone by a student activist and writer from Athens. He’s with the Greek Socialist Workers Party. He’s a graduate student in political philosophy at Panteion University in Athens.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Can you lay out for us exactly when this all began and how the protests have escalated and what they’re about right now, Nikos Lountos?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: Yes, Amy. I’m very glad to talk with you.

So, we are in the middle of an unprecedented wave of actions now and protests and riots. It all started on Saturday evening at around 9:00 p.m., when a policeman patrolling the Exarcheia neighborhood in Athens shot and murdered in cold blood the fifteen-year-old schoolboy Alexis.

The first response was an attempt to cover up the killing. The police claimed that they had been attacked. But the witnesses all around were too many for this cover-up to happen. So, all the witnesses say that it was a direct shot. So even the government, in just a few hours, had to claim that it will move against the police, trying to calm the anger.

But the anger exploded in the streets. In three, four hours, all the streets around Athens were filled with young people demonstrating against the police brutality. The anti-capitalist left occupied the law school in the center of Athens and turned it into headquarters for action. And on Sunday, there was the first mass demonstration. Thousands of people of every age marched towards the police headquarters and to the parliament. And the next day, on Monday, all this had turned into a real mass movement all around Greece.

What was the most striking was that in literally every neighborhood in every city and town, school students walked out of their school on Monday morning. So you could see kids from eleven to seventeen years old marching in the streets wherever you could be in Greece, tens of thousands of school students, maybe hundreds of thousands, if you add all the cities. So, all around Athens and around Greece, there were colorful demonstration of schoolboys and schoolgirls. Some of them marched to the local police stations and clashed with the police, throwing stones and bottles. And the anger was so really thick that policemen and police officers had to be locked inside their offices, surrounded by thirteen- and fourteen-year-old boys and girls.

The picture was so striking that it produced a domino effect. The trade unions of teachers decided an all-out strike for Tuesday. The union of university lecturers decided a three-day strike. And so, there was the already arranged, you know, the strike you mentioned for Wednesday against the government’s economic policies, so the process was generalizing and still generalizes.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikos Lountos, when you have this kind of mass protest, even with the beginning being something so significant as the killing of a student, it sounds like it’s taken place in like a dry forest when a match is thrown, a lit match, that it has caught on fire something that has been simmering for quite some time. What is that?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: Yeah, that’s true. Everybody in all of this, that even the riots, the big riots—you may have seen the videos—they are a social phenomenon, not just the result of some political incident. There were thousands of angry young people that came out in the streets to clash with the police and smash windows of banks, of five-star hotels and expensive stores. So, that’s true. It was something that waited to happen.

I think it’s a mixture of things. We have a government that’s—a government of the ruling party called New Democracy, a very right-wing government. It has tried to make many attacks on working people and students, especially students. The students were some form of guinea pigs for the government. When it was elected after 2004, they tried—the government tried to privatize universities, which are public in Greece, and put more obstacles for school students to get into university. The financial burden on the poor families if they want their children to be educated is really big in Greece. And the worst is that even if you have a university degree, even if you are a doctor or lawyer, in most cases, young people get a salary below the level of poverty in Greece. So the majority of young people in Greece stay with their families ’til their late twenties, many ’til their thirties, in order to cope with this uncertainty. And so, this mixture, along with the economic crisis and their unstable, weak government, was what was behind all this explosion.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikos Lountos is a Greek activist and writer. Nikos, the protests have been picked up not only in Greece, but around the world. We’re talking about the Netherlands, talking also about Russia and Italy and Spain and Denmark and Germany. What does it mean to the workers and the students in Greece now? How significant is that? Has that changed the nature of the protests back in Greece?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: It’s very good news for us to know that many people around the world are trying to show their solidarity to us. And I think it’s not only solidarity, but I think it’s the same struggle against police brutality, for democracy, against war, against poverty. It’s the same struggle. So it’s really good news for us to hear about that.

I think you should know that the next Thursday will be the next day of action, of general action. Every day will have action, but next Thursday will be a day of general action. The students will be all out. And we’re trying to force the leaders of the trade unions to have a new general strike. So I could propose to people hearing me now that next Thursday would be a good day for solidarity action all around the world, to surround the Greek embassies, the consulates, so generally to get out in the streets and express your solidarity to our fight. And I think workers and students in Greece will really appreciate it.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the issue of civil liberties overall in Greece? Has this been a matter of controversy over time?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: Yeah. This government has a really awful record on civil liberties. It all began during the Olympics of 2004, aided also by the so-called anti-terrorist campaign started by George Bush after 9/11. During the Olympic Games, we had the first cameras in the streets of Athens. And there are now proofs that many phones were tapped illegally at that period, among them the phones of the leaders of the antiwar movement here in Greece, such as the coordinators of the Stop the War Coalition.

And then came the biggest scandal of all. In 2005, tens of Pakistani immigrants were abducted from their homes by unknown men. They were hooded and interrogated and then thrown away after some days in the streets of Athens. The Greek police, along with the British MI5, had organized these illegal abductions in coordination with the then-Pakistani government of Pervez Musharraf.

During the student movements and the workers’ strikes all these years, hundreds of beatings and more police brutality have covered up. Just one month ago, a Pakistani immigrant called Mohammed Ashraf was murdered by riot police in Athens when the police dispersed the crowd of immigrants waiting to apply for a green card. And the immigrants in Greece in general are mainly from regions hit by war—Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan. And they are treated in awful conditions by the Greek state and police. Many people have died by shells in the borders or in the DMZ, trying to get into Greece and then Europe. So it’s really an awful record for the government on civil liberties.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikos Lountos, finally, as we travel from Sweden to Germany, one of the things we’re looking at is the effect of the US election on the rest of the world. In a moment, we’ll be joined by the editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel, the largest magazine in Europe. When President-elect Obama was elected, their headline was “President of the World.” What is the effect of the election of Barack Obama on people you know in Greece? What has been the reaction?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: Well, you know, all these years we had a slogan here in the antiwar movement and the student movement that George Bush is the number-one terrorist. So, many people were happy when they learned that these will be the final days of George Bush and his Republican hawkish friends like John McCain. But, of course, people in Greece have experienced that having a different government doesn’t always mean that things will be better. If the movement doesn’t put its stamp on the changes, changing only persons will have no meaning. But people have appreciated the change in the US administration as a message of change all over the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikos Lountos, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Greek activist and writer. He’s with the Socialist Workers Party in Greece and a graDemocratic Struggleduate student in political philosophy at Panteion University in Athens.


Greece: massive school student attack against police stations all over the country!

Editorial Board of "Marxistiki Foni"
December 10, 2008

On Monday morning we witnessed a phenomenon that we have not seen in Greece since the uprising of December 1944. In every town of Greece a total of about forty thousand school students, young 15-year old teenagers, attacked the police stations. In Athens, Thessalonica, Patras, Larissa, Corfu, Komotini' and in many other towns across the country the attack of the school students pinned down the heavily armed and well-equipped police officers inside their stations simply with the use of small rocks, tomatoes and yoghurts! Without any fear whatsoever, thousands of teenagers gave an example of heroic struggle against police brutality.

The Karamanlis government took immediate measures to close the schools for one day in the name of "mourning for the young student". In reality what he was aiming at was to stop the students from occupying the schools. On Monday night the government met behind closed doors and as the media reported, some ministers went as far as proposing calling in the army to maintain "public order"! The government has officially announced that it has rejected any such suggestions and is insisting on the "democratic road", while at the same time Karamanlis has announced a series of discussions with the opposition political parties with the aim of creating a common front of "national unity".

In spite of the final outcome and the official position taken, these discussions among the government ministers is a serious warning to the workers and the youth of Greece of what can happen if in the next period they do not build a socialist alternative to the present rotten and barbaric bourgeois power.

The government is desperately seeking points of support in society and on the same night, they found a very useful ally among the desperate and semi-lumpen elements who oblige the government with their blind methods. These groups, with about 2000 people in total, mixed with anarchists, hooligan elements and also infiltrated by police provocateurs, in reality destroyed from the very beginning the massive demonstration of 25.000 people on Monday evening which had been called by SYRIZA, the KKE, University Student unions and school teachers. Without any political logic these elements went on the rampage, smashing small shops together with banks, burning "luxury" Mercedes but also scooters, burning kiosks (small newsagents and tobacconists) and ordinary residences, and they also looted shops, stealing mobile phones, watches and other things.

Yesterday, the school students and thousands of people demonstrated all day long in the centre of Athens and after that they attended en masse the funeral of the young Alexandros who had been killed a few days earlier. But the police, not happy at having killed one student, provocatively attacked the demonstrators outside the cemetery. One team of police officers tried to terrorize the demonstrators by shooting many times in the air with live ammunition. All these scenes were broadcast on the TV channels, provoking a new big wave of anti-government feelings throughout Greek society.

The government has tried to exploit this mood of "tension" in society to get today's general strike called off. Karamanlis in fact made an official request to the union leaders to cancel the strike rallies. However, under the pressure of the working class the union leaders have had to reject the government's request. So as we write this short report the working class in Greece is mobilising in yet another general strike, the 10th since the ND formed its government.

The atmosphere in Greek society is electric. The Marxists believe that only the working class in a united class action with the youth, strictly separate from the criminal methods of the lumpen and hooligan elements, can defeat the government and its bosses. All the conditions have been laid for a big victory of the movement and the fall of this government. The forces are gathering whereby a radical transformation of society would be possible. This explains the growth in popularity of all the left parties.

What is missing is a leadership with a clear political perspective, a genuinely socialist perspective for putting an end to the present system which is the cause of growing poverty and with it increasing state violence. The Greek Marxist Tendency is intervening in the movement and raising demands that correspond to the needs of the movement. There is a vacuum on the left and what is required is a clear orientation for the mass left parties of the Greek workers and vanguard youth. The calls must be one for a united front of the left parties, in alliance with the trade unions and youth organisations, whose aim must be to bring down this hated reactionary government and usher in a genuine workers' government based on a programme of expropriation of the capitalist class. That is the only serious answer to the present brutal methods being used by the Greek ruling class.


Venezuela : The Revolution Stumbles

Richard Gott
Comment Is Free
The Guardian

Putting a brave face on a major electoral setback [1] early on Monday morning, president Hugo Chavez quoted from a Guardian editorial [2] that had referred to Venezuela's "vibrant democracy". The result of Sunday's regional elections, Chavez suggested, had been "a great victory for the country, for its constitution, and for its political system".

And indeed it was true that his recently created United Socialist Party [3] of Venezuela had won the governorship of 17 states, whereas the conservative opposition to his Bolivarian Revolution had only secured five. Yet the president of the National Electoral Council [4], close to tears, had announced earlier that the Chavez government had lost the city of Caracas and its outer suburb of Miranda, as well as the important western state of Zulia, on the Colombian frontier. Later results showed that the Chavistas had also lost the state of Carabobo and Tachira, as well as the municipality of Sucre (which includes the vast working class town of Petare in the eastern outskirts of the capital).

Although the former vice-president Jorge Rodriguez won the state of El Libertador, in which two million people live in shanty towns of western Caracas, Venezuela's most important urban centres - Maracaibo, Valencia, and Caracas - are now in the hands of the opposition. This appears to follow the recent trend in Latin America, where the right have won great cities like Buenos Aires in Argentina and Sao Paulo in Brazil. As a result of this unfavourable vote in the urban areas, Chavez has lost the services of important long time colleagues, including Aristobulo Isturiz, Jesse Chacon, and Diosdado Cabello.

Yet in spite of this electoral reverse, this is a country that remains in a state of revolutionary change, a vast upheaval involving politics, culture, patterns of work, or new ways of thinking, the relationship between men and women, the adoption of new technologies, the explosion of community media, the revival of historical memory, and the mobilisation of millions of people to overcome the tedium of daily life.

New schools, new posts for medical assistance, and new cultural centres have been springing up in every shanty town throughout the country. Health and education have been a priority in other Latin American countries in recent years - an area of social transformation which Cuba has long been in the lead - yet only in Venezuela has the prosaic task of providing people with the basic necessities of life been accompanied by this revolutionary awakening of the people to the possibilities of what they themselves can do to achieve improvement, betterment, and change.

Sunday's elections took place in a disciplined atmosphere of suppressed excitement as people rose to the task of bringing out the vote and thereby ensuring the continuity of the revolutionary process, yet as the day wore on a more sombre mood prevailed as people began to contemplate the possibility of defeat.

It is true, of course, that half the population - for reasons of class or race or family upbringing - remains adjacent to this unique revolutionary process, and prefers to remain on the sidelines of history. Yet many Venezuelans, after 10 years of upheaval under the leadership of Hugo Chavez, remain solidly supportive of the project of which they see themselves to be an integral part.

All this is now under threat. The Chavez government was expecting to lose three or four states in Sunday's elections, since the opposition had foolishly called for an electoral boycott at the last regional elections four years ago, but the loss of the principal cities is a huge blow; the analysis of what happened and why has already begun. One failing today seems obvious: although the Bolivarian Revolution [5] has gone a long way towards addressing the problems of health and education throughout the country, a number of specifically urban phenomena have not been adequately tackled. Crime, housing, transport, and rubbish collection are all areas where the Chavista [6] governors have failed to produce results - and their candidates have paid the price.

Opposition politicians, some of whom supported the anti-Chavez coup in 2002, face the challenge of trying to deal with the mess, inherited from way back before the Chavez era. Antonio Ledezma, the new mayor of Caracas [7], has already mentioned the introduction of neighbourhood policing to tackle the crime wave. Yet in a country that remains deeply polarised, the new urban authorities are faced with an superhuman task, while the Chavistas will look on in dismay.

Victory for Venezuela’s Socialists in Crucial Elections – November 2008

James Petras

The pro-Chavez United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 72% of the governorships in the November 23, 2008 elections and 58% of the popular vote, dumbfounding the predictions of most of the pro-capitalist pollsters and the vast majority of the mass media who favored the opposition.

PSUV candidates defeated incumbent opposition governors in three states (Guarico, Sucre, Aragua) and lost two states (Miranda and Tachira). The opposition retained the governorship in a tourist center (Nueva Esparta) and won in Tachira, a state bordering Colombia, Carabobo, and the oil state of Zulia, as well as scoring an upset victory in the populous state of Miranda and taking the mayoralty district of the capital, Caracas. The socialist victory was especially significant because the voter turnout of 65% exceeded all previous non-presidential elections. The prediction by the propaganda pollsters that a high turnout would favor the opposition also reflected wishful thinking.

The significance of the socialist victory is clear if we put it in a comparative historical context:

1. Few if any government parties in Europe, North or South American have retained such high levels of popular support in free and open elections.

2. The PSUV retained its high level of support in the context of several radical economic measures, including the nationalization of major cement, steel, financial and other private capitalist monopolies.

3. The Socialists won despite the 70% decline in oil prices (from $140 to $52 dollars a barrel), Venezuela’s principal source of export earnings, and largely because the government maintained most of its funding for its social programs.

4. The electorate was more selective in its voting decisions regarding Chavista candidates – rewarding candidates who performed adequately in providing government services and punishing those who ignored or were unresponsive to popular demands. While President Chavez campaigned for all the Socialist candidates, voters did not uniformly follow his lead where they had strong grievances against local Chavista incumbents, as was the case with outgoing Governor Diosdado Cabello of Miranda and the Mayor of the Capital District of Caracas. Socialist victories were mostly the result of a deliberate, class interest based vote and not simply a reflex identification with President Chavez.

5. The decisive victory of the PSUV provides the basis for confronting the deepening collapse of world capitalism with socialist measures, instead of pouring state funds to rescue bankrupt capitalist banks, commercial and manufacturing enterprises. The collapse of capitalism facilitates the socialization of most of the key economic sectors. Most Venezuelan firms are heavily indebted to the state and local banks. The Chavez government can ask the firms to repay their debts or handover the keys – in effect bringing about a painless and eminently legal transition to socialism.

The election results point to deepening polarization between the hard right and the socialist left. The centrist social-democratic ex-Chavista governors were practically wiped from the political map. The rightist winner in Miranda State, Henrique Capriles Radonsky, had tried to burn down the Cuban embassy during the failed military coup of April 2002 and the newly elected Governor of Zulia, Pablo Perez, was the hand picked candidate of the former hard-line rightwing Governor Rosales.

While the opposition controlled state governorships and municipal mayors can provide a basis to attack the national government, the economic crisis will sharply limit the amount of resources available to maintain services and will increase their dependence on the federal government. A frontal assault on the Chavez Government spending state and local funds on partisan warfare could lead to a decline of federal welfare transfers and would provoke grassroots discontent. The rightwing won on the basis of promising to improve state and city services and end corruption and favoritism. Resorting to their past practices of crony politics and extreme obstructionism could quickly cost them popular support and undermine their hopes of transforming local gains into national power. The newly elected opposition governors and mayors need the cooperation and support of the Federal Government, especially in the context of the deepening crisis, or they will lose popular support and credibility.


There is no point in expecting the mass media to recognize the Socialist victory. Its effort to magnify the significance of the opposition’s 40% electoral vote and their victory in 20% of the states was predictable. In the post-election period, the Socialists, no doubt, will critically evaluate the results and hopefully re-think the selection of future candidates, emphasizing job performance on local issues over and above professed loyalty to President Chavez and ‘Socialism’. The immediate and most pressing task facing the PSUV, President Chavez, the legislators and the newly elected Chavez officials is to formulate a comprehensive socio-economic strategic plan to confront the global collapse of capitalism. This is especially critical in dealing with the sharp fall in oil prices, federal revenues, and the inevitable decline in government spending. Chavez has promised to maintain all social programs even if oil prices remain at or below $50 dollars a barrel. This is clearly a positive and defensible position if the government manages to reduce its huge subsidies to the private sector and doesn’t embark on any bailout of bankrupt or nearly bankrupt private firms. While $40 billion dollars in reserves can serve as a temporary cushion, the fact remains that the government, with the backing of its majorities in the federal legislature and at the state levels, needs to make hard choices and not simply print money, run bigger deficits, devalue the currency and exacerbate the already high rates of annual inflation (31% as of November).

The only reasonable strategy is to take control of foreign trade and directly oversee the commanding heights of the productive and distributive sectors and set priorities that defend popular living standards. To counter-act bureaucratic ineptness and neutralize lazy elected officials, effective power and control must be transferred to organized workers and autonomous consumer and neighborhood councils. The recent past reveals that merely electing socialist mayors or governors is not sufficient to ensure the implementation of progressive policies and the delivery of basic services. Liberal representative government (even with elected socialists) requires at a minimum mass popular control and mass pressure to implement the hard decisions and popular priorities in the midst of a deepening and prolonged economic crisis.


The Larger Meaning of the Venezuelan Elections of November 23, 2008

James Petras
Global Research
November 20th 2008

James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York.
The Venezuelan gubernatorial and municipal elections, taking place on November 23 of this year, are the most polarized and significant in the country's history. A great deal has changed for the better since my first teaching invitation at the Central University over 40 years ago: The Chavez government has build hundreds of medical and educational facilities serving the vast majority of the poor, vastly reduced underemployment, subsidized food for the slum residents of the ‘ranchos' and raised living standards for ordinary Venezuelans. Equally significant, this year a new pro-Chavez political party, the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV), with a formal membership of over a million members is facing its first test - in action in 23 states and over 300 municipalities. The elections and their results will tell us a great deal about the popular response to two conflicting versions of the recent past: Whether the government's positive efforts toward building socialism compensates for local political and economic deficiencies or whether the pro-US/capitalist-led opposition with its control of the mass media and its new ‘grass roots' strategies have penetrated and influenced at least some sectors of the Chavista mass base. The elections are in effect a judgment of the performance of the great majority of state and local governments ruled by Chavista incumbents as well as a political statement about the support and ‘drawing power' of President Chavez. The outcome of these elections will have a profound impact on the future political direction of the Chavez government's transition to socialism as well as on the possibilities of a future referendum allowing for Chavez' re-election.

Equally important, the electoral outcome will have an important impact on the policies of the incoming Obama regime: A decisive victory or defeat of the Chavistas will entail important tactical and strategic adjustments in the new Administrations policies.

Contrasting Electoral Campaign Strategies: The Government and the Opposition
The right-wing, pro-Washington opposition has dramatically changed their electoral strategy in these elections. Instead of focusing on personal insults of the President or spouting ideological bromides, they have concentrated on local issues, officials and the inefficiencies in delivering services. The opposition and its mass media have launched frontal attacks on deficiencies in garbage collection and the accumulation of rotting waste in the popular neighborhoods, increasing personal insecurity due to crime, unresponsiveness of some officials to individual/community petitions, corruption and, above all, inflation, which is running at 30%. The opposition has downplayed attacks on Chavez and his popular macro-social programs: The "misiones," the popular brigades promoting literacy and health care; the community based councils, the municipal universities, government-sponsored municipal banks and access to soft credit. Instead, the opposition has criticized the implementation of these programs by an inefficient or inadequate local administration. Above all, the opposition has done everything possible to avoid polarizing the vote between pro and anti-Chavez, since the President has popularity ratings above 60%. The PSUV-led campaign has generally taken a different approach emphasizing national policy successes; the recent nationalization of steel, cement, banking enterprises; pay raises for public sector employees; the end of food shortages and above all, emphasizing the close links between local candidates and President Chavez, whose photo is present next to the local candidates on most electoral posters.

A substantial increase in government spending on local programs, the completion of immediate impact programs, the rapid implementation of local public lending policies to thousands of co-operatives in the ‘ranchos' has in the last weeks of the campaign improved the poll results of government candidates. Each side has tried to exploit the others' weaknesses and overcome internal problems. The key problem for the opposition is their inability to unite behind a single candidate in several states and municipalities, dividing the right-wing vote and opening up the possibility of a Chavista victory with less than 50% of the electorate. The right wing cannot count on the massive abstention of 3 million Chavistas, which allowed them to squeak by with a 1% victory in the November 2007 referendum. The Chavista mass is expected to turn out en masse. The higher turn out is expected to favor the Chavistas. The opposition cannot exploit the expected negative impact of the world economic crisis, which, thanks to the government's reserves, has not yet hit Venezuelan voters. An election a year from now would have adversely affected the Chavista vote.

On the government side, the rising rate of inflation has deteriorated living standards of the poor: The wage and salary increases of the poorest sectors have not kept up with prices. Crime and local predators have increased insecurity and government anti-crime programs have not been effectively implemented - by lax, corrupt or complicit local police and political officials. The biggest threat to the Chavista candidate slate and local majority comes form the ineffective officials who have not solved ‘local problems'. A big question is whether unpopular Chavista governors and mayors can return to power on the coattails of the popular President Chavez.

The Complex and Contradictory International and Domestic Context of the Elections
The international political and economic context of the elections is complicated, but mostly favorable at this moment for the government and the PSUV candidates. The world economic recession and financial crash is just at the beginning phase and has not yet impacted on the daily life of most voters - luckily for the government. Cushioned by the $40 billion dollars in foreign reserves and high levels of public expenditures, the falling price of Venezuelan oil (from $146/barrel in mid-2008 to $52/barrel in November) has not cut deeply into living standards or social programs.

Venezuela's new and growing economic, military and cultural ties, especially with China, Russia and Iran, and its improved relations with the European Union and Center-Right and Center-Left regimes in Latin and Central America has isolated the US, and undermined its diplomatic campaign against the Chavez Government.

The US is tied down in wars in the Middle East and South Asia, and the severe downturn in its economy has eroded Washington's economic levers and military resources for any direct military intervention. It appears that the Pentagon's assets in the Venezuelan National Guard and military are too weak to organize a new coup and they do not appear capable of carrying out a full-scale offensive without direct US intervention or support from Washington's Colombian surrogate, President Alvaro Uribe, who, despite tactical gains against the guerrillas, now faces a huge upsurge in popular mobilizations especially among the indigenous movements and their allies and from millions of defrauded lower middle class ‘investors' of pyramid schemes.

Though the international climate today is favorable to the Chavistas, the immediate future is a different story. Venezuela will suffer from the fall of oil revenue and the world recessions; capital flight despite capital controls is rampant; and private capital is disinvesting or withholding credit despite massive incentives. The government cannot continue large-scale financing of public social and economic projects and still subsidize private exporters, agro-business and, especially, luxury importers.

The year 2009, by necessity, is the year of hard class decisions: Either the government cuts spending for the capitalists or the workers and peasants. Either social programs are drastically reduced or state subsidies to private business are ended. The vast army of publicly-funded (and unproductive) employees are put to work in the productive sector or they will be laid off. In any case, the business elite, the army of importers of high status automobiles and luxury items, and their consumers will be adversely affected and aroused into an adversarial frenzy. When the full impact of the world recession hits Venezuela, the class polarization will explode and spill over and out of the institutional/electoral channels.

Domestic Correlation of Forces
The PSUV has organized a vast electoral organization with some success; the pro-Chavez trade unions in some sectors have been strengthened and advanced, especially through Chavez nationalization of basic industries. The Chavista cultural and social programs and their mass media have deepened and extended the influence and support of the government in many sectors of the urban and rural poor. Yet there are troubling issues: The trade unions represent no more than 20% of the workforce. Few in the contracted and informal sectors are organized. The union members are largely ‘economistic' (focused on wages) and not politically active. The official TV outlet (Telesur) has not succeeded in securing a mass audience - its reach is only a fraction of that of the private right-wing television stations. The Right almost totally dominates the daily print media. The majority of the military and security establishment still supports Chavez, but there is a strong minority contingent in the National Guard, police and army, which is allied with the big landowners, big business and the Pentagon. Above all, there is a large sector of the population - lower middle class, public employees, small business informal workers -- who are of wavering political loyalties and allegiances. They support the Chavista candidates when the economy is booming, public expenditures are soaring, cheap credit is readily available, incomes outpace inflation and imports flood the market. What is unknown is how this wide sector of the voters will react when these conditions change for the worse. Much depends on how the government confronts the world recession and the internal measures, which it adopts. Can an oil-dependent government sustain and deepen the advance toward socialism or will the crisis force it to retreat toward greater austerity and accommodation to capitalism at the expense of its mass base?

In the end, the world recession will greatly impact the Venezuelan economy and force upon the Chavez government and PSUV the most difficult political decision: either the socialization of the strategic economic sectors to channel investment toward domestic production and popular consumption (the Bolivarian socialist option) or the transfer of scarce public resources to bailing out the private sector (the Obama/Wall Street solution). There does not appear to be any ‘third ways'-the center-left economic position of Chavez' current allies in Latin America are fast disintegrating.

The outcome of the November 23 elections is a very important determinant of the future direction, which the Chavez government will or may take. Big advances by the Right will increase pressure against Chavez re-election hopes and a socialist response to the coming economic challenges. A big Chavista victory will make more likely the adoption of a socialist response to the capitalist crash.


Bolivia: Compromise and advance

Pablo Stefanoni & Ricardo Bajo
Green Left Weekly
14 November 2008

(La Paz) The ominous clouds that seemed to indicate the worst of storms, and which tend to hypnotise analysts inside and outside of Bolivia, dissipated following a political agreement that has set January 25 as the date for a referendum on the draft for a new constitution.

The partners were not the “pro-autonomy” prefects in the east — who maintain an intransigent position, halting the negotiations — but rather the debilitated opposition Podemos parliamentary bench that continues to hold an important institutional weight.

Once again the “particular” interests of these relics played an involuntary but effective role in aiding the consolidation of the left-wing government of indigenous President Evo Morales.

If the August 10 recall referendum, in which more than 67% of voters endorsed Morales’s mandate, the president’s support expanded the length and breadth of the country, then the political agreement reached between the government and Podemos on October 21 has allowed the government to concentrate all initiatives in its hands.

Opposition divisions

It made clear the lack of strategy and strength of the opposition in the so-called half moon departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija in Bolivia’s east.

These forces lack the means to dent the support of a national government protected by its 80% vote in the western Andean region and a solid base of more than 40% in the most hostile zones of the country.

From now until January 25, Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party and the government apparatus has set itself the task of raising support for the process of change in the east — aiming to “reach 90%” approval for the new constitution.

Various elements explain the current breaking-up of the opposition.

Firstly, an underestimation of Morales’s leadership, which expresses a truly national movement equivalent to that of Bolivia’s 1952 National Revolution, and that is deeply embedded in the Bolivia that was always invisible to the accommodated classes — the impoverished, indigenous majority.

This includes the half moon, where the intensity of the 2000-2005 cycle of mass struggle was much lower than in the west.

Secondly, the lack of political experience among the half moon leaders — whom the more “political” Tarija prefect Mario Cossio attempted without success to redirect away from their delirious actions — meant that they gambled away the political capital won on August 10 when their mandates were ratified in referendums, due to their violent take over of state institutions and the massacre of unarmed peasants in Pando during September.

And thirdly, the regional factor. Other South American nations took a strong stance in favour of institutional stability, denying legitimacy to the violent campaign from the “pro-autonomy” forces in the half moon.

Once again, it was made clear that Bolivia is governed from its capital based in the west, La Paz.

The crisis of the right has deepened. One part of the opposition will vote in favour of the new constitution, while those that decided against doing so will be left in the uncomfortable situation of rejecting a constitution that legalises autonomies and supporting, by default, a the current constitution that is ferociously centralist.

The demoralisation of the conservative forces has reached such a level that its leaders now rely on the hope that the global economic crisis will have a devastating effect on the government — something its erratic strategies have failed to do. Instead, they have helped to consolidate the government.

The attempts to reconstruct a right out off the ashes of the current Santa Cruz elites brings with it the danger of a negative response from their own bases and provoking social isolation and/or a radicalisation without a clear destination.

The emergence of new leaderships among the regional right wing, especially in Santa Cruz, will take time, as it will need to find new faces that haven’t been “burned”. In particular, they need new banners to shield themselves and work out a political program that could be presented as an alternative, in the medium or long term, to “Evismo” and its effective banner of left nationalism with an indigenous face.

In an unexpected way, under this banner, the government has been able to construct a new national-popular hegemony — perhaps not entirely in line with the aspirations of the government’s eclectic base.

But it is what exists.

Limits of constituent assembly

However, all the victims of the political agreement cannot be placed on the right. The tally of the damage is broader.

The triumph of a “compromise outcome” over the “revolutionary” road, fuelled by the intransigence of the half moon prefects, also dealt a blow to the illusions of the “new left” and its belief in the re-founding of the country via a constituent assembly that was to put into action the power of the “multitudes”, materialised in the form of a plurality of “social movements”.

Right from the beginning, it was clear that the assembly lacked any real power, not only to draft up the new constitution without (excessive) interference, but also to reach political agreements that would allow for the construction of a majority with moderate sectors of the opposition, isolating the hard right that was wagering on a boycott.

As opposed to the experiences of Colombia or Ecuador, the assembly did not want to, or could not, temporarily assume the functions of the Congress.

Bogged down with formal debates (such as over two-thirds consensus that chewed up many months) it also could not — or did not want to — generate a truly national debate that reached beyond certain union elites, NGOs and political leaders.

It ended up getting bogged down over the demand to make Sucre the “full” capital, a demand plucked out of a hat and supported in an opportunist manner by the “half moon” in order to muddy the playing field and impede the assembly from achieving its mission.

Neither are the complaints of the “radicals” from El Alto (an impoverished city on the outskirts of La Paz) worth much: during the two years that the assembly met, this city, that when it mobilises is unstoppable, only came out onto the streets to chant, in a corporative manner, that “the headquarters will not be moved” (i.e.: La Paz should remain the capital).

At no time were there any important mobilisations in defence of the assembly or against the destabilisation of the regionalist right.

The rhetoric of the theoretically and practically inconsistent “left of the left”, opposed to the “change of more than 100 articles”, could not resist the first wave of a foreseeable militant and media-based campaign by MAS to close ranks in “defence of the process of change” and its proud baby: the new Political Constitution of the State.

Conceived of as a horizon of resistance in the middle of neoliberal hegemony, the assembly was a victim of the successes of the popular movements: time sped up and the assembly delegates were faced with the expectation that out of the assembly would emerge a new generation of cadre.

Assembly delegates were only able to partially achieve their objectives.

Despite the wishful thinking of many “anti-systemic” intellectuals, during the congressional negotiations Morales acted as he always has: a popular politician with strong doses of realism and a reluctance towards projects involving the revolutionary taking of power.

Morales also maintains a complex relationship with the peasant unions that combine, not without contradictions, autonomy with “verticalism” by its leaders.

On the other hand, would it have been desirable — and sustainable in time — for the left to close down Congress and force through the constitutional referendum in a “bonapartist” manner; that is, based on the support of the streets but above all the Armed Forces?

Because that is what it would have been, not the indigenous and anti-Western revolution that the pachamamaist indigenists — many of them middle-class mestizos — had imagined.

Despite the concessions, the new constitution has everything that Morales needs to construct his project for power: reelection, greater spaces for state intervention in the economy and certain instruments to use towards a “decolonialisation” understood as social equality.

New challenges

But the consolidation of the “process of change” will perhaps have another auspicious consequence: without the spectre of a conspiracy by the right — which acted as a shadow over the nape — the popular state of alert may begin to be relaxed, allowing space for some much needed constructive criticism.

Such criticism is as necessary as it is absent from the government ranks (and a renewed left, that is, if a left exists in Bolivia today).

With clearer skies, a possibly more difficult stage begins (without the enemies that, at the same time as threatening the government, helped unite and cohere its bases). This stage involves transforming the aspirations for change — drawn up in the proposed new constitution — into public policies that begin to change the living conditions of the majority of Bolivians.

Health, education, housing, new gas exploration and exploitation, and rural development all require strong and efficient institutions to become a reality.

All this in a new context: the world no longer has to pay the price of gold to be the beneficiaries of our primary materials. Rather it is awash in a sea of doubts about the future, darkened by a crisis, for now, without a light at the end of the tunnel.

With the “enemy” drawing back, at least for the moment, the postponed demands can begin to take the form of new challenges to a power that the popular sectors perceive as their own.

This article was translated by Federico Fuentes, with permission. It is abridged from the November issue of the Bolivian edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, of which Stefanoni and Bajo are the director and sub-director, respectively.


The fight is not over by any means but Bolivia has entered a new phase

Forrest Hylton

Bolivia's Congress ratified President Evo Morales' draft constitution on Tuesday, beginning a new phase to the president’s quest of empowering Bolivia’s long oppressed indigenous majority. Congress approved holding another referendum scheduled for January 25. Despite this development, Journalist and Author Forrest Hylton believes "the fight is not over by any means but [Bolivia] has entered a new phase."

Forrest Hylton is the author of Evil Hour in Colombia (Verso, 2006), and with Sinclair Thomson, co-author of Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics (Verso, 2007). He is a regular contributor to New Left Review and NACLA Report on the Americas.
Transcript of interview by Bolivia Rising

Bolivia approves draft constitution
Producer: Zaa Nkweta

ZAA NKWETA, TRNN: Bolivia's Congress ratified President Evo Morales' draft constitution on Tuesday, beginning a new phase to the president's quest of empowering Bolivia's long-oppressed indigenous majority.

EVO MORALES, BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): If regional governors reject all of these modifications, these civil committees will turn into the enemies of regional autonomy. If there shall be any civil authority or governor who rejects this document, they would be an enemy of the country because they would be rejecting the nationalization of our natural resources.

NKWETA: Bolivia's Congress also approved holding a referendum on the new constitution, scheduled for January 25. The Real News spoke to author and historian Forrest Hylton.


NKWETA: So welcome to The Real News, Forrest.


NKWETA: So Bolivia has ratified the draft constitution. What do you make of this?

HYLTON: It's a major victory for Evo Morales as president of Bolivia, for MAS as the governing party of Bolivia. And La Paz is currently filled with tens of thousands, perhaps more than 100,000 people of indigenous background, workers and peasants and miners, celebrating what they understand to be their Constitution. And there's a lot in the fine print, in fact, that reflects negotiations between Morales and the right-wing opposition prefects, and particularly the political parties that represent them. But people aren't worried about the fine print right now. They feel that this is a big victory in terms of moving the country forward politically and at least establishing a framework that's agreed on by all sides for government and, hopefully, the rule of law.

NKWETA: What do you think were some of the critical turning points that got us to this point?

HYLTON: The international intervention from UNASUR, the discussions of this issue in the General Assembly at the United Nations by President Fernández de Kirchner, and the way that Brazil intervened very decisively in favor of the democratically elected government of Evo Morales, the extent to which the United States has become entirely isolated from the rest of the hemisphere. And Evo Morales is at the same time very strong right now; and after the referendum in August, which saw a 13 percent gain for him, he was able to translate that into international legitimacy, and that international legitimacy eventually forced the right to make concessions that it really never wanted to make. It never wanted to see Evo Morales and his government get the credit for passing the new constitution, and a new constitution and a constitutional assembly was a key part of the agenda of October, which is basically what set the framework for Evo Morales's government. It's what brought Evo Morales to power. And it refers to October 2003, when right-wing President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was overthrown through a mass popular insurrection. So this really represents in some ways a closure of that process that was initiated when people began to demand a new constitution and a new constitutional assembly through mass direct action in the streets, which was capable of overthrowing two presidents.

NKWETA: Do you believe that the grassroots organizations that the opposition used to push Morales, do you believe that these have been abated?

HYLTON: Well, I mean, it's unlikely, I think, that we've seen the last of them altogether, but the increasingly central protagonism that they have taken on in the last, you know, couple of years or so, particularly in the last year, I think, is something that has now come to a close; I think it'll really fade into the background. And they might be mobilized as necessary, but I think the kind of constant mobilization that we've been seeing that has led to the deaths and ultimately to the massacre in Pando in September, I think [inaudible] with the forging of this kind of new consensus. And the key concession that MAS and Evo Morales had to make was on land, the idea that none of the expropriation of unproductive land would be retroactive, so the people who have legal title to their land, if they're using it productively, are not in danger of using any of it. This is the key issue for these folks down in the eastern lowlands, because their representatives in the prefectures and the civic committees are huge landowners, and they belong to kind of a caste of landowning families. And so the Constitution doesn't explicitly take them on, and up until now that was a point that MAS was really unwilling to negotiate on, and it was perhaps the key grievance of the folks in the lowlands. A lot of the debate took place over hydrocarbons and the distribution of gas resources between the nation and the different regions within it. But in fact this question of land has been fundamental at every point, and it was really the tensest point of friction between the government and the opposition. Now that's really been taken care of, and I think there will be much more live-and-let-live.

NKWETA: Is the fight over?

HYLTON: I wouldn't say it's over by any means, but I think we've really probably entered a new phase, and I think things are likely to be quite a bit calmer in Bolivia in the next year than they have in the past.


BOLIVIA: Morales Leads March for New Constitution

Franz Chávez
InterPress Services (IPS)
October 13, 2008

LA PAZ, Oct 13 (IPS) - Bolivian President Evo Morales was at the head of a march that set off Monday to the capital from Caracollo, a town 200 km to the south, to press Congress to schedule a referendum on the new constitution that has been drafted by a constituent assembly.

The roughly 3,000 indigenous people, trade unionists and members of social organisations -- expected to be joined by thousands of other supporters along the way to La Paz -- plan to reach the capital in a week.

Morales and his support base want lawmakers to adopt a call for a referendum in which Bolivians would vote on the draft constitution approved in December by the constituent assembly, in which the governing Movement to Socialism (MAS) party holds a majority.

MAS also controls the lower house of Congress, but the rightwing opposition has a majority in the Senate.

In Bolivia, sectors like miners and indigenous people have a long tradition of protesting and putting forth their demands by means of lengthy cross-country marches.

This week’s demonstration marks a revival of the practice, as a sign of strength and unity around the policies of the administration of Morales, the country’s first indigenous president.

The leftist government is under fire from the conservative opposition led by wealthy landowners and business leaders from the eastern lowlands provinces of Beni, Chuquisaca, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija, who are demanding regional autonomy.

They also want greater control over the natural resources which are largely concentrated in their provinces, such as natural gas -- of which Bolivia has the second-largest reserves in South America, after Venezuela -- and fertile farmland.

"For the first time ever, our indigenous people will be recognised by the constitution," Morales said in a speech prior to the start of the march, in which he was accompanied by the head of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) central trade union, Pedro Montes, a miner; the executive secretary of the Confederación Única de Trabajadores Campesinos small farmers’ union, Saúl Ávalos; and Fidel Surco, the powerful leader of a collective of social movements.

"This march is not one of pain, but is marked by honour and pride in our dear fatherland, for the quality of all Bolivians," said Morales, to the applause of thousands of people waving banners, the multicoloured flag of the Aymara people, and signs declaring support for the new constitution.

Morales urged opposition lawmakers to approve the call for a referendum before the demonstrators arrive in La Paz on Oct. 20, in order to make their arrival "a celebration."

For his part, Ávalos said that if the legislative debate stretches out beyond that date, the protesters will mount a vigil around the Congress building in La Paz.

The march is the expression of the "true Bolivians" who want "development and not bloodshed," said Montes, who was wearing a miners’ helmet.

The Oct. 5 breakdown of talks between Morales and the opposition governors led the president to seek parliamentary support for the call for a referendum on the draft constitution, which recognises the cultural and territorial rights of the country’s indigenous majority and sets a limit on the size of landholdings.

The march, which began in a festive atmosphere, is a peaceful response to the violence unleashed by pro-autonomy conservative sectors in the eastern lowlands provinces, in which public offices were occupied and destroyed by radical rightwing youth groups, and at least 17 people were killed on Sept. 11 in the northern province of Pando, for which the provincial governor is under arrest.

Typical indigenous sheep-wool hats, multicoloured caps and ponchos from the western highlands mixed with the light clothing and straw hats of people from Bolivia’s warmer eastern zones as they walked along the straight highway that crosses Bolivia’s extensive altiplano, where the asphalt burns during the day but temperatures drop below zero at night.

The demonstrators chanted "the people united will never be defeated" and the more recently adopted "fatherland or death, we will prevail".

The musical band in which Morales played the trumpet as a young man accompanied the marchers for the first few kilometres, to the rhythm of military marches that mixed with the drumbeats and the joyful sound of the tarkas (wooden flutes).

Before the demonstrators started out, Morales recalled that on one of the marches that he led in the past, an elderly woman came up to offer him a 10 boliviano bill (1.50 dollars), which he said he refused because she was so poor.

Today, he said, that old woman has a lifelong monthly pension of 26 dollars a month -- a reference to an expanded universal pension programme for people over 60, whose approval was obtained by means of protests and marches on Congress.

In the past, as a leader of the six federations of coca growers of the central tropical region of Chapare, Morales led his followers on four 400-km marches defending the benefits of coca as a medicinal plant or as a traditional tea.

On several occasions, the anti-drug police and the army tried to block the progress of the coca farmers’ marches. But in the end, hundreds of coca growers made it to La Paz, where Morales won the support that eventually led him to the presidency. (END/2008)


A glance at Ecuador's draft constitution

The Associated Press
September 28, 2008

Highlights from Ecuador's 444-article draft constitution, which would be the Andean nation's 20th. Voters decide Sunday whether to adopt it.

_ The president can dissolve Congress once, and Congress can unseat the president once.

_ The president controls monetary and credit policy, supplanting the Central Bank.

_ The president can run for one additional four-year term (Correa could serve through 2017).

_ Same-sex unions will be afforded the same rights as heterosexual marriages.

_ Those who work in the home are eligible for social security.

_ New fathers have the right to paternity leave, joining new mothers.

_ Military service will no longer be mandatory.

_ The voting age will be lowered to 16, and soldiers and police will gain the right to vote.

_ Foreign military bases or installations will be prohibited on Ecuadorean soil. The United States has operated anti-drug surveillance flights out of Ecuador's Manta air base since 1999. The 10-year lease expires next year and will not be renewed.

_ Among civic responsibilities is the Quichua Indian ancestral code of conduct: "Be not lazy and neither lie nor steal."

Ecuador Constitution: A Starting Point

Prensa Latina

Quito, Sep 29 The overwhelming support given to the new Constitution in a Sunday referendum proved Ecuadorans are longing for a revolutionary change.

Preliminary results shows that between 66 and 70 percent of the population voted in favor of the new charter drafted by a Constituent Assembly.

For President Rafael Correa, such a resounding victory just proves his felow citizens´confidence in the people's revolution he started in January 2007.

People overwhelmingly voted Yes for a Charter supporting the implementation of a deeply humanist, solidarity economic model, he said.

By voting Yes, voters also backed Correa´s government, which has been making radical changes in the Andean country for the last 20 months.

The President gave opposition the opportunity to join forces in the construction of an egalitarian society, as stated in the new constitution.

The country´s 20th constitution will spur rapid, profound change, benefiting the hard-working, humble majority and helping him eradicate a political class that made Ecuador one of Latin America's most corrupt countries.

It also guarantees free education through university and social security benefits for stay-at-home mothers.

The new measures would supplement already-popular Correa programmes that provide low-interest micro-loans for small businesses, building-material giveaways for homes and free seeds for growing crops.

Change Triumphs in Ecuador's Constitutional Referendum

Helga Serrano N. and Eduardo Tamayo G.
Translated from: Referéndum en Ecuador: Triunfa la esperanza de cambio
Translated by: Katie Kohlstedt
Americas Policy Program, Center for International Policy (CIP) americas.irc-online.org
October 2, 2008

[ Helga Serrano works at the Christian Youth Association of Ecuador and coordinates the No Bases Ecuador Coalition. Eduardo Tamayo is a journalist with ALAI—they are analysts for the Americas Program found at www.americaspolicy.org. ]

Ecuador's new constitution was approved with 64% voting "yes" on Sept. 28. "No" won 28% of the votes, 7% were invalid, and 0.7% left blank, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

The results of the referendum reflect the high expectations for change that the majority of Ecuadorians are feeling, and which they have ratified with their votes in the last four elections. This desire for a profound transformation also extends to the immigrants that have left for the United States and Europe, who have been hit by the economic crisis. People voted for a more participative democracy and for the ability to intercede actively in political life.

The constitution combines a series of progressive traits that overcome some of Ecuador's current inequalities, discrimination, and injustices, such as the following: the balanced living concept (sumak kawsay), which implies living in harmony with oneself, society, and nature; nature's right to assure "the maintenance and regeneration of its vital cycles, structure, functions, and evolutionary processes"; national diversity and collective rights; the right to water and the prohibition of its privatization; food sovereignty and the permanent right to secure food sources; the right to communication, and access to public, private, and community media.

The constitution also has articles that are significant in terms of sovereignty and the prohibition of foreign military bases, as Article 5 states: "Ecuador is a peaceful territory. We will not permit the establishment of foreign military bases nor foreign facilities with military aims. It is prohibited to cede national military bases to foreign armed or security forces." Ecuador defines itself as a country that promotes peace, universal disarmament, condemns the use of weapons of mass destruction, and the imposition of bases or facilities with military purposes of some states in the territory of other nations (Article 416, 4). This is a victory not only for Ecuadorian organizations, but also for continental and worldwide networks that have struggled to abolish foreign military bases.

Rethinking the Economic Model
The new constitution also has a chapter on the prioritization of national production in its economy. In regards to development, it recognizes the "group of economic, political, social, cultural, and environmental systems that guarantees the realization of the balanced life, sumak kawsay." This means that economic growth is not the only priority as a means to reach development; instead, it is considered an integrated vision. It proposes, among other things, "to build a fair, democratic, productive, solidarity-based, and sustainable economic system founded on the equitable distribution of development benefits, means of production, and the generation of dignified and stable work" (Article 276).

The constitution recovers the role of the state in participatory development planning in areas such as healthcare, education, housing, and water supply, among other things. Some of these had been turned over to the private sector during years of neoliberal implementation. Now the state will maintain control of the financial sector and develop policies to avoid the concentration or hoarding of means of production.

It also proposes the development of specific policies to eradicate inequality and discrimination toward women, including the valuation of non-paid work in the home, and universal social security.

Strategic sectors are recognized in the new constitution, such as all forms of energy, telecommunications, non-renewable natural resources, transportation, and refining of hydrocarbons, biodiversity, genetic heritage, and water.

The state reserves the right to "administer, regulate, control, and manage" these sectors because of their decisive economic, social, political, or environmental influence.

Though this is fundamental, concern also exists in some sectors that a door has been left open in terms of exploitation of protected areas, if the National Assembly should choose to do so. The indigenous movement proposed that the policy of "previous informed consent" be used, as in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Native Peoples, but the Constitutional Assembly approved the "previous informed consultation" policy, which is now part of the constitution.

Despite this limitation, Humberto Cholango, indigenous director of ECUARUNARI, the largest organization of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, celebrated the approval of the constitution and its inclusion of the diverse nationalities that make up the nation, which "is of historical importance, because it has been proposed as such since the first indigenous uprising 18 years ago," according to Cholango.

A key player in the "yes" decision was without a doubt President Rafael Correa, whose administration stands out for its reorientation of public investment away from the usual elite classes, and instead toward health, education, and public works. This has been favored by the high price of oil and increased tax revenue collection, as many businesspeople have been forced to pay.

Foreign Military Forces Sent Home
Another positive element is the defense of national sovereignty, expressed as a rejection of the warmongering politics of the government of Colombia and President Alvaro Uribe. It also puts an end to the agreement with the United States that allowed it to have a military base "for the drug war" in Manta, Ecuador. In reality this base was used for other purposes such as the interception of boats transporting migrants and also for Plan Colombia. American military personal will leave Ecuador next year.

Another important theme was the impulse toward political, economic, and social integration into Latin America as a region, with emphasis on the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

Although some of the proposals initiated by the government have been questioned by the indigenous and environmental movements—such as oil exploration, mining, and agricultural policies based on agrochemicals and agrofuels—the organizations recognize that this can be limited through the use of the constitution to ensure the defense of natural resources, life, and biodiversity.

It's important to recognize that the constitution compiles varied aspirations from diverse social sectors that have fought for more than a decade against neoliberalism and policies that assured the payment of external debt to the detriment of social programs.

The Constitutional Assembly and the triumph of President Correa are the result of social struggles against the successive governments that opted to govern on the side of economic interests and not of the people. Many mobilizations have caused the ousting of president after president that deceived the people, which was the reason Ecuador had seven presidents between 1995 and 2005.

Citizen Participation and Who Voted "No"
Thousands of organizations took part in the Assembly in order to present their proposals (3,500 in all) and dozens of forums were held on topics such as water, food sovereignty, heath, etc. Citizen demands were incorporated into the 444 articles that make up the constitution. This was a participatory process, but it also had contradictions, precisely because of the different positions of the political parties in the Assembly and "Acuerdo Pais."

This process, as well as the thousands of forums and debates in neighborhoods, schools, universities, and communities prior to the Referendum, allowed the people to take ownership of the constitution's content.

Those that bet on "no" votes were those who didn't want to lose their privileges and maintain the neoliberal policies that have deepened poverty, inequality, and the concentration of wealth. According to sociologist Mario Unda, the real losers were from the right, that has been reduced to the city of Guayaquil, massive media outlets that did an open "vote no" campaign, as well as the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that led the opposition from the pulpits, spreading lies about the new constitution being pro-abortion and gay marriage.

This referendum has ended a phase that began with the second round of the 2006 election when Correa won by a significant margin over banana magnate Alvaro Noboa. The old elites that had monopolized the economy and politics and had once run things were defeated at the ballot box. A new era is beginning while the new balance of power adjusts and new actors define their new policies and strategies.

The institutional transition period starts with the provisional delay of the Constitutional Assembly, in order to create several laws and name the National Electoral Commission and the Electoral Tribunal, which will convene a new general election in 30 days. The election is predicted for January or February 2009. Correa will most likely run for his second four-year term.

This will be a time of intense struggle, during which the character of the government will be defined—it now has the option to shift its positions to the left according to the demand of the majority of Ecuadorians. They're gaining traction on a new road paved with hope.


Socialist Reform Changes Lives of Bolivian Farmers

Republished from RedOrbit
24 September 2008

The fate of Bolivian farmers such as Julio Mamani hang in the balance amid erupting violence this month following leftist reforms put in place by President Evo Morales.

Morales, the country’s first Indian president, has increased state control of the nation’s economy, and has distributed roughly 2.47 million acres of land to indigenous peasants.

"Because I don't own land I feel like I've got nothing in life," 44 year old Mamani said.

"Thanks to Evo we're going to have a piece of the land that belongs to big land owners."

Mamani currently lives in a shack roughly 50 miles north of La Paz, where frost, drought and hailstorms regularly devastate crops. He burns cow dung to obtain heat and works the land of others to make his living, which amounts to the equivalent of about $2 per day.

Under Morales’ new land redistribution proposal, dozens of families in Achacachi have been promised land in the tropical lowlands in eastern Bolivia.

However, that plan, along with Morales’ broader socialist program, caused a violent reaction by large farming families in the country’s eastern agricultural heartland. The opposition has occupied many government buildings and blocked highways, and 13 people have been killed in the violence according to local media reports.

So far, Morales has distributed only government land, but under a newly proposed constitution a limit on land ownership would be cut from 123,600 acres to 12,360 acres, which would lead to the redistribution of private land.

Bolivia's wealth was traditionally held in the silver mines high in the Andes. However, families from Asia, Europe and elsewhere moved into the eastern lowlands during the 1960s and converted the area into a breadbasket of rice, soy, sugar and beef.

Today, the country remains divided between wealthier white people in the fertile lowlands and poor indigenous people in the western highlands, with about 1 percent of landowners owning 66 percent of the agricultural land.

"Not for a minute have we hesitated in our rejection of agrarian reform," said Guido Nayar, who leads a prominent agriculture federation in the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz.

"They want to limit property for those who produce food but not for those who produce drugs," he said, referring to the coca leaf, the main ingredient of cocaine.

Indians use in the coca leaf in rituals and chew it to ward of hunger, a practice Morales, a former coca grower, has actively encouraged.

Almost all Latin American countries have attempted at some point to change systems in which a small number of elites own most of the land.

Those elites traditionally opposed such initiatives, and even took down presidents who instituted agrarian reform, sometimes with U.S. support.

Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador earlier this month, claiming the United States was endorsing the opposition protests in an attempt to destabilize him.

Nayar said Morales was trying to implement a 1950s model for agrarian reform that contradicts modern, consolidated agriculture, sentiments echoed in places like Mexico, where land redistribution has resulted in farms too small in some cases to even provide for a single family.

However, Morales has the backing of other Latin American leaders, and has vowed to move ahead with his plans.

After taking office in January 2006, Morales first nationalized Bolivia’s energy sector, mining projects and the nation’s largest telecom company. He used the proceeds of these widely popular measures to combat poverty. Morales won 67 percent backing in a vote in August, despite resistance in eastern Bolivia.

"We're starting the repossession process. It will be the end ... of large idle land holdings," Cliver Rocha, head of the government land reform office, told Reuters.

The Bolivian government wants to redistribute more than 19.77 million acres of land to more than 200,000 families by 2011. To accomplish this the government will need to complete surveys and then seize any land it determines is either illegally owned or idle.

According to Rocha, the focus will be on land grants to "the historically dispossessed." However, unlike Bolivia's last significant land reform effort in 1953, the current campaign will not allow people to sell their land, which will prevent speculation, he said.

Silverio Vera of the land rights group Landless Movement said roughly 180 families are better off after relocating to Santa Cruz and establishing a community called "Pueblos Unidos" on state land.

"We have a school, small clinics, water tanks and we are sowing ... The families are doing well because we have access to work."

In Achacachi, where Morales received nearly 100 percent of the vote in August, Mamani hoped for a better life for his family in Santa Cruz.

"With land and hard work we'll be able to move forward," he told Reuters, adding that he won't miss the extreme cold of the Andes, where his family has lived for generations.

"I'm going to take a small picture of the mountains as a souvenir and I'll be fine looking at the picture."

Indigenous people lead Bolivian democracy struggle

John Riddell
September 29, 2008

A popular uprising in Bolivia is defending its government and democratic institutions against U.S.-inspired minority violence.

On September 23, about 20,000 peasants and miners marched on the eastern city of Santa Cruz, where the right-wing government has been encouraging terrorism and intimidation of Bolivia’s indigenous majority and trying to oust the government of President Evo Morales.

Popular assemblies in La Paz, Cochabamba and elsewhere in the country added to the pressure against this disruptive minority, whose supporters have killed dozens of Bolivians in recent weeks. The right-wing opposition’s banner is “autonomy” for the provinces they rule, but their real goal is to return the rich oligarchy to power.

Morales, a man of peace, has refrained from using armed force against such illegality, seeking a dialogue with right-wing leaders and peaceful resolution of differences.

Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was confirmed in office by a 67 per cent majority in a national referendum in August. He was first elected in 2005 on a program including land reform, nationalization of natural resources and a new constitution.

The Morales government acted vigorously on all three fronts, but progress has been stymied by forces loyal to the country’s previous ruling elite and their backers in Washington. U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg brazenly proclaimed his right to intervene in Bolivian political life. He met frequently with opposition leaders until Bolivia expelled him from the country September 10 for “conspiring against democracy.”

Among the causes of opposition outrage is the government’s decision to use some of profits from gas exports to fund the country’s first universal pension plan.

Even more provocative to rich oligarchs is the Morales government’s goal of ending the centuries-old exclusion of indigenous people. Their goal is to refound the nation on a “plurinational” basis – that is one of equality between each of Bolivia’s indigenous nations and its Hispanic population.

Bolivian popular movements incorporate traditional indigenous values of collectivism and protection of the natural environment. Together with their government, they seek to rebuild Bolivia around these values, while urgently recommending them to the world at large.

For example, in addressing the United Nations General Assembly September 23, Morales warned, “If we continue the way we were, we will all be responsible for destroying the planet.” He proposed 10 principles to save life on earth, beginning with “putting an end to capitalism, the synonym for exploitation and pillage.”

Morales urged “respect for Mother Nature, which is not a commodity,” and called for taking energy, water and other basic services out of the hands of private business, making them public services and human rights. Our goal, he said, must be “living well,” an indigenous concept that includes living in harmony with one’s community and the natural world.

In Bolivia, Morales’s overwhelming victory in the August referendum opened the road for a vote to adopt the proposed constitution, scheduled for December 7. It was this prospect that drove rightists into a frenzy of violence and law-breaking over the last month. On September 11, rightist gangs massacred more than 30 unarmed government supporters in the state of Pando.

The Santa Cruz marchers delivered their warning on September 23 and stopped short of taking the city. Meanwhile, the popular upsurge continues, strengthening Morales’s hand against the violent minority.

But what of the foreign backers of this opposition in Washington?

As Morales said at the United Nations, “The combat of our people is a historic struggle against empire.” Here Bolivia has received decisive support from the other peoples of Latin America. On September 15, an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) voted unanimously to pledge “fullest and decided support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales.”

The U.S. government has been shut out of these deliberations. The Organization of American States (OAS), to which Canada belongs, has played no role. The government of Stephen Harper has said not a word about the political terrorism in Bolivia.

It’s high time for Canadians to follow the South American example, declare their independence of the Bush-Harper combination, and take their stand in support of Bolivia’s government, democratic institutions and integrity.

To find out about efforts in Canada to support Bolivian democracy, contact torontoboliviasolidarity@gmail.com.

Bolivia: 'This is a fight between rich and poor'

Federico Fuentes
27 September 2008

Speaking from within the belly of the beast, Bolivia’s indigenous President Evo Morales announced at the 63rd United Nations General Assembly that the world today is paying witness to a “fight between rich and poor, between socialism and capitalism”.

There is an uprising against an economic model, a capitalistic system that is the worst enemy of humanity”, Morales said.

With his confidence boosted following the recent rolling back of a right-wing offensive whose objective was a “civil coup” against his government, Morales used his intervention at the UN summit to do what he had done last year: denounce capitalism.

Morales also used the opportunity to refer to recent events in his own country. Following his crushing victory in the August 10 recall referendum — in which close to seven out of 10 voters demonstrated their support for him and the process of change he is leading — the right-wing pro-autonomy opposition based in the east of Bolivia unleashed a desperate wave of violence and terrorism aimed at toppling his government.

In response, Morales expelled the US ambassador due to his role in leading the coup conspiracy and decreed marshal law in the department (state) of Pando — site of the most intense violence. Pando’s opposition-aligned prefect Leopoldo Fernandez ordered the September 11 massacre of pro-government peasants. With the official death toll reaching almost 20, and more than 100 people still missing, the military successfully hunted down the fugitive prefect, who is now facing trial for charges of genocide.

Three days after the massacre, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) convened an emergency summit to declare “their fullest and decided support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales” and “warn that its respective governments energetically reject and do not recognise any situation that implies an intent of civil coup d’etat, the rupture of institutional order, or that compromises the territorial integrity of the Republic of Bolivia”.

“I would like to hear representatives of the US government rejecting these acts of terrorism”, proclaimed Morales during his speech to the UN General Assembly. “But you know, they are allies, of course they will never condemn this.”

“When you work for equality and social justice, you are persecuted and conspired against by certain groups, not concerned about equality”, he said.

The battle for Bolivia’s future
Since being inaugurated as president in January 2006, Morales has faced a constant right-wing campaign aimed at undermining and ultimately overthrowing his government. Elected with a historic 53.7% of the vote, his entrance into the presidential palace represented an important leap forward for Bolivia’s indigenous movement, which had set itself the goal of moving “from resistance to power”. But as Morales has explained, winning the elections didn’t equal holding power.

Backed by Bolivia’s powerful indigenous, peasant and social movements, the Morales government quickly moved to implement a number of key election promises such as the nationalisation of the country’s gas reserves — the second largest in Latin America — and an “agrarian revolution”.

The centrepiece of the government’s program, however, was the holding of a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution and “refound” Bolivia. The demand was first raised in the early ’90s by the indigenous peoples of the country’s east, and gained strength during the cycle of social struggle opened up with the community rebellion in 2002 against Bechtel. The transnational corporation bought Cochabamba’s water supplies and intended to more than double the price of water. The Constituent Assembly was officially inaugurated in August 2006.

From day one, the right-wing opposition pulled out all stops to try to block the advance of the Constituent Assembly. Following the escalation of a wave of violence against assembly delegates, it was forced to convene, without the presence of most of the opposition delegates to the assembly and in a military compound, where the draft of a new constitution was approved by a clear majority of elected delegates.

The new draft constitution, along with “constitutionalising” the gains made until now in the “democratic and cultural revolution” headed by Morales — such as nationalisation of natural resources and agrarian reform — would also dramatically increase the rights of Bolivia’s traditionally excluded indigenous majority within a new “plurinational” state.

Sensing the threat this represented to their economic interests, the agribusiness elites and gas transnationals, through their control of the prefectures and civic committees of the departments of the east, have done all they can to stop the advance of the indigenous nationalist project that Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government represents.

But “these coup plotters made a mistake, they do not have either national or international support, and happily there exists a consciousness in the people to reject these conspiratorial acts”, stated Morales

Back to the negotiating table?
As a relative calm — one which resembles those that come before a storm — returns to Bolivia after weeks of right-wing violence and terrorism during which state institutions were burnt down, beatings were meted out to indigenous peasants, police officers and soldiers, and takeovers of airports and blockades of major highways occurred, the government and opposition returned to the negotiation table.

At the same time, social movements aligned with the MAS government initiated a massive mobilisation on September 17, marching on Santa Cruz to demand the resignation of the prefect. While stating his disagreement with the demands of the protesters, Morales said that the movements were autonomous from the government and that they were reacting against the right wing and in favour of democracy.

The three key issues for discussion at the negotiation table are the new constitution and autonomy statutes promoted by the right-wing prefects, the redistribution of the Direct Tax on Hydrocarbons and the filling of vacant spaces in judicial bodies such as the Constitutional Tribunal.

Expressing its clear desire to see the negotiations advance within the context of a new balance of forces following the referendum vote and the repelling of the “civil coup” attempt, the Morales government denounced the unwillingness of the right wing to truly participate in a dialogue.

Not content with the proposals by the government to give way on some of these issues, the opposition demanded that discussion be reopened on the draft constitution.

For Morales, the opposition forces were “counterposing themselves to the sectors that have mobilised for so many years demanding a Constituent Assembly, and with it a new constitution … In doing so they are opposing the refoundation of Bolivia which seeks equality between Bolivians.”

Stating that it appeared as though the will to reach an agreement did not exist among the opposition, Morales said “the people will oblige them to approve the new constitution”.

The negotiations were halted on September 24, in recess until the following Monday.

The social movements announced on September 25 that they would meet over the weekend to plan further actions in favour of approving the new constitution.

While suspending their march shortly before reaching the capital of Santa Cruz, the social movements that make up the National Coalition for Change (CONALCAM) — which makes up the majority of the indigenous, peasant and social movements in Bolivia — announced that they will most likely initiate a march on parliament to force the approval of a law to hold a referendum on the draft constitution.

From New York, Morales announced that a meeting of CONALCAM would be held on September 27 where “for sure, if the prefects do not guarantee an agreement, once again there will be mobilisations until the prefects understand the clamour of the Bolivian people which is for the refoundation of Bolivia with a new constitution”.

Fidel Surco, head of CONALCAM, added that while the social movements had “been flexible in lifting the mobilisation on Santa Cruz, we greatly lament the fact that the prefects do not want to dialogue over the constitutional text. Either way, we will approve the new constitution. No matter what, the referendum will go ahead. If they do not support it, they should vote No. We have decided that once again we will surround the Congress.”

Surco stated that, along with the option of surrounding Congress, there was also the possibility of reinitiating the march on Santa Cruz.

On previous occasions, indigenous and peasant organisations have surrounded parliament and forced the approval of laws such as those regarding agrarian reform and the new gas contracts.

The peasant federation of Chuquisaca has announced, that regardless of what CONALCAM decides, it will restart blockades around the capital of the department, Sucre, to force the local prefect to sign an agreement for peace in the country.

International solidarity
Meanwhile, international solidarity with the government and people of Bolivia continues to grow. A declaration by the Presidency of the European Union stated that “The European Union supports the step taken by UNASUR, whose Heads of State held an extraordinary meeting in Santiago on 15 September with a view to helping resolve in a peaceful and democratic manner which respects Bolivia’s territorial integrity the crisis gripping the country”, adding that it endorses the terms of the UNASUR resolution.

Kintto Lucas reported on September 22 for IPS News that “Indigenous organisations from several countries in Latin America declared their solidarity with Bolivian President Evo Morales with respect to the crisis in his country …

“Humberto Cholango, the head of the [Confederation of Peoples of the Quechua Nationality of Ecuador, Ecuarunari], which groups Quechua communities from Ecuador’s highlands region, warned that an attempted coup against Morales could trigger a generalised uprising by indigenous people throughout the Andean region.”

“The indigenous movement in Ecuador and other countries is on the alert to any attempt to overthrow our brother Evo by economic power groups backed by the government of the United States”, Cholango told IPS.

“The indigenous leader said that ‘a great global chain of solidarity with Bolivia’ is being created by indigenous and social organisations as well as intellectuals throughout South America, which will culminate in a major demonstration in La Paz [Bolivia’s administrative capital]”, IPS reported

ECUARUNARI, together with the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the Movement of Those Without Land (MST, Brazil), Via Campesina and others are holding a meeting in solidarity with Bolivia in Santa Cruz on October 23-25.