Bolivia: 12 days of actions and blockades against the Añez government

By Gustavo Giménez

On August 3, Bolivia began to fill up with roadblocks in rejection of a further postponement of the elections. About 200 blockades covered most of the territory of the country of the altiplano. In spite of the threat and use of repressive forces, and even of ultra-right-wing gangs, the Bolivian dictator could not stop the indigenous and worker uprising that was demanding his resignation. Last August 14, Evo and the MAS first, the Bolivian Workers’ Central (COB) and the Unity Pact (1) “under protest,” later ended up accepting the new electoral postponement for October 18, which was enshrined by law in the Bolivian parliament in which the MAS has a majority. The cuts and protests were lifted, in the face of the indignation of thousands of activists who were never consulted.

Bolivia in these days is once again in the news because of the dozens of deaths caused by Covid 19, there were bodies piled up in the streets. And then it had international attention because of the thousands of demonstrators and the hundreds of road blocks. The Bolivian people paralyzed the country by demanding the resignation of the government of Jeanine Áñez, and against a new electoral postponement (the fourth) (2), with the repeated excuse of the havoc caused by the pandemic.

A country plunged into a very serious health, social and political crisis

If, as the saying goes, “the proof is in eating the pudding.” These days came the news that a group of mining businessmen decided to manufacture “mobile crematory ovens,” since it promises to be a thriving business. As engineer Carlos Ayo comments: “To think that sometimes there have been 30 dead, 50 dead bodies piled up, or that in the morning there are corpses lying in the streets. It is because the families do not have the resources or can’t find where to take them to be buried or cremated and they end up in the streets so as not to become contaminated” (Clarín 03/08/2020).

The example shows a health system that is totally overwhelmed, given the inefficiency, ineffectiveness and lack of interest in public health of the current government, whose president and half of the cabinet ended up infected by coronavirus, and also, years of disinvestment and abandonment of the health system for which the “popular” government of Evo, is responsible.

The pitiful figure of 100,000 infected and 4,000 dead, for a small country of 11 million inhabitants, contrasts with the corruption of a government whose Minister of Health is in prison for having led an enormous fraud in the purchase of respirators, paid by the State at $28,000 each to the intermediary company IME Consulting Global Service SL, when the manufacturer GPA Innova declared that it sold them at 7,000. The disaster is so great that, following in the footsteps of a Trump or Bolsonaro, the Bolivian parliament, which has a majority of the masses, has just approved sodium chloride as a valid drink to combat the virus.

To the health emergency, we must add the serious food crisis that the demonstrators in the courts have denounced, since the pandemic, with its balance of layoffs and cessation of part of the economic activity, has enormously aggravated the structural problems that triggered the crisis at the end of 2019, in which there were mobilizations and social questioning of Evo’s government first and then in resistance to the coup d’état.

The mobilization underway in this new uprising not only questioned the legitimacy of Áñez government and rejected the new electoral postponement, it also expressed the Bolivian people’s weariness with the collapse of the health system, the overpricing of medicines, layoffs and unemployment, the lowering and freezing of wages, the attacks on public education, the persecution of opposition trade union, social and political leaders, and the impunity of those responsible for the massacres in Senkata and Sacaba.

The protest became more radical and the government even had to appeal to paramilitary groups like the “Kochala Resistance” or the “Cruceñista Youth Union” to try to stop them, obtaining, as a response, the formation of self-defense committees to confront them. Reflecting the political polarization expressed by the emergence of these right-wing gangs, as well as the Civic Committees that now ignore the new electoral call, self-convened groups have emerged.

According to the Spanish newspaper El País: “In the Aymara area of La Paz, this conflict has shown the reappearance of radical groups that present themselves as “self-convened” to differentiate themselves from MAS and its unions. Or as the web 14 y reports on August 15: “The so-called “autoconvocados” of the city of El Alto acquired the form of a kind of Aymara police force, one of the main indigenous communities in the country, in response to other groups that supposedly support the transitional president. The symbol of a Chakana or Andean cross on a wrought iron shield distinguishes a group of Alteños, who are trained to exercise in the style of the police, shouting “resign goddammit!” about the provisional president.

If the uprising continued, not only would the stability of the government of Áñez be put at risk, but also that of the entire institutional system governing Bolivian capitalism. For that reason, as in the moments after the coup, Evo called for the demobilization and made a pact with the dictatorship for the new electoral postponement. Even, as some media have pointed out, putting at risk that his candidate, the former Minister of Economy and responsible for all the neo-liberal reforms, Luis Arce, who is up in the polls, will drop in the intention of voting and will not be able to impose himself in a very probable second round of elections.

Although the COB and the Unity Pact described Evo’s decision and the MAS leadership as “treason”, their real policy was expressed in the call for a “fourth intermediate” in the actions of the struggle. Something that has caused great anger and confusion in thousands of the activists who have led the fight, many of whom dissociate themselves from the MAS and the old leaders in the interviews they give to the press.

There were numerous assemblies and statements that were made against this uprising of the actions of struggle. One of the most important was “the town hall of the 20 provinces of La Paz, which took place this Friday in El Alto, determined not to obey the lifting of the blockades ordered by the Bolivian Workers’ Central (COB) and to continue with the mobilizations until the resignation of the transitional president, Jeanine Áñez, in addition to asking for a trial of responsibilities against the members of her government” (Página Siete, 08/16/2020).

The 12 days of actions and roadblocks that moved the Latin American country are part of the “thawing” of the struggles that are going on in the world. A wave of protests, uprisings, revolutions, of which LA was one of the epicenters in the moments prior to the development of the Covid-19 pandemic. This new vanguard of fighters, who are questioning the traditional leaders, have not had the strength and organization to twist the uprising of the MAS and COB, who are trying, with the mediation of the Church, the UN and imperialism, to channel the enormous crisis into future elections.

The tasks set out

Confronting the health and social crisis that the pandemic poses can only be resolved by going against the interests of the capitalist-imperialist system, by developing a program that stops paying the foreign debt of 11 billion dollars, nationalizes private health care and applies a sharp increase in the public health care budget, nationalizing with workers’ control any company that suspends or lays off workers, and on the basis of a profound agrarian reform that expropriates the landowning oligarchy, develops support for family agriculture, nationalizes mining, oil and natural resources in the hands of the multinationals, etc.

The recent uprising put on the agenda the task of overthrowing the illegitimate government of Jeanine Áñez. The electoral solution for October tries to decompress the crisis and reconstitute the bourgeois institutions that have been harshly questioned. The holding of these elections will be felt as a conquest of the mobilization that imposed on the dictatorship to end its delays, and at the same time, these elections are part of a mechanism to try to contain the radicalization of the struggle. Within this framework it is fundamental to mark its limitations and to demand the realization of a free and sovereign Constituent Assembly, which refounds a Bolivia without oppression, exploitation and misery, a socialist Bolivia.

To fight for this program it is necessary more than ever to build, with the new fighters who have led the recent uprising, a revolutionary party that disputes with the old leaderships, the leadership of the working class and the Bolivian people. In the service of this task, the ISL is at the disposal of the people.

  • The Unity Pact brings together peasant and indigenous collectives that support the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).
  • The “transitional” government of Jeanine Áñez arose from a coup d’état against President Evo Morales on November 10, 2009, which, with the excuse of correcting the electoral fraud carried out by Morales in the elections of October 20, 2009, had to quickly call for new elections. Originally these were scheduled for May 3, 2020, then they were postponed, with the excuse of the pandemic, for August 2 and September 6 successively. Now, next October 18th is the date of the new electoral rescheduling.