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Unresolved Tensions

Unresolved Tensions: Bolivia Past and Present

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    Unresolved Tensions
    Book Description:

    The landslide election of Evo Morales in December 2005 pointed toward a process of accelerated change in Bolivia, forging a path away from globalization and the neoliberal paradigm in favor of greater national control and state intervention. This in turn shifted the power relations of Bolivia's internal politics-beginning with greater inclusion of the indigenous population-and altered the nation's foreign relations.Unresolved Tensionsengages this realignment from a variety of analytical perspectives, using the Morales election as a lens through which to reassess Bolivia's contemporary political reality and its relation to a set of deeper historical issues.This volume brings together an expert group of commentators and participants from within the Bolivian political arena to offer diverse perspectives and competing views on issues of ethnicity, regionalism, state-society relations, constitutional reform, economic development, and globalization. In this way, the contributors seek to reassess Bolivia's past, present, and future, consider the ways in which the nation's historical developments flow from these deeper currents, and assess the opportunities and challenges that arise within the new political context.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7348-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Introduction: A Story of Unresolved Tensions
    (pp. 1-8)

    There could be no dispute over the verdict of the 2005 presidential elections in Bolivia. Juan Evo Morales—known to most as plain “Evo”—won, with nearly 54 percent of the vote. A fair election result, it avoided the need for a run-off vote in Congress. The movement backing his candidacy—for it was more a movement than a party as conventionally defined—the MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo—Instrumento Político), won 70 of the 130 seats in the lower house. It only narrowly missed winning a majority in the Senate, which heavily overrepresents the less-populous lowland departments.

    Although universal suffrage...

  3. PART I On Ethnicities

    • [PART I: Introduction]
      (pp. 9-12)

      The issue of ethnicity has emerged as a powerful force in recent Bolivian politics, more so than in most other Latin American countries. The rise of Evo Morales and his spectacular election victory in December 2005 has been emblematic of the importance of ethnicity, and from the very beginning his government made clear that its proposal to refound the republic would signify the implementation of a proindigenous agenda. This appointment of well-knownindigenistafigures to the cabinet reinforced this commitment, although nonindigenous figures were also present, and the large electoral base of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) was ethnically very...

    • 1 The “Long Memory” of Ethnicity in Bolivia and Some Temporary Oscillations
      (pp. 13-34)

      This chapter highlights the persistence of ethnicity in Bolivian politics and society when viewed over the long term, intertwined with such other key factors as the development of a national state and class conflict. The 2001 census provides the most recent data on how Bolivians classify themselves ethnically. This census asked people over the age of fifteen to state which ethnic group they thought they belonged to. Around 31 percent considered themselves to be Quechua, 25 percent Aymara (the largest populations of both groups found in the western Andean region of the country), and a further 6 percent identified themselves...

    • 2 Let the Mestizos Stand Up and Be Counted
      (pp. 35-50)

      It is necessary to rescue the discussion ofmestizajefrom the depositary of things forgotten, and indeed, to speak of multiplemestizajes, because if we are talking about mestizos, it should be in the plural, not the singular. I do not intend to embark on a theoretical discussion, or to enter very far into the jungle of statistics to come up with valid arguments; rather, I seek to bring into play intuitions and perceptions from everyday life that can help us understand the variegated world of mestizos, a world which is important in helping us understand the Bolivia of today,...

    • 3 Oversimplifying Identities: The Debate over What Is Indigena and What Is Mestizo
      (pp. 51-60)

      The arguments presented by Xavier Albó and Carlos Toranzo provide some valuable insights about what ethnicity is (or is not) in Bolivia and form part of a lengthy debate over whether the country is predominantly indigenous or mestizo. This debate has assumed greater resonance in recent years in light of both political developments and the results of the 2001 census and other attempts to measure the country’s ethnic make-up. This, however, is a false debate, because it assumes the centrality of a particular identity—ethnicity—in a country where multiple identities are salient. Furthermore, the debate obscures the complex ways...

  4. PART II On Regionalism

    • [PART II: Introduction]
      (pp. 61-64)

      Regionalism has emerged with new force in the last few years, in ways which—at times—have seemed capable of tearing the country apart. Regionalism is a dynamic in most Latin American countries, often underscoring competition for resources between capital cities and peripheral centers, but in few has it been such a source of tension—and on occasions political paralysis—as in Bolivia. Regional tensions have become more acute in the last few years, reflecting the fact that regionalism has been used both by the supporters and equally by the opponents of President Evo Morales to rally sentiment either for...

    • 4 Regionalism Revisited
      (pp. 65-82)

      In the present analysis, regionalism is understood to be the power wielded by regions within a given country and is expressed in terms of conducts, attitudes, and specific forms of action. In Bolivia, regions vie with one another; they constantly seek to exert influence over the state and question the acts of a central administration seen as authoritarian and centralizing. Regionalism is clearly visible throughout Bolivia’s history, creating artificial problems while obscuring real ones and generating animosities between people living in different parts of the country. Regionalism also creates obstacles to the efficient administration of the state, resulting in decisions...

    • 5 Oppressed or Privileged Regions? Some Historical Reflections on the Use of State Resources
      (pp. 83-104)

      Somewhat provocatively, José Luis Roca has written that the history of Bolivia was a struggle between regions and not classes (Roca 1999, 39). Recent history, however, shows that political and social dynamics are not just regional, and that regionalism can encompass ethnic oppositions, class conflict, and political projects of different orders. It is an opposition of east and west,collas(from the Altiplano) andcambas(from the lowlands), indigenous peoples, whites and mestizos, tradition and modernity, collectivism and private initiative, peoples and oligarchs. Centralism has been described as an oppressive power, as an expression of internal colonialism that has supposedly...

  5. PART III On State-Society Relations

    • [PART III: Introduction]
      (pp. 105-108)

      The chapters paired in part 3, by George Gray Molina and Franz Barrios, seek to probe into the distinctive relationship between the state and society in Bolivia, and how this has changed according to historical circumstances. A major theme here is the balance between democracy and democratic participation on the one hand, and the rule of law on the other. For some observers, the extension of popular democracy places the rule of law in jeopardy, as the previously excluded seek to use democratic rights to advance their interests; for others, the rule of law is a cloak to mask the...

    • 6 State-Society Relations in Bolivia: The Strength of Weakness
      (pp. 109-124)

      Although Bolivia is regularly included in lists of weak, unstable, and nontransparent states on the one hand (e.g., Foreign Policy Magazine 2007; Transparency International 2007; Kaufmann, Kraay, and Mastruzzi 2007, among others), and in lists of strong, mobilized and revolutionary social movements on the other (Hylton and Thomson 2007; Petras and Veltmeyer 2005; Kohl and Farthing 2006), seldom are the two linked explicitly, whether historically or normatively. In recent years, much attention has shifted to the relative strength of social movements and the weakening of traditional political parties, democratic institutions, and the rule of law, among other dimensions of the...

    • 7 The Weakness of Excess: The Bolivian State in an Unbounded Democracy
      (pp. 125-140)

      The process of social and state reform that Bolivia is currently undergoing has finally exposed a structural tension within the state, one long ignored by the Bolivian intelligentsia. This structural tension, revealed by the current process of upheaval, can be reduced to a fundamental dilemma concerning thestyleof the state, a style characterized by refusal to insulate certain areas within the state from the influences of democratic opinion and the political process.

      According to classical post-Aristotelian Hellenic philosophy, it is possible to shelter what I will calla-democraticandapolitical realmswithin the state. By this I mean public...

  6. PART IV On Constitutionalism

    • [PART IV: Introduction]
      (pp. 141-144)

      The inauguration of a Constituent Assembly in the city of Sucre on August 6, 2006, raised hopes that the newly elected Morales government would deliver in the rewriting of Bolivia’s constitution in such a way as to increase levels of participation in the politics of the country, especially among the urban poor and the indigenous population which had felt excluded from processes of deliberation and decision making. The Assembly would—within the allotted space of a year—accomplish the ambitious task of “refounding” the Republic. The law that paved the way to the holding of the assembly talked about its...

    • 8 The Development of Constituent Power in Bolivia
      (pp. 145-159)

      The viability of democracy in Bolivia has been undergoing testing ever since 1982. This has been the longest period of uninterrupted democratic constitutional government since the foundation of the republic in 1825. It has been during this period, much more than at the time of independence or during the unstable political history that followed, that the notion of constituent power—as used by Antonio Negri (1993)—assumes greater relevance. Negri defines this as “not only as the omnipotent and expansive source of the constitutional norms that permeate the juridical framework, but also the subject of what they produce.” In other...

    • 9 Constitution and Constitutional Reform in Bolivia
      (pp. 160-172)

      In order to understand the current phase of political reform in Bolivia, we must first examine the relationship between the way in which Bolivia is constituted or constructed—its social and political composition—and the political constitutions that have defined government institutions and legality through different periods of its history. We must then draw a distinction between constituent power and constituted power, and the dynamic between these two as regards our first theme: that is, the way the country is constituted.¹

      The first constitution of the Republic of Bolivia took little or no notice of the degree of cultural diversity...

  7. PART V On Strategies of Economic Development

    • [PART V: Introduction]
      (pp. 173-176)

      The liberalization policies of the 1990s brought in new technology and led to the discovery of large reserves of natural gas in Bolivia. This has once again stimulated debate over priorities in economic development: between focusing on industries that bring with them substantial returns in terms of foreign investment, exports and fiscal revenues, and focusing on those that give rise to employment and therefore tackle problems of poverty and exclusion. The gas industry falls into the first category, substantially raising the quantum of foreign direct investment (FDI), annual exports, and treasury income. However, this gas bonanza has once again shown...

    • 10 Gas and Its Importance to the Bolivian Economy
      (pp. 177-193)

      The Bolivian hydrocarbons industry surely must be one of the few industrial activities anywhere to have been nationalized three times in the space of the eighty years since it first came into existence. In 1927, the worldwide search for oil (whose strategic importance had become clear during the course of the First World War) produced the discovery of small quantities of this resource in Bolivia. Standard Oil of New Jersey, then the world’s largest oil company, gained large concessions in Bolivia and successfully developed these in the years following its initial discoveries. Its activities were interrupted by the Chaco War...

    • 11 Beyond Gas: Between the Narrow-Based and the Broad-Based Economy
      (pp. 194-212)

      The exponential growth of proven and probable reserves of natural gas, the sharp increase in the tax take, and the emergence of a modern service economy in function of the main gas transnationals are the more visible symptoms of a progressive consolidation of Bolivia as a natural-gas producer. This renewed taste for exploiting natural resources revives a long tradition characterized by dependency on a monoproduction development model. Debate in recent years has centered, on the one hand, on the need to transform the political rules of the game and, on the other, how best to benefit from natural gas and...

  8. PART VI On Bolivia and Globalization

    • [PART VI: Introduction]
      (pp. 213-216)

      The electoral victory of the MAS and the inauguration of the new government was bound to throw up major contradictions, both in terms of foreign policy generally and foreign economic policy in particular. The legitimacy of the new administration was, in large part, founded on the fact that—compared to its predecessors—it would stand up for Bolivia’s perceived national interests. An important ingredient in the preceding crisis of confidence in the traditional elites had been that they had been accused of being more interested in doing the bidding of external actors than in protecting the interests of ordinary Bolivians....

    • 12 Bolivia in a Global Setting: Economic Ties
      (pp. 217-237)

      The way in which Bolivia inserts itself into an ever-more-globalized international economy is a question central to any discussion of the country’s potential for economic growth. The conventional view is that if Bolivia wants to develop, it needs to take part fully in patterns of international trade and attract flows of foreign capital to finance the investment needed for future growth. Active participation in the world economy is seen as a necessary condition, but obviously not a sufficient one, for growth and development. A recent World Bank publication on Bolivia (Fretes-Cibils et al. 2006) states that “sustained high growth …...

    • 13 The Perverse Effects of Globalization in Bolivia
      (pp. 238-254)

      The discourse of neoliberalism presents globalization as the highest stage in the development of human society, a consequence of overcoming the barriers imposed by the technical limitations of the past and by the nation-state. Among its bolder exponents, it is seen as the arrival of a new postcapitalist phase, in which previous contradictions—indeed, the existence of social classes—are superceded and in which the means of production are neither capital nor labor but are “and will be knowledge.” The free market will persist over the long term “as the only proven means of economic integration” (Drucker 1993, 7). This...

  9. Conclusion: Bolivia’s Latest “Refoundation”
    (pp. 255-270)

    This volume of essays reflects the divergent viewpoints currently in contestation in Bolivia. It is not designed to promote any one particular standpoint, let alone to denigrate alternative positions. Rather, the editors—as sympathetic but uncommitted outsiders—sought to collect the clearest and most cogent statements of the competing positions, in order to clarify for readers both within Bolivia and internationally, the foundational nature of the current debates and the deeper implications of gravitating toward one side or the other. Thus, we start with some fundamental questions of collective identity—first ethnicity and second regionalism. By reading Xavier Albó’s eloquent...