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Andean

Working 

Paper

Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

George Gray Molina

Bolivia has seen an escalation of social and

regional conflict over the past few months.

This situation reflects unresolved tensions

over natural resources, multicultural politics

and decentralization that date back years

or even decades.1 Although press and media

coverage tend to be polarizing, the interests

of social and political actors are far from

irreconcilable.2 It is a mistake to perceive the

Bolivian state as being on a slippery slope to

division. The level of social and regional tension

in recent months, however, does deserve

closer attention. A penchant for democratic

political negotiation and compromise, if not

consensus, is currently absent in government

and opposition leaders.

This paper focuses on the ingredients that

explain this democratic deficit. If Bolivian

history is any guide, the current battle for

political hegemony will not be resolved

Many thanks to Michael Shifter, Eduardo Gamarra and Dan

Joyce for comments and suggestions. Thanks to Rodrigo Arce

for research assistance. Comments and suggestions welcome at:

graymolina@gmail.com.

1 For an edited volume on unresolved tensions in Bolivian

politics with contributions from Eduardo Rodriguez, Xavier

Albo, Carlos Toranzo, Luis Tapia, Diego Zavaleta and Rossana

Barragan, among others, see John Crabtree, George Gray

Molina and Lawrence Whitehead, Tensiones Irresueltas: Bolivia

Pasado y Presente. La Paz: Plural, 2008.

2 A number of analysts have identified a broad array of overlapping

interests between government and opposition on the new

constitution and autonomy statutes. See Carlos Bohrt Irahola,

et al, Puentes para un diálogo democrático Proyectos de Constitución

y Estatutos: compatibilidades y diferencias. La Paz: FES, 2008;

Súbelas Barrios and Franz Xavier, “Hacia un Pacto territorial

en Bolivia Conflictos, Conceptos, Consensos en torno a las

autonomías,” working paper, La Paz: PAPEP-PNUD.

July 2008

neatly. A new period of political stability

will ensue only after leaders engage in pragmatic

negotiations on the rules of the game

for democratic dissensus. That “agreeing to

disagree” is the only thing that Bolivians

can unite around is extremely appropriate

in the current political setting. In the

end, President Morales has the possibility

of charting either a path of progressive

politics that includes dissenting views or a

path of social and regional polarization that

threatens the continuity of his social and

economic agenda.

The paper starts with an analysis of the

present standoff between President Morales

and the prefects from the east and southern

regions of the county. The second part

describes the political roadmap that led up

to polarization, including the impact of policy

decisions and international relations.

The final section outlines political scenarios

for the post-August 10th standoff and

examines some of the challenges for democratic

politics in the future.

1. The August 10th Standoff

On May 8, four days after a regional referendum

on autonomy in Santa Cruz de

la Sierra, President Morales announced he

would sign into law a bill that called for a

presidential, vice presidential and prefectural.

 

Foreword

The Inter-American Dialogue is delighted to publish this paper by one of Bolivia’s leading

social scientists, George Gray Molina, who has extensive policy experience and is currently an

academic fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of

Oxford. He disentangles the exceedingly complex situation in Bolivia by identifying the interests

and roles of the key actors involved. Gray sheds light on the sources of the political stalemate in

advance of the August 10 recall referendum and outlines three scenarios for Bolivian politics in

the period to follow.

This working paper is the sixteenth in a special series focused on the Andean countries of South

America. The Dialogue’s aim is to stimulate a broad and well-informed public debate on the

complex issues facing key analysts and decision makers concerned with Colombia, Venezuela,

Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. We seek to offer diagnoses of the current situation as well as policy

prescriptions to deal more effectively with deep-seated problems.

The series is a byproduct of a working group project launched by the Dialogue in 2001. The

Andean working group is comprised of select and diverse analysts and policymakers from the

Andean region, other Latin American countries, Europe, Canada and the United States. Like

the working paper series itself, the group was launched with a particular focus on the Colombian

conflict but then naturally expanded to encompass all of the Andean countries.

The working group essentially serves as a “brain trust” or core group of advisors for the

Dialogue on the Andean region, a top priority for the organization. The goal of the group is

not necessarily to reach agreements or produce consensus documents. Rather, it is to generate

fresh interpretations of multiple Andean challenges, in order to shape thought and encourage

constructive responses.

To date, the papers have dealt with a wide range of topics, including the Colombian conflict,

drug trafficking, civil-military relations, human security and petropolitics. We are confident

this paper will contribute to a deeper understanding of a critical situation in the hemisphere.

Gray’s perspective does not necessarily reflect the views of the working group or the Inter-

American Dialogue.

We are pleased to recognize the assistance provided by the Ford Foundation for our work on the

Andean region. We are grateful to the Foundation Open Society Institute for supporting the

production of this report.

Michael Shifter

Vice President for Policy

2 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

Inter-American Dialogue

George Gray Molina   Working Paper

3

tural recall referendum on August 10, 2008.3

The bill had been drafted in Congress in

December 2007 and took regional opposition

leaders by surprise, in what most analysts

conclude was a last-ditch attempt by the congressional

opposition party PODEMOS

(Poder Democrático y Social) to postpone a

national referendum on the new constitution

approved by the Constituent Assembly in

controversial sessions in Sucre and Oruro earlier

in the year.4

The recall referendum bill undermined the

political momentum of the departmental referenda

on regional autonomy, which kicked

off in Santa Cruz on May 4 with votes in Beni

and Pando on June 1 and in Tarija on June 22.

It also drove a wedge within the opposition,

pitting the congressional party PODEMOS

against civic committees and departmental

prefects, who faced the real prospect of

losing their posts. Finally, the recall referendum

is also likely to frame future negotiations

between the government and leaders of parties,

social movements and regional groups.5

Government and Opposition Forces

Who wins and who loses from the August

standoff? The recall referendum is more likely

to polarize the public as well as social and

regional leaders than it is to force or facilitate

a political compromise. The decision by

departmental prefects to call for a boycott of

the recall referendum adds to this impasse.6

The recall vote is also likely to postpone

meaningful political dialogue until the elec-

3 Article 6 and 7 of the Recall Referendum Law describe the

referendum questions. For the President and Vice President,

“¿Usted está de acuerdo con la continuidad del proceso de

cambio liderizado por el Presidente Evo Morales Ayma

y el Vicepresidente Álvaro García Linera?” For prefects,

the question is, “¿Usted está de acuerdo con la continuidad

de las políticas, las acciones y la gestión del Prefecto

del Departamento?”

4 Daniela Espinoza and Marco Zelaya, “Historia secreta del

Referéndum revocatorio,” Pulso 450, May 18, 2008.

5La Razón, May 22, 2008; La Prensa, May 22, 2008; El Deber,

May 22, 2008.

6 La Razon, June 25, 2008; La Prensa, June 25, 2008.

toral process defines who has a seat at the

table. There are, however, regional, social and

political particularities that are worth reviewing.

Chart 1 shows a birds-eye view of social

and political actors in the run-up to the

August referendum.

In the big picture, three issues are salient.

First, there is an “emptying” of the political

middle. While most policy issues have

accommodated a certain degree of consensus

building in the past, the current regional

and ethnic divide over autonomy and the

Constitution suggests there is no common

political arena. Second, although the political

momentum favors the opposition, congressional

and regional opposition groups are

politically fragmented. The civic committees

and prefects are at odds with the congressional

opposition led by PODEMOS. Third,

Chart 1 shows political positioning as things

stood before the recall referendum, but they

are likely to change in the month of August.

The incentives to negotiate before the vote

are very small, but they will likely grow once

the recall referendum is complete.

1.1 Government

President Morales

After the May 4 referendum on autonomy

statutes in Santa Cruz, the president was

facing a “domino effect” of growing legitimacy

for autonomy votes in four departments

between May and July. In this sense, the

recall referendum will provide political space

for the president, both before the referendum

(a truce) and after the referendum (a

renewed mandate). Most opinion polls suggest

the president is likely to win a recall

vote under the current rules.7 What is likely

to be more challenging is changing the balance

of power in renewed talks with prefects,

who will probably campaign vigorously and

become stronger politically in the run-up to

7 Pablo Ortiz, “Encuesta anticipa que Evo y Costas seguirán”,

El Deber, May 23, 2008.

(continued from page 1)

“The recall

referendum is more

likely to polarize the

public as well as social

and regional leaders

than it is to force or

facilitate a political

compromise.”

4 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

the August vote. The ongoing question of

who remains standing as the effective opposition

(regional or congressional) is also likely

to make future talks more difficult.

Vice President García Linera

The vice president has played an important

role as the negotiator of last resort between

political parties and with the regions. His

roundtable talks in February led to a tentative

“roadmap” that included amendments to

the constitution, changes to statutes and a legal

framework for regional and national referenda.

However, those talks broke down in March,

leading to the current impasse. The vice president

initiated a new round of talks in late May

that were postponed in June. Most observers

agree that little or no compromise is likely in

the run-up to the highly polarized recall vote.8

The vice president is likely to play a key role in

the period following the August referendum.

8 Jimena Costa, “¿A quien beneficia el diálogo,” La Razón, May

24, 2008.

The MAS Coalition

The Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) is

likely to galvanize its political base in the runup

to the August referendum, causing two

cleavages within the party to resurface. The

first is the campesino-indigenous cleavage that

emerged in the Constituent Assembly, particularly

after the draft Constitution was

approved in February 2008. Some campesino

leaders, such as Roman Loayza from the

Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores

Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB) are

unhappy with the president and vice president’s

initiative to open up talks on the

contents of the approved draft constitution.

The second cleavage is the regional MAS

constituency. The autonomy process in four

departments is radicalizing the die-hard MAS

constituency in rural areas of Santa Cruz,

Tarija and Pando, which will likely erode support

among more moderate and mostly urban

MAS supporters in the same regions.

“The autonomy

process in four

departments is

radicalizing the

die-hard MAS

constituency in rural

areas, which will likely

erode support among

more moderate and

mostly urban MAS

supporters in the

same regions.”

Chart 1: The Political Map for the Recall Referendum

Source: Own, based on PAPEP PNUD, 2007.

Social and Political Actors

Inter-American Dialogue

George Gray Molina   Working Paper

5

1.2 Opposition

Prefects

On June 24, 2008, the prefects of Santa

Cruz, Tarija, Beni, Pando and Cochabamba,

those most at risk of being recalled, called

for an electoral boycott of the recall referendum.

The decision to hold a referendum took

most prefects by surprise and, in four departments,

distracted political energies from the

task of organizing autonomous departmental

governments. The strength of the prefects

varies by department. On the weak side, the

prefects of Cochabamba (Manfred Reyes

Villa), La Paz ( José Luis Paredes) and perhaps

Oruro (Alberto Padilla), are likely to

have an uphill battle to keep their seats.9 On

the strong side, the prefects of Santa Cruz

(Rubén Costas) and Beni (Ernesto Suarez)

are likely to emerge strengthened by renewed

legitimacy at the ballot box. The prefects of

Pando, Potosí and Tarija are likely to survive

the recall vote, but without as much

momentum as their colleagues in the east-

9 Pulso 451, May 25, 2008.

ern provinces. Overall, the recall vote is likely

to favor the MAS in the western part of the

country but strengthen the opposition in the

south and east.

Civic Committees

The process leading up to the recall vote

includes three departmental referenda on

autonomy statutes between June and July. The

domino effect expected by the opposition

is likely to be overshadowed by the national

recall vote, but will solidify the regional opposition

in time for political negotiations in

a post-referendum setting. Civic committees

have taken on a political aura similar to

social and indigenous movements five years

ago. They are perceived as being the new relevant

actors in the wake of weakened political

parties. Like social and indigenous social

movements, however, they suffer a chronic

democratic deficit on issues of representation:

Who represents the “people” and on what

terms? How are leaders elected? Who drafts

the statutes? Why should this process not be

transparent? Unlike social movements, however,

the civic committees—at least in the

“Civic committees

have taken on a

political aura similar to

social and indigenous

movements five

years ago.”

27

45

37

57

62

40

47

40

9

21

38 38

48

41 42 43

48 48 46 45

80

60

40

Percent

20

0

La Paz El Alto Coch. Oruro Sucre Potosi Cobija S. Cruz Tarija Trinidad

National Disapproval April 2008 12/18/2005 Election Results

Chart 2: Public Opinion Polls of Prefects

Election Results vs. Disapproval of Prefects

Source: CNE, IPSOS Apoyo, January 2008

6 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

course of the regional referenda—have agreed

to devolve power to future elected officials

(departmental councilors and governors.)

Political Parties (PODEMOS, UN and MNR)

With the recall referendum, PODEMOS

took what might be regarded as its last

opportunity to position itself as a key player

in the opposition. The party had been weakened

in the first months of 2008, during the

vice presidential negotiations with political

parties, and been overtaken by civic committee

leaders and prefects as the leaders

of the opposition. To the extent that procedural

agreements are likely to require

congressional approval, PODEMOS, led

by former president Jorge Quiroga, holds a

strong negotiating card because of its majority

in the senate. Weakened and split, it is

still likely to be a key player in the aftermath

of August 10th. The Unidad Nacional (UN)

and Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario

(MNR) had played a critical role in the

Constituent Assembly as negotiators between

the government and opposition, but have

increasingly lost relevance in the current

standoff. The leader of the UN has openly

opposed approval of the new constitution,

and the leader of the MNR has opposed the

recall referendum altogether. Both parties

position themselves as “third-way” alternatives

in the midst of crisis.

1.3 Observers and Potential Mediators

Catholic Church

The Catholic Church is perhaps the most

important player for future negotiations

between the government and the opposition.

The Church has a long track record of

political negotiations in Bolivia and is generally

regarded as the most impartial and

trustworthy arbiter. The recent talks held by

the Church with both sides present were not

aimed at slowing or postponing the regional

referenda, but rather at setting the stage for

future talks on substantive and procedural

issues. Despite recent government comments

to the effect that Cardinal Terrazas was “disqualified

from mediating” because he voted

in the Santa Cruz autonomy referendum, the

Church is likely to play an important role in

any potential political scenario in the future.

OAS and Group of Friends

The Organization of American States

Resolution supporting democratic institutions,

and calling for dialogue and peace in

Bolivia, signed May 3, a day before the Santa

Cruz referendum, was preceded by a number

of missions led by the Secretary General’s

Special Envoy Dante Caputo.10 The OAS

missions focused on the legal and political

consequences of the May 4 referendum

which had been called into question by both

the government and independent analysts

across the country. The OAS envoy called for

meetings between the government and the

opposition, but regional and congressional

resistance to the OAS mandate ratified the

existing stalemate. Besides the OAS, the delegates

representing three countries, the “Group

of Friends” (Brazil, Argentina and Colombia),

also held high-level meetings in the run-up

to the Santa Cruz referendum. The Group

of Friends has been requested to return to

Bolivia to help bring key stakeholders back

to the table and is included in the tentative

agreements released by Vice President García

Linera and three political parties on May 23.

2. How Did Bolivia Get Here?

Evo Morales’ landslide electoral victory in

December 2005 was based on a broad coalition

of campesino, indigenous and urban

middle-class voters. With 54 percent of the

popular vote, the Movimiento al Socialismo

transformed the social and political landscape.

The traditional political parties of the

1980s and 1990s—Movimiento Nacionalista

10 OAS Resolution, “Respaldo a la institucionalidad

democrática, al diálogo y La Paz de Bolivia.” CP/RES. 935

(1648/08), May 3, 2008.

“The Catholic

Church is perhaps the

most important player

for future negotiations

between the government

and the opposition.”

Inter-American Dialogue

George Gray Molina   Working Paper

7

Revolucionario (MNR), Movimiento de la

Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR) and Acción

Democrática Nacionalista (ADN)—as well

as offshoots of the traditional parties—Unidad

Nacional (UN) and Poder Democrático

y Social (PODEMOS)—earned less than a

third of all votes. With over 100 parliamentarians

out of a total of 157 and the support

of some of the most vocal social movements

in the country, the Morales administration

began its term with the highest level of

public support for any government in the

democratic era.

Despite a broad mandate for change, the past

two years have seen a return of social and

political polarization. Three factors frame

the current political impasse. The first has to

do with procedural and substantive disagreements

over the political rules of the game that

guided the Constituent Assembly, autonomy

votes and recall referenda. The second factor

has to do with the content and process

of public policy in the first two years of the

Morales administration. Key measures hinge

on the nationalization of hydrocarbons, use of

fiscal resources and intergovernmental relations,

all of which heightened polarization.

The third factor is international. Bolivia has

played an ambivalent role in the international

arena. On some issues, the Bolivian government

has aligned itself with political allies in

Venezuela or Ecuador, including membership

in UNASUR (Union of South American

Nations), Andean Community-European

Union negotiations, and OAS votes. On

others, however, particularly Chile-Bolivia

relations and gas negotiations with Argentina

and Brazil, Evo Morales has shown some

independence. Each of these factors is

reviewed in the following three sections.

2.1 Polarized Rules of the Game

The current standoff was preceded by a relatively

protracted social and political impasse

over the rules of the game guiding political

change in the country. The discrediting

of traditional political parties after the 2005

elections left the political system with a new

modus operandi, less reliant on democracia

pactada (a closed, prearranged democratic

system) and more dependent on a zerosum

game of political positioning. The new

approach has, as suggested by many observers,

relied on a peculiar mix of democratic institutions

and social and regional movements on

the streets.11 A typical political negotiation

is a three-act drama. First, there are shows of

strength from social and regional movements

on the streets, followed by forced negotiation

and then a continued postponement of substantive

agreements on the issues of the day

(land, autonomies, constitution, and intergovernmental

relations, among others). The

consequences of this process include both a

devaluation of democratic procedures and a

weakening of public debate on policy issues.

Chart 3 shows a political roadmap leading

up to the current stalemate. Perhaps the

most significant impasse on procedural issues

was the two-thirds majority rule for constitutional

approval. The two-thirds majority rule

was included in the compromise law of March

2006 that convoked the Constituent Assembly.

It was meant as a safeguard that would force

negotiations between all parties in the assembly

and deliver a majority report that could be

submitted to referendum approval at the end

of the process. As deadlines expired in June

and July 2007, opposition parties denounced

their exclusion from both majority and minority

reports in many commissions. A crisis over

the procedural rules ensued.

The two-thirds rule was interpreted by the

MAS as being relevant only for the final

constitutional text and not the commission

reports. Most legal analysts agreed that the

11 Fernando Calderón and Eduardo Gamarra, “Crisis Inflexión y

Reforma del Sistema de Partidos en Bolivia.” Cuaderno de Futuro,

Vol. 19, 2004, Informe Sobre Desarrollo Humano, PNUD (2004)

discusses this mix of mechanisms in the 2000-2003 crisis period.

“Despite a broad

mandate for change,

the past two years

have seen a return of

social and political

polarization.”

8 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

MAS interpretation was politically biased.12

As the August 6 deadline approached, both

sides decided to draft a new law extending

the Assembly’s mandate 90 days, until

December. The new law explicitly included

the two-thirds majority rule but also included

a two-step referendum rule that implicitly

made the majority rule moot. The entry referendum

would consider dissensus questions on

the final text, but that meant possibly submitting

an entire constitutional text (minority or

majority) for approval. The exit referendum

would ratify the whole text.

As the extension expired in December, conflict

erupted in Sucre over the issue of the

capital city, which drove a wedge within

the MAS but did not ultimately become a

national issue. As police clashed with university

students, leaving two dead on November

3, 2007, the Assembly approved a general

version of the constitutional text, which postponed

detailed treatment until February 2008

in the city of Oruro. Both approvals were

12 Rubens Barbery Knaudt, “¿Por que los 2/3?,” Los Tiempos,

December 8, 2006; Jorge V. Ordenes, “Los dos tercios,” Los

Tiempos, December 26, 2006.

done in the absence of the political opposition,

despite overtures by the UN and MNR

to sign a compromise text. The Oruro session

approved not only the draft text but also

a dissensus question for the entry referendum.

As things stand today, both the entry and exit

referendum are on hold.

The second impasse involved the referenda

for the approval of autonomous statutes for

Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando, departments

that voted in favor of autonomy in July

2006. The autonomy question was initially

part of the Constituent Assembly debate.

The Commission on autonomies delivered

majority and minority reports that recognized

departmental autonomy, but also recognized

municipal, regional and indigenous autonomies.

The watering down of the Santa Cruz

proposal was perceived as threatening the

roadmap laid out in the cabildos (meetings) of

2006 and 2007. Various rounds of negotiations

led by President Morales in January and

by Vice President García Linera in February

failed to either bridge the gap between the

draft constitution and statutes or to pro-

“Various rounds

of negotiations led

by Morales and

García Linera failed

to either bridge the

gap between the

draft constitution and

statutes or to provide

a legal framework

that might deal with

both issues.”

Chart 3: President Morales’ Approval Ratings

Source: Author, based on Equipos Mori 2008

Polarization Roadmap

Inter-American Dialogue

George Gray Molina   Working Paper

9

vide a legal framework that might deal with

both issues.

The regions called for departmental referenda

that would reposition their demands

on a national level. The first referendum vote

in Santa Cruz ratified the “yes” agenda with

85.4 percent of valid votes and a 37.9 percent

abstention rate, some 15 percentage points

above the average rates in past elections.13 The

referendum effort encountered resistance in

rural areas of Santa Cruz and poorer neighborhoods

in the city, including incidents of

violence and burning ballot boxes. On balance,

however, the Santa Cruz referendum shifted

the political momentum decisively towards the

regional agenda. Prefects and civic committees

were expected to sit down at a negotiation

table with the government only after the last

regional referenda was held in Tarija in July.

Most analysts agree that the departmental

referenda and the resulting statutes are

illegal under the current constitution.14 In

what has become a political battlefield for

electoral legitimacy, the National Electoral

Court refused to recognize the results in the

regions as official. The Santa Cruz Electoral

Court presided over the referendum, causing

a schism in the Court. The courts of

Beni, Pando and Tarija followed Santa Cruz

in defying the national court. The legality

of both the regional referenda and the

approval of the new constitutional text reveal

weaknesses in the constitutional and electoral

oversight institutions, which leads to the

appointments problem.

13 For an analysis of abstention rates in past Bolivian elections,

see Corte Departamental Electoral de Santa Cruz, http://www.

corteelectoralsc.com/computo2008/; Salvador Romero, Geografía

Electoral de Bolivia, 3rd Edition. La Paz: Fundemos, 2003.

14 Carlos Bohrt Irahola, et al. Puentes para un diálogo democrático

Proyectos de Constitución y Estatutos: compatibilidades y diferencias.

La Paz: FES, 2008; Súbelas Barrios and Franz Xavier, “Hacia

un Pacto territorial en Bolivia Conflictos, Conceptos, Consensos

en torno a las autonomías,” working paper, La Paz: PAPEPPNUD;

La Prensa, “Constitucionalistas observan el referéndum

de Santa Cruz,” February 14, 2008.

The third impasse involves a lack of agreement

on appointing judges and clerks to the

Constitutional Tribunal and the National

Electoral Court. The Constitutional Tribunal,

which plays a key role in a highly contested

political atmosphere, is currently paralyzed

due to a lack of judges. Congress must

appoint four new judges to complete a fivejudge

court. The Tribunal suspended work

months ago, closing 2,313 cases involving

15,438 people, so far. The key decisions, of

course, relate to the Constituent Assembly

and referenda. The Tribunal is only part of a

larger paralysis in judicial reform, which also

requires political compromise.15

Something similar is happening with the

National Electoral Court, which is working

even though it has only three officials

out of five, one of whom is the presidential

appointee. The impasse over Court appointments

and the accusations of partiality with

the government are likely to affect the August

referendum results.16 A decisive MAS victory

will see regional accusations against the

national court, while a decisive regional victory

will see accusations from the government

against the regional courts. This is especially

sensitive because the electoral schedule is the

only process currently agreed upon by government

and opposition.

2.2 An Eclectic Policy Agenda17

In addition to political procedures, policy substance

is also a wedge issue, despite the fact

that the democratic revolution proclaimed by

Evo Morales in his electoral campaign led to

a rather moderate policy agenda, described

in the National Development Plan (NDP)

15 Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé, “Presupuesto Judicial y Justicia

de Paz,” La Razón, May 20, 2008; Tribunal Constitucional,

“Declaración del Tribunal Constitucional al pueblo de Bolivia,”

May 17, 2008.

16 Jorge Lazarte, “En duda imparcialidad de nueve vocales electorales,”

Los Tiempos, April 13, 2008.

17 This section is based on George Gray Molina, “The Post-

Neoliberal Challenge in Bolivia.” Paper presented at the

University of Texas-Austin, February 2008.

“Questions about

the legality of both the

regional referenda and

the approval of the

new constitutional text

reveal weaknesses in

Bolivia’s constitutional

and electoral oversight

institutions.”

10 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

in June 2006. The NDP was the first official

document to dissect policy design and implementation

issues, and propose a roadmap for

social, economic and political change. The

Ministry of Development Planning drafted

the document and coordinated discussions

within the government and with civil society

groups throughout 2006. Reactions to the document

were mixed. Opposition analysts from

the right described it as a “nostalgic return to

the past” and “ready for the garbage can of

good intentions.”18 Sympathetic analysts from

the left saw it is a “watered down development

program” tainted by the “continuation of failed

neoliberal policies of the past.”19

Two aspects of the NDP are worth underlining,

as they relate to decisions that were

eventually taken in the economic and social

policy arena. First, the NDP is a relatively

eclectic development plan, one that borrows

freely from dependency theory, indigenous

multiculturalism, social-democratic protection

policies and neoliberal monetary and

exchange rate policy. The plan underscores

the need to “change the primary-export

pattern of development” inherited from

a neocolonial and neoliberal past.20 The

policy record is described in terms of a relatively

coherent succession of development

stages, cushioned by the whims of international

donors and academic fashion. Social

protection initiatives emerged in the 1980s,

followed by human development policies in

the mid-1980s, extended to poverty reduction

targets in the 1990s, and complemented by

the Millennium Development Goals at the

dawn of the new century.

Second, the NDP focuses specifically on

hydrocarbons and anticipates the nationalization

policies of 2006. The role of natural gas

is strategic, perhaps the cornerstone of the

18 Milenio 2006 and Oporto 2006

19 CEDLA 2006 and Orellana 2006

20 Government of Bolivia, 2006.

new development agenda. Paradoxically, the

focus on gas and hydrocarbons runs against

the grain of “changing the primary-export

pattern of development.” The key imperative,

it would seem, is to diversify the sources of

exports and improve labor and environmental

standards to compete, not based on cheap

labor and plentiful natural resources, but on

high value-added, increased productivity and

fair livelihood conditions. In the course of

two years, one strategic objective (increasing

state participation in hydrocarbons) has

tended to overshadow the other, admittedly,

more important objective (changing the primary-

export pattern of development). The

implementation of the plan has revealed tensions

between “changing the model” and

“changing the pattern” of development.

Beyond the ins and outs of the NDP, an evaluation

of the sequence of policy decisions and

actions taken in the first two years of government

is important. Between 2006 and

2008, the Morales administration achieved

a number of the objectives described in the

government plan in a three-part sequence.

First, they increased government control

over hydrocarbon revenues in 2006. Second,

they increased public investment, both centralized

and decentralized, in 2007. Third,

they scaled up existing social transfer mechanisms

for children and the elderly (through

the Bono Juancito Pinto and Renta Dignidad

programs, respectively) in late 2007 and early

2008. The policy actions that were taken,

however, draw attention to the limitations

faced by the Morales administration, particularly

its weak administrative capacity and

need to show tangible results.

The Nationalization Agenda

The nationalization of Bolivian natural gas

was achieved in two different administrations,

with a law approved during the Mesa

administration in July 2005 (Law 3058) and

a decree passed by the Morales administration

in May 2006 (Decree 28701). Neither

“Social policy

programs draw attention

to the limitations

faced by the Morales

administration,

particularly its weak

administrative capacity

and need to show

tangible results.”

Inter-American Dialogue

George Gray Molina   Working Paper

11

legal instrument nationalizes in the conventional

or historical sense—via expropriation

or changes in property rights. Both measures

increased the government take by an

order of magnitude—Law 3058 raised government

participation from 18 percent to 50

percent of production value while Decree

28701 bumped this to up to 82 percent—and

the nationalization decree included a renegotiation

of contracts with close to a dozen

multinational companies. Taken together,

however, they represent a pendulum swing

back to the past. This is the third time that

the Bolivian state nationalized hydrocarbons

over the past century. The two previous occasions

involved Standard Oil in 1937 and Gulf

Oil in 1969.

Two aspects of the nationalization process are

worth considering in closer detail. The first

is the new structure of government revenue.

Government participation in hydrocarbons

has four sources: the first is an 18 percent royalty

over the value of production; the second

is a 32 percent Direct Hydrocarbons Tax; the

third is a payment to YPFB (Bolivia’s national

hydrocarbon company) of recoverable costs,

negotiated on a contract-by-contract basis; and

the fourth is the distribution of the remainder

as shared utilities between YPFB and the

operator, based on a formula that accounts for

new and depreciated capital investments, the

price of natural gas and volumes of production.

21 Under the new contracts, government

take fluctuates between 67 percent of gross

production value (at $1 dollar per million

BTUs) and up to 75 percent of gross production

value (if prices reach $4.5 dollars per

million BTUs).22 Under the new contractual

terms, hydrocarbons operators pay a little more

than the 50 percent negotiated in Law 3058

and a little less than the 82 percent included in

Decree 28701.

21 Medinacelli 2007a

22 Medinacelli 2007b

The second aspect is the content of the new

contracts signed by multinational corporations

in April 2007, on a contract-by-contract basis.

The new agreements are hybrids that combine

elements of shared production and operational

contracts with YPFB.23 Government

participation conditions are similar to those

signed in Peru, whereby the government enters

once private companies recover their operational

costs and capital investments. This

provision has been seen as a loophole in the

nationalization process because it removes

risk from multinational companies in future

investment decisions.24

The increase in government involvement and

new contracts has had at least two positive

and three negative impacts over time. The

first positive effect is that due to extraordinary

increases in prices and better bilateral

negotiation prices with Argentina and Brazil,

Bolivian gross domestic product topped

the $10 billion mark in 2007, over $2 billion

of which came from the hydrocarbons

sector. The second positive effect is a significant

increase in government revenues from

the hydrocarbons sector, reaching $967 million

dollars in 2007, about twice the size of

total foreign aid (donations and credit) in

the country.

On the downside, the “price effect” of exports

weighs more heavily than the “production

effect” in explaining additional export revenues.

In 2006, average prices were 5.4 times

greater than prices eight years earlier and

three times greater than three years earlier.

Second, the gas sector in Bolivia has become

more uncertain with respect to new investments

in exploration and higher export

volumes. This has been evident in the 2008

negotiations with Brazil and Argentina

regarding Bolivia’s inability to fulfill existing

contracts. Third, to the extent that the global

gas market is expanding, Bolivia needs to look

23 Zaratti 2007

24 Medinacelli 2007b

“Bolivia needs

to look beyond the

regional gas market,

at the Pacific basin in

particular, as a way to

improve its leverage

over competitors in

Latin America.”

12 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

beyond the regional market, at the Pacific

basin in particular, as a way to improve its

leverage over competitors in Latin America.

Social Transfers and Public Investment

Additional revenues from hydrocarbons and

mining taxation finance two conditional

cash transfer programs to school-age children

( Juancito Pinto) and the elderly (Renta

Dignidad), which account for over $230

million, approximately 2 percent of gross

domestic product in 2007. The transfers reach

over 1,300,000 children and approximately

730,000 men and women over the age of 65.

While the Juancito Pinto program is modeled

after the Bono Escuela program of the

city of El Alto and similar programs in Brazil

called Bolsa Familia and in Mexico Progresa,

the Renta Dignidad is an expansion of the

Bonosol payment implemented with the capitalization

of public companies in Bolivia in

the 1990s. The difference with the Bonosol is

the source of payment. For nine years it was

funded by utilities from capitalized companies

and from internal debt but now is paid

for with hydrocarbons taxes and royalty payments

to the regions.

The Juancito Pinto payment, in place

since November 2006, has been designed

to increase school attendance and reduce

dropout rates. In 2007, 1,300,000 children

enrolled in public schools from first

through sixth grade, in addition to children

under 11 years of age in alternative or technical

education schools as well as children

and adolescents enrolled in special education

programs. Each child receives an annual

payment of 200 bolivianos (about $26), subject

to an annual confirmation that the child

is attending school. The sources of payment

are three: 53 percent is financed by YPFB,

33 percent by the Treasury and 13 percent

by COMIBOL (Bolivia’s state mining company).

The total annual cost of the Juancito

Pinto payment is $39 million.

The Renta Dignidad is an annual payment

to 600,000 Bolivians over the age of 65 and

who have no retirement income, plus an additional

130,000 Bolivians who do receive a

pension. The amount paid to those without

retirement income is 2,400 bolivianos (about

$320) while the amount paid to salaried retirees

is 1,800 bolivianos (about $240). The

source of the payments is highly disputed:

in 2008, it amounts to about $55.6 million

paid by the prefectures and $134.4 million

by the treasury, municipalities, universities

and capitalized enterprises. The deduction

of prefectural funds has been contested by

civic committees and prefects who argue it

amounts to a 38 percent reduction in their

IDH (direct hydrocarbon tax) transfers, about

8 percent of their total funds.

Beyond transfers, public investment has

increased significantly over the past two years,

rising from $629 million in 2005 to $1,103

million in 2007. Most of the new funds have

been spent on roads and other infrastructure,

totaling close to 60 percent of total

investments in 2007. Social investment has

decreased over this period to less than 30 percent

of total investments in 2007. While the

public investment boom has had a multiplier

effect on construction, services and transportation,

there is still a healthy debate over how

and where public investment projects increase

long-run competitiveness, human development

capabilities and create the conditions

for better jobs. Much of the decentralization

agenda focuses on this issue, at both the local

and departmental level.

A 2007 simulation by the United Nations

Development Program estimated the longterm

impact of the current distribution of

hydrocarbons taxes and royalties over time.

Given the uneven distribution of current

revenues (departments like Pando receive

on average seven times the per capita funding

of Oruro), the human development gap

between the richest and poorest departments

“The human

development gap

between the richest and

poorest departments

in Bolivia will increase

rather than decrease

until 2015.”

Inter-American Dialogue

George Gray Molina   Working Paper

13

will increase rather than decrease until 2015.

This delay will push back the achievement

of the poverty, health, water and sanitation

Millennium Development Goals by close

to a decade. The inertia of past policies and

rent redistribution has not been overcome in

the current debate over decentralization and

fiscal revenues.

2.3 Ambiguous International Relations

Bolivian foreign policy has moved between

alignment positions with like-minded governments

in the region and pragmatic negotiations

with trading partners in the southern cone.

The alignment strategy has focused mainly on

US-Bolivian relations, the European Union-

Andean Community talks and most recently,

UNASUR. The pragmatic strategy has worked

in talks with Argentina and Brazil on natural

gas, and with Chile on an array of bilateral

agreements. This ambiguous stance has

strengthened the perception that foreign policy

is not particularly consistent. While international

relations in Bolivia are an occasional

battlefield for domestic politics, they are mostly

ignored in the current political standoff.

European Union—Andean Community

Trade Talks

The round of talks between the European

Union and the Andean Community ended

with an agreement to adopt “flexible” negotiations,

creating space for dissensus from

Ecuador and Bolivia. Both countries have

observed the need for a more open discussion

on intellectual property rights,

investment rules and environmental and

labor standards. The official Bolivian position

of not signing a free trade agreement

with the EU was again ratified at the Fifth

EU-CAN Summit in Lima.25 With the

expiration of the extension of Andean trade

preferences with the US later this year, both

countries will be hard pressed to develop

25 Peru 21, “Bolivia y Ecuador no irán a un TLC con la UE,”

May 19, 2008.

alternative markets and take advantage

of preferential tariff policies with the US

and EU. With the meager level of current

exports to the EU and to the US, Bolivia has

more to gain by expanding markets over the

next few months.

Gas Negotiations with Brazil and Argentina

Despite the failure to reach an agreement on

natural gas provision to Argentina and Brazil

in February 2008, the negotiations between

the three presidents were framed by a pragmatic

calculation on how to move volumes

of committed gas from Brazil to Argentina.

Bolivia currently exports between 27 and

29 million cubic meters a day to Brazil but

only about 3 million cubic meters a day to

Argentina. Both export levels are short of the

30 million pledged to Brazil and the 7 million

pledged to Argentina in the renegotiated contracts

of 2006.26 Despite an announcement of

$1.2 billion for 2008, private investment is at

its lowest level in over a decade.27 The most

recent figures for 2007 were $164 million

in total private investment, just a fraction of

which was made in the hydrocarbons sector.

Bilateral Talks with Chile

On May 17, Presidents Morales and Bachelet

met in Lima to discuss a 13-point agenda on

trade and other bilateral issues. The meeting

marked a high point between the two countries,

what President Morales described as “a

trust-building phase” in their bilateral relations.

28 What is significant about the bilateral

talks is a pragmatic turn in what in Bolivia

are regarded as the country’s most sensitive

diplomatic relations. This new phase contrasts

with past ups and downs that led to the

26 Reuters, “Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia Fail to Find Gas

Solution,” February 23, 2008.

27 Boletín YPFB, “YPFB logra millonaria inversión petrolera

para el 2008,” January 8, 2008.

28 Radio U de Chile, “Bachelet y Morales revisaron en privado

una agenda bilateral,” May 18, 2008.

“What is significant

about the bilateral

talks with Chile is

the pragmatic turn

in what are regarded

as Bolivia’s most

sensitive diplomatic

relations.”

14 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

removal of two Bolivian consuls in Santiago

over a 12-month period. In recent months,

the goodwill between Morales and Bachelet

has spilled over into closer relations between

the foreign services and armed forces of

the countries.

3. Three Political Scenarios

The “long and winding road” leading to

political agreement in Bolivia does not end

on August 10. The most realistic chance for

a compromise that addresses regional and

social conflict is only likely to happen after

the recall referendum. What kinds of political

scenarios are being discussed in Bolivia

today? Three would seem to dominate the

current discussion, each with a particular set

of assumptions, balances of power and consequences

for the future. The first is a “nothing

happens” scenario that simply postpones

critical procedural and substantive political

negotiations. The second is a “second wind”

scenario for President Morales, in which he

strengthens his presidential base and weakens

the regional balance of power at the same

time. Finally, a “disruption” scenario in which

the recall referendum either does not happen

for a lack of minimum political agreement, or

takes place in a situation of social and political

violence.

Scenario One: Nothing Happens

The “nothing happens” scenario is the current

favorite in the Bolivian press and among

political commentators.29 The key assumption

is that the recall referendum is aimed at

solving the wrong problem. The important

issues of the day have less to do with regional

or national legitimacy and more to do with

the capacity to strike a deal, a compromise

or a set of procedural rules that allow government

and opposition to agree to disagree.

29 Horst Grebe López, “Entre diálogos, urnas y movilizaciones,”

Nueva Crónica y Buen Gobierno, Vol. 16, La Paz: Prisma y Plural

Editores, 2008; Joan Prats, “Revocatoria de mandato, democracia

y autonomía.” Nueva Crónica y Buen Gobierno, Vol. 16, La

Paz: Prisma y Plural Editores, 2008.

Under this scenario, the recall referendum

favors neither the MAS nor the regional

opposition, with the odd exceptions being

Cochabamba and La Paz. The new balance of

power would maintain President Morales in

power, along with four of the current opposition

prefects, with no substantial changes

from the February 2008 meetings. There are,

however, two consequences of the nothing

happens scenario. The first is that mediators,

both internal and external, are likely to play a

crucial role in sitting the key stakeholders at

the table and hammering out an agreement

on procedures or substance. The absence of

a “tie-breaker” will simply deepen the current

political divide. The Catholic Church,

OAS or Group of Friends observers might

be called into play. The second consequence

is that under this scenario, the likely matter

of agreement will not be substantive but

procedural. This might include an agreement

on the legal way forward to make the draft

constitution and the statutes compatible, but

might fall short of that and focus on the rules

for approving the draft constitution and calling

for general elections over the 2009 to

2010 period. If the past is any guide, no substantive

agreement is likely to occur under the

existing regional and social balance of power.

Scenario Two: A Second Wind for

President Morales

The “second wind” scenario assumes both

that President Morales wins by more than

54 percent on August 10 (although he

is only required to win by 46 percent to

remain in office) and that the results in

Tarija, Cochabamba and La Paz, and perhaps

Pando, tip the regional balance towards

the MAS.30 In this scenario, a “new” balance

would threaten the unity of the media luna

(southern and eastern departments) and isolate

the autonomy supporters. This would be

a highly volatile setting for Santa Cruz, possibly

heightening tensions on land and regional

30 Pulso 451, May 25, 2008.

“If the past is any

guide, no substantive

agreement is likely to

occur under the existing

regional and social

balance of power.”

Inter-American Dialogue

George Gray Molina   Working Paper

15

government issues. Two consequences also

follow from this scenario. The first is that a

MAS victory would likely alter the future

political roadmap. The MAS would be in a

position to push forward with a constitutional

ratification referendum, rather than negotiate

with the opposition on pending issues.

This is also likely to further polarize social

and regional actors. The second consequence

is that the leadership of the opposition would

likely shift back to Congress. A weakened

regional opposition would be undermined

by a resurgent PODEMOS, MNR and UN.

A congressional opposition would presumably

be more responsive to political negotiations

than a regional opposition.

Scenario Three: Disruption

In order for a “discruption” scenario to materialize,

certain conditions must be met.

The first is that the opposition succeeds in

fomenting a political crisis over the legality

of the recall referendum and the National

Electoral Court and Constitutional Tribunal

appointments before August. By questioning

the legitimacy of the Court, the opposition

would effectively force a new political

deadlock. The second assumption is that

social tensions rise, leading to violent conflict

en route to the recall referendum. The

violent confrontations between regional

and campesino movements on referendum

day in Santa Cruz (May 2008); among university

students, campesinos, the police and

military in Sucre (November 2007 and May

2008); and between campesinos and university

students in Cochabamba ( January 2007),

suggests a dangerous escalation of social and

political violence.

The possibility of not reaching the August referendum

puts a premium on domestic and

international mediation and observers. In the

past, the way out of a crisis situation has been

to agree on new general elections. This was the

case in 2005 and in 1985. Even in this unlikely

scenario, however, basic agreements on the

National Electoral Court and Constitutional

Tribunal are needed. This brings us back to the

nothing happens scenario.

4. Is There a Way Back to Legality?

Is there a way out of the current political

impasse in Bolivia? In 2005, Vice President

García Linera coined the term empate

catastrófico (catastrophic stalemate) to describe

the political scenario that was dividing the

country along regional and class lines. 31 The

difficulty of the current political situation is

compounded by a sense of fatigue with talks,

dialogues and negotiations that have not produced

results. Despite the sense of pessimism

among political actors, all is not lost. Social

and regional actors continue to communicate

with each other and are amazingly resilient

in spite of conflict, polarization and waning

public support.

I would like to end this essay by outlining

a way back to legality for the government

and opposition. Most political players realize

there is an urgent need to reach an accord,

even if this only involves agreeing to disagree.

Recent violence in Bolivia suggests that the

legality issue is no longer a matter of merely

“bending the rules.” It has become an obstacle

to advancing a progressive political agenda on

the left of the political spectrum and is beginning

to impede the observance of democratic

politics on the right.

From the government’s point of view, a

return to legality requires two things: first,

agreeing to impartial appointments to

the Constitutional Tribunal and National

Electoral Court. Without unbiased nominations,

no conceivable roadmap will hold,

either on legal or political grounds. The second

condition for a return to legality is

amending the new constitutional text to cor-

31 Pablo Stephanoni, “Empate catastrófico en Bolivia: sin

avances en la Asamblea Constituyente,” Le Monde Diplomatique,

October 24, 2007.

“Most political

players realize there is

an urgent need to reach

an accord, even if this

only involves agreeing

to disagree.”

16 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

rect the dubious procedures of Sucre and

Oruro and to legalize the “autonomy question.”

To avoid the messy issue of illegal

statutes and departmental referenda, the government

must explicitly insert a constitutional

clause that validates the hundreds of thousands

of legitimate but illegal votes cast in the

four departmental referenda.

This would likely involve an extraordinary

session of the Constituent Assembly or of

Congress that included the two-thirds quorum

rule and a broad agreement on the

constitutional referendum approval procedures.

From the government’s point of

view, this means taking two steps backward

to secure approval of a new—and widely

awaited—constitution. It also means not

conditioning all hopes for social progress on

commanding a hegemonic political majority.

Besides political power, there are dozens

of arenas of social and economic transformation

that can serve progressive change from

the left—including jobs policies, social protection,

affirmative action and other arenas

where action is badly needed.

From the opposition’s point of view, a move

towards legality also means taking two steps

backward. The first is to observe the binding

decisions of a new Constitutional Tribunal,

which would likely rule against the legality

of the departmental referenda and autonomy

statutes. This would allow enough breathing

room for more substantive talks on the

new constitutional text. The second step is

to recognize President Morales’s full democratic

term and work within the framework

of the Bolivian Constitution to reach future

agreements. Recent violence from irregular

groups (such as the Union Juvenil

Crucenista and other regional offshoots)

needs to be controlled and denounced by

the democratic opposition. From the opposition’s

point of view, these sacrifices could

lead to the greater good of a constitutional

route to a new regional autonomy arrangement

in Bolivia. This would be an unexpected

but very significant political gain from the

protracted conflict.

The current political players can broker a

return to legality. Most agree that a hegemonic

political solution is not possible in

Bolivia today. Most also concur that both the

indigenous rights and autonomy agendas are

here to stay. This certainly postpones a resolution

of many important issues but allows

the government and opposition to assess how

to make their case to the Bolivian people

on firmer ground. Fortunately, Bolivian history

suggests that reaching the abyss is often

just the starting point of a new period of

political compromise.

“Besides political

power, there are

dozens of arenas of

social and economic

transformation that

can serve progressive

change from

the left.”

Inter-American Dialogue

George Gray Molina   Working Paper

17

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Alarcón, Carlos. “Estatutos autonómicos en

levitación,” La Razón, February 26, 2008.

Barbery Knaudt, Rubens. “¿Por que los 2/3?.”

Los Tiempos, December 8, 2006.

Barrios Súbelas, Franz Xavier. “Hacia

un Pacto territorial en Bolivia Conflictos,

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18 Bolivia’s Long and Winding Road

Working Paper Series

For other testimonies and articles on the Andean Region please visit the Dialogue’s web site:

www.thedialogue.org.

Inter-American Dialogue Publications on Colombia and the Andean Region

Task Force Report

Toward Greater Peace and Security in

Colombia: Forging a Constructive U.S. Policy.

The Report of an Independent Task Force

Sponsored by the Council on Foreign

Relations and the Inter-American Dialogue.

Bob Graham and Brent Scowcroft,

Co-Chairs. October 2000.

Published Testimony

“Colombia’s Security Predicament and

Opportunities for Peace: Guidelines for U.S.

Policy,” by Michael Shifter. September 1998.

“Ending the Conflict with the FARC:

Time for a New Course,” by Antonio Navarro

Wolff. January 2007.

“Petropolitics in Latin America: A Review

of Energy Policy and Regional Relations,”

by Genaro Arriagada. December 2006.

“A New Uribe? Álvaro Uribe’s Second-Term

Challenges,” by Rodrigo Pardo. November

2006.

“The Military and Politics in the Andean

Region,” by Carlos Basombrío Iglesias.

April 2006.

“Towards Greater ‘Human Security’ and

Peace in Colombia,” by Michael Shifter.

July 2005.

“The Colombian Conflict and the Risk of a

Regional Human Rights and Humanitarian

Crisis,” by César Montúfar. July 2005.

“Europe and the Colombian Conflict,”

by Sabine Kurtenbach. June 2005.

“State, Drug Policy, and Democracy in the

Andes,” by Eduardo A. Gamarra. June 2005.

“Turning Point in Colombia? A Rapporteur’s

Report of the Colombia Working Group,”

by Vinay Jawahar. June 2004.

“Álvaro Uribe: Dissident,” by Fernando

Cepeda Ulloa. August 2003.

“A New Approach: Álvaro Uribe’s

Democratic Security Project,” by

Eduardo Pizarro Leongómez. July 2003.

“‘Doing Something’ in Colombia,”

by Eduardo Posada Carbó. August 2002.

“The Prospects for Peace in Colombia:

Lessons from Recent Experience,”

by Rafael Pardo Rueda. July 2002.

“Colombia: Negotiate, But What?”

by Joaquín Villalobos. June 2002.

“Reflections on the Colombian Conflict:

A Rapporteur’s Report of the Colombia

Working Group,” by Daniel Mack and

Victoria Wigodzky. June 2002.

Inter-American Dialogue

Board Of Directors

Carla A. Hills, Co-Chair, United States

Ricardo Lagos, Co-Chair, Chile

Peter D. Bell, Co-Vice Chair, United States

Enrique Iglesias, Co-Vice Chair, Uruguay

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil

David de Ferranti, United States

William L. Friend, United States

Francis Fukuyama, United States

L. Enrique García, Bolivia

Donna J. Hrinak, United States

Yolanda Kakabadse, Ecuador

Jim Kolbe, United States

Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., United States

Barbara J. McDougall, Canada

Thomas F. McLarty III, United States

M. Peter McPherson, United States

Billie Miller, Barbados

Sonia Picado, Costa Rica

Jorge Quiroga, Bolivia

Jesús Silva-Herzog, Mexico

Eduardo Stein, Guatemala

Elena Viyella de Paliza, Dominican Republic

Peter Hakim

President

The Inter-American Dialogue is the leading U.S. center for policy analysis, exchange,

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leaders. Twelve Dialogue members served as presidents of their countries and

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of the Dialogue’s members and participants in our other leadership networks and

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Since 1982—through successive Republican and Democratic administrations and

many changes of leadership elsewhere in the hemisphere—the Dialogue has helped

shape the agenda of issues and choices in inter-American relations.

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Inter-American Dialogue

 

Con nuestros votos imbéciles

JAVIER MARÍAS 06/07/2008

Uno de los mayores peligros de nuestro tiempo es el contagio, al que estamos expuestos más que nunca –en seguida sabemos lo que ocurre en cualquier parte del mundo y podemos copiarlo–, y en unas sociedades en las que, además, nadie tiene el menor reparo en incurrir en el mimetismo. Y a nadie, desde luego, le compensa ser original e imaginativo, porque resulta muy costoso ir contracorriente. Es el nuestro un tiempo pesado y totalitario y abrumador, al que cada vez se hace más difícil oponer resistencia. Y así, las llamadas “tendencias” se convierten a menudo en tiranías.

Una muestra reciente de esta rendición permanente ha sido la aprobación por aplastante mayoría, en el Parlamento Europeo, de la “directiva de retorno” para los inmigrantes ilegales. Es ésta una directiva repugnante, llena de cinismo y falta de escrúpulos, que a muchos europeos –pero ay, no a los bastantes– nos ha hecho sentir vergüenza de pertenecer a este continente. Como si se tratara de una parodia de Chaplin o Lubitsch, el ponente y promotor de dicha directiva ha sido un eurodiputado alemán del Partido Popular Europeo, Manfred Weber, que apareció en televisión muy ufano de su vileza y vestido de tirolés, cuan¬¬do a nadie se le oculta qué clase de gente se viste así, todavía, en su país y en Austria. A este individuo grotesco le han dado la razón y sus votos no sólo sus correligionarios franceses (a las órdenes de Sarkozy), italianos (a las de Berlusconi, Bossi y Fini, notorios e indisimulados racistas), polacos (a las de los nacional-católicos gemelos Kaczynski), españoles (a las de Rajoy y sus flamantes “moderados”) y demás, sino también un buen puñado de eurodiputados socialistas, incluidos dieciséis de los diecinueve que España tiene en la Cámara (a las órdenes de Zapatero). Yo no sé con qué cara se atreverán el Gobierno y el PSOE, a partir de ahora, a proclamarse justos y democráticos y humanitarios, puesto que con sus votos propugnan que se “retenga” durante año y medio –año y medio– a un inmigrante ilegal cuyo único delito haya sido entrar clandestinamente en un país europeo huyendo del hambre, la guerra y la desesperación. Y asimismo propugna que los menores puedan ser enviados sin garantías a cualquier país, aunque no sea el suyo de origen. Todos sabemos lo que espera a esos críos: en algún punto del trayecto, una red de traficantes que, con el visto bueno de los europeos, se los llevarán a donde les parezca para utilizarlos como les plazca: esclavos, objetos sexuales, combatientes, donantes involuntarios de órganos. Y esto se producirá mientras los gobernantes europeos, con la mayor hipocresía, dicen preocuparse cada vez más por los riesgos que acechan a nuestros menores.

Durante años se ha hecho la vista gorda con los inmigrantes ilegales. Se los ha explotado como mano de obra barata, casi gratuita, y se ha callado convenientemente que eran necesarios para nuestras economías y para que cubrieran los puestos de trabajo que los europeos –ya muy señoritos– se niegan a cubrir. Queremos que alguien recoja la basura y barra las calles, cuide de nuestros abuelos enfermos y de nuestros niños malcriados y consentidos, ponga los ladrillos de las cien mil construcciones vandálicas que han propiciado la corrupción de los alcaldes y la codicia de los promotores inmobiliarios, se ocupe de las faenas más duras del campo y limpie nuestras alcantarillas. Nosotros no estamos dispuestos a ensuciarnos las manos ni a deslomarnos. Que vengan esos negros, sudacas y moros a servirnos, esos rumanos que no tienen donde caerse muertos y que se prestarán a cualquier cosa, más les vale. Les daremos cuatro cuartos y asunto liquidado. Ahora, sin embargo, nos hemos hecho muy mirados con los cuatro cuartos, porque hay “crisis”. Hemos visto que algu¬nos de esos inmigrantes delinquen –como si no delinquieran algunos españoles, italianos, alemanes o franceses de pura cepa– y, contagiados por Berlusconi y sus compinches –los cuales nunca han delinquido, por cierto, no se entiende por qué tienen tantas causas abiertas que los incriminan–, empezamos a pensar que todos esos inmigrantes son unos criminales. Y, como lo pensamos, aprobamos una directiva que los convierta en tales por el mero hecho de existir y haber osado pisar suelo europeo. Se los detendrá hasta año y medio, y sin asistencia judicial, como si fueran presos de ese Guantánamo contra el que los europeos aún nos atrevemos a clamar. Mientras tanto, ese propio Parlamento, quizá en previsión de la próxima escasez de mano de obra foránea y barata, permite también que nuestra jornada laboral alcance las sesenta e incluso las sesenta y cinco horas semanales. Algo nunca visto ni tolerado desde 1917. Y añaden hipócritamente: “según el libre acuerdo entre contratadores y contratados”. ¿Libre acuerdo? Todos sabemos también lo que ocurrirá. El empleador le dirá al empleado: “Us¬¬ted trabajará sesenta horas. Si no le gusta, es libre de no aceptar, pero yo no voy a cambiar mis condiciones”. ¿Y qué creen que contestará el empleado, en una Europa en la que el empleo es precario y en la que se lleva decenios convenciendo a la gente de que se hipoteque de por vida para comprar un piso de mierda que habrán construido esos negros y sudacas a los que toca detener y expulsar? No me extrañaría que de aquí a poco los europeos tengan que envainarse su señoritismo y que volvamos a verlos barriendo calles, sólo que durante diez horas al día, seis días a la semana. Esta es la repugnante Europa que construimos, con nuestros votos imbéciles.

© Diario EL PAÍS S.L. – Miguel Yuste 40 – 28037 Madrid [España] – Tel. 91 337 8200

© Prisacom S.A. – Ribera del Sena, S/N – Edificio APOT – Madrid [España] – Tel. 91 353 7900

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