Friday, August 08, 2008

The People United Shall [hopefully] Never be Defeated!

While we are all distracted by the Fermanagh byelection, this weekend Bolivia goes to the polls to deliver its verdict on President Evo Morales socialist 'Bolivarian revolution'. Morales, elected with 53.740% of the votes in 2005, should have no problem winning another mandate for his program of peaceful democratic socialism but he faces a coalition of powerful forces opposed to his reforms. Wealthy areas of the country, now no longer able to impose their will on the indigineous majority, are threatening to secede and the country has become increasingly polarised.

Bolivia is a country that suffered greatly under Spanish colonialism in the past and IMF-imposed colonialism in recent years. Sánchez de Lozada's so-called free-market 'reforms' benefited a wealthy elite and subjected the majority of the population to great hardship when he sold off precious state resources to foreign capitalists for a fraction of their worth. In 1997 Hugo Banzer, elected on an anti-privatisation platform, mysteriously changed his mind once elected and continued to implement the IMF agenda with the vigour of the new convert. Hopefully now that Bolivia has a leader willing to carry out the will of its people the history of damning poverty and inequality in the country will be reversed.

In a sense Morales's struggle represents that of South America as a whole. A continent pillaged first by imperialist nations and then by Washington-imposed dictators and multinational corporations, South America is asserting its independence from these foreign interlopers through greater co-operation on a number of social and economic issues. The IMF was wholly discredited when the Argentinian economy collapsed in 2001- an economy run according to IMF recommendations and previously held up as a triumph of neoliberal reform- and the new Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Alternativa Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América or ALBA) is beginning to form an alternative. Started following from the Cuba-Venezuela Agreement in 2004, under whose terms Chavez's oil-rich nation provided oil to Cuba in return for Cuban-trained doctors to alleviate conditions in Venezuelan slums, ALBA has been since extended to Bolivia, Nicarague and Dominica, with Ecuador's President Rafael Correa promising to join soon. Set up on ideals of social welfare and mutual economic aid rather than cut-throat free trade, ALBA will be an initiative to watch if it successfully expands throughout the region.

Good luck to Morales this weekend, and good luck to South American's attempts to establish a socialist alternative to neoliberal capitalism; el pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

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