Bolivia: Autonomy for the Rich

Some interesting stuff going on down in Bolivia these days. With the western hemisphere's first indigenous president (Evo Morales) a bit into his term, reform has not been quite as easy as many had hoped. Still, Morales has been able to get some reforms through, and he has more on the table. He's looking to nationalize some of the country's natural resources (and the associated production), implement some land reforms, and otherwise bring more power and recognition to the indigenous people of the nation - who make up over 60% of the national population. He has allied somewhat with Chavez in Venezuela, which has brought on some heavy criticisms, the least being accusations of extreme leftism.
In this climate, the demographic make-up of the country is beginning to come into play, as the wealthier cities to the east, and the right - wing groups in particular - are pushing for autonomy, and promising revolt and violence if necessary. An interesting article by Jorge Martin describes it this way:
In effect, what the coalition of wealthy landowners, capitalist agribusinesses and key sections of the Bolivian ruling class are attempting is a unilateral declaration of independence so that they will not have to implement the laws passed by the MAS government of Evo Morales, particularly in relation to land reform and hydrocarbons.
More specifically, Martin goes on to put it in more stark and real terms:
They have used the issue of "autonomy" to mobilise mass support for what in reality is a rebellion of the slaveholders, to use Marx's expression. At the same time they have been arming thousands of young people, recruited from the sons of the wealthy and from lumpen elements, in what can only be described as the fascist gangs of the Union Juvenil CruceƱa. With a strong element of racism against the "Highland Indios", people with dark, indigenous, skin have been beaten up, lists of MAS activists pasted on the main square in Santa Cruz, a city where only right-wing political activity is now allowed. Evo Morales himself has been called a "monkey" by leading figures in the Santa Cruz "Civic" Committee.
This promises to be a challenge for not only Morales and his indigenous constituents, but also for Bolivia and South America, as factionalization and violence there could trigger much larger ripples of violence and conflict throughout the region. This is shaping up to be a battle between the wealthy political right that has held power since colonization, and the indigenous, poor, and political left who are looking for a voice - equality, rights, recognition, and more. Be sure to read the rest of Martin's article, and for more info and different viewpoints, Bolivia is all over the news right now, so check it out....
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