Last night, Dick Morris joined H&C from Bolivia. Morris is down there trying to help eastern provinces, Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija gain their independence from the leftist government.
Bolivia's leader, Evo Morales, is a well known ally of Hugo Chavez in the region. (in fact, Venezuela gives Bolivia 100 million dollars yearly in aid) While Bolivia's economy has gone through a period of privatization over the last twenty years, it continues to be largely influenced by socialism. Now, it seems that a confrontation between four Eastern provinces and the Morales government is coming to a head.
differences with the four provinces, where officials approved statutes last week that would give them control over petroleum royalties and other functions, such as creating their own police forces.After these provinces took steps to create more autonomy in their own regions, the Morales government responded by amending the Constitution...
acknowledged that the dispute had intensified after his supporters approved a controversial draft constitution.
Still, Mr. Morales said he believed that the constitution, which would bolster indigenous rights and dismantle large landholdings in eastern Bolivia, was legitimately approved despite a boycott of the vote by the political opposition and the abrupt transfer of the constitutional assembly to Oruro, a Morales bastion in the western highlands.
While this referendum must still pass through the national referendum, tensions are quite high. The context of this dispute is quite complicated. First, Morales is of Aymara descent,
a native ethnic group in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America; about 2.3
million live in Bolivia, Peru, Northern Chile, and Northwestern Argentina (in particular in Salta Province). They lived in the region for many centuries before becoming a subject people of the Inca, and later of the Spanish in the 16th century
This makes Morales the first indigenous leader of Bolivia. His sharp anti American rhetoric make him a lightning rod. For instance, here is how he described the American economy...
The worst enemy of humanity is U.S. capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism. If the entire world doesn't acknowledge this reality, that the national states are not providing even minimally for health, education and nourishment, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated.
As such, he has moved aggressively to nationalize many vital industries most notably natural gas.
As of May 1, 2006, President Morales signed a decree stating that all natural gas reserves were to be nationalized: "the state recovers ownership, possession and total and absolute control" of hydrocarbons (Bolivia has the second largest resources of natural gas in South America — 1.38 trillion cubic meters — after Venezuela). He thus put to some effect his electoral promises made during the various Gas Wars, declaring that "We are not a government of mere promises: We follow through on what we propose and what the people demand."
The area which the four "rogue" provinces are located on is rich in natural gas. Morales' drive to nationalize the industry also creates a situation in which their fruitful natural resource is rendered to a central government that the provinces don't believe is looking out for them. Morris has allied himself with these provinces and no doubt this story is constantly evolving.
There is more at stake than whatever internal domestic issues this addresses in Bolivia. In Venezuela, there was also nearly a grass roots uprising when Chavez closed down a television station. If this particular uprising is successful it may signal that Chavez' brand of leftism is dying in the region and that the folks in the region are rejecting their demagoguery. Here enters Dick Morris who has allied himself with the four provinces seeking their independence. This story is sure to evolve over the next several months and I will track it.