It’s no secret that diplomatic relations between a poor country and a hegemonic world power are frequently a montage. They are a pantomime written and directed by the stronger, showing it as a hero, and the weaker as a victim rescued from poverty, chaos, or ungovernability. Above all, it’s a theatrical piece meant to hide a scandalous degree of interventionism and domination.
This was the case in the relations between Bolivia and the United States ever since the Rockefeller empire seized the oil industry and, in the 1930s, instigated the war against Paraguay, later selling to the latter the oil that it stole from Bolivia. Bolivia lost sixty-thousand men in that war, and fell into starvation, but from that pain was born the patriotic sentiment in favor of defending national dignity and natural resources.
Thus were born the revolutionary governments, and the first of them nationalized John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company for fraud against the state. That set off an interminable cold war waged by the United States against Bolivia, which drove the small Andean country into a vicious cycle of fraudulent elections and dictatorships in order to impose puppet governments with orders to change the laws so as to impose anew the looting; and, later, the periods of merciless exploitation of the Bolivian people, of popular protests against the abuse, and of massacres in order to repress them.
That period of diplomatic relations of submission to the United States was legalized the year 1951, with the establishment of a framework agreement of relations between a donor country that provided “aid” and a petitioner and receiver of that aid, which was always conditioned upon an absolute subordination to Washington’s policies. Despite its disastrous results and humiliating nature, that type of relations was represented through the pantomime of “good diplomatic relations.”
The period of Evo Morales, on the contrary, is the period of decolonization of the form of government, initiated with the re-founding of the country, a new constitution that impedes the looting, and the implementation of a process of profound change toward a more just society. In it, the state assumes fully its social responsibility, something from which Washington’s neoliberalism exempts the governments that it controls. It’s the era, therefore, of the inevitable confrontation with the hegemonic policy of the United States, which led to the expulsion of DEA and of ambassador Philip Goldberg. From then on, the State Department continued covertly its aggressive low-intensity war unleashed against Morales’ government.
Declassified documents obtained by renowned American investigator Jeremy Bigwood (www.boliviamatters.wordpress.com) revealed that from the beginning of the 1990s, long before Evo became president, the United States already identified him as a “danger to its plans for the hemisphere”, and put into effect a campaign against him that implied an “alarming interventionism” in the internal affairs of Bolivia. Documents from 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006 revealed that the U.S.A. intervened not only openly, through its embassy, calling for a firm hand from the presidencies that it controlled, such as that of Tuto Quiroga, but also covertly, through programs financed by USAID to make contact with the indigenous people of the TIPNIS with the goal of making use of the conflict that they had with the coca growers of the Chapare due to an illegal settlement of those territories.
In this way, it exacerbated rivalry among sectors and articulated a coalition of forces opposed to Morales that included the power groups of Santa Cruz that came together in the CAINCO. The United States financed programs with political goals of that entrepreneurial organization through another of its agencies, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), by means of which it had established with CAINCO a historical political alliance. Finally, it directed the use of the media to systematically discredit Morales, promote discontent, and thus manufacture an adverse public opinion.
These cultivated anti-Evo forces finally converged on Saturday, October 22, 2011 in Plaza Murillo, historic setting of so many lynchings of presidents and the overthrow of popular governments. it was the march on behalf of the indigenous peoples of the TIPNIS demanding to negotiate directly with the President. It was time to clench the teeth, because nobody in Bolivia forgets the river of blood that has flowed in the past in similar circumstances. It was time for the perhaps tragic outcome awaited by the sectors opposed to Morales, stuck like leeches to the cause that they managed to manipulate. When the police denied entry to Plaza Murillo to all of them, the infiltrators in the March began to shout “Villarroel”, “Villarroel”, alluding to the hanging of the former president. Sunday was an important day, which will be studied for a long time at universities, because what happened then was as unexpected as it was surprising.
“We’re screwed,” said on Monday afternoon a bewildered member of the opposition, scratching his head while talking with an Indian, trying to understand in depth what they had done. His concern was understandable. Morales had not only survived the attempt to destabilize his government, but also dissolved in 48 hours the subversive plot, which, according to the aforementioned evidence, the United States had been organizing since the beginning of the 1990s. Evo granted the indigenous peoples of the TIPNIS literally everything they asked for. The indigenous, on the other hand, recognized that several of the points alluding to problems outside the TIPNIS were not their petitions, but those of their “affiliates”, which they had included in the original 16-point petition, in return for the support they received for the march.
Negotiations almost broke down when the Indians saw in writing what they had requested, and decided to back off. The protection of the natural reserve was so absolute that it meant the postponement of any aspiration of integration for its inhabitants. The territory was being declared indivisible, un-attachable, imprescriptible, inalienable, and irreversible, but, above all, untouchable. It was a victory for foreign “environmental” groups, financed from the United States and other developed countries that become rich by polluting the atmosphere of the planet with their deregulated industries; and that now, because the TIPNIS is the “lungs of the planet”, condemned its inhabitants to eternal isolation, and therefore, made them pay for the historical ecological debt that industrialized countries are still accumulating.
The Indigenous who negotiated with Morales were filled with doubts, perhaps for the first time, but they had their persuasive “ecological advisers,” including foreigners, breathing down their neck. The latter persuaded them once again, and the indigenous signed the agreement. Evo passed it to the Legislative Assembly, the Act was passed, and the president signed it in record time. The TIPNIS became, according to the law now in effect, forever cloistered and without roads, thus making very difficult the provision of schools, hospitals, electricity and water, while industrialized countries, led by the United States, still polluted the air of the planet while refusing to reduce their carbon emissions. With regard to the environment, it was once again the old formula of “the clever lives off the donkey, and the donkey eats straw.” The United States’ political objective of boycotting the pole of development of the Chapare, under the community production model that so frightens it, was achieved with the complicity, conscious or not, of some Bolivians. Intervention in internal affairs remains alarming, and that forces us to reflect.
We all want the re-establishment of diplomatic relations based on mutual respect and equality of rights and obligations, but, considering that Bolivia does not conspire against the government of the United States, demanding only mutual respect, it is the Department of State that has to make a conscious effort to change its pattern of interventionist conduct in Bolivia.
This type of asymmetric diplomacy is as unfair as it is unsustainable. It is therefore urgent to sign the new framework agreement for diplomatic relations based on mutual respect, so that the Bolivian ambassador in Washington may finally be a dignified defender of his or her fatherland, and not, as was the case before, a simple agent of Washington working to persuade his own country to submit. It is time for a new type of diplomacy, honest and without paternalism.
Juan Carlos Zambrana Marchetti hosts the web site www.juancarloszambrana.com