The… um… empire strikes back

So about Bolivia.

It seems Mesa was a tougher nut to crack after all. The Bolivian Congress refused to accept his resignation. Another wave of protests have followed. Evo Morales from the Movimiento Al Socialismo has had some meetings with Mesa today. Mesa’s supporters are rallying in the streets to support him. Things are moving very fast – one way to keep up is to visit NarcoNews, where Luis Gomez has been reporting a couple of times a day.


So about Bolivia.

It seems Mesa was a tougher nut to crack after all. The Bolivian Congress refused to accept his resignation. Another wave of protests have followed. Evo Morales from the Movimiento Al Socialismo has had some meetings with Mesa today. Mesa’s supporters are rallying in the streets to support him. Things are moving very fast – one way to keep up is to visit NarcoNews, where Luis Gomez has been reporting a couple of times a day.

An article by Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network describes the ‘root of the problem’ as this: “The main point of friction continues to be coca growers’ and other groups demand that 50 percent of oil and gas profits to go to Bolivia as royalties instead of Mesa’s proposal of 18 percent royalties and 32 percent in taxes for the nation’s treasury. Critics of the Mesa bill maintain that the legislation does not guarantee that Bolivia will receive the full percentage. According to analyst Tom Kruse, taxes are also subject to international arbitration and future international trade agreements, allowing international fuel companies to reduce their payments.”

Luis Gomez calls it a ‘stalemate’ – but the stakes keep on getting higher.

And if the Mesa resignation after popular mobilization was a victory for democracy, and if the Bolivian Congress’s refusal of the resignation was a setback, then Colombia’s movement for democracy has also had a setback – or, rather, the inevitable reaction has occurred.

So how does the Colombian establishment go about delegitimizing a popular plebescite with incredibly high levels of participation in which the government’s crown jewel Free Trade Agreement is resoundingly rejected?

Here are some juicy quotes.

HERNANDO JOSE GOMEZ, head of the Colombian FTA negotiating team: “We recognize that communication with the indigenous has failed and that’s why they believe the FTA is bad for them, but we will fix this, we’ll elaborate, hold some workshops, and show them so they can know the subject, for us the indigenous are sacred, so don’t worry.”

ANDRES FELIPE ARIAS LEIVA, Minister of Agriculture: “I am afraid that there are some sectors taking advantage of the fear, the fear that we have begun to undermine in our struggle against terrorism in order to attack the FTA and they have taken advantage of the indigenous communities… the FTA is not a phantasm like terrorism which the government has already begun to strike against… you don’t have to fear it because it is not a phantasm. What’s happened is that as the government really is starting to strike at the real phantasm, terrorism, this is the real phantasm, and we are starting to undermine it, then some opposing voices invent other phantasms to create fear among our rural producers, but we won’t cede, we won’t fall to this illusion.”

These words were quoted in a communique by the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, who found them to be quite insulting. The implication is that the 50,000 who voted, did so without understanding, and that behind these poor stupid indians are some manipulators who are trying to undermine – you guessed it – the government’s fight against… terrorism. From there, we’re ready to accuse anyone against FTA of being… with the terrorists. Right. And in Colombia, being accused of being ‘with the terrorists’ is quite enough to get you killed… particularly if, as the people of Cauca are, you have your own ideas about the country, democracy, land, the use of resources…

As dirty as these threats are, they are a sign that the strategy is working. The fact is that things like the FTA can’t pass through open argument and democratic mechanisms. The arguments are so uncompelling that secrecy is needed. If the negotiator wants to hold workshops in response to the plebescite in Cauca, the same kind of plebescite throughout Colombia would blow the FTA into the open and then off the map. Now that would be a victory for democracy.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

3 thoughts on “The… um… empire strikes back”

  1. Just wondering, have other
    Just wondering, have other indigenous organizations in Colombia held congresses similar to ACIN’s? Specifically I’m wondering about CRIC, especially after the success of the march in September.

  2. Freya, CRIC and ACIN are
    Freya, CRIC and ACIN are linked – CRIC is the indigenous organization for all of Cauca, ACIN is the regional one for Northern Cauca. The September march was a CRIC march, but it was also very much an ACIN march… and I think that these consultas are seen in the same light – as a logical consequence of the Indigenous and Popular Mandate that came out of the September march.

  3. Thanks Justin…I was
    Thanks Justin…I was curious as to why the vote was held only in Northern Cauca and not in the whole department. But I do understand that ACIN is probably the most organized of all indigenous organizations in Colombia, so I guess that makes sense.
    I just discovered this blog and it’s great; thanks, Justin! It is my new source for non-mainstream Latin American news (in English!).

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