The Dispute Between Chile and Bolivia: Michelle Bachelet and Isabel Allende Undermine Latin American Integration

Carlos Aznárez
It is very easy to speak at forums and summits about Latin American integration but those principles don’t seem to transfer well when put to the practice of everyday life.
There could be no greater proof of this than what is going on with the current government of Chile. The very government that the Chilean “left” insisted had to be elected to prevent, as that worn out phrase repeats, “the need to stop the right”. We have heard this rationale time and time again in other Latin American countries but this time it has given the government of Michelle Bachelet the green light to put Chile in the dramatic fix it finds itself in.

It is with absolute logic that neighboring Bolivia has been demanding a route to the sea for a 136 years. It is worth remembering that this situation is not new and between 1879 to 1883 it came to a war between Chile, Peru and Bolivia that ended with Bolivia losing 400 kilometers of its rightful coastline on the Pacific.
Currently Bolivia is not even asking to take back that lost territory that could cause a massive displacement of the population there. No, what Bolivia is asking for is gaining access to a very small portion of unpopulated area on the coast so they could have access to the sea and to recuperate a small area taken away from them during that military conflict. Meanwhile the Chilean social democrats have shamefully joined the right to say this would have a serious effect on the economy of Chile. It was only the government of Salvador Allende that tried to fix the problem but was not able to do it because those in power in Chile before had slammed the door shut on any resolution of this serious problem.

Bachelet is not alone in that extreme position against actual Latin America integration. It is words she often repeats but in practicality follows the advice of functionaries such as her current agent in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Felipe Bulnes who is the former minister of the right wing government of Sebastián Piñera and an active member of the fascist National Renovation Party. The political background of Bulnes was always anti-Allende, one linked to anti-communism and he is now in The Hague trying to deny Bolivia its sovereign right.
The position of Bolivia couldn’t be clearer. Through their representatives in The Hague Bolivia has explained that it has always honored international treaties, like the “Treaty of Peace and Friendship” of 1904 that included a series of clauses that was to help with the issue of the lack of access to the sea. In part of that treaty Chile committed to build a railroad between Arica and La Paz, to issue credit, allow the right of free passage to the Pacific Ports and the payment of 300 thousands pound sterling in compensation. All that ended in nothing and Bolivia once again is having to raise its rights.

And Bachelet, a so called “socialist”, continues to deny Bolivia just like during Pinochet who tortured her own father. Bachelet even goes so far as to say that, “Chile will not give up its legitimate territory and Bolivia has to accept what is decided at The Hague”.
This argument is a complete rupture with all currents and thoughts of fraternity and Latin America integration that was re-introduced by that giant of unity of the peoples Hugo Chávez. On several occasions he said that his biggest wish was that “sooner rather than later he could swim in the Bolivian Sea”. These are also the demands of the majority of the popular and revolutionary Chilean left that on several occasions has welcomed Evo Morales as a blood brother and continues to mobilize to make a reality of the demand from Bolivia.

While this dispute has become an issue of international importance Bachelet continues to lose popularity inside and outside Chile. As Morales recently mentioned, she continues to "clutch to a Constitution inherited from Pinochet". She has ignored the demand for free education coming from Chilean students and has also ignored the territorial demands of the Mapuche people, whose leaders are imprisoned and in many cases have been assassinated. Her foreign policy shows contempt for Bolivia, and this is in and of itself is enough to understand why she is supporting the U.S. Pacific Alliance.
And as if this were not bad enough to define just how far the Socialist Party of Bachelet has gone astray the very daughter of Salvador Allende has also joined in this shameless offense of the memory of what her father stood for. Isabel Allende has stooped even further than denying Bolivia but to visit in Caracas the wives of the imprisoned right wing coup organizers Mayor Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez. She was not satisfied with this disrespect to the people of Venezuela but took it further by the calling the government of Nicolas Maduro a dictatorship.

With these spokes people defending the so called interests of Chile in The Hague it would be very healthy for the authentic socialist movement in Chile to reject this sustained rightward drift of the leadership with a militant struggle or to massively abandon their party altogether.
Republished from Resumen Latinoamericano

Evo Morales at the VII Summit of the Americas: "Latin America has changed forever":

Translation of Evo Morales' speech to the VII Summit of the Americas held April 10-11 in Panama. Translation done by Stan Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee

Thank you very much, brother president of Panama, on behalf of the Bolivian people I congratulate the excellent organization of the Summit of the Americas. To all presidents and presidents of America, to all international organizations present here.

I was listening intently intervention brother President of Peru (Ollanta Humala). Clearly we have poverty, what we do have to discuss is what are the causes of poverty and extreme poverty. This is the topic of discussion, this is a political debate over the  programmatic and ideological differences that we  have in America.

As many of you probably, or some of you, come from this poverty, from this extreme poverty, and poverty creates suffering, and from suffering comes the feeling,  and suffering brings the thinking, an anti-imperialist thinking, an anticapitalist thinking. And there is the cause of extreme poverty, which is why I feel it is important, in this debate, to tell the truth without fear among us, especially the truth of our past history, to avoid making the mistakes of the past.

Brothers and sisters, it is important to remember that between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean there are more histories of failure than success, more asymmetrical relations than large integration projects between North  and South. Our Latin American memory is full of episodes of armed intervention from the United States, invasions, dominating impositions and constant aggression.

For example, let us never forget the annexation of the territory of Mexico by the United States, nor armed invasions against several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, El Salvador, Guatemala and others.

I believe, brothers and sisters, the world’s chief promoter of military dictatorships and coups is the United States. The colonializing imperial view of the United States towards our Latin America and the Caribbean is one of contempt and belittlement, a view of superiority, political, military, technological and economic superiority. It is the gaze of the colonizer over the colonized, the invader over the invaded, the ruler over their vassals, it is the eagle eyeing its helpless prey.

More than 200 years have passed since US independence and the country not only continues to see our region as its backyard, but as its patrimony that belongs to it by divine right. By means of its imperial power,  the United States through the imposing of neoliberal economics, with a colonial mentality or using the talk of international security, this dominating boss has classified us as either  good or evil, 'stick for the bad and carrot for the good.'

The bad countries are those of us who respond with ideas, with dignity, the bad ones are those who nationalize our natural resources and basic services, those put a brake on the political arrogance of US ambassadors who have been converted into viceroys.

Of us, the powerful will say anything. I remember perfectly well the year 2002 when I was first running for President. Ambassador Rocha, the United States said: Evo is 'Bin Laden Andino' and my fellow farmers the Taliban.

They called us the Taliban, drug traffickers, terrorists, subversives, dictators and populists. We are the bad guys because we threw out of the country the foreign aid agencies who plot, the intelligence agencies who work undercover.

We are the bad guys because we expelled the ambassadors, as in Bolivia, they were separatists who finance the corruption of the people. We are the bad guys because we defend our political and economic sovereignty.

The United States eyes us with contempt and treated as obstinate subjects. What has our Latin America and Caribbean done to deserve imperial punishment, armed intervention, territorial annexation, or political interference by the United States against our people?

What have we people of Latin American and Caribbean done to be treated as if we were slaves in our own territory? We have done nothing but fight for our independence, for the first and second independence.

We never declared war on the United States, never tried to annex a part of their territory, we never armed ourselves to threaten their safety. Under no circumstances did we interfere in their internal affairs, we never violated their sovereignty, then why do they treat us as enemies?

"Obama, listen to the voice of our peoples"

Sister and brother presidents, colleague Obama, it's time to not only listen to the voice of our peoples and our governments,  but to listen to your people who must be tired of so much war, having buried  many dead and have so many invalids.

It's time you learned that we must live in harmony, in peace and respect. Leave in the past the speeches full of double standards, put aside the threats, blackmail and pressures that  the U.S. Capitol or the White House envelop our governments.

Stop using fear, the politics of terror and conditions of any kind. Stop behaving like an empire and let’s conduct ourselves as democratic and sovereign states. All empires perish, democracies are eternal.

Latin America and the Caribbean have changed forever, our people are changing forever, this diverse and unique continent of freedom and justice is forever changing.

Latin America and the Caribbean are no longer as before, and military dictatorships can no longer be imposed, military coups cannot thrive, neither hard coups nor soft coups.

 We have stopped being an obedient, disciplined, bowed-down and submissive region.  Today we are a rebellious continent that wants to forge its self-determination, and we are no longer the puppets like those of past governments, doing what we were told. Today our peoples decide, we are no longer your backyard.

Sisters and brothers, we are today a powerful and unstoppable force that speaks our mind and do what we say. Our people are recovering their identity and the dignity of their States.

The people are who make history, and they have finished with the history made from above and outside.  Now, history written for the few, with the sacrifices by the many, has ceased to exist. Today history is history written by our people.

Our Latin America and the Caribbean have lived while kidnapped politically, economically and militarily by the imperial power from the US Monroe Doctrine: America for the North Americans.

We want no more Monroes on our continent, no Truman's doctrine, no more Reagan doctrine, no more Bush doctrine.

We want no more presidential decrees, no executive orders declaring us threats to their country, we do not want them to watch over us, monitor our cell phones, spy on us or kidnap our presidential aircraft. We want to live in peace, let us live in peace.

Living in peace is less expensive than living in perpetual war.

President Obama, we of Latin America and the Caribbean are a continent of peace and dialogue, we invite you to dialogue and live in peace. To live in peace it is less expensive than to live in perpetual war.

No war has sown peace, all wars sow more violence and discord, we invite you to become the leader of a peaceful people showing solidarity, not a belligerent, destructive and oppressive government.

President Obama, stop turning the world into a battlefield, stop thinking that there are only friends or enemies. There are also others, others who want to show solidarity, those who strive for high ideals, those who save lives, those who cure diseases, those who relieve the  people’s suffering.

Avoid wars that you have produced so far, wars that only benefit the financial tyranny, that benefit the large armaments industry, stop destroying entire civilizations, stop chasing ghosts, stop spending so many resources without results.

Humanity does not want war, we want the basics, basic services as a human right, men and women of this world want to live in peace. It is less expensive and more productive, it is less painful and more satisfying.

 Sisters and brothers, we have an obligation to understand that freedom and democracy can speak. What democracy and freedom can the government of the United States speak of, if everyday they violate the human rights of millions of citizens worldwide, through electronic surveillance, undercover operations and persecution?

What human rights can the US government speak of if torture is a common method used by its intelligence agencies and the death penalty is still in force?

The first condition for the defense of human rights is to sign international conventions, they want to be the champions of human rights when they do not even meet the basic requirement to ratify these agreements human rights.

President Obama speaks to us of democracy and yet every day his government sends to us their sophisticated assassins to erode the legitimacy of our governments, promote coups against our democracies, funds agencies which plot against and divide our society, financing NGOs to subvert the social order our peoples.

What democracy can he speak of when he converts a revolutionary people like in Venezuela into a threat to its national security?

The Venezuelan people, together with Latin America and the Caribbean, we are no threat to anyone, we are peoples whose weapons of combat are solidarity, justice and equality, our weapons are ideas.

We fight so that our citizens can enjoy their status as human beings. With their logic, then, they convert all the governments of Latin America into an apparent security threat.

The threat to the security of its people does not come from any nation in Latin America, it comes from their own mistakes, their role as an empire and its ability to carry wars where peace should prevail.

What democracy can the Government of the United States speak of if it is sponsoring terrorist acts in various parts of the world?

It is not exporting democracy when it produces the greatest quantity of weapons for the destruction of humanity. No democracy can sustain itself by spying on the world, violating the privacy of millions of citizens.

What democracy can President Obama speak of when he sends thousands of armed marines to our continent to indoctrinate soldiers to fight against our peoples?

Can there can be dialogue with the United States when its entire arsenal and technology are monitoring our territories or when the fourth naval fleet sails the Pacific challenging our Pacific coast?

What a strange democracy that installs military bases in our countries, when it applies extraterritorial laws, when it has unresolved territorial issues with Cuba and Puerto Rico.

What democracy can it speak of as it cruelly blockades for 50 years a people who only want to live in peace and show solidarity as Cuba does.

Pretexts to impose economic policies

A moment ago President Obama said he will help Cuba. What you need to do is repay it for all the damages you have caused to Cuba for 50 years 

Let me tell President Obama that your doctrine of global security has failed, today there are more threats than a decade ago, not only against your country but also against other countries that have nothing to do with your extraterritorial wars.

Your war on drugs has failed because there is more demand for drugs and more production of synthetic drugs in the world.

Everyone knows that the supposed war on drugs was merely a pretext to impose your economic policies.

The wars against communism, against drug trafficking and terrorism have become a pretext to impose policies of fear and intervene in strategic areas to plunder our natural resources.

President Obama, stop making war, and turn your country into a democratic republic, instead of maintaining an anti-democratic and unsustainable empire.

Instead of continuing to wage war on the world, I respectfully ask you to concern yourself with the millions of Americans living in extreme poverty in your own country, to control the millions of weapons circulating in your territory which kill the innocent with impunity, to reduce demand for drugs by the millions of drug users who require medical treatment and therapies, and social state of law, to eliminate racism and discrimination against your brothers.

President, govern with your people, for your people, and don’t govern for the bankers, nor for the transnational weapons, food, medicine and oil corporations, don’t continue expelling defenseless immigrants who only seek to work in your country.

President Obama, I ask you to expel the criminals from your territory, from your country.
It is not right for your country to become a home for confessed terrorists, corrupt ones, of murderers, of separatists who have escaped. Expel those who have escaped so that they can be judged by their peoples.

We appreciate the support for our maritime claim

I also take this opportunity, sisters and brothers, there are some outstanding issues still in Bolivia. In 1879 we were invaded and the sea, the Pacific was snatched from us.

I'm not complaining, just taking advantage, thanks to many presidents and ex-presidents. For your information, four ex-presidents of the United States have supported this claim.

Pope John Paul II supported our claim, we are with the people, almost with the whole world. We came to a very important international organization at The Hague, we are very confident that this injustice will be resolved.

But also, I want to take this opportunity, to finish, I'm sorry to denounce to the world, that it is not possible for the US government, or any other country, leave this meeting without a document, without a resolution.

The information I have from my Foreign Ministry, the United States does not accept, for example, the transfer of technology without conditions to the countries with the lowest degree of scientific development of our America.

They did not agree with the principle of common, but differentiated, responsibilities on climate change, nor  the recognition of health care as a fundamental right of the people, as an essential condition for integral development.

I understand that health is a human right, it cannot be a private business. It is not possible that these kinds of proposals coming from 33 countries or 35 countries be rejected. Nor equitable, comprehensive, safe and reliable access to new information and communication technologies, respecting the right to privacy.

It is not possible for them to reject the summit of our social movements, but in addition to that, to reject the support those 33 countries have given Venezuela.  And one or two countries reject a statement on the Decree which threatens not only Venezuela, but also all Latin America and the Caribbean.

Sisters and brothers, if the United States is a power, one of the world powers, I call on President Obama to lead America, so that the American continent is a model of peace and social justice.

President Obama, if you feel that you are the leader of a world power, I ask you take the lead in saving Mother Earth, in saving life, of humanity.

We hope that President Obama can understand the profound feelings of the poor, a product of applying a model that offers no benefit to the peoples of the world.
Thank you. (Applause)

Fifteen Years of Community Controlled Water in Bolivia

Marina Sitrin interviews Marcela Olivera, an activist in Bolivia’s water wars of 2000 and their ongoing legacy. 

This year marks fifteen years of the victory of the communities of Bolivia over private water corporations. Not only did popular power reverse the plan to privatize the water, but the many hundreds of communities surrounding Cochabamba managed to keep their water as a common good, controlled and managed by the community directly and democratically. 

The past few decades have witnessed a massive increase in attempts to commodify natural resources. Most all such attempts have been met with powerful community mobilizations and resistance. There have had many victories, but also losses. 

Successes have taken place, for example, in Argentina with the defeat of Monsanto, three consecutive mining companies in La Rioja and a paper mill on the border with Uruguay. Other places around the world have also been successful in at least holding back privatizations and mining, such as in Thessaloniki with the struggle to keep water public and in the Halkidiki region of Greece. In these examples, as so many others, the struggles are grounded in a particular form of popular power. As with the experience in Cochabamba, it was regular people and communities organized in the streets (not parties, unions or other sectors) using direct action and directly democratic assemblies to make decisions. 

Important lessons can and should be learned in our struggles to defend the land and commons from what took place and continues to take place in Bolivia. While the Bolivian struggle is referred to as the Water Wars, this does not reflect all of what took place – it was not only a war over the privatization of resources, but, as will be explained below, it was and is a struggle to maintain autonomy and self organization, experiences that in some places go back hundreds of years. Cochabanbinos have not only kicked out private water companies but have been successful in maintaining their ways of organizing and being – their bienes comunes. 

I spoke with Marcela Olivera in May 2015 about these past fifteen years of continuous struggle for autonomy and self organization of the commons – water. Marcela has been organizing on water issues, not coincidently, for fifteen years. We began the conversation revisiting the first days of the Water Wars in Cochabamba in April 2000. 

Can you explain a little bit of how you got involved in the issue of defending water and resources? 

I first got involved in this issue, like thousands and thousands of Cochabambinos 15 years ago to defend our water. There was already organizing happening that I was not really involved in. My first memory of this issue was seeing on television was how campesinos, women and kids were being beaten by police on the street and feeling so much rage – so together with my sister we went into the streets – I think this was similar for many thousand of other people – why they first went into the streets. We did not at first completely identify with the issue, I personally was living with my parents and not paying the bills, but like me many people saw the injustice of this issue and went into the streets. It was something that I had never seen before in my life and don’t think I will see again in my lifetime. 

You spoke about democracy, and what you are calling real democracy. Can you explain what that looked like in practice? 

When we talk about democracy and all these words, sometimes we don’t really see what they truly mean. But I think I witnessed that, what democracy really is and how it should work, and how we don’t have that type of democracy in our daily life. They make us think that electing someone is democracy, but it is not. What I saw during the Water Wars was real democracy, direct democracy. Where people come together and make decisions. It was like my voice mattered. I was not a leader of a union and I did not belong to an organized sector, but my voice mattered. I felt like people were listening to me and I was listing to other people, and then together we would make decisions. Sometimes we did not agree with some things and there were people with different opinions about strategies, but what really mattered was how we made decisions and decided together. We found ways of doing it together. That is what real democracy is. The people in the street were people just like me – not a part of organizations, the labor movement had pretty much disappeared after the neoliberal model was imposed, so the traditional working class had disappeared, but then we were the working class, people like me – without a sector, mainly working on our own, without a tradition of organizing ... but we could meet and find one another and see the other side of people, and then meet with those who were organized like the cocaleros, campesinos and factory workers that were there. Among us there were no differences, there was no hierarchy due to differences based on if you were from a sector or not. We had a common goal and that is what mattered. 

I remember you and others telling the story of La Coordinadora por la Defensa del Agua y la Vida back in 2006. Can you tell it again? I am especially curious since what you are describing is a horizontal and participatory movement, yet people still insisted in seeing the movement as one with a leader? 

[Laughs] You mean how people thought the Coordinadora was a woman, right. 

During this period many reforms were implemented and the government named many people in their specific roles, such as the Defensora del Pueblo, so people, the coalition took a name based on that. So they decided on the Coordinadora por la Defensa del Agua y la Vida. To make it short people referred to La Coordinadora, it is feminine in Spanish, and so people would speak of it as if it were a woman. Many people who were not deeply involved thought it was a person like the Defensora del Pueblo – also in the media and political cartoons it was shown as a woman. It was always portrayed as a traditional indigenous woman. People would ask who is this brave woman confronting the police and the government. I remember after the struggle how there was an old guy who would come looking for the Coordinadora, and we tried to explain to him that we are all the Coordinadora it is not a person but all of us, and then finally they sent a woman to talk to him and one time he came and asked for the Señora Coordinadora del Agua and we all laughed and he got embarrassed and said oh, sorry, is it a Señorita? It was always thought of as a woman fighting for the people. It is funny because all the spokespeople were men, so it was a sort of contradictory thing, but we have always thought and seen that the struggles are mostly carried out and led by women, if you look at the images etc you will see that it was the women who were on the front lines. Yet men do a lot of the talking ... I guess they like to talk and we like to do. 

You have spoken in the past a lot about the idea of commons good and how you learned it from the movements. Can you explain how the water supply and distribution is organized? If you could also go into the differences between commons, public and private control. 

What was going on was on two levels, first they wanted to take concessions from the water system in Cochabamba and there was also national legislation that would make water a commodity – so the privatization of the water and water systems. The people of Bolivia have traditionally managed the water based on the usos y costubres, so the uses is the use of the water and how it is used and the customs is the tradition of the use of the water, so who has been using it, what the agreements are between the communities for how it is used etc. With the Water War both things were stopped, so the privatization was revered and the legislation regarding water was changed based on the demands of the people. 

Fifteen years later I do not think the situation has changed too much – we still have to struggle. Right after the Water War when we recovered the water system we had this questioning and thinking together among ourselves, and we asked what do we want, do we want the water to be controlled in the public hands, meaning in the hands of the state or do we want something different. Many times we think only in those terms if it is public or private and we do not think of a third way. After the Water War it became visible that the other way to manage the water is by the community, that is the third way that we realized already existed and is possible. And that is what has been happening over the years and we have been trying to visibalize, how communities are managing their own water, and not waiting for the state to manage it but the people themselves are doing it, managing their own water systems. All this democracy we saw in the streets is replicated daily by these water systems. They organize in assemblies and decide together what they are going to do with the water and how. 

This is a reality that we did not know existed, but learned later. Just in the area around Cochabamba there are about 600 or 700 water systems managed by the communities. That means that 50 percent of the population is getting their water this way. It is exactly these water systems that were fighting, they were fighting to keep managing their water systems. Sometimes they are 500 families and sometimes 50 with different sizes and different internal forms of democracy. Some do everything in common, some not, each decides the best way to govern themselves. Since there are so many of these communities and they are so diverse many people did not know about them. 

I have also learned over these past fifteen years working in this that this sort of thing is taking place all over the world. People are managing their own water and resources and not waiting for the state. This same reality exists in Colombia for example, as well as Peru and Ecuador, so this is not just a reality of Cochabamaba, but many places in the world. So what we are and have been trying to do is visibalize this that is already taking place. No one is looking at how water can be managed, people keep looking to either the public or private sphere. 

It is really something to see this – how people have been managing their water and doing so in ways that go beyond what is private, beyond what is public and beyond the state. 

What do you think about the recent Municipalization of water? Is it similar to the idea of commons? 

Something we have been seeing lately is the celebration of the re-municipalization of the water sources. I have seen this in the water movement in general. For example in Paris, Buenos Aires and other parts of the world where municipalities have taken over the water source from private sources. In our case it is the opposite, we see this as a sort of privatization of the water source, when the state is trying to intervened and management of something that we have done for so many years, hundreds of years in some cases. While this is something that might be celebrated in the north it has a different meaning here. It might not mean the moving of the resources to the private sector but that it takes the decision making out of our hands, which then brings us to believe that this is not just about water. It is about something else. It is a place where we can convene many other aspects of our lives. The water commissions in Cochabamba for example talk about many more things related to the community as a whole, how people are doing, does someone need support or help, if someone has died in the community how to help the family. They organize soccer championship – it is a place where people organize many aspects of their social lives – it is something else.

Republished from TeleSUR