Bolivia’s Growing Crisis

Against the Current, No. 155, November/December 2011

A CONFRONTATION BETWEEN the government of Bolivian president Evo Morales and a part of his indigenous social base is leading to a serious political crisis.

Following a violent police assault on indigenous community protests against a road being built through their self-governed Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS), the main trade union federation COB called a 24-hour strike on September 28, the Interior Minister and Defense Minister have resigned from the government, and announcements by Morales that the road was “suspended” pending votes in the affected provinces have not stopped the polarization.

The road, a joint Bolivian-Brazilian project, is seen as a severe ecological threat by the TIPNIS communities, while the government claims it is vital for transport and economic development. A protest march opposing it began on August 15, intending to proceed from the Amazon jungle to La Paz. On Sunday, September 25, “(w)hen hundreds of police were called in to clamp down on the native protesters in Yucumo, in the lowlands 330 kilometers from La Paz, TV cameras captured images of women with their hands tied and with tape over their mouths and protesters wounded by fierce blows by the police, which drew howls of outrage across the country.” (Franz Chavez, IPS,

Serving two masters — his own social base, and the demands of Bolivian and international capital — is putting Morales in an ever-tightening squeeze.

November/December 2011, ATC 155