Recuperation of the national popular forces in Bolivia

2018: the social revolutionary block gains strength

Evo Morales established regular meetings with the trade union, peasant and popular leaders of CONALCAM, in order to coordinate actions of defence and promote the nationalist and anti-imperialist process.

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The recuperation of their leadership on the streets – with organization, mobilization and watchwords to further extend the process of transformation and the decision to support Evo Morales as their leader and presidential candidate – has resulted in 2018 in a recuperation of the popular movements in Bolivia.  Led by miners’ unions, peasant and indigenous organizations and popular urban organizations, they have strengthened their social, regional and political positions and opened up new perspectives for the Movement to Socialism (MAS), in view of consolidating an anti-imperialist government that promotes economic independence and national liberation.


The Bolivian Workers’ Central Union (COB) that brings together union organizations from the whole country, following their 17th National Congress held in Santa Cruz in February 2018, ratified their position of support for the government.  They also resolved that the worker-peasant movement should become a force with greater leadership in national politics and that, together with the National Coordination for Change (CONALCAM), should become the fundamental pillar of the political process.


With the Pact of Unity as a forerunner, the CONALCAM, composed of social, peasant, intracultural and indigenous movements (from the eastern and western regions), together with urban organizations and peasant women, has been the social and political support base that defeated, through large mobilizations, the projects of neoliberal continuity and their political parties.  This was particularly the case with the popular rebellion of 2003 that subsequently made way for the electoral triumph of Evo Morales.


In 2018, the popular movement has been able to offset, and in some cases revert, the processes of ascent, leadership and political action of the sectors of the opposition. An opposition defined, on the one hand, around the conservative and neoliberal parties such as Unidad National (UN) of Samuel Doria Medina and the Movimiento Democrata Social (MDS) of Rubén Costas, and on the other hand on the basis of the Citizen Platforms, that bring together various urban groups, both through direct relations as well as through virtual networks.


Ascent and initiatives of the opposition


The MAS, with Evo Morales and Alvaro García, obtained clear electoral victories in 2005 (54%), 2009 (64%) and 2014 (61%) and won a recall referendum in 2008 with 67% of support. Nevertheless, with the elections of governors and mayors in 2015, they faced an electoral reversal in several departments and municipalities of the country that opened a significant space of action for the opposition parties. Afterwards, there were denouncements of corruption and bad administration in the government, with strong and well-funded campaigns from the big private media, and through internet networks and foundations and NGOs tied to similar movements in the United States and Europe.


The referendum of February 2016, proposed by various parliamentarians and pro-government social sectors, to proposed a new electoral postulation of authorities, among them the President and Vice President, obtained a negative result of 51.3%, with 48.7% in favour. This occurred in the context of a media and digital media campaign initiated through a lie perpetrated by Carlos Valverde, a direct contact of the US Embassy, that claimed Evo Morales had a secret child and that the mother of the child was tied to traffic in influences and corruption.


The lie was spread by all the media and generated a national and international public scandal that influenced the decisions of significant sectors of voters. Later, Valverde himself recognized the lie and the CNN Television Channel, that had made a great publicity stunt of the matter, also had to rectify its news.


This event opened the floodgates for strengthening and advancing the Citizen Platforms.  Together with other professional associations, such as doctors, coordinated by the opposition parties, as well as analysts – among them Carlos Mesa ex vice president of the neoliberal Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada – and the media and social networks, they attained significant levels of coordination and mobilization, in 2016 and 2017, affecting the stability of the government.


Recuperation of the national-popular project


As of November 2017, when the Pluri-National Constitutional Tribunal (TCP) established the right of every citizen, including the present government authorities, to elect and be elected, strong controversies, conflicts and face-offs occurred between pro-government and opposition sectors.  This led to a struggle in the balance of power that covered all areas: the streets, highways, city square rallies, media, public speeches, the various regions and debate in the media and in social media.


Thus arose a new impulse for the reorganization and continuous strengthening of the national and popular forces that demonstrated their power and superiority in organized mobilization, surpassing the opponents in all the cities of Bolivia, especially La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, El Alto and the mining districts. Nevertheless, in the media and the internet networks, the opposition discourse has had greater success.


Evo Morales established regular meetings with the trade union, peasant and popular leaders of CONALCAM, in order to coordinate actions of defence and promote the nationalist and anti-imperialist process.


The Electoral Tribunal finally enabled the pairs of candidates for the presidential elections of October 2019, confirming the clearance for Morales; meanwhile the Citizen Platforms remained dispersed, supporting distinct opposition candidates or remaining on the margin of the electoral dispute, although the Civic Committees connected to the local oligarchies have maintained their belligerence.


The disputes for economic stability


Although political and social tension was characteristic during this year, the economic conditions of stability and growth have been excellent.  This includes the growth of GDP (4.7%), as well as important advances in the processes of industrialization of hydrocarbons and minerals such as lithium; infrastructure works in water, roads, schools, hospitals, energy and the improvement and development of agricultural and livestock production.


Nonetheless, among the actions still pending are extending state control over the mining and petroleum sectors that particularly benefit the transnationals; greater monitoring and control over the gigantic profits of the banks; and putting a stop to the onslaught of the large landowners who have the monopoly of the most productive lands for the exploitation and export of soya. This would make way for consolidating the social, productive, communitarian and mixed economy, so as to strengthen the internal market, and for the successful state capitalism.


Finally, the electoral triumph of the ultraconservative neoliberal Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil, has had a strong impact in the region and in Bolivia, influencing the regression of the processes of unity and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and exerting pressure, in alliance with Mauricio Macri in Argentina, to weaken the anti-imperialist processes of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia. Hope for Latin American remains open with the decisive ascent of Andrés López Obrador with the movement of National Renewal (MORENA) in Mexico.



(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


- Eduardo Paz Rada is a Bolivian sociologist and teaches in UMSA. He writes in publications of Bolivia and Latin America.
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