Liberating Pachamama: Corporate Greed, Bolivia, and Peasant Resistance

Liberating Pachamama: Corporate Greed, Bolivia, and Peasant Resistance

In a rundown, dirt-stained building in El Alto, Bolivia, five young men sit behind a rickety linoleum-topped table on an auditorium stage. A rainbow banner—known locally as the Wiphala, a flag representing half a millennium of indigenous resistance—hangs on the wall behind them. En Constante Vigor is painted crudely above it.

It’s nearly 9:00 p.m. on a chilly night in early December. The neighborhood meeting hall has filled with mostly men, small and dark, hunched over in dusty plastic garden chairs, the collars on their thin jackets pulled up around their necks to protect against the cold. Like most buildings in this fast-growing city high in the Andes, the hastily constructed brick and adobe structure has no modern plumbing or insulation. After a long day of manual labor at an altitude of thirteen thousand feet, the men are tired. Some doze in their chairs; others stay awake by chewing bitter green coca leaves.

Abraham Delgado Mancilla, a wiry twenty-eight-year-old in black jeans and glasses, stands onstage. He’s called this meeting to present a new book he’s written with his compañeros, as he calls them. The cover of the bright red paperback features two menacing-looking men in ski masks holding rifles. “De las elecciones a la insurrection . . . Carajo!!” (“From elections to insurrection—We Swear!”)—is printed in black letters above them. Although the text is mostly a summary of the policy positions of the eight candidates running for president in Bolivia’s December elections, Mancilla is explaining why he believes that even the leading leftist candidate, Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian like himself, will not solve Bolivia’s problems.

“MAS [Morales’s party, the Movement Toward Socialism] isn’t really going to change anything,” he tells the audience, which grows as more and more men, and a few women, trickle in. “They want to work within the system. But this capitalist system, run by the transnacionales, has done nothing for us. What we need is a new system of our own,” he continues, as murmurs of approval ripple around the room. “We need to pursue our own ideas”—and the reaction grows louder—“What we need is a revolution!” The audience bursts into applause.

A wizened old man stands up to concur. “Evo is part of the same capitalist system,” he says, looking around the room like a father providing guidance to his sons. “But what kind of a revolution do we want? We learned in the streets that we can defeat the transnationalist companies and the Latifundios. Evo Morales wants to respect the laws, but we need to take back this country from the transnationalists. Today, democracy is in serious danger. The only way to save democracy is to create our own ideological direction. They talk in this election about progress, but what about liberty? We will continue to be slaves under this system. We need to create something new,” he say...

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