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“We are not slaves…We just exist.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

There is an interesting, and provocative, article in the New York Times on an American rancher who lives in Santa Cruz and has a large swath of ranch land in the gas rich hills of Eastern Bolivia. He bought some land in 11969 and has been building it up and expanding it ever since. On his land are the ranch hands, poor Indians who work the land but get paid meager wages.

The government accuses ranch owner Ronald Larsen of forcing his workers into servitude; quoted by the Times one of the workers said.

“We are not slaves…But we are not prospering. We just exist.”

Which is a pretty damning indictment for Larsen; these Indians, natives of the land of Bolivia, are forced to work, out of necessity, on the land of their ancestors, while a gringo from the U.S. gets to live a comfortable life on the ranch and in his home in Santa Cruz, fine cloths, fine food, nice car, etc.

Larsen is seen as some sort of hero, or symbol, in his stand off with the socialist government of Evo Morales and the Movement for Socialism. And indeed he is: what a more perfect symbol for the bankruptcy of the opposition than a rich, white, caustic, upper class foreigner from the U.S. who wants nothing more than to enrich himself off the backs of his poor workers. He even shows his class bias and his contempt for the natives of Bolivia when he said of the president:

“Evo Morales is a symbol of ignorance, having never even finished high school,”

Yet this native, former coca farmer, land rights activists, and “high school dropout” was able to build a mass movement in Bolivia and become its first indigenous president in history. Defying the wishes of the white elites and the American corporate imperialists.

Morales, it seems (so far), is trying to redistribute land to those who have toiled on it for centuries, through Spanish persecution and religious and economic imperialism, to a military junta, and to devastating neo-liberal reforms that benefited the elite at the expense of the urban and rural working poor.

What we have here is quite simple. An arrogant white man who bought his land from a corrupt government that persecuted the indigenous peoples of Bolivia, who exploits his workers through low payment, who resists a democratically elected government which is trying to carry out its mandate (socialism and land reform), and who uses illegal means to obtain his land that he somehow thinks he obtained “legally” through purchase of money. On the other side is a government which wants to redistribute wealth to those who helped build it up and redistribute the land to those who have truly worked on it. You have peasants whom are taking actions into their own hands by confronting the white elite and who have utilized all forms of protests to get what they deserve, sit-ins, road blockades, massive street protests, industrial actions, etc., all because the white elite refuses to give the majority of the country a slice of the pie.

Image From:
New York Times

  1. Wednesday, May 14, 2008 4:10 am

    concidering the recent poll results in santa cruz, where do you think bolivia is heading now?

  2. Wednesday, May 14, 2008 4:45 am

    I refer you to this article here habibi.

    Essentially, it was an illegal referendum not called upon by the government but by the oligarchical elites. Many rural peasants boycotted the referendum (up to 70% in some regions) which is why there was such as high “Yes” turnout. There were also massive street demonstraitions in support of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), the party of Morales, as well as peasants and workers burning voter cards marked “Yes” (even though the elections hadn’t started yet!).

    So while this may cause turmoil in the country it just shows how desperate the light skinned eiltes really are, the indigenous population is around 60% of the country, the white skinned elites, 15% (give or take).

    As long as the peasants and workers resist the counter revolutionary attacks by the elite I believe Bolivia will make it through.

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