Imperialism’s game

Who’s Wrong, Evo Morales or James Petras?

Jorge Eduardo Aldao – Tlaxcala

Translation: Machetera

September 15, 2008

Some days ago in an interview with Radio Centenario in Uruguay, James Petras made some remarks that deserve consideration.

In that radio interview, Petras, analyzing Bolivia’s critical situation, said:

“…This civil war has resulted in already almost half the country being in the hands of the fascists, and I say fascists, because they operate by the use of force, violence, with non-parliamentary groups typical of fascists, with the backing of the middle class, by taking public buildings of all kinds, paralyzing gas pipelines, even blowing up pipelines, taking control of police stations, customs, etc.  It’s already a coup.  Therefore, to say that it’s nearing a civil war or a coup is false, because there’s already a civil war, there’s a taking of power in the provinces called the “Half-Moon” (Santa Cruz, Tarija, Pando, Beni) where the fascist rightwing is in control, despite the internal opposition of the peasants, etc.

What remains is in the Altiplano, where Evo Morales is located, boxed in, impotent, incapable of maintaining the country’s constitutional order and integrity.  While the popular masses begin to take their own action, independent of this president who until now continues to call for dialogue, while the fascists have murdered scores of peasants in cold blood and have disappeared dozens more, adding to the more than two hundred gunshot victims to be found in the hospitals.

This is the president’s cretinism in the face of an open U.S. intervention, the coup d’etat is already underway, the taking of power by the ultra-rightwing…”

Similar hardline considerations on behalf of the various actors of Bolivian progressivism could be read and heard when Bolivia’s hydrocarbon contracts were re-negotiated with Brazil.

Let’s clarify then that what Petras is indicating is true, in the sense that the Bush government, before leaving power, would like to decapitate Latin American progressivism and therefore is supporting all direct and indirect attacks against the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.

And it’s also true that, as part of this decapitation, it’s also important to topple Evo Morales, or at least, make the Bolivian “Half-Moon” region into a new Kosovo.

It’s also true that the re-negotiation of the contracts with Brazil for Bolivian gas, at least in theory, could have been more advantageous for their brothers in Bolivia.

And therefore many might understand, hastily, Evo Morales’s meekness as “cretinism”, as Petras, without mincing words, stated.

However, I believe that Evo Morales is not as wrong as some might think.

Because Evo Morales, the first purely indigenous person to reach the presidency of Bolivia, is nobody’s fool and he knows perfectly well that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

The Bolivian president understood, when it came time to re-negotiate the hydrocarbon contracts with Brazil, that hardening positions and confronting the most powerful country in Latin America was a folly that  would completely isolate him in a world that views indigenous people as incapable of governing a country.

So, despite the criticism, he continued to keep Bolivia as an important provider of natural gas for Sao Paulo’s vital industries, “chaining” Lula’s government to his policies.

That’s why, when the crisis in Bolivia evolved into racist, oligarchic and imperialistic violence, and the separatists blew up the pipeline that feeds Sao Paulo, Lula came out in his immediate defense, as Petras himself acknowledges:

“…In Mercosur, Señor Lula is particularly bothered because 10% of Bolivian gas which goes to Brazil was eliminated, but I don’t know if Lula will offer Evo Brazilian troops to protect and rebuild the pipeline.  Lula is extremely angry with the thugs who blew up the pipeline, because it affected the gas so necessary for Sao Paulo’s industries.”

Right away (a few hours later) Itamaraty (Brazil’s government) said, “We won’t tolerate a break in the Bolivian institutional order” which proves that keeping Brazilian development chained to Bolivian gas was a prudent and very intelligent play on the part of the Evo Morales government, although at the time it was harshly criticized by certain sectors of Bolivian progressivism.

Evo Morales’ “meekness” should be considered similarly – that which Petras calls “cretinism” – by refusing to stoke the flames of violence in Bolivia through the delivery of weapons to peasants and workers to defend themselves from the criminal aggression of the separatist oligarchy and the assassins hired to kill whoever supported Evo Morales.

In the cited radio interview, Petras said:

“…financial support and weapons are necessary so that the Evo Morales government will quit playing the guitar of conciliation and act like a real goverment at the stature of the people, in order to smash this fascist uprising.  At least, Evo Morales should acknowledge that the public is calling for arms; I’ve received communications from manufacturing sectors saying that the COB is fed up with Evo’s conciliation and is already organizing its own militias, fences, blockades against the rightwing and fascism; on its own initiative, in the face of the impotence of the central government.”

It’s good to recall then, that in Argentina more than half a century ago, President Juan Domingo Perón, an  undeniably progressive government despite its authoritarianism – was also provoked by the oligarchic sectors (with support from the U.S. embassy) and, facing these provocations, Juan Perón entered into the game of the “Contreras'” (enemies of the Peronist regime).

Thus, he expropriated the rightwing La Prensa daily, confronted the Catholic church, admitted that his supporters first burned the Argentinean flag and then, burned churches and the headquarters of the aristocratic Jockey Club, all of which deprived him of the support of vast moderate sectors of the Argentinean public.

In this way, and although it was not his desired outcome, Perón facilitated the opposition’s bloody military coup in the Liberating Revolution, which later had an even bloodier extension in the military government of the Argentine Revolution and after that, in the criminal military dictatorship of the Process of National Reorganization, which caused thousands of deaths and disappearances.

That’s why I disagree with the accusation of cretinism that Petras assigns to Evo Morales.

The “Indian” Evo Morales is, it seems to me, a wise leader who, step by step and with extreme prudence, has gone about building power in order to become the first indigenous president of a Latin American country, and I don’t believe that he is willing to “gamble” this power – with which he has achieved important advances in the well-being of his people – by entering the game of professional provocateurs such as the ex-Ambassador Goldberg and the fascist prefects of the Bolivian “Half-Moon.”

James Petras, I myself, and plenty of other professional opinionators are simply writers, incapable of building power effectively.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

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