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Analysis from National Endowment for Democracy Used in The Atlantic, with Significant Errors and Omissions

By Stephan Lefebvre | CEPR Americas Blog | July 30, 2013

This month, readers of The Atlantic were treated to a lengthy article documenting alarming threats to democracy in certain Latin American countries with progressive and leftist heads of government. The piece, written by Kurt Weyland and titled “Why Latin America is Becoming Less Democratic,” is riddled with significant errors and mischaracterizations. Perhaps even worse, editors at The Atlantic didn’t make clear that the article was first published in a “journal” that is funded by the U.S. government.

The original article was published in the Journal of Democracy, which has long focused on providing analysis to justify U.S. government intervention abroad. The Journal of Democracy is an official publication of the National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) International Forum for Democratic Studies. Although nominally a “nongovernmental” organization, the NED receives most of its funding from the U.S. Congress. In 1991, Allen Weinstein, who helped found and then became the NED’s acting president, told the Washington Post, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA” [1].

Some examples of the NED’s work include using U.S. government resources to fund groups and individuals involved in the short-lived 2002 coup d’état in Venezuela, and two years later funding organizers of the recall effort against then-president Hugo Chávez. One of the NED’s core grantees is the International Republican Institute, which played a major role in overthrowing the democratically-elected government of Haiti in 2004.

These are just a few examples that highlight the NED’s disreputable history in Latin America, which would take far more space than a blog post to tell.  While it clearly would have been worth noting the source of the article, the article itself is full of both factual errors and egregious mischaracterizations. To keep this post brief, I’ll only review a few of the most egregious errors here.

    1. Weyland writes: “Since the third wave reached Latin America in 1978, the region had seen only occasional threats and temporary interruptions of democracy in individual nations.”

This statement is only reasonable if one completely ignores the U.S. government’s role in the region, which constituted a threat to democracy that was neither “temporary” nor limited to “individual nations.” Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. conducted a massive and well-organized campaign, especially in Central America, using Cold War pretexts to install and support leaders who would foster favorable conditions for U.S. business interests.

In Nicaragua, the campaign involved massive illegal military aid to the contra paramilitary forces who used those weapons to kill health care workers, teachers and elected officials in their fight against the  democratically-elected Sandinista government, bringing condemnation from the World Court, as well as Amnesty International, Americas Watch and other human rights groups and international bodies.

At the same time, the U.S.-backed Guatemalan General José Efraín Ríos Montt, massacred and tortured the people of Guatemala — with U.N. estimates indicating over 200,000 were killed or disappeared in acts of genocide. The same Cold War premise of fighting “communists” was used to justify large-scale atrocities in El Salvador and Honduras. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the U.S. supported brutal dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, and other countries, and militarily invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989). More recently, of course, the U.S. supported coups in Venezuela, Honduras and Haiti.

It could not be more clear that democracy in Latin America is threatened and actually has been compromised on many occasions by the U.S.’s foreign policy, especially in the post-1978 period that Weyland names. Rewriting history to minimize and erase these events serves the interests of the U.S. government, so it is perhaps no surprise that publications like the Journal of Democracy carry out this work diligently, but when government propaganda makes its way into independent publications like The Atlantic without comment, it is cause for alarm, especially when there are numerous factual errors.

    1. Weyland writes that “Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina (2007-), whose fervent supporters take inspiration from Chávez, is eyeing constitutional changes and renewed reelection.”

Fact check: President Cristina Fernández has not said anything to this effect.  She has  proposed constitutional amendments focused on reforms to the judiciary, and she has already addressed the Argentine congress specifically, saying that she is not planning to pursue reforms that would allow her to run for a third consecutive term. Weyland would be right in noting that some of her supporters floated the idea of a third term, but Weyland’s claim as written is simply not true.  If this seems like a minor point, consider that Honduran ex-president Manuel Zelaya’s support for a non-binding referendum on a constituent assembly was misreported in the media as a bid to extend his presidency and was used as a justification for his removal both within Honduras and internationally.  Weyland perpetuates this myth, saying that Zelaya “was stopped” before he could “boost[] the presidency’s powers and pave[] the way toward indefinite reelection to that office.”  By presenting the coup that removed Zelaya as an event that forestalled a nondemocratic turn, in particular saying nothing about events following the coup, much of Weyland’s argument supposedly in favor of democracy in Latin America is rendered moot.

    1. “That Venezuela had already fallen under nondemocratic rule was confirmed in October 2012 by Chávez’s unfair reelection, achieved with the help of intimidation tactics, tight restrictions on the opposition, and the massive misuse of the state apparatus.”

The 2012 elections in Venezuela were declared free and fair by election accompanying groups and by monitors such as the Carter Center, which noted that “the whole opposition leadership, including, most importantly, Capriles himself, unequivocally reject those claims [of election fraud favoring Chávez], stating that the results reflected the will of the electorate.”  Journalists and human rights watchers monitoring the electoral process praised the system while giving detailed reports about what they saw.

    1. “With its electoral façade and progressive rhetoric about helping the excluded, the soft authoritarianism that is taking hold in parts of Latin America has an attractive face.”

In sweeping statements such as this one, Weyland casts doubt on both the electoral victories and the policies of progressive and left governments in Latin America. He suggests that the people’s will is not represented in the official outcomes of national elections, and even if left-wing politicians seem popular that is because they trick and/or intimidate citizens and do not deliver on promises to the poor and other disenfranchised sectors of society.

Actually, these are not elections whose legitimacy is seriously questioned by any but those on the extreme right. And the implication that progressive and left governments are limiting their policies to “progressive rhetoric,” is absurd. The overall trend in the countries that have elected progressive and left leaders has been the enactment of policy alternatives to neoliberalism, and their effect has been large reductions in income inequality, a reduction in poverty, and provision of health care, education and important services to many people who previously could not access them. These policies have included reforming and regulating the financial sector in Ecuador, investing oil profits into social missions in Venezuela, and successfully managing a large financial crisis and debt default in Argentina — resulting in only one quarter of negative economic growth followed by nine years of some of the highest growth in the region.

Weyland’s reference to an “electoral façade” betrays the central goal of the NED: what sociologist William Robinson refers to as “promoting polyarchy.”  As opposed to experiments in direct democracy occurring on various levels in countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia, the NED ultimately promotes only representative forms of democracy, or polyarchy. In Robinson’s definition, this is “a system in which a small group actually rules, and mass participation in decision-making is confined to choosing leaders in elections that are carefully managed by competing elites.” In Venezuela, Chávez’s Bolivarian project did away with a polyarchic system, and across much of the continent NED-backed parties and candidates have failed in election after election. When Washington’s candidates don’t win, often the elections are depicted as illegitimate and sometimes the electoral process is attacked – as seen with the most recent Venezuelan election, or with the U.S.’ interference, via the OAS, in Haiti’s last presidential election.

    1. “As soon as [Chávez] was elected president of Venezuela, he set about revamping the country’s institutional framework. First, he called a constituent assembly.”

Weyland’s claims here come after stating that “graver and more sustained danger is coming from the leftist variant” of populism than the rightist version, but is the Venezuelan constituent assembly really evidence of anti-democratic tendencies? No again. Calling for a constituent assembly was exactly what Venezuelans elected Chávez to do. Ending the ossified political arrangement known as “Punto Fijo” – in which political parties routinely alternated in and out of power – and calling a constituent assembly were key campaign promises he made ahead of the 1998 elections. Chávez was fulfilling his campaign promises– a much more infrequent phenomenon in the U.S.

    1. “[Ecuadorean president Rafael] Correa also seized on a 2010 police rebellion—painted by him as a coup attempt—as a pretext for cracking down on independent social and political forces.”

Many observers both in and outside of Ecuador characterize the events of September 30, 2010 as an attempted coup d’état: after assaulting him with tear gas, rebelling police officers later held the president hostage in the hospital where he was being treated. The coup attempt was condemned as such by presidents and representatives of UNASUR, foreign dignitaries such as the president of Spain, and the OAS. Weyland and The Journal of Democracy may be taking the U.S. government’s line, one of the few countries that declined to recognize the events as a coup attempt, even though then-Secretary of State Clinton did issue a statement in expressing “our full support for President Rafael Correa.”

    1. “Bypassing or subjugating intermediate institutions such as firmly organized parties, the leader—often a charismatic figure—establishes face-to-face contact with large number of citizens. In earlier decades, mass rallies were crucial; now-a-days, television allows populists to reach their followers ‘in person.’ Chávez hosted a regular Sunday talk show.”

Calling for respect of “firmly organized parties” in Venezuela in the context of Chávez’s rise in politics obscures that one of the central political problems in Venezuela during the 90s was deep distrust in the main political parties and their “Punto Fijo” arrangement, which Robinson describes as a polyarchic system.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that President Obama has a weekly address on YouTube, and yet he is not derided as an illegitimate president because of his use of social media. Presidents and major politicians all over the world have Twitter and Facebook accounts that they use to communicate with constituents, and many even make appearances on talk shows. Is such “face-to-face contact” somehow nefarious?

    1. “In Bolivia, the Morales government shut the opposition out of decisive stages of the constitution drafting process.”

Weyland is again telling only half the story, which in this case is worse than none. The truth is that opposition legislators boycotted stages of the constitution drafting process because they disagreed with the direction in which things were going. Bolivia had elected its first indigenous president, with massive support from the country’s social movements, and he was facilitating a transformation of society to one in which a racial minority and tiny elite did not wield power over the majority of Bolivians. Evo Morales’s election drew comparisons to the symbolic end of apartheid in South Africa with the election of Nelson Mandela, and the new constitution was compared to the Freedom Charter.

It is not surprising that extreme elements in the opposition boycotted the process of installing a new constitution that cemented the rights of the indigenous majority, and it is misleading to describe these events as a “populist” power-grab.

This has been a brief review of some major claims that Weyland uses in arguing his point, namely that “democracy in the region is facing a sustained, coordinated authoritarian threat” from the progressive and left governments in Latin America. I have detailed not only mischaracterizations and significant omissions, but also argued for more independence in the practice of journalism. One of the responsibilities of a well-functioning press is to clearly indicate when articles are reused from sources funded mostly by the U.S. government.

[1] Ignatius, David. “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups.” The Washington Post. Sep 22, 1991: C1. Print.

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Analysis from National Endowment for Democracy Used in The Atlantic, with Significant Errors and Omissions

Bolivia: New Factory to Make Coca Products for Medicinal Use

By Marc Rogers | The Argentina Independent | July 30, 2013

Bolivian president Evo Morales today inaugurated the first factory for coca-based products, highlighting their health benefits and medicinal uses.

The new plant, opened in a suburb of La Paz, will process around 75,000 tonnes of coca leaf a year to make drinkable infusions, such as coca mate and teas.

Coca cultivation is illegal is much of world, but permitted in Bolivia. In January the UN agreed to exempt Bolivia from its 1961 ruling to criminalise the coca leaf, one that Morales called a “historic error“.

“It’s good for me,” said Morales of chewing the coca leaf at the inauguration of the new factory. “Many people are fighting diabetes with coca – that has been proven.” The president also pointed to a Harvard University investigation from the 1990s that found considerable health benefits could be derived from eating coca.

The factory will be administered by the Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca), and was built with support from the national and city governments, as well as the EU.

Morales added that he would present the coca products to his Ecuadorian counterpart Rafael Correa on the fringes of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) summit to see about exporting the goods.

Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are the world’s principal coca producers.

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , | Comments Off on Bolivia: New Factory to Make Coca Products for Medicinal Use

The Cocaleros and the rise of Evo Morales

By gthomas2219  · July 17, 2013

This essay will explore the impact that the Cocaleros and Evo Morales have had on Bolivia over the recent history. The impact of the Cocaleros will be shown in their central role in establishing a platform for Morales to rise to prominence on. Morales’s impact will be explored through examination of specific changes enacted in his time as President, specifically establishing a new constitution, reforming extraction of Bolivia’s vast gas reserves and reforms related to the coca plant. To begin certain contextual factors of Morales’s changes will be established.

Bolivia’s history is one of exploitation, whether it be the colonial Spanish exploitation of the vast silver deposits of Potosi’s Cerro Rico in the Sixteenth Century, or the exploitation of the vast natural gas reserves by multinational corporations (MNCs) throughout the late 1980s and 1990s (Artaraz, 2012). The historically continuous exploitation of Bolivia’s vast natural resource wealth has been felt by the Bolivian people as a lack of sovereignty (Dangl, 2007; Artaraz, 2012). Politics in Bolivia since the foundation of the republic in 1825 has proved difficult (Dunkerley, 2007). An incomplete revolution in 1952 was defeated by a military coup in 1964, by 1982 democracy had formally been re-established, however political power was concentrated in the hands of a minority elite, unrepresentative of the vast majority of Bolivians (Dunkerley, 2007; Morales, 2011; Artaraz, 2012). In response to the unrepresentativeness and corruption that was characteristic of Bolivian politics, especially since 1982, the general attitude of the population to politics was one of dissolution. However, the international perception of Bolivian politics during the 1990s was excellent, Bolivia was seen as a shinning example of neoliberalism, it had opened itself up to MNCs, it had low public spending and it was conforming to US War on Drugs through eradication of the coca crop (Dunkerley, 2007; Klein, 2011). This being said there has always been a strong thread of resistance running through Bolivian society. Emblematic of this until the 1980s were strong trade unions, particularly mining unions, however the closure of tin mines and the loss of over 20,000 jobs in 1985 wrought huge destruction (Dangl, 2007; Klein, 2011). The mining union’s loss was the Cocaleros’[1] gain as many newly unemployed miners moved east to the Chapare region and took their unionising skills with them (Artaraz, 2012).

The movement of miners to the coca growing area of El Chapare proved hugely significant for Bolivia. The miner’s background in unions helped structure the organisations of Cocaleros and their resistance to law 1008[2] and the eradication efforts of the government (Crabtree, 2005). The government stepped up eradication policy in 1997 with President Hugo Banzer advocating a ‘zero coca’ policy (Crabtree, 2005, p. 38). Not only attempting to defend their livelihoods the resistance of the Cocaleros was hugely symbolic for two reasons. One, the resistance represented a defence of a traditional Andean symbol – the coca leaf which has been a central symbol of Andean culture for centuries, and two, the fight against US imperialism and defence of Bolivian sovereignty (Crabtree, 2005; Dangl, 2007; Artaraz, 2012). It was through the organisation of the Cocaleros’ resistance that Evo Morales came to prominence, he rose up to become the leader of the largest Cocaleros union (Crabtree, 2011; Artaraz, 2012). The resistance of the Cocaleros transformed into active political participation throughout the 1990s, with a key moment coming in 1994 with the ‘Law of Popular Participation’ (PPL) (Artaraz, 2012, p. 46) being enacted. PPL decentralised power to newly created municipalities, which provided a base for limited representation of local groups (Klein, 2011; Artaraz, 2012). In 1995 the Cocaleros joined with other indigenous social movements to create the ‘Political tool for Sovereignty of Common People (IPSP)’ (Dangl, 2007, p.49). The established political parties and the electoral commission denied recognition of the IPSP as a political party and so the IPSP took on the name of MAS[3] (Movement for Socialism) in 1999 to be able to stand for election (Dangl 2007; Harten, 2011). The notion of a political tool as was the IPSP and MAS is crucial as it demonstrates the bottom-up design of MAS; the primacy of the social movements that make it up – it is for their use, not for politicians (Harten, 2011). MAS is a tool to use not to be used by. The first leader was Evo Morales.

Despite MAS and Morales’s lineage being directly traceable to the Cocaleros, since coming to power in 2005[4] they have widened their base to include all social and indigenous movements, as well as trying to curry favour with the urban middle class (Harten, 2011). Morales’s skill as a leader, and a central plank of MAS’s electoral success, is his ability to galvanise and shape a vast array of indigenous and social protest movements into a unified political project (Salman, 2007). Like the miner’s influence in organising the Cocaleros, Morales and MAS have taken the general anger and dissatisfaction of a wide array of social/indigenous protest movements and formed them into a coherent political articulation (Salman, 2007).

A key election pledge made by Morales before his victory in 2005 was to write a new constitution to enshrine the rights of the indigenous people of Bolivia, who despite making up the vast majority of the population [5] have been marginalised in Bolivian politics, and Bolivia in general throughout the country’s history (Artaraz, 2012). The new constitution, which was ratified in January 2009, casts Bolivia as a ‘plurinational’ state (Republica de Bolivia, 2009 in Albro, 2010, p. 78). The plurinational characterisation of the state highlights the rise in stature indigenous groups have experienced alongside the rise of Morales to the Presidency (Albro, 2010; Assies, 2011; Artaraz, 2012). A symbolic – as well as practical – codification of the new constitution is the classification of the coca leaf as not a drug in its natural form, the protection of this central symbol of Andean culture is also a direct challenge to US classification (Assies, 2011). Another strengthening of the legal recognition of indigenous people is shown in the codification of Andean ethics – ‘ama qhilla, ama llulla, ama suwa (don’t be lazy, don’t lie, and don’t be a thief)’ (Assies, 2011, p. 112); the new Bolivian constitution is not just a document to rule by, it is a document to live by – crucially an Andean indigenous life. The representation of indigenous groups by the constitution is also reflected in Morales himself as he straddles the two most prominent indigenous identities, the Aymara and the Quechua (Crabtree, 2011); his family background is Aymara, but he grew up within a Quechuan area and so is a potent figure for the raised stature of Bolivia’s indigenous population. Whilst physically embodying the indigenous identities of Bolivia, Morales’s politics are also of an indigenous nature, which can be classified as ‘sindicato democracy’ (Conzelman, 2010, p. 5). This is a democracy typified by high levels of direct community accountability; a focus on consensus; individual responsibility to the community; subordination of the individual to the community; economics that work for the community (Conzelman, 2010). The sindicato democracy of Morales, in the language of the liberal democratic tradition he has widened and strengthened the public sphere, he has established a non-exclusionary public sphere, he has empowered civil society (Fraser, 1997; Albro, 2010; Conzelman, 2010; Artaraz, 2012). As noted above, there has always been a strong theme of resistance in Bolivian politics, occurring within civil society, but the codification of indigenous rights within the new constitution has undoubtedly strengthened civil society (Assies, 2011). The pre-eminence of indigenous identity in the new constitution evidences the strengthening of sovereignty of Bolivia, it also points to the reclamation of Bolivia for Bolivians, what Postero (2010, p.19) has called ‘indigenous nationalism’, which is emblematic of Morales’s political project.

A significant sign of Morales’s impact since coming to power can be seen in the nationalisation of Bolivia’s vast reserves of natural gas (Kaup, 2010; Sivak, 2011). However this was not a total/traditional nationalisation, but a renegotiation of contracts between the state and MNCs (Kohl, 2010; Sivak, 2011). The state raised taxation and royalties charged to the companies from 18 per cent to 50 per cent, and in some particularly significant gas fields to 82 per cent for a short time, this initial extra rise was in order to recapitalise the state’s gas company YPFB (Kaup, 2010). What this demonstrates then is not a full or traditional nationalisation, but a significant imposition of the state within the economy – state capitalism rather than full socialism. The profits derived from the renegotiated contracts have been channelled into social welfare programmes such as education and health care (Kohl, 2010; Kaup, 2010; Crabtree, 2011).

The semi­-nationalisation of gas, and the increased role of the state within the economy, points to the sindicato style of Morales’s political project. In this sense the economy is seen to work for the nation, profit for the community rather than individual profit. There has been criticism of this approach both from the left and right (Kaup, 2010). From the left are claims that Morales has not gone far enough, and that Bolivian gas should be totally nationalised (Kohl. 2010; Kaup, 2010). Bolivia’s contract with Brazil, which relies on Bolivian gas for up to 50 per cent of its total consumption, stipulates that 65 per cent of all daily Bolivian production be sent to Brazil (La Razón, 2007 in Kaup, 2010). Critics on the right claim that the sharp rise in rents charged by the State will discourage new investment and stifle current work, similar criticism is levelled at the use of the revenue for social programmes, arguing for its re-investment in the gas industry (Kaup, 2010). This demonstrates the tightrope that Morales must walk and his pragmatism in walking it. Regardless of criticism of Morales’s semi-nationalisation of gas, it has undoubtedly increased Bolivian sovereignty over one of its key natural resources and reduced the exploitation of the country by foreign actors; it has also greatly increased social welfare programmes that are vital in reducing social inequalities.

Another example of Morales’s pragmatism and the unique middle way between capitalism and socialism is the codification of private property and land laws set out in the 2009 constitution. Protection of private property is conditional on it having a ‘social-economic function’ (Assies, 2011, p. 115). Property must work for society, again evidencing the shift in relationship between the nation/civil society and the economy. Unlike in the neoliberal ideology where the economy is predominant to all other sectors of society, a predominance which is based upon the ultimate protection of private property and the rule of law, the social function required of private property in the 2009 Bolivian constitution predominates the social over the economic/legal (Plant, 2010; Wolff, 2013). In short the social-economic function demanded of private property points to a central theme of change under Morales, the subordination of the ‘rule of law’ to ‘the rule of the people’ (Wolff, 2013, p. 46). This subordination is unsurprising as it follows the logic of sindicato democracy. The fundamental nature of Bolivian politics has changed since Morales’s came to power. Under his Presidency the country has seen a diminishing of liberal political traits and a rise of what Wolff (2013) calls ‘post-liberal democracy’ (p.31), or as has been the case throughout the text sindicato democracy. The decline in the institutional role of traditional political organs such as the executive, judiciary ect. is reflected in the rise of participation outside of institutional boundaries seen in mobilisations rather than institutional participation through traditional methods – joining a political party (Wolff, 2013). To put it simply the post-liberal/sindicato democracy stemming from Morales’s rule is a much raw-er, more direct and less institutionally confined form of governance.

Whilst certainly not traditionally socialist, the political project embarked upon by Morales since his rise through the coca unions is one that can be characterised by its anti-neoliberal, perceptibly anti-American imperialistic neoliberalism (Sivak, 2011). Bolivia now does not receive any new loans from either the IMF or the World Bank, a sign of the rejection of the neoliberal conditions that these loans are based on and increased sovereignty of the country (Dangl, 2007; Sivak, 2011). A specific example of the rejection of American led policy, outside of the change in approach to coca growing, is seen in Morales’s decision to leave the ‘Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)’ (Sivak, 2011, p. 145) which is a free trade agreement used by the US to exercise influence and stifle the growth of regional trade blocs that could potentially damage US business interests in the area. Relatedly Bolivia’s joining of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the People’s Trade Agreement (PTA) with Cuba and Venezuela can be seen to represent – in one instance – anti-American/anti-neoliberal policies (Dangl, 2007; Sivak, 2011). The PTA is a good example of the sindicato theme of Morales in that it is based on mutually beneficial trade, something that cannot be said of FTAA (Dangl, 2007).

Morales’s close link to coca has had a key structuring effect on his politics. Whilst rising to a position of power through the coca grower’s unions, since becoming President he has pursued a surprising policy approach to coca (Dangl, 2007; Sivak, 2011; Artaraz, 2012). His approach may be taken as another example of his pragmatism, or the reformist nature of Morales and MAS as opposed to revolutionary (Webber, 2010). On the one hand Morales has been sympathetic to his Cocaleros roots in that he has codified coca as not a drug, in its natural form, in the 2009 constitution (Assies, 2011). Morales has greatly expanded the internal, legal, market for coca, which has greatly benefited small farmers as it has widened their platform to sell their crops (Dangl, 2007; Kohl, 2010). Eradication initiatives whilst still in place have been qualitatively changed, no longer are they violent and forced but are now voluntary and achieved through social control when a farmer grows over the 1,600m2legal limit (Dangl, 2007; Sivak, 2011). The change in the nature of eradication has vastly reduced the violence in the El Chapare region (Dangl, 2007). However, it is the fact that eradication efforts are still in place that has surprised many. Morales has focused his anti-coca policy on combating coca farming for cocaine production, but despite this the US since the Bush administration has continued to withhold certification of Bolivia as an ally in the War on Drugs (Sivak, 2011). Most significantly, despite winning consecutive elections with an increased majority, Morales has not repealed law 1008, the US-backed drug laws that have been shown to disproportionately affect small scale farmers as opposed to growers of coca for cocaine (Crabtree, 2005; Dangl, 2007).

Whilst not impacting as significantly as expected on coca laws, Morales has undeniably impacted on Bolivia. A concrete manifestation of his impact is the 2009 constitution, which primarily codified the rights of indigenous people, it has raised their stature in the country and it is hard to envisage it ever declining. The nature of democracy has changed vastly; Morales has overseen a drastic shift from neoliberalism to Andean sindicato democracy, which has reversed the dominance of the economy and put civil society, the citizens in charge. The empowering of the nation is also clearly seen in the semi-nationalisation of Bolivia’s gas reserves, and the new mutually beneficial trade alliances with other Latin American countries. The exploitation that has characterised Bolivian history since it’s colonisation is rapidly declining. Morales has facilitated ownership of Bolivia for Bolivians and is a shinning example of the strengthening of indigenous people.

This essay has traced the impact of the Cocaleros and Evo Morales on Bolivia by first establishing context. The impact of the Cocaleros was seen in that it was here that Morales began to climb the ladder to presidency. The Cocaleros were also crucial to the formation of MAS, which has now become the dominant force in Bolivian politics. Morales’s impact has been specifically outlined in the reforms to the gas contracts, the change enacted in coca eradication, the writing of a new constitution, and a fundamental change to the nature of Bolivian politics. Whilst the essay has focused primarily on Morales he would undoubtedly not be where he is today without the Cocaleros organisations, ironically the neoliberalism that has been severely diminished by Morales and MAS played a central factor in strengthening the Cocaleros unions which provided the platform for the progress of MAS and Morales.


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Salman, T. (2007) Bolivia and the Paradox of Democratic Consolidation. Latin American Perspectives. 34 (6) pp: 111 – 130.

Sivak, M. (2011) The Bolivianisation of Washington – La Paz relations: Evo Morales’ foreign policy agenda in historical context. In: Pearce, A. J. (ed) (2011) Evo Morales and the Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia: The first term in context, 2006 – 2010. Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London. pp: 143 – 173.

Webber, J. R. (2010) Carlos Mesa, Evo Morales, and a divided Bolivia (2003 – 2005). Latin American Perspectives. 37 (3) pp: 51 – 70.

Wolff, J. (2013) Towards Post-Liberal Democracy in Latin America? A Conceptual Framework Applied to Bolivia. Journal of Latin American Studies. 45 (1) pp: 31 – 59.

[1] Coca farmers

[2] Passed in 1988, bringing various US influenced anti-drug laws together and setting a maximum area for coca growing (Crabtree, 2005).

[3] MAS was a defunct party in all but name (Harten, 2011)

[4] Morales won an unprecedented absolute majority in the Presidential election of December 2005, winning in total 54% of the vote (Hylton, 2006).

[5] ‘Nearly 62% of its [Bolivia] people are native speakers of an indigenous language’ (INE, 2003; World Bank, 2008 in Postero, 2010, p. 19).

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on The Cocaleros and the rise of Evo Morales

Manning convicted of espionage counts, cleared of aiding the enemy charge

Press TV – July 30, 2013

US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning has been found guilty on five counts of violating the espionage act for giving secret US documents to WikiLeaks.

Manning’s verdict was announced by the military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

The private was acquitted of the aiding the enemy charge, which was the most serious of 21 counts. Although he has been cleared of the charge, his convictions mean he could still face a lengthy prison sentence.

His convictions, which are five espionage counts, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge and other military infractions, carry a maximum sentence of up to 130 years in prison.

The 25-year-old Army private was accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in 2010. His sentencing hearing is set to begin Wednesday.

Manning has admitted to sending over 470,000 documents related to Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and other material, including several battlefield video clips, to WikiLeaks, which published most of the material online.

In a reaction posted on Twitter, WikiLeaks denounced the verdict, saying it reflected “dangerous national security extremism from the Obama administration.”

WikiLeaks also said that the conviction of Manning on several counts of espionage set a “very serious new precedent for supplying information to the press.”

Meanwhile, dozens of people gathered outside the courtroom in Fort Meade to show their support and demand Manning’s freedom.

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

Cuba Decries Strengthening of US blockade

Prensa Latina | July 29, 2013

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) denounced today the United States has hardened the blockade on the island over the last weeks, using for this action the Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.

According to the information from the Ministry, on June 28, the OFAC fined one of the most important Italian banks, Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A., compelling it to pay $2,949,030 dollars.

According to the probe carried out by OFAC, the bank handled 53 transfers in favor of Cuba, from 2004 to 2008.

The Cuban government says the extraterritorial application of this sanction is evidence of the impudence with which the United States treats its European partners and sets a negative precedent for other institutions that do business with Cuba.

Besides this, adds the official note, on July 22nd, the OFAC fined once again another company for violating blockade regulations against Cuba, this time with $5,226,120 dollars, the largest sum yet this year.

The victim this time was one of the main tour operator agencies in the US, American Express Travel Related Services Company. This is the second fine in less than one month and the fifth this year, stresses Minrex in an official note published in its digital website.

The OFAC announced this last sanction after concluding a detailed investigation consisting in the US obsession with preventing at all cost that US citizens travel freely to Cuba.

The fine was set off by the alleged sale of 14,487 air tickets to travel to Cuba from third countries, outside from the license given to American Express Travel for the groups of “people to people” travel.

At the same time, the Minrex note says the fines reinforce the extraterritorial application of the blockade on companies for their operations in third countries.

The fundamental objective of this criminal and inhumane policy is to keep on harming and bearing suffering on the Cuban people, concludes the communique.

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

West’s war crimes in Syria exposed

By Finian Cunningham | Press TV | July 30, 2013

There was a time during the 30-month covert dirty war on Syria when the Western governments and mainstream media would make a clamor over reported massacres.

Now, despicably, these governments and media just ignore such atrocities.

Why? Because it is increasingly clear that the groups committing these crimes against thousands of Syrian civilians are the foreign-backed mercenaries, whom the Western media and their governments have tried to lionize as “rebels” fighting for “democratic freedom”.

That charade is rapidly disintegrating, exposing not just criminal Western governments sponsoring the violence against civilians, but an entire media industry that is also guilty of war crimes through its willful complicity.

This is not mere hyperbole. To disseminate false information and lies about conflict – under the guise of independent news – is to be complicit in covering up war crimes. You can hardly get more serious misconduct than to tell lies about crimes against humanity.

These toxic lies and propaganda are now being exposed as the Western-backed plot to subvert the sovereign state of Syria unravels; this unraveling is accentuated by the West’s death squads becoming even more unhinged as they stare at looming defeat at the hands of the Syrian army.

The latest massacre occurred in the town of Khan al-Assal in the northern province of Aleppo. Some 150 people, mostly civilians, were reportedly slaughtered in cold blood. Many of the victims were shot in the head execution-style. The groups claiming responsibility are the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and Ansar al Khalifa.

Reliable sources say that the killers tried to cover up their barbaric crimes by mutilating the corpses and burning the remains. Only days before this orgy of murder, the same groups are believed to have massacred at least seven civilians in the town of Maqbara in the province of Hasakah.

Elsewhere, as the Syrian national army makes searing advances against the militants, it is apparent from the identities of the dead that the majority of these fighters are foreigners, from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Jordan, Turkey, as well as from the US and Europe, including Britain, France and Germany.

Just last week, it was reported that Saudi Arabia bought $50 million-worth of heavy arms from Israel to supply this foreign network in its endeavor to terrorize the people of Syria into submission.

Already, the US, Britain and France have stumped up over $200 million which they claim is provided to “the Syrian opposition” in the form of “non-lethal aid”.

This is just cynical semantics to cover up the fact that the Western governments and their regional Turk, Arab and Israeli proxies are sponsoring genocide in Syria.

Over the weekend as the mass murders in Khan al-Assal and Maqbara emerged there was a telling silence in the Western media. A cursory glance at outlets such as New York Times, Washington Post, Voice of America, the Guardian, BBC, France 24, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, among others, showed no or negligible reports on the atrocities.

A notable exception was the London-based Financial Times, which headlined: “Syria opposition condemns rebel attack”. The FT tried to obfuscate the mass murder of civilians by claiming that “extremist rebels” had executed captured Syrian army soldiers and by giving prominence to condemnation of the “abuses” by the exile non-entity group, the Syrian National Coalition.

Similar Western silence followed another massacre last month in the village of Hatlah in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour. In mid-June, more than 60 mainly Shia inhabitants were slaughtered again by Western-backed foreign militants. Most of the victims were women and children. Syrian government appeals for international condemnation at the United Nations were ignored.

Contrast this void in Western government and media reaction to earlier massacres. In May and June 2012, the Western media went viral with reports of mass killings in the villages of Houla and Qubair where some 108 and 78 inhabitants were murdered, many of them with throats slit. Immediately, the Western media then claimed or implied that the perpetrators were Syrian state forces and roundly condemned President Bashar al-Assad.

Back then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Assad of “ruling by murder and fear” and led the chorus of Western governments calling for Assad to step down.

It later transpired that the Houla and Qubair massacres were the work of the Western-backed foreign militants. But Western media did not follow-up with corrective reporting. This is the conduct of a propaganda ministry, not independent journalism.

The same propaganda formula of sensationalist headlines and innuendo, with minimal evidence, was repeated in subsequent massacres, such as in Tremseh in July 2012, or the bomb attack on Aleppo University in January this year in which more than 80 were killed. Also in that same month, more than 100 bodies were fished out of the Queiq River in the Bustan al-Qasr district of Aleppo – all of those victims with gunshot wounds to the head. Never mind that the district was under the control of foreign militants, the Western media continued their campaign of innuendo that it was the Syrian state forces that carried out the executions.

The Syrian government has consistently alleged that all these mass killings are the work of Western-backed militants. This sickening terrorist methodology concatenates with the Takfiri mentality of killing everyone who is deemed to be an infidel – Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Christian, non-believer alike, who does not subscribe to their fundamentalist twisted theology.

It is entirely in keeping that Western governments and Wahhabi Arab despots sponsor such groups given the long history of collusion between these protagonists, going back to the creation of al-Qaeda by Western military intelligence in Afghanistan during the 1980s to fight the then Soviet-backed government in Kabul.

The indiscriminate murder of civilians in wholesale massacres by Western-backed death squads operating in Syria to overthrow the Assad government is also consistent with the countless no-warning car bombs that have ripped through markets, streets, hospitals and schools all across Syria. Days before the latest slaughter in Khan al-Assal, a car bomb killed at least 10 in the Jaramana district of the capital, Damascus.

A few months earlier, another deadly bomb attack also targeted Jaramana, killing more than 30. The district is a mixed community of Muslim, Christian and Druze, which is largely supportive of the Assad government. As with the many other massacres in Syria, the aim is to terrorize the civilian population, to sow sectarianism and to coerce
the populace to relinquish support for the government.

As the foreign criminal conspiracy to force regime change in Syria flounders – with the turning point being the Syrian army victory in Qusayr early last month – the Western-sponsored terrorists are resorting to more and more desperate methods. This depravity was manifested yet again in the slaughter of civilians in Khan al-Assal and Maqbara. Tragically and despicably, we can expect more such atrocities in the coming weeks and months as the Western criminal conspiracy suffers more defeats.

But what is truly remarkable is how the Western governments and their propaganda machine, known euphemistically as the mainstream news media, are ignoring these latest massacres. That is because their vile game is up. They can no longer dissimulate on the reality of who is carrying out these massacres and how it is all part of a criminal genocidal campaign directed from Washington, London and Paris. That is why they are feigning to ignore such atrocities. To look into them honestly would uncover the ugly face of Western imperialism and the unconscionable role played all along by so-called Western news media.

Meanwhile, proper journalistic services like Press TV that are reporting the reality of what the Western governments are really doing in Syria via their death squads are being banned from satellite networks controlled by Western authorities.

Indeed, a very real extension of this censorship is how Press TV correspondent Maya Nasser was murdered last September by Western-backed death squads in Damascus for the very reason that he was helping to uncover the truth about what is being inflicted on Syria. Assassination is just an extreme act of censorship, as the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once noted.

Western government and media silence over the latest massacres in Syria is not just a matter of indifference or sloppy journalism. It is indicative of their complicity in the covert genocidal war on Syria.

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on West’s war crimes in Syria exposed