31 December 2007

'Bolivian Democracy In Mortal Danger'

An Open Letter to European Leaders by Danielle Mitterrand*

Just as Europe has learnt and cruelly paid for it, democracy needs to be ceaselessly alive, reinvented and defended, as much in our democratic countries as in the rest of the world. No democracy is an island. Democracies should assist one another. Therefore, I make an appeal to our leaders and to our grand institutions of the Press: yes, I affirm it, the young Bolivian democracy runs a mortal danger.

In 2005, a president and his government were amply elected by more than 60% of the electorate, despite that a large part of the potential indigenous voters was not included in the electoral rolls, as they did not even have a civil status. The major political orientation of this government were massively approved through referendum even before this election, and especially, the nationalisation of natural riches with a view to better redistribution, as also the convocation of a Constituent Assembly.

Why is a new Constitution indispensable? For the very simple reason that the old data of 1967, when in Latin America, the indigenous population (representing in Bolivia 75% of the population) were found totally excluded from any citizenship.

The work of the Constituent Assembly has been, from its origins, constantly obstructed by the manoeuvres and boycotts of the old oligarchies, which cannot bear to lose their economic and political privileges. The minority opposition maximises the cynicism, disguising their rejection of the sanctity of votes behind the mask of defence of democracy. They react with boycott, street-level aggression, intimidation of the elected officials, strictly in continuity with the killings of unarmed civilians perpetrated by the ex-President, Sánchez de Lozada in 2003, who on the other hand, is sought for his crimes and is a refugee in the United States.

Favoured by a carefully calibrated civic chaos, the separatist threats of the richest regions are reborn, which refuse the democratic game and do not want “to pay for the poorest regions”. Neo-fascist activist groups and paramilitary bands, subsidised by the Bolivian big bourgeois and certain foreign interests, have installed a climate of fear among the indigenous communities. Let us remember how it ended in Colombia and Guatemala, let us remember above all the Chilean democracy assassinated on 11 September 1973 after an identical destabilisation process.

Democracy can also be killed through misinformation. No, Evo Morales is not a dictator. No, he is not the head of a cocaine trafficking cartel. These caricatures are circulating in our countries without the least objectivity, as if the intrusion of an indigenous President and the growing power of indigenous citizens’ power are unbearable, not only to the Latin American oligarchies but also to the sanctimonious Western press. To unravel the organised lie, Evo Morales makes a call for dialogue, refusing to make use of the army and even putting his office in the balance.

I solemnly call on the defenders of democracy, our leaders, our intellectuals, our communication media: Are we going to wait so that Evo Morales meets the fate of Salvador Allende to cry about Bolivian democracy? Democracy is either of value to all, or to nobody. If our love our country, we should defend democracy everywhere that it is threatened. It is not for us, as some arrogantly try, to install democracy through force of arms; rather it for us to protect it in our country with all the force of our conviction and to be on the side of those that have installed it in their nation.

*Danielle Mitterrand is widow of the French President Francois Mitterrand and president of the France Libertés-Fondation Danielle Mitterrand.

Published in La Jornada, Mexico, on Dec 23, 2007 Link:


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