Juan Carlos Zambrana Marchetti
Upon learning that the president was dead, the writer said “My pen killed him.” In light of history, therefore, it is questionable whether personalized criticism is meant to “save the process”
In his article “Only One Option?” (¿Una Sola Opción?), Andres Soliz Rada, former parliamentarian and Evo’s minister of hydrocarbons, reacts to my article “The End of Evo, or the End of Common Sense?” (¿El fin de Evo o de la Cordura?). He reacts, yes, but he does not answer the central point of my article: it is fine to be critical, but criticism ceases to be constructive when it is joined to an antirevolutionary subversive movement.
Solis says in his answer that he criticizes in order to “preserve and deepen the process of transformations that the country is undergoing, to keep it from ending tragically, as happened to the nationalist regimes of Busch, Villarroel, Ovando and Torres.” He seems to strain to forget that all of the achievements made during those nationalist regimes were handed over by neoliberalism to the transnationals; that the old nationalist revolution was buried then, because Bolivia had been ransacked. He knows perfectly well that the current process of change was born in the Chapare, with first and last names, and that to overthrow Evo would mean, without a doubt, overthrowing the process of change.
I do not know how far Soliz realizes that his discourse is being used to that end. Curiously, the tragic end of Busch, Villarroel, Ovando and Torres was perpetrated with the open participation of the right-wing press with its powerful mechanisms for the manipulation of public opinion. Hidden passages in Bolivia’s history show the devastating effect that the opinion of a renowned intellectual can have when it is used by the Right for subversive actions.
Germán Busch, too, had one of them as a declared enemy. Alcides Arguedas was his name, and so relevant was his rivalry with the president that he registered secret details in his diary, of which he sent a copy to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. with instructions that it not be opened to the public for fifty years after his death. I had the opportunity to review those archives, and found some revealing information. One day prior to Busch’s death under circumstances that remain unclear, Arguedas sent three letters abroad, detailing his enmity with the president. He explained later that he did so in order that they be made public in case that something went wrong that night, and that something happened to him in reprisal. He knew, therefore, that a subversive plan was underway, and he knew that the reaction of Busch could mean the firing squad for the seditious plotters. But all went well for the conspirators, and Arguedas, upon learning that Busch was dead, said publicly “My pen killed him.” In the light of history, therefore, it’s questionable whether Soliz Rada’s criticism is meant to “save the process.” Considering that Evo is the backbone of this process, Soliz’ personalized criticism seems meant rather to destroy him.
Apart from that, I said that “Evo had valid reasons for not extorting Lula,” to which Soliz responded with a definition from a dictionary of law concerning the criminal implications of the word “extortion.” The dictionary I use is that of the Royal Spanish Academy, which defines the word as “pressure, by mean of threats, exerted against someone to force him to act in a given manner.” Unless I am wrong, that definition largely meets Soliz’ phrase in his article “Was There Nationalization?” (¿Hubo nacionalización?), in which, in reference to the negotiations with Brazil, he said this: “The only way of doing it was to negotiate from the position of strength that we had, given the dramatic dependency of the giant industrial complex of Sao Paulo on Bolivian gas, which it could not do without. The strategic advantage was lost a year later, when Brazil achieved self-sufficiency in gas.” In brief, he said that Brazil’s dramatic dependency on our gas gave us a strategic advantage allowing us to assume a position of strength. Position of strength?. If that’s not extortion, it seems so close to it that the Brazilians could not have failed to take notice. That was probably what caused them to get out of a position of “dramatic dependency” in a hurry.
I said also that “the gas was not given away to Brazil by Evo, but by several generations of governments of the Right…and that no one said anything when it was given away.” Soliz answers by saying that he did denounce the agreements with Brazil, and he mentions further some personalities of undeniable worth such as Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, the engineer Enrique Mariaca Bilbao, Manuel Morales Dávila, and others. Many indeed denounced the disadvantages of those agreements, but we need to analyze the practical effects of those criticisms. The list is even longer, because it includes Augusto Cespedes, who criticized the original agreement before and after it was signed by our beloved president German Busch. That list of patriots includes also ministers Belmonte and Foianini, who with all respect explained to Busch that Bolivian diplomacy had once again capitulated, on that occasion, before Brazil. We must remember, for example, that the concession was described, according to the protest of Augusto Cespedes, in the following terms: “The sub-Andean Zone of Bolivia, from the Parapetí (River) northwards.” That is to say, it extended to the northern and eastern frontiers with Brazil, spanning practically the full length of the country. The duration of the contract was infinite, because it had no expiration date.
The endemic deficiencies of the contract with Brazil can be understood only by considering, first, that Bolivian diplomacy was conducted by the mining oligarchy, which, due to its business rivalry with the state, was used to defending its own interests before those of the nation. Second, we must remember that Bolivia signed that contract desperately, escaping from the oppression of the United States, which forced us to negotiate on our knees, and whose Standard Oil had robbed us of our oil in order to sell it to Paraguay during the Chaco War.
The third element that is not well understood is that that treaty was negotiated with a Brazil that played the part of “protector” of the Bolivians when Bolivia was threatened on all sides, as the treaty of peace and of limits with Paraguay had not yet been signed, after a war that we lost and in which all that remained was to delimit the territory to be turned over.
Augusto Céspedes describes clearly that drama in his book “The Suicidal Dictator” (El dictador suicida). Bolivia instructed its ambassador in Rio de Janeiro to “seek an accord through which Brazil committed to guarantee to us the territorial integrity of Bolivia, including military support in case that, under pressure of Paraguay and Argentina, an attempt were made to separate the territory of Santa Cruz, and in case of a renewed armed aggression.” Brazil signed that resolution delightedly. Busch sent back his diplomat, to set the Ichilo River as the northern limit of the concession and to make other minor amendments.
It was under those deplorable circumstances that, for the minimal sum of 750,000 dollars, Brazil was adjudicated an enormous concession in the richest oil fields in the continent as of that time. In that negotiation, therefore, we did not begin from scratch, nor under equal conditions. We began as prey already half devoured by predators: prostrated, half-blind, and with our guts spilled.
Years later, other leaders, such as Torres, Ovando and Quiroga Santa Cruz, took steps in defense of the hydrocarbons, but, in the end, the neoliberal governments of the recent past gave away absolutely everything. Evo had to begin from nothing to defend a country that again had been turned over to the transnationals. That included the railroads, the oil, energy, communications enterprises, and even the water. The old story that it was Carlos Mesa who raised to 50% Bolivia’s participation with the oil transnationals is laughable. Carlos Mesa was obliged by happenstance to sign that 50% in order to remain in power, and to avoid the nationalization that the public was starting to demand. Mesa was no more than the vice-president of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, and, albeit that he is an artist with words and poses, the Bolivian people will never forget that facts are facts.
I do not doubt that Soliz Rada wrote during those Plundering governments of the recent past, but the truth is that he could not overthrow them nor impede the looting. It’s understandable, because the voices that prevailed in the oligarchy’s press were those of the “experts” paid for the looting. Now, on the contrary, what he writes is indeed being used to overthrow a revolutionary government.
My intention has never been to discredit the contributions of critical thinkers. They are respectable contributions, even more so when presented as did Augusto Cespedes, defending the process with his pen, exerting his influence to improve it as far as he could from his political space, but without overthrowing the president.
For the eternal sentinel of the Bolivian hydrocarbons, the option is not to be carried away by the passions and the voices of those who resent Evo. It is to work to create his own political space, or to rejoin Evo’s two-thirds majority in the legislature, which, if the President keeps his promise to tighten the screws this year, would not be a crazy idea. All is possible when there is a will, selflessness, and a common interest. That was demonstrated by President Obama when he invited into his cabinet his fierce opponent Hillary Clinton. Andres Soliz Rada has options, but, in any case, helping to overthrow Evo is not the most sensible one, neither for him nor for the brand-new Plurinational State of Bolivia.