Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bolivia: El Pais Del Futuro

Posted originally on the WhipAltiplano Blog Jan.1st.2009.

The world today to a greater or lesser extent is controlled by various giant international institutions dominated by the United-States; the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations, and several other smaller regional organizations. U.S. President Obama calls them "an architecture of institutions", we can call it more accurately the imperialist superstructure of power. In the past decade Cuba and Venezuela have done their part to counter the structural dominance of capitalism, by promoting Latin American integration, and by creating ALBA, and the beginnings of the Banco del Sur. ALBA is a regional body of Latin American solidarity for the reciprocal exchange of goods and services aimed at achieving a mutual continental social well-being, and the Banco Del Sur is a continental and potentially international bank to provide funding for projects of self-sufficiency, social programs and development, a tool for economic independence and self-determination. In the past year, it is Bolivia that has led the way, and stepped forward with the hugely significant, original, and advanced ideas and concepts of Evo Morales, Alvaro Garcia Linera, and the MAS party.

Climate Justice and PachaMama Politics: Humanity and Planet Earth's Reciprocal Love Affair

Evo Morales' work on climate justice now has become extensive, but Bolivian thinking in this respect has gone so far that the term 'climate justice' doesn't even begin to accurately describe the scope and depth to which they have developed this topic. The first aspect is considering climate justice from the direct political and legal point of view, and within the existing and would-be existing international structures. Bolivia has spoken in the name of the Bolivian people at dozens of major international gatherings, conferences, and summits, including several times at the United Nations, about the abusive relationship between capitalism and Planet Earth, and about establishing an international climate justice tribunal. They have also pushed to entrench an internationally recognized and respected document similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, only one of an environmental nature that would outlaw and prevent the ravages of capitalism against humanity and planet earth.

Pablo Solon, Bolivian ambassador to the United-Nations, and Cormac Cullinan an environmental lawyer have worked on creating a definition:

"One of the most important implications is that it would enable legal systems to maintain vital ecological balances by balancing human rights against the rights of other members of the Earth community. Presently many environmentally harmful human activities (including those that cause climate change) are completely lawful.... Just as slave laws, which turned humans into property, entrenched an exploitative relationship between the two, our legal systems have entrenched an exploitative and inherently damaging relationship between ourselves and Earth. Even most environmental laws do little more than regulate the rate at which environmental destruction may take place."

"If legal systems recognized the rights of other-than-human beings (e.g. mountains, rivers, forests and animals), courts and tribunals could deal with the fundamental issues of environmental contamination rather than being bogged down in the technical details of permitted pollutants and emissions. For example, a rights-based approach could evaluate whether the rights of humans to clear tropical forests for beef ranching should trump the right of species in those forests to continue to exist. Instead of devising ever more complex schemes to authorize environmental damage and to trade in the right to pollute, we would focus on how best to maintain the quality of the relationship between ourselves and Earth."

This definition is a very well rounded basis for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, as the document will be called. An alternative international climate conference to rival Copenhagen 2009, to be hosted in Bolivia, is being promoted and scheduled for April 20-22, 2010. Evo has also elaborated on the predictably faulty 'solutions' that capitalist thinking has conjured to 'counter' climate change, namely carbon credits and the trading of emissions, in saying that "even climate change itself has become a business." He is correct in saying that the system of profit seeks to make a commodity even out of the destruction of the planet.

Another element of the climate justice discourse that Bolivia has stressed is that the industrialized countries be held accountable in paying back their ecological debt, to recover the health of southern communities, environments, and resources that have subsidized the wealth and prosperity of the developed world, and to prevent further deterioration where irreparable damage has already been made. An excerpt from the International Climate Justice Tribunal hearing in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on the 13th and 14th of October 2009 explains how "Climate Justice is based on the understanding that, whilst climate change requires global actions, the Northern Industrial Countries are historically responsible for having produced the greatest part (80%) of greenhouse gases over the last 250 years. Low cost energy -oil, coal and gas- has been the power behind their quick industrial and economic growth, without recognizing the ecologic, social, financial and historical debt to the southern communities and nature, for which they are responsible." Honesty and accountability figure prominently in the new international values system being promoted by ALBA and the Bolivian agenda, and as such the justice of truth will come down hard on the hypocritical politics of lies and status-quo regression that were the product of the climate talks of Brokenhagen 2009.

At the UN General Assembly in October Evo said; "I came here today to speak plainly with you all. The origin of this crisis is the exaggerated accumulation of capital in far too few hands. It is the permanent removal of natural resources and the commercialization of Mother Earth."

Evo Morales is an incredible analyst of the dynamic between the preservation of life vs. the culture of consumption, depletion, and death. He is able to illustrate in simple terms the impossibility of massive and disrespectful consumption, that in the necessity of eliminating the linear system on a finite planet, in order to redistribute equitably to end poverty, we must first end wealth, we must end this "exaggerated accumulation of capital." The strength of the Bolivian Revolution is its capacity to combine themes of class relations, with political and economic independence, with environmental justice, with gender equality, with communitarian sustainability, etc., to leave no element untouched, no rock unturned, and to formulate everything together into a very unique humanitarian, emancipatory paradigm of the future.

To give further examples of this, again I quote Evo Morales from the General Assembly: "Mother Earth, Planet Earth, will exist without human life, but human life cannot exist without Mother Earth.... I’ve concluded that in this new twenty- first century, defending Mother Earth will be more important than defending human rights. If we do not defend the rights of Mother Earth, there is no use in defending human rights. I am willing to debate this concept, but now or later it will be proven that the rights of Mother Earth supersede the rights of human beings. We must protect what gives us life."

Although Bolivia has become a leader in environmental justice and a lot of attention has been focused on the environmental discourse, there are also a lot of other elements of Bolivian ideology that deserve a close focus.

As much as the media tries to spin that the socialist governments of South America want to control resources only for their benefit and their so-called 'populist' advancement, the autonomy that was such a central theme throughout the Bolivian election shows just how committed to decentralization the MAS government really is.

Alongside the Dec. 6 presidential and legislative elections, 12 of Bolivia's 327 municipalities voted in favour of indigenous autonomy, which will give them control over the natural resources on their land and a greater say in how to use state funds, introducing a new type of budgetary autonomy. Indigenous autonomy has never been seriously talked about or implemented anywhere in the world, and that Bolivia is doing it now demonstrates a very progressive and advanced form of participatory democracy.

Since first taking office in January 2006, Morales has accelerated and expanded the country's land reform efforts through INRA, the national Institute of Agrarian Reform granting formal collective land titles to indigenous communities, known as Tierras Comunitarias de Origen or TCOs, a process that also involves recognition of native communities and their collective legal rights. The process involves mainly the seizing and reactivation of idle lands from huge private landholdings. It is interesting and romantic to note that the agrarian efforts in Cuba were also titled INRA during the early years of the Revolution, headed by one Che Guevara.

Simultaneously with the elections, the departments of Chuquisaca, La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro and Potosí also voted for provincial autonomy.

Evo Morales has also suggested to organize and host a World Youth Summit Against Capitalism in Bolivia. Many similar summits have been held in Venezuela and promoted by Hugo Chavez. Evo said he wanted to bring together the “youth of the world", young supporters of “revolutionary processes to put an end to capitalism.”

Another important and original idea proposed by Bolivia, which Evo suggested during a recent ALBA summit, is a continental referendum on the US-Colombia Military Deal: "If the Colombian president wants his bases to be used, I say I want a referendum in South America so the people of Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina all 12 countries can decide." The possibility of US bases in Colombia is an afront and a threat not only to Venezuela, but to all the people of Latin America, and it is of crucial importance that South America as a continent unite in opposition. A continent wide referendum might be difficult to orchestrate, but it is something that has never taken place or been talked about before. Doing so would be a gigantic democratic exercise and a channel for continental integration and solidarity building. Evo, Alvaro and the MAS understand well that full political sovereignty and economic independence hinges largely on regional strength, and that their revolution is a responsibility and a mandate not only for the people of Bolivia, but also for the continent as a whole and for humanity.

But perhaps the idea that best defines Bolivia's humanist philosophy, is the proposal for the establishment of Universal Citizenship. Evo has made a statement saying that “everyone has the right to live in any part of the world, respecting the norms of each country.” Bolivia's government is working with the United Nations in support of the proposal of universal citizenship. A document circulated at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, entitled ‘World Citizenship: A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development’, defines Universal Citizenship in part as follows: "World Citizenship begins with an acceptance of the oneness of the human family and the interconnectedness of the nations of "the earth, our home......Its hallmark is "unity in diversity." World citizenship encompasses the principles of social and economic justice, both within and between nations; non-adversarial decision making at all levels of society; equality of the sexes; racial, ethnic, national and religious harmony; and the willingness to sacrifice for the common good. Other facets of world citizenship -- including the promotion of human honor and dignity, understanding, amity, cooperation, trustworthiness, compassion and the desire to serve."

This move to install a Universal Citizenship through the UN is a recognition that we need to take this human way of thinking, this movement, internationally. Universal Citizenship would be our greatest and most symbolic tool in democratizing and humanizing the planet, embodying unity and togetherness instead of exclusiveness and divisions. We are one together and we must all work together; a necessary first step is a message and a contract recognizing that we are all bound by blood and love. This is a reminder that we cannot allow human beings to be moved or displaced forcefully like money or commodities, that human life and dignity stand above artificial borders and arbitrary hierarchy laws.

Bolivia's leaders and thinkers are proposing ideas and discussing things that were almost unimaginable even ten years ago, ideas that have never been talked about before now. Although it has not yet fully reached mainstream discourse, it is fact that with ideas being born and developing such as participatory democracy, collective community management and budgeting, cooperatives, fair trade, genuine sustainable energy of all kinds, renewable alternative fuels, and sustainable housing and architecture, we have the political, economic, technological, and environmental infrastructure of the future in place and ready for the taking, standing and ready to be implemented. With its cultural Revolution successfully moving forward, and with ideas such as continent-wide referendums, Climate Justice, respect and implementation of the reciprocal ecological balance and exchange between mother earth and human life, living well instead of living better, Indigenous Self-Actualization, and Universal Citizenship Bolivia has established the socio-political, social, and ideological framework of the future.

When I think of Bolivia I think of all these beautiful and colorful ideas. This collective thread which has been weaved by the people of Bolivia is like a paradigm mosaic of humanity's most profound and righteous ideas and spirituality. Because of these progressive, future-leaning, sustainable, and humanistic ideas, Evo Morales, Alvaro Linera, and the MAS party are international leaders in political and conscious maturity, and examples for the rest of the world to follow. They are laying the ideological foundations which have the power to effectively change the world, in solidifying the message that another world is in fact possible.

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