Bolivian President Evo Morales has continued his by now established tradition of using 1 May, International Workers’ Day, to announce popular anti-imperialist measures designed to advance the revolutionary process underway in his country.
This year, addressing a crowd outside the presidential palace, during a May Day rally, Comrade Morales ordered the expulsion of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from his country, thus ending a nearly 50-year presence.
“We might be a small country, but we deserve respect,” he said. “We ask for respect from the government of the United States. They might think that they can manipulate us economically and politically here, but that is no longer the case.”
Prior to this move, Morales has repeatedly accused USAID of funding groups opposed to the pro-socialist policies of his government.
“The US is still conspiring – that is why we have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia,” he said, and went on to take particular exception to a statement made the previous month by John Kerry, the new US Secretary of State, who had described Latin America as being “our backyard”.
This traditional refrain of US imperialism may sound somewhat anachronistic when a progressive tide, with Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia in the vanguard, has swept across the continent, but it carries distinctly sinister connotations when viewed not only against historical events but specifically the US refusal to recognise the electoral victory of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, the coups in Paraguay and Honduras, and the repeated attempted coups in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Bolivia’s vice-president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, echoed Morales, stating that USAID was a “smokescreen [for the United States] to involve itself in our country’s political affairs”.
On previous May Days, Comrade Morales has announced the nationalisation of key industries, such as hydrocarbons and electricity, taking them out of the hands of imperialist monopolies and placing them at the service of the country’s workers and peasants and especially its long-marginalised indigenous majority.
In 2008, he announced the expulsion of the US ambassador and of US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials, who had been plotting against his government under cover of the ‘war on drugs’. The US retaliated by suspending Bolivian trade preferences under its Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.
This year, Morales came to May Day in a strengthened political position as, on 29 April, Bolivia’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that he was free to seek a third consecutive presidential term in elections that are set for December 2014. A constitution adopted in 2009 establishes a limit of two consecutive terms, but the tribunal ruled that this did not apply in Morales’ case, as his first electoral victory, in 2006, occurred under a previous constitution. He won a second election with a landslide in 2009 and is again the clear favourite for next year.
The Financial Times had to grudgingly admit:
“Since coming to power Mr Morales has brought a number of the country’s utilities and commodities industries into state hands. Notwithstanding his fierce anti-capitalist rhetoric, thanks to high commodity prices as well as prudent macroeconomic policies, Bolivia’s gross domestic product has nearly tripled to $26bn in the past seven years.
“Some observers believe redistribution of those funds into social projects is likely to keep political instability at bay in one of Latin America’s most volatile countries.” (‘Bolivia court clears Evo Morales’ bid to run for third term’, 30 April 2013)
The unfolding Bolivian revolution has been greatly strengthened through its participation in progressive regional structures, especially the Alba trade bloc, which unites the country with Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and others, and also its strengthening ties with China.
On 12 May, Bolivia signed a military cooperation agreement with China, worth about £8m over the next five years. Morales met with a delegation led by the deputy chief of staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army, saying that the agreement will boost Bolivia’s military capability in the medium term.
In December this year, China will put Bolivia’s first telecommunications satellite into orbit.
Named after a Bolivian indigenous hero who led an uprising against the Spanish conquistadors, the Tupac Katari satellite will be launched from the Xichang satellite launch centre in south-west China.
According to Bolivia’s deputy science and technology minister Pedro Crespo, it will benefit Bolivia in such areas as education, medicine and communications.
Under the bilateral agreement, China will provide technology and guarantee the quality of the satellite. Space science training is being provided to 74 Bolivian members of the project’s administrative team in China.
The project is costing nearly $300m, of which $45m will come from the General Treasury of Bolivia, with the other $250m being underwritten by the China Development Bank.
All the anti-imperialist measures taken by the Morales government serve to strengthen the revolutionary tide in Latin America and deserve the support of workers everywhere.