Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Interview with the VP

Many observers have seen vice president-elect Álvaro García Linera as the bridge Evo sought to build with the middle class, the intelligentsia and other moderated circles. However, little was ever told about García Linera other than that he was a guerrillero of the EGTK [1] or an academic of leftist views.

This interview with the daily La Prensa, published a little before he was officially announced to run as Evo’s VP, fills in some of the gaps about Linera’s actual perspectives on socialism, how to conduct the government and deal with leftist groups. These answers become even more relevant today, now that MAS has reached power.

My translation follows:

La Prensa (LP): You have been accused of armed uprising and some candidates say you are a terrorist. How do you plan to address this situation?
Álvaro García Linera (AGL): The candidates who are using that [claim], I see that they do it out of fear of debating. Any candidate who surfaces that out of memory gives me a reference point about his intellectual capacity. Because of that absence of ideas, proposals, projects, introspection and reason….that stigma, denigration and mud slinging surfaces. That a candidate uses that as an argument reflects a terrible poverty of ideas.

LP: Has García Linera been one of the ideologues of the EGTK?
AGL: I have been one of the men who have reflected about the EGTK, and that I have admitted in my [sworn] declarations. I have been a man compromised with the EGTK, and my crime, I publicly admit, has been to think, written and reflected. Thirteen years without a sentence, I hope prove the contrary, and justice cannot give a single step to prove the contrary.

LP: What is MAS’ position? Es it a radical left [party]?
AGL: The position is centre-left, and I have been characterizing it that way for the last two and a half years. Why do I say MAS is centre-left? Because we couldn’t qualify the project of changes MAS wants to take forward as communist or communitarian, it doesn’t have that dimension. An [example of the] radical left is COB [2] or maybe Quispe [3].

LP: Doesn’t MAS want a socialist government?
AGL: No, no way, because –on top of it- it’s not viable. It’s not viable because socialism can only be built on the base of a strong, organized proletarian presence. The socialist utopia is the extreme maturation of capitalism. In Bolivia there’s no capitalism. In Bolivia 70 percent of the urban workers work in the family economy, you don’t build socialism on the base of a family economy; you build it on the bases of industry, which there’s none of in Bolivia. You don’t build socialism on the basis of the 95 percent of rural population living on a traditional communitarian economy.

LP: What kind of system, then, does MAS want to build?
AGL: A type of Andean Capitalism.

LP: What is an Andean Capitalism?
AGL: It’s a capitalist regime where family, indigenous and peasant potentials are balanced and are articulated around a national development project and productive modernization. If you want to build the future, what is the model for Bolivia? A strong State and that is capitalism; the State is not socialism, it’s a strong State in hydrocarbons, foreign investment, local private investment, the family economy and small businesses and communitarian economy. It’s not even a mixed system.

LP: Why didn’t García Linera gain the support of Jaime Solares, of the COB or Felipe Quispe of MIP?
AGL: I proposed to myself to talk with all organizations, included those I had personal differences with. Because of respect to its historical trajectory we went to the COB, despite the behaviors of its directors in recent times. It’s clear that today’s COB is not the COB of the 80’s. The COB is just one more, a small, weak movement. In the other hand, I consider Felipe Quispe to be much more important and not having forged an alliance with Quispe is something that hurts me more, because he represents an indigenous force in the Aymara altiplano.

LP: But, Why haven’t you being able to forge that alliance?
AGL: We first approached COB because of this, because it wasn’t a decisive social movement, important yes, because of its historic relevance which we tried to pull, but it wasn’t accomplished. Why? I would say because of their leadership and the distribution of congressional seats.

LP: Did COB wanted a share of power?
AGL: Everybody wants shares of power.

LP: Did Jaime Solares want to lead the alliance with Evo Morales?
AGL: Solares wanted the COB to have a greater protagonism, to be the organization that summoned [everyone], and I believe that at this stage there’s no single social movement who can attribute itself that power, because there’s no national movements in Bolivia. All social movements are now regional of local. And wanting to assume that attitude of “I’m the one who did something and because of that I have national relevance” doesn’t work anymore; we are not dealing with the COB of the 70’s. Here there’s a sort of melancholy, of a force that doesn’t exist anymore.

LP: Does this mean that you didn’t accept that COB be the one who summoned [the social movements, voters]?
AGL: I tried to reflect that that was impossible, that the possibility of an articulator COB was no longer feasible. That COB is just one more of the movements, and those words involved power quotas, leadership quotas, and definitions of whom would be president, vice president and congress representatives.

LP: And with MIP?
AGL: The same, the same.

LP: So power quotas influenced the process…
AGL: No, not power quotas, because power quotas sound ugly. But electoral power structure; I mean distribution of congressional seats. The important topic was who went first, Felipe or Evo Morales? President Felipe and Evo Morales second? Evo Morales did not accept that because he has more of a national leadership; Felipe has a more regional leadership.

LP: Are the social sectors who have managed to place around MAS sufficient?
AGL: Not everyone, not all [social sectors] went. But it’s not because we had to place actors around MAS, but because the idea I proposed myself was to form a project of united social movements.

LP: But, is the project actually marching?
AGL: I believe there have been plenty of advances. I can point out some sectors, national and departmental. FEJUVE in El Alto, we still need the signature, which depends a little bit of the debate, but FEJUVE has already made its position made.

LP: Is there an issue of distribution of congressional seats and leadership, there as well?
AGL: It has to do with electoral power, but we have advanced a lot.


[1] EGTK or Ejército Guerrillero Tupac Katari is one of the few Bolivian sub-national groups to be classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government. Its last documented attacks ended in the mid nineties.
[2] COB or Central Obrera Boliviana is the main worker’s (originally miner’s) union of Bolivia, however its power and influence has decreased steadily for the last decades, as it has turned more and more radical. It’s currently presided by trostsky-ite Jaime Solares.
[3] Felipe Quispe, the leader of MIP or Movimiento Indígena Pachacuti, and indigenist/separatist party, Quispe was also a leader of EGTK.

Source: Buitrago, Jaime E. García Linera desnuda los intereses de la COB y el MIP. La Prensa, Agosto 30 2005.


Cited in this post [external links]: Álvaro García Linera (MAS biography), COB, MIP, EGTK

UPDATE: BBC interview with Evo Morales and another one with Alvaro García Linera. A new freakishly titled blog about Morales and another note from Dan the missionary man talking about Linera .... And I can’t resist the temptation of noting that prank call… the second I found out about it (by reading a post in indymedia, go figure) my memory flashbacked to a TV character of my childhood, and his trademark phrase: “Se aprovechan de mi nobleza!” For a second, I stood in awe.


Eric said...

thanks for the post. i'd read others on Evo and Quispe, and the USG's thumbnail on the EGTK, and missed the prior history of Quispe and the EGTK, or the existance of the now-trot COB.

It is an interesting answer.

Anonymous said...

A very intertesting interview...

Thanks a lot for the translation.

It seems that when Álvaro García states he envisions a "Andean Capitalism" he doesnt make clear what is entailed. He even discounts a mixed system. I dont know what that means exactly other then a strong state socialist - or state capitalist - welfare type state as in Cuba or Venezuala.

Though I think he is pitching for something on the lines of a social democrat centrist model along the lines of the social democrats in Germany.

He doesnt make clear what is to happen to the natural resources such as oil, and gas. Is he going to follow IMF or world bank programmes or not?

Jonathan if you can dig some stuff up on the MAS vision in these issues it would be great...

uncle jimbo

Anonymous said...

OK I found this

it may give a better picture of what Garcia meant...

The COB want nationalisation...

It seems according to Garcia the COB lost its influence in the 70s but my John u can give us a better balanced picture...


Jonathan said...

Sorry folks, I've been out of reach and offline for the past weeks, so I couldn't respond faster, thanks for the interest and I'll be blogging on the subject soon enough.