The People Come First, not Numbers nor Statistics
By Oscar Olivera Foronda, Marcelo Rojas, Abraham Grandydier, Aniceto Hinojosa Vásquez and Carlos Oropeza
Cochabamba, (La Llajta) December 30, 2010
Evo Morales Ayma and
Alvaro García Linera
We speak to you through this open letter although it probably won’t be read because you don’t hear of it or because it doesn’t interest you. However, although you may ignore it, although it may not exist, we want to tell you how we, like many of our people, feel today. We tell you, Sirs, because years ago you ceased being our brothers and compañeros, you distanced yourselves from the people, and thus you don’t know what happens down here, below. Your defects – and not your virtues – that we know have multiplied ten times in a worrisome, indignant and sad manner.
Oscar Olivera (wearing baseball cap, interviewed by reporters) with Evo Morales (in the green shirt, to the right of Oscar) during the 2000 “Water War” in Cochabamba.
We still remember when we marched, together with you, Evo, for our people, when we campaigned to get Alvaro out of prison; when the ancient textile workers’ building in Cochabamba became our headquarters to conspire against the bad governments that today look a lot like yours: BAD GOVERNMENT.
You quickly forgot that we sent you into the government not to administrate, but, rather, to transform and change the lives of the people. Today we see all of you transformed and the lives of the people have changed, but badly so, from bad to worse.
Since that December 22 of 2005, when you cried, Evo and Alvaro, you have only busied yourselves making traditional and privileged politics, subordinating and coopting social and union leaders, military and police officials, with money, with positions, disqualifying and stigmatizing everything that has criticized you, everything we said we wanted to do away with. Some of us had the luxury to reject your offers and you converted us into your enemies or simply behaved as if we did not exist. We asked you: Change the economy, worry about the people more than your political enemies, create jobs, industry, work, build solidarity, brotherhood and generosity.
Where is your “obedience leads” slogan that was invented by the Zapatistas? Did the people send you there to pact with the right in the Constituent Assembly? Did the people send you there to fill your cabinet with neoliberals, opportunists, incompetents and advisors for international organizations that we never saw in the struggles of the people, in the streets, the highways, the communities, the hunger strikes and factories? Where were most of the members of your cabinet in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005? Did the people send you there to invite your mayors, governors, “beauty pageant contestants,” and neoliberal technicians into the government? Who decides in this government? The people? Or the llunk’us (a Quecha indigenous word for lackeys and adulators) that surround you in order to not lose the privileges that gives them power?
Álvaro García Linera (vice president of Bolivia) in a 2002 press conference with Oscar Olivera and Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar, when Olivera joined the hunger strike to demand that the Bolivian government withdraw charges against them.
Who continues controlling the economy of our country? The indigenous and “social movements”? Or the multinational oil and mining companies and large bankers who today have made more money than during any previous government to yours, those which you affectionately call “partners”? They are partners in the conditions of anguish and poor living to which we have been subjected during these last five years. Where are the billions of dollars in fiscal reserves that you constantly tell us are there?
What about the nationalizations that have been a trick against the population, indemnifying the multinational looters with the people’s money? These businesses are being administrated by the old neoliberal and corrupt bureaucracy.
Where is the industrialization of gas in the country? Where is the new economy based on respect for Mother Earth and the balance and harmonious relation with Pachamama that you always proclaim? Haven’t you delivered thousands of acres to the multinational oil and mining companies so they can keep exploiting Mother Earth? Have you given the New Political Constitution of the State to the plantation owners of the Eastern region?
The economic model continues being extractionary, neoliberal, capitalist, all of it contrary to your speeches.
Was it the people who sent you to buy a private airplane for $40 million when millions of “your people” do not have housing nor basic services? Did the people send you to tolerate narcotrafficking like never before and that, sooner or later, will turn our city into a Ciudad Juárez or a Medellín? Maybe the same coca leaf that you promoted so that you could be president will be the same leaf that takes that privilege away from you.
Do you know what it’s like to have to wait on line overnight to sign your sons and daughters into school or to receive inadequate medical attention in the public hospitals? The people don’t have private and privileged insurance for the clinics of the rich.
Felipe Quispe, Evo Morales and Oscar Olivera, in 2003, when they joined forces as the popular “chiefs of staff” in opposition to the government of Gonzalo “Goni” Sánchez de Lozada.
Are you familiar with what it is to get on a public bus or taxi and listen to the sentiments of our people? Have you gone to the markets to bargain the prices of basic foods that each day are harder to obtain to calm the hunger of our families?
Did the people send you there to have so many privileges, bodyguards, assistants, cabinet chiefs who make it impossible to speak directly to both of you? Who pays you? Who pays your food, your transportation, your health insurance, your security, your planes, your costs? We do: the people which you were once part of.
Did the people send you to impose such a brutal, irrational, arrogant and neoliberal “gasolinazo” (an 82 percent hike in gasoline prices) that will make the people, who barely survive if they have the luck to have a stall in the market or a job, even poorer?
You always said that neoliberalism has failed. Is the gasolinazo a revolutionary and popular measure? Or is it that your economic model has failed?
Why must you – like all the governments previous to yours have done – carry out your failures behind the backs of the population, notably over those making minimum wage whose median income is fifty times less than yours and whose needs are one hundred times greater than yours?
Álvaro García Linera at the home of Oscar Olivera.
What a pain that you always say that power is in the hands of the people, that this is an indigenous-popular government, what a pain that all of this is a lie: LLULLAS! (A very strong indigenous Quechua word for “liars.”)
Luckily, thanks to the struggles in which we have been together, we learned something very important. We learned to think and act for ourselves so that never again would anyone tell us what we must do, so that nobody ever again would be able to trick us so that the popular vote, trust and hope that has come in recent times from the most impoverished and humble sectors would be converted into a party for the rich, the well-off, the neoliberals in sheep’s clothing, the “beauty pageant contestants.” The process is not propaganda, it is not a speech, it is not about marketing: the process is to change the lives of the people. And read this well, because we won’t allow ourselves to be tricked again by anybody. That’s the way that people – who come, like you, from the breast of The People – are.
We would like to finish by saying something that an Aymara elder said: The indigenous are not defined by physical traits, nor language, nor last name, nor culture. The indigenous come from an attitude of generosity, of respect, of reciprocity, transparency, of listening to others.
We ask you: Do you have that? From below and to the left, as the Zapatistas say, we see arrogants who decide everything, who don’t listen to anyone, who discriminate, who insult, who disqualify, who defame. Is that how you want to remain in power for many years?
Oscar Olivera and Evo Morales after Morales’ 2005 election to the presidency.
The problem is that you don’t understand the enormous responsibility that you assumed as part of this process with our people and other peoples of the world: of demonstrating that it is possible to govern ourselves, that it is possible to lead by obeying, that it is possible to construct another model of development, of “good living,” that another world is possible. This was a process that delivered itself to you with hope and joy. The legitimate owner of this process is the Bolivian people, the girls and boys, men and women, youths, elders, from the country and from the city, whose effort cannot be worn down, diverted, usurped, expropriated, betrayed or subordinated by anyone, even less by you and those who equivocally decide for us.
We don’t care about governments. We care about the people and this process is losing the social base that it cost us so much to construct while returning it to the right against which we fought and will fight.
To make you understand that we exist we must mobilize and this we will do, do not forget it.
But we will not mobilize to fight among brothers and sisters in the way that you’ve been encouraging in these years in your incapacity, and the result is in Huanuni, Cochabamba, Pando, Yungas, Sucre… where so many brothers and sisters, all children of Mother Earth, have hated and died.
Alvaro, we already told you: The people come first, and later the numbers and statistics.
Do not confront us. Do not provoke us. Do not divide us or ignore us. We exist. We are dignified. We will struggle against everything that harms our daily lives. We seek:
-The repeal of your anti-popular and nefarious Decree 748 -The decolonization of the Plurinational State
-That no political party, not of the left, the center or the right, can benefit from or involve itself in our actions and decisions
-Like in 2000, like in 2003, Cochabama and El Alto defeated the anti-popular policies.
Oscar Olivera Foronda
Aniceto Hinojosa Vasquez