They are the children of “cholos” — the disrespectful name given to urban indigenous people in Bolivia. They refer to themselves in English single-syllable words and the names of their songs speak of indigenous pride; they criticise capitalism and demand a radical social change. This mix, so appropriate for these times, characterises the “hip hop” movement of El Alto, which is expanding and channelling youth rebellion in this large city of poor migrants, located at a height of 4000 metres and surrounded by impressive snow covered peaks.
Commenting on the natural disaster that has left large swathes of Bolivia’s lowland east underwater after months of flooding, and much of the Andean region covered in ice, in late February Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a global debate on the effects of climate change and environmental destruction on poor nations.
Walter Chavez, an adviser to Bolivian president Evo Morales, has found himself in the centre of a well-orchestrated corporate media campaign aimed at delegitimising the Morales government internationally by linking it to “terrorist” groups. This accusation comes only a week after attempts by the Spanish media to link Morales’s party — the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) — with the Basque separatist group ETA.
On January 22, 2002, then Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) senator Evo Morales was expelled from parliament, accused of being a “narco-terrorist”. Exactly five years later, as the nation’s first indigenous president, Morales gave his first annual report to parliament. This time it was not Morales who exited prematurely.
A chain of events triggered by the passage of a new agrarian reform law, part of the “agrarian revolution” of indigenous President Evo Morales, has brought into sharp relief the drive by the right-wing opposition to overthrow Morales’s government, even if it means pushing Bolivia towards a civil war.
Cochabamba is a city with a history of struggle. In April 2000 the people stood up against the privatisation of their water supply, threw out the multinational Bechtel and retook control of the local water company. In October 2003 they joined the thousands of people on the street in El Alto, La Paz and other cities to defend the right of the people to nationalise the country’s gas reserves, effectively forcing, then president and champion of the neoliberal economic model Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada to flee the country.
Before we descended into the mine, our mini-bus (or micro) dropped us at the local “miner’s market” so we could buy sticks of dynamite, bags of coca leaves and a few 2-litre bottles of soft drink. These were gifts for some of the miners we were about to visit underground who still work the Cerro Rico — the famous mountain of silver that towers over the city of Potosi, located 4100 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Andes.
On May 1, the day the Bolivian government announced the “nationalisation” of the country’s vast oil and gas reserves, I went out to witness the symbolic takeover of a former Bolivian refinery that was privatised in the late ’90s.
For two days in early October, the sides of the barren Posokoni Hill above the mining town of Huanuni, 150 kilometres southeast of Bolivia’s capital La Paz, were transformed into a war zone in the two most violent days since leftist Evo Morales was elected the country’s president last December.
In April 2000, the people of Cochabamba captured the imagination of anti-corporate campaigners the world over. Only months after the US transnational Bechtel took control of the regions water supply — forcing citizens to pay for rainwater they collected — the people of Cochabamba, organised through the Coalition in Defence of Water and Life, rose up and booted out the corporation.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, said that previous Bolivian governments had “massacred people that struggled for their economic demands, for their natural resources” and that “perpetrators of genocide, corrupt criminals, escape in order to live in the United States”.


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