Nov 022014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

open-up-democracys-coming

Introduction

The principal reason why Washington engages in military wars, sanctions and clandestine operations to secure power abroad is because its chosen clients cannot and do not win free and open elections.

A brief survey of recent election outcomes testify to the electoral unattractiveness of Washington backed clients. The majority of  democratic electorates rejects candidates and parties which back the US global agenda: neo-liberal economic policies; a highly militarized foreign policy; Israeli colonization and annexation of Palestine; the concentration of wealth in the financial sector; the military escalation against China and Russia. While the US policy attempts to re-impose the pillage and dominance of the 1990’s via recycled client regimes the democratic electorates want to move on toward less bellicose, more inclusive governments, which restore labor and welfare rights.

The US seeks to impose the unipolar world, of the Bush Sr. and Clinton era, failing to recognize the vast changes in the world economy, including the rise of China and Russia as world powers, the emergence of the BRIC and other regional organizations and above all the growth of popular democratic consciousness.

Failing to convince electorates by reason or manipulation, Washington has opted to intervene by force, and to finance organizations to subvert the democratic electoral process. The frequent resort to bullets and economic coercion when ballots fail to produce the “appropriate outcome testifies to the profoundly reactionary nature of US foreign policy. Reactionary in the double sense of ends and means. Progmatically, the imperial centered socio-economic policies deepen inequalities and depress living standards. The means to achieve power, the instruments of policy, include wars, intervention, covert operations, are more akin to extremists, quasi-fascist, far right regimes.

Free Elections and the Rejection of US Clients

US backed electoral parties and candidates have suffered defeats throughout most of the world, despite generous financial backing and international mass media propaganda campaigns. What is striking about the negative voting outcomes is the fact that the vast majority of adversaries are neither anti-capitalist nor ‘socialist’. What is equally striking is that all of the US clients are rightist or far-rightist parties and leaders. In other words the polarization is usually between center-left and rightist parties; the choice is between reform or reaction, between an independent or satellite foreign policy.

Washington and Latin America:  Masters of Defeats

Over the past decade, Washington has backed losing neo-liberal candidates throughout Latin America and then sought to subvert the democratic outcome.

Bolivia

Since 2005, Evo Morales the center left leader favoring social reforms and an independent foreign policy has won three Presidential elections against Washington backed rightist parties, each time by a greater margin. In 2008, he ousted the US ambassador for intervening, expelled the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2008, USAID in 2013 and the Military Mission after foiling an aborted coup in Santa Cruz.

Venezuela

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its predecessor have won every Presidential and Congressional election (over a dozen) except one over the past 15 years despite US multi-million dollar funding of neo-liberal opposition parties. Unable to defeat the Chavez led radical-reform government, Washington backed a violent coup (2002), a boss’s lockout (2002/3), and decade’s long paramilitary attacks of pro-democracy leaders and activists.

Ecuador

The US has opposed the center-left government of President Correa for ousting it from the military base in Manta, renegotiating and repudiating some of its foreign debt and backing regional pacts which exclude the US. As a result Washington backed an abortive police led coup in 2010 that was quickly defeated.

Honduras

During democratically elected President Manual Zelaya’s tenure in office, a center-left President, Honduras sought to pursue closer relations with Venezuela in order to receive greater economic aid and to shed its reputation as a US dominated “banana republic”. Washington unable to defeat him at the ballot box, responded by supporting a military coup (2009) which ousted Zelaya and returned Honduras to the US fold. Since the coup Honduras has experienced more killings of popular leaders -200- than any country in Latin America.

Brazil

The center-left Workers Party has won four straight elections against US backed neo-liberal candidates beginning in 2002 and continuing through the 2014 elections. The US propaganda machine, including NSA’s spying on President Rousseff and the strategic state petrol company, Petrobras, and the international financial press went all out to discredit the reformist center-left government. To no avail! The voters preferred an ‘inclusive’ social liberal regime pursuing an independent foreign policy to an opposition embedded in the discredited socially regressive neo-liberal politics of the Cardoso regime (1994-2002). In the run-up to the 2014 elections Brazilian and US financial speculators attempted to strike fear in the electorate by betting against the currency (real) and driving the stock market into a precipitous fall. To no avail. Rousseff won with 52% of the vote.

Argentina

In Argentina a massive popular revolt overthrew the US backed neo-liberal regime of De la Rua in 2001. Subsequently, the electorate elected the center-left Kirchner government over the rightist, US backed  Menem candidacy in 2003. Kirchner pursued a reformist agenda imposing a moratorium on the debt and combining high economic growth with large scale social expenditures and an independent foreign policy. US opposition escalated with the election of his wife Cristina Fernandez. Financial elites, Wall Street, the US judiciary and Treasury intervened to destabilize the government, after failing to defeat Fernandez’s re-election. Extra-parliamentary financial pressures were matched by political and economic support for rightist politicians in preparation for the 2015 elections.

Earlier, in 1976, the US backed the military coup and political terror that led to the murder of 30,000 activists and militants. In 2014 the US backed a “financial coup” as a federal judge sided with vulture funds, sowing financial terror in international markets against a democratically elected government.

Paraguay

President Fernando Lugo was a moderate former Bishop who pursued a watered-down center-left agenda. Nevertheless, he raised issues that conflicted with Washington’s extremist agenda, including Paraguay’s membership in regional organizations that excluded the US (MERCOSUR). He appealed to the landless rural workers and he retained ties to other Latin American center-left regimes. He was deposed by Congress in 2012 in a highly dubious ‘institutional coup’, quickly supported by the White House and replaced by a straight-line neo-liberal, Federico Franco with tight links to Washington and hostile to Venezuela.

Globalizing US Threats to Democracy

US subversion of democracy when center-left political formations compete for power is not confined to Latin America – it has gone ‘global’.

Ukraine

The most egregious example is the Ukraine, where the US spent over $6 billion in over a decade and a half. Washington financed, organized, and promoted pro NATO shock troops to seize power against an elected regime (President Yevtushenko) which tried to balance ties between the West and Russia. In February 2014, an armed uprising and mob action led to the overthrow of the elected government and the imposition of a puppet regime totally beholden to the US. The violent putschists met resistance from a large swathe of pro-democracy activists in the Eastern region. The Kiev junta led by oligarch Petro Poroshenko dispatched air and ground troops to repress the popular resistance with the unanimous backing of the US and EU. When the rightist regime in Kiev moved to impose its rule over the Crimea and to break its military base treaty with Russia, the Crimean citizens voted, by a large margin (85%), to separate and merge with Russia.

In both the Ukraine and Crimea, US policy was directed toward imposing by force, the subordination of democracy to NATO’s drive to encircle Russia and undermine its democratically elected government.

Russia

Following the election of Vladimir Putin to the Presidency, the US organized and financed a large number of opposition “think tanks”, and NGO’s, to destabilize the government. Large scale demonstrations by well-funded NGO’s were given wide play by all the Western mass media.

Failing to secure an electoral majority and after suffering electoral defeats in the executive and legislative elections, Washington and the EU, using the pretext of Russian “intervention” in the Ukraine, launched a full scale economic war on Russia. Economic sanctions were enforced in the hopes of provoking economic collapse and a popular upheaval. Nothing of the sort occurred. Putin gained greater popularity and stature in Russia and consolidated its ties with China and the other BRIC countries.

In sum in the Ukraine, Crimea and Russia, facing independent elected governments, Washington resorted to a mob uprising, military encirclement and an escalation of economic sanctions.

Iran

Iran has periodic elections in which pro and anti-western parties compete. Iran has drawn the wrath of Washington because of its support for Palestinian liberation from the Israeli yoke; its opposition to the Gulf absolutist states; and its ties to Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah) and post- Saddam Hussain Iraq. As a result, the US has imposed economic sanctions to cripple its economy and finances and has funded pro-Western neo-liberal opposition NGO’s and political factions. Unable to defeat the Islamist power elite electorally, it chooses to destabilize via sanctions in order to disrupt its economy and assassinations of scientists and cyber warfare.

Egypt

Washington backed the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship for over three decades. Following the popular uprising in 2011, which overthrew the regime, Washington retained and strengthened its ties to the Mubarak police, military and intelligence apparatus. While promoting an alliance between the military and the newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, Washington funded NGO’s, who acted to subvert the government through mass demonstrations. The military, under the leadership of US client General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, seized power, outlawed the Moslem Brotherhood and abolished democratic freedoms.

Washington quickly renewed military and economic aid to the Sisi dictatorship and stregthened its ties with the authoritarian regime. In line with US and Israeli policy, General Sisi tightened the blockade of Gaza, allied with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf despots, strengthened its ties with the IMF and implemented a regressive neo-liberal program by eliminating fuel and food subsidies and lowering taxes on big business. The US backed coup and restoration of dictatorship was the only way Washington could secure a loyal client relationship in North Africa.

Libya

The US and NATO and Gulf allies launched a war (2011) against the independent, nationalist Libyan government, as the only way to oust the popular, welfare government of Colonel Gadhafi. Unable to defeat him via internal subversion, unable to destabilize the economy, Washington and its NATO partners launched hundreds of bombing missions accompanied by arms transfers to local Islamic satraps, tribal, clan and other violent authoritarian groups. The subsequent ‘electoral process” lacking the most basic political guarantees, fraught by corruption, violence and chaos, led to several competing power centers. Washington’s decision to undermine democratic procedures led to a violent Hobbesian world, replacing a popular welfare regime with chaos and terrorism.

Palestine

Washington has pursued a policy of backing Israeli seizures and colonization of Palestinian territory, savage bombings and the mass destruction of Gaza. Israel determined to destroy the democratically elected Hamas government has received unconditional US backing. The Israeli colonial regime has imposed racist, armed colonies throughout the West Bank, financed by the US government, private investors and US Zionist donors. Faced with the choice between a democratically elected nationalist regime, Hamas, and a brutal militarist regime, Israel, US policymakers have never failed to back Israel in its quest to destroy the Palestinian mini-state.

Lebanon

The US, along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, has opposed the freely elected Hezbollah led coalition government formed in 2011. The US backed the Israeli invasion in 2006, which was defeated by the Hezbollah militias. Washington backed the rightwing Hariri led coalition (2008 – 2011) which was marginalized in 2011. It sought to destabilize the society by backing Sunni extremists especially in Northern Lebanon. Lacking popular electoral support to convert Lebanon into a US client state, Washington relies on Israeli military incursions and Syrian based terrorists to destabilize Lebanon’s democratically elected government.

Syria

Syria’s Bashar Assad regime has been the target of US, EU, Saudi and Israeli enmity because of its support for Palestine, its ties with Iraq, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah. Its opposition to the Gulf despotism and its refusal to become a US client state (like Jordan and Egypt) has been another source of NATO hostility. Under pressure from its internal democratic opposition and its external allies, Russia and Iran, the Bashar Assad regime convoked a conference of non-violent opposition parties, leaders and groups to find an electoral solution to the ongoing conflict. Washington and its NATO allies rejected a democratic electoral road to reconciliation. They and their Turkish and Gulf allies financed and armed thousands of Islamic extremists who invaded the country. Over a million refugees and 200,000 dead Syrians were a direct result of Washington’s decision to pursue “regime change” via armed conflict.

China

China has become the world’s largest economy. It has become a leading investment and trading country in the world. It has replaced the US and the EU in Asian, African and Latin American markets. Faced with peaceful economic competition and offers of mutually beneficial free trade agreements, Washington has chosen to pursue a policy of military encirclement, internal destabilization and Pan Pacific integration agreements that excludes China. The US has expanded military deployments and bases in Japan, Australia and the Philippines. It has heightened naval and air force surveillance just beyond China’s limits. It has fanned rival maritime claims of China’s neighbors, encroaching on vital Chinese waterways.

The US has supported violent Uighur separatists, Tibetan terrorists and protests in Hong Kong in order to fragment and discredit China’s rule over its sovereign territory. Fomenting separation via violent means results in harsh repression, which in turn can alienate a domestic constituency and provide grist for the Western media mills. The key to the US countering China’s economic ascent is political: fomenting domestic divisions and weakening central authority. The democratization which Chinese citizens favor has little resonance with US financed ‘democracy’ charades in Hong Kong or separatist violence in the provinces.

Washington’s effort to exclude China from major trade and investment agreements in Asia and elsewhere has been a laughable failure. The principle US “partners”, Japan and Australia are heavily dependent on the Chinese market. Washington’s (free trade) allies in Latin America, name Colombia, Peru, Chile and Mexico are eager to increase trade with China. India and Russia are signing off on multi-billion dollar trade and investment deals with China! Washington’s policy of economic exclusion miscarried in the first month!

In sum, Washington’s decision to pursue confrontation over conciliation and partnership; military encirclement over co-operation; exclusion over inclusion, goes counter to a democratic foreign policy designed to promote democracy in China and elsewhere. An authoritarian choice in pursuit of unachievable Asian supremacy is not a virtue; it is a sign of weakness and decay.

Conclusion

In our global survey of US policy toward democracy, center-left governments and free elections we find overwhelming evidence of systematic US hostility and opposition. The political essence of the “war on terrorism” is Washington’s world-wide long-term pernicious assault on independent governments, especially center-left democratic regimes engaged in serious efforts to reduce poverty and inequality.

Washington’s methods of choice range from financing rightist political parties via USAID and NGO’s, to supporting violent military coups; from backing street mobs engaged in destabilization campaigns to air and ground invasions. Washington’s animus to democratic processes is not confined to any region, religious, ethnic or racial group. The US has bombed black Africans in Libya; organized coups in Latin America against Indians and Christians in Bolivia; supported wars against Muslims in Iraq, Palestine and Syria; financed neo-fascist “battalions”and armed assaults against Orthodox Christians in the Eastern Ukraine; denounced atheists in China and Russia.

Washington subsidizes and backs elections only when neo-liberal client regimes win. It consistently destabilizes center-left governments which oppose US imperial policies.

None of the targets of US aggression are strictly speaking anti-capitalist. Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina are capitalist regimes which attempt to regulate, tax and reduce disparities of wealth via moderate welfare reforms.

Throughout the world, Washington always supports extremist political groups engaged in violent and unconstitutional activity that have victimized democratic leaders and supporters. The  coup regime in Honduras has murdered hundreds of rank and file democratic activists, farm workers, and poor peasants.

The US armed Islamic jihadist and ex-pat allies in Libya have fallen out with their NATO mentors and are at war among themselves, engaging in mutual bloodletting.

Throughout the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa, Central America and the Caucuses wherever US intervention has taken place, extreme right-wing groups have served, at least for a time, as Washington and Brussels principal allies.

Pro EU-NATO allies in the Ukraine include a strong contingent of neo-Nazis, paramilitary thugs and “mainstream” military forces given to bombing civilian neighborhoods with cluster bombs.

In Venezuela, Washington bankrolls terrorist paramilitary forces and political extremists who murdered a socialist congressional leader and dozens of leftists.

In Mexico the US has advised, finances and backs rightist regimes whose military, paramilitary and nacro-terrorist forces recently murdered and burned alive 43 teachers’ college students and are deeply implicated in the killing of 100,000 “other” Mexicans, in less than a decade.

Over the past eleven years the US has pumped over $6 billion dollars in military aid to Colombia, funding its seven military bases and several thousand special operations forces and doubling the size of the Colombian military. As a result thousands of civil society and human rights activists, journalists, trade union leaders and peasants, have been murdered. Over 3 million small land -holders have been dispossessed.

The mass media cover-up the US option for right wing extremism by describing ruling mass murderers as “center-right regimes” or as “moderates”: linguistic perversions and grotesque euphemisms, are as bizarre as the barbarous activities, perpetrated by the White House.

In the drive for world power, no crime is left undone; no democracy that opposes it is tolerated. Countries as small and marginal as Honduran or Somalia or as great and powerful as Russia and China cannot escape the wrath and covert destabilization efforts of the White House.

The quest for world domination is driven by the subjective belief in the “triumph of the will”. Global supremacy depends entirely on force and violence: ravaging country after country, from carpet bombing of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to proxy wars in Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine to mass killings in Colombia, Mexico and Syria.

Yet there are limits to the spread of the “killing fields”. Democratic processes are defended by robust citizens’ movements in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. The spread of imperial backed terrorist seizures of power are stymied by emergence of global powers, China in in the Far East and Russia in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have taken bold steps to limit US imperial expansion.

In the United Nations, the President of the United States and his delegate Samantha Powers rant and rave, in a fit of pure insanity, against Russia as “the greatest world terrorist state” for resisting military encirclement and the violent annexation of the Ukraine.

Extremism, authoritarianism and political insanity know no frontiers. The massive growth of the secret political police, the National Security Agency, the shredding of constitutional guarantees, the conversion of electoral processes into elite controlled multi-billion dollar charades, the growing impunity of police involved in civilian murders, speaks to an emerging totalitarian police – state inside the US as a counterpart to the violent pursuit of world power.

Citizens’ movements, consequential center-left parties and governments, organized workers, in Latin America, Asia and Europe have demonstrated that authoritarian extremist proxies of Washington can be defeated. That disastrous neo-liberal policies can be reverted. That welfare states, reductions in poverty, unemployment and inequalities can be legislated despite imperial efforts to the contrary.

The vast majority of the Americans, here and now, are strongly opposed to Wall Street, big business and the financial sector. The Presidency and the Congress are despised by three quarters of the American public. Overseas wars are rejected. The US public, for its own reasons and interests, shares with the pro-democracy movement’s world-wide, a common enmity toward Washington’s quest for world power. Here and now in the United States of America we must learn and build our own powerful democratic political instruments.

We must through the force of reason contain and defeat “the reason of force”: the political insanity that informs Washington’s ‘will to power’. We must degrade the empire to rebuild the republic. We must turn from intervening against democracy abroad to building a democratic welfare republic at home.

Jan 012014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

The brothers Louis and Vladimir Menacho (15 and 16 years of age) at the Cerro Rico mine in Potosi, Bolivia.

The brothers Louis and Vladimir Menacho (15 and 16 years of age) at the Cerro Rico mine in Potosi, Bolivia.

Introduction

Significant changes in Latin America have mystified writers, journalists, academics and policy-makers who purport to comment on developments in Latin America.  The case of Bolivia and two term President Evo Morales (2006 – 2014) is illustrative of the utter confusion in political labelling.

A brief survey of his ideological pronouncements, foreign policy declarations and economic policies highlights a very astute political regime which successfully manipulates radical rhetoric and applies orthodox economic policies with a populist style of politics which insures repeated electoral victories and an unprecedented degree of political stability and continuity.

The Morales Regime in Perspective

From a comparative-historical perspective the Morales regime would probably be considered as the world’s most conservative radical regime or the most radical conservative regime.  This apparent contradiction is resolved by examining the policies and practices of the regime.  But what is not in question is that the Morales regime, his advisers and government, have extraordinary wide backing.  His allies include leaders of the social movements at home, as well as overseas investors and  mining executives, trade union leaders and domestic bankers; agro-business exporters and business leaders and Indian coca farmers, all enthusiastic supporters of the “First Indian President” in Latin America and the region’s leading advocate of extractive capital!

The Morales regime has won every election, six in all, since 2005, including two Presidential elections, each by a larger margin.  His vote has increased from 50% to 60% and Morales, looking to national elections in 2014, promises to garner 70% of the ballots.  No President in the history of Bolivia has secured consecutive electoral victories, and ruled democratically for such an extended period of time (8 years)with political stability.

The Morales Formula:  Radicalism at the Service of Orthodoxy

The most striking aspect of the eight year rule of Evo Morales is his rigor and consistency in upholding orthodox economic policies – right out of the handbook of the international financial organizations.

Fiscal Policy

The Morales regime has exercised tight control over government spending, ensuring a budget surplus and keeping social spending and public investment at levels comparable to previous neo-liberal regimes.  Pay raises for public sector workers are modest, barely keeping ahead of increases in the cost of living .  The government has held the line against public sector unions, strongly resisting strikes and other forms of labor pressure.  As a result, bankers and business people, both national and foreign, have benefited from low taxes, a stable currency and business friendly fiscal incentives.

Trade Policy

The Government has aimed for and secured favorable trade balances, based on the export of mineral and agricultural commodities.  The Morales regime has used the billion dollar surpluses to triplicate foreign reserves, $14 billion dollars, guaranteeing foreign investors access to hard currency, when it comes to remitting profits.  The boom in export earnings is a result of high commodity prices and an increase in government royalties.  Only a small share of the high earnings has gone into public investments in manufacturing and social programs; most funds remain in the banks.  At best the regime has increased spending on infrastructure to facilitate the transport of agro-mineral exports.

Investment Policy

The Morales regime has encouraged and protected large scale foreign investment in mining and agriculture.  It has not nationalized any large mining operation.  Instead it has bought shares in forming joint ventures and increased taxes to a modest and acceptable degree.  Corporate profits are high, remittances are unencumbered, environmental and safety regulations are lax and labor conflicts are at historical lows.

Labor Policy

The Morales regime has encouraged labor union officials under its influence, to negotiate, hold down wage demands and accept moderate increases, just above the rate of inflation.

Morales has not increased labor’s power and prerogatives at the workplace, nor allowed labor any influence in shaping its extractive capital development strategy.  Increases in the minimum wage have been incremental; the majority of labor, especially in the rural sector, live at or below the poverty line.  Morales has rejected any notion of workers co-participation in public sector enterprises and upholds the authority of capital to hire and fire workers without adequate indemnification except under specific circumstances.

Morales, via his party (MAS – Movement to Socialism) exercises decisive influence over the leaders of the labor confederation (COB) and Indian movements, thus ensuring social stability and political certainty for the business elite.  His period of labor peace is in sharp contrast to the general strikes and popular rebellion of the previous decades.

Class Harmony:  Landlords and Indians, Mine Owners and Miners

Among the greatest achievements underlying Morales successful implementation of orthodox economic policies, has been his success in building a political and social coalition including historical adversaries.

During the first four years of his term as President, Morales faced strong and at times violent opposition from the regional elite in Santa Cruz, the wealthiest region in the country.  He also faced powerful ‘personalist’ (caudillos) political opponents in Cochabamba and Sucre.  Using his mass base and the military he crushed the most violent opposition  and negotiated  political and economic pacts with the leading business and agricultural families.  Henceforth agro-business plantation owners received subsidies and tax exemptions to encourage exports and land-reform for landless peasants  was relegated to marginal public lands,while small landholders received title to their existing plots Promoting   agro-export  became an integral part of Morales development strategy.  Morales extended his electoral coalition to incorporate the elites in Santa Cruz, formerly the bastion of the Right.

To counter US destabilization, Morales terminated the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) activity, and expelled US Ambassador Goldberg following his blatant intervention in regional politics.  Morales convoked a  constituent assembly to write a new constitution for a “plurinational state” which consolidated Indian allegiance to the  Morales regime.  Decentralized cultural diversity ensured conformity to centrally planned orthodox economic policies

Foreign Policy:  Radicalism Abroad Complements Orthodoxy at Home

While working closely and in conformity with agro-mineral, banking and foreign MNC interests at home, Morales launched a series of anti-imperialist manifestos against US intervention in Venezuela; repeatedly denounced the US blockade of Cuba; opposed the US backed military coup in Honduras’ and defended Argentina’s claim to the Malvinas Islands (what the Anglo-Americans call the Falkland Islands).  Morales joined the radical regional bloc, ALBA, initiated by President Chavez and supported ‘regional integration’ which excluded the US.  He denounced the TPP (The Trans Pacific Pact) as a ‘neo-liberal project’.

Evo Morales praised Edward Snowden and his revelations; denounced NSA spying and was especially indignant with Spain and France when his flight from Moscow was diverted and denied landing rights.  At the same time that he was denouncing European collaboration with the US Empire, he was addressing major investors in Spain urging them to invest in Bolivia under favorable terms.  In other words Evo’s radical pronouncements were directed at imperial interventionist policies, especially coup-promotion and integrationist schemes that isolated Bolivia from its political allies and Latin American economic partners.  At the same time, Evo was careful to differentiate between imperial militarism which threatened his regime and foreign investment (economic imperialism) which fit in with his economic development strategy.  In this context, friendship with Fidel Castro provided radical legitimacy for his overtures to the world’s leading mining conglomerates.

The Social Policies of a Radical Conservative

On December 22, 2013, Evo Morales surprised his enthusiastic leftist backers when he pronounced his support and defense of child labor and opposed ILO’s (International Labor Organizations) global campaign to ban it.  According to Morales child labor was essential to supporting poor family income.  According to Morales, Bolivia’s 850,000 child laborers (about one-fifth of Bolivia’s labor force) employed in factory, field and mining developed a “social conscience” in sweat shops.  Inadvertently Morales revealed the extraordinarily lax labor code and lack of concern for the education and health of growing children.  In fact in Bolivia low-wage child labor depresses wages for adult workers ..Child labor serves a “reserve army” allowing employers to replace militant adult workers.  Cheap labor is rampant in Bolivia, which has the lowest minimum wage in South America:  90 cents an hours (USD) and the lowest monthly salary ($143 USD).  Despite nearly $15 billion in foreign reserves and trade surpluses, 51.3% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.  More to the point, social expenditures have only marginally increased and have been accompanied by increases in inequality: the top tenth percentile receives 45.4% of household income and the bottom 10 percentile 1%.  The gini coefficient which measures inequality is 58.l2 (2009) compared to 57.9 in (1999).

Bolivia still depends on the export of raw materials and the import of finished goods.  Its main exports are oil and staples and it imports petroleum products, finished goods and prepared foods.  The promise to “industrialize” iron ore, petrol, zinc and tin has yet to take place.  The major agricultural export crops, soybeans, cotton, sugar cane, coffee are produced by large plantation owners grouped in the Santa Cruz ‘100 families’.  The most lucrative export for small farmers and peasants is coca leaf – the raw material for cocaine.

Conclusion

The Morales regime has successfully imposed a political economic model which has generated an unprecedented decade of political and social stability and a growth rate between 4% and 6%.  He has secured joint ventures and investments from over fifty of the biggest multi-national corporations and is in good standing with the international financial organizations.  Morales has received financial aid from both leftist (Venezuela) and rightist regimes (European Union).  The Morales regime has sec ured an ever increasing percentage of votes, over the past decade, ensuring the continuity of policies, personnel, institutions and the class structure.  Morales has successfully co-opted formerly militant trade unionists  and peasant leaders, through radical rhetoric, stipends and subsidies.  He has successfully converted them into “guardians of the status quo”.  He has converted Santa Cruz oligarchs into political allies.  Morales has isolated and stigmatized dissident peasant organizations and environmental groups protesting infrastructure and agro-mining projects devastating the environment as “tools of imperialism”.  Even as he invites imperial MNC to take over natural resources.

Morales has been a master, without peer in Latin America, at justifying orthodox, reactionary policies with radical rhetoric.  In defense of extractive capitalist depredation he cites Pachamama the Indian goddess of the Mother Earth;in defence of the exploitation of child labor he claims work inculcates  social consciousness and contributes to family income.  He provides a ‘bonus’ for school children while more than a third are out of school slaving at below minimum wage jobs (and achieving a “social conscience”).  He provides a minimum pension that does not even cover basic survival living while he boasts of budget surpluses, a stable currency and the addition of billions annually to foreign reserves.  He speaks to anti-imperialism yet embraces their neo-liberal economic orthodoxy.  He describes his regime as a “government of workers and the poor” while his economic and social policies favor the top 10%.

Evo Morales has secured a political-economic formula which has succeeded in gaining the support of the left and right, Fidel Castro and the IMF, the Santa Cruz agro-oligarchy and the Indian peasant coca farmers.  He has defeated US destabilization and intervention by expelling AID and the DEA and strengthened the capitalist state and increased capitalist profits.

The Morales model of ‘radical conservatism’ is probably not for export to other ruling classes in Latin America.  After all how many Indian presidents with a mass following and orthodox economic policies are there in the world?  How many leaders can proclaim a “plurinational decentralized state” and centralize political power and economic decision-making in the hands of a small mestizo technocratic elite?

There is no doubt that Evo Morales is an exceptional leader, his multi-faceted politics reflect his genius as a political manipulator.  He is not a social revolutionary or even a consequential social reformer.  His regime is certainly not a government of workers and the poor.  But Evo Morales is Bolivia’s most successful democratic capitalist ruler and he is still expanding his electoral base.  The question is how long the “other 50%” will swallow his political chicanery?