Bolivia

Creating the Commons: on the meaning of Bolivia’s water wars

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In the history of humankind every act of destruction meets its response, sooner or later, in an act of creation’ - Eduardo Galeano

In Bolivia, there have been remarkable experiences in urban peripheries, notably in Cochabamba, that reveal the capacity of grassroots associations to construct a free society based on solidarity and mutual aid. The background to the country’s Water War of April 2000 must be understood against preceding waves of struggle, particularly the huge marches for sovereignty and livelihoods of coca growers, Amazonian groups, and others that emerged with the implementation of the neoliberal model in 1985 [1]. Subsequent mine closures and rural migration occasioned huge increases in Bolivia’s urban centres, particularly in Cochabamba, the country’s third largest city. The state water company, Semapa, served only half of the city’s population. In the neglected southern peripheries, neighbourhood groups organised associations to bring water to their homes. Cooperatives, formed without state assistance, dug wells, built water mains, and even created drainage and sewers. In cases where wells could not be dug, the committees bought their own water tankers and organised daily deliveries. By 1990, some 140 urban water committees had formed in the south of Cochabamba, with between 300 and 1000 families in each one [1].

 

What’s happening in Bolivia?

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Big Business doesn’t like what’s happening in South America. The election of reforming governments in Peru and Ecuador might have been a bearable irritant but that Chavez guy in Venezuela has really got up their noses. In Bolivia sections of the local ruling class got so riled up that they tried to overthrow President Morales in September. The US ruling class, in collusion with local bosses, is trying to destabilise political and economic reforms. As they see it, too much is going to workers and peasants, and not enough into their own coffers.

Bolivia: Social Movements On Fire

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Over the weekend of November 24-25, protesters clashed with police in Sucre, Bolivia - they were demanding that the capital of the country be moved to Sucre. Three people died and over some 100 were wounded in the clashes. Yesterday Morales announced plans for a nationwide referendum to resolve a deepening political crisis in the country. A few months ago, two recent works on Bolivia were given a look over for the WSM's Red and Black Revoltuion 13. The review now appears on line for the first time.

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