What is going on with Bolivian centralization and decentralization policy?

Carlos Toranzo writes in Pagina Siete:

Centralization and decentralization policy

Carlos ToranzoWhere do you walk towards to, Bolivia? To the re-centralization of the State or the political decentralization?

Formally the new political Constitution of the State posits the existence of a State, but in the political analysis of the country, it is not enough to look at the letter of the law, more important than that is the observation of practical politics, which most of the time, is going in the opposite direction of what those say.

But, on the other hand, the project of the MAS and the current Government, and it does the new political Constitution of the State, postulated progress towards a greater concentration of activities in the hands of the central Government, its vision of the country implies the existence of a powerful entrepreneurial State that controls everything from the center and not from departmental autonomies.

One may wonder if it could be otherwise, if we take into account that its political project has various ideological influences, of which two of the most important have a preference for the concentration of powers in the hands of an all-powerful State.

Indeed, the revolutionary nationalism that made history in 1952, and revolutionary unionism, if anything they did is to build the idea of a powerful central State, which does not admit the possibility of political decentralization.

The MAS is a heir of the revolutionary nationalism of the MNR. Therefore, its State vision addresses the concentration of power in a very strong central State, which “autonomy” depends on, and should not compete with nor weaken the central power.

Another intense ideological influence is that of revolutionary unionism, of a trade union movement, which also has a centralized view of power. The MAS pays political tribute to that trade unionism and not to any indigenous vision. Indigenous discourse is only for legitimization of the regime, while the concrete policy emanates from the ideological influences of revolutionary nationalism and revolutionary unionism.

These ideological sources, Marxists of all kinds, from any side, joined influences as well as being tied to the socialism of the 21st century. All of them have as privileged option to the vigorous central State, but those inflows are articulated with the need for a leader or Almighty leader, in whose hands it must be the domain of all the skills and resources of the State. It is what Bolivia lives today.

But what happens – in this context – with those indigenous or regional autonomies verbally driven by the MAS itself: they are simply an anomaly that does not correspond to the hierarchical idea of a strong and driver State of all.

From another perspective, they entered originally in the Constitution, not by adherence to a regional paradigm in general, but for the purpose of decaffeinated departmental autonomies that could have been opponents of the central power.

But, in 2014, to the MAS, already does no matter any kind of autonomy, but only the strengthening of central power.

Anyway, before the constitutional process, local autonomies were relating a certain degree of decentralization of the State and so, happened with the decentralized public investment.

Despite both centralizing push, it gives the impression that municipal authorities had and have some decentralization muscle, because it seems that popular participation was assimilated by the people.

On the other hand, in the field of provincial autonomies, a free kick, is seen as its actors have weakened or have been co-opted by the centralising State.

In this, not even Santa Cruz is an exception; on the contrary, its political leadership have failed to defend the regional idea. We are talking about a re-centralized political phenomenon that is unlikely that stops in the short and medium term. Anyway, no longer have stakeholders who have autonomous soul, they breathe primarily through the lungs of the municipalities. Maybe 20 years of popular participation has given that decentralization oxygen.

Views things as well, have to accept together walking two trends: a very strong, directed from – weaker – power to the re-centralization of the State, and one that, from below, who prefers the political decentralization of the country.

Carlos Toranzo Roca is an economist.


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