Daily Archives: April 17, 2014

Bolivian mining conundrum…

Ivan Arias writes in Pagina Siete:

Cooperatives: stop lying

Ivan AriasThe mining conflict has evidenced once again (as it did with the issue of TIPNIS), the contradiction between the principles of the Constitution of the State (CPE) and real life. In this case, while we have a statist CPE and, supposedly, oriented to socialism, it collides with a liberalism reality, capitalism and individualism, in most spaces, wild, that is fed daily.

The ideologues of the CPE designed a country based on their outdated ideologies, rather than the rich and dynamic reality that we have and are. Of course, because of its dour delivery, the CPE conceals contradictions lend either to take extreme statism, and to dismiss it.

Something very much like that happens now with only being a State and that the Republic, supposedly, was buried, because we do not realize that Article 11 of the CPE, and a dozen more of postulates, the Republic is alive and well.

With regard to the draft of the Mining Law, the cooperatives were accused of having violated the CPE, committing treason for having alienated our natural resources. It is intended to submit to the Legislature to approve their contracts in this instance. Dr. Jorge Vacaflor, public policy expert, shared some thoughts on this issue, which seems to me that make a difference and leave the simplistic repetition.

1) In the Plurinational State’s CPE, the wording is accurate and there is no place for an interpretation regarding legislative approval of contracts. Article 158 (12) provides: “Approve contracts of public interest concerning natural resources and strategic areas, signed by the Executive Branch”. If you read well, the contracts must be approved by the ALP [Congress], in recognition of its audit capacity, are those that have been SIGNED by the EXECUTIVE BRANCH and period. Here it is not compulsory for cooperatives, indigenous and private individuals to approve capitalization agreements with entrepreneurs, to perform the operation or use of resources that were delivered to them by some concession or right, as the mining lease.

The rules laid down for natural resources under the CPE notes that “natural resources are minerals in all its states, hydrocarbons, water, air, soil and subsoil, forests, biodiversity, the electromagnetic spectrum and those physical elements and forces that could be used” (Article 348. I).

The article notes that “natural resources are owned and straightforward, indivisible and imprescriptible domain of the Bolivian people, and for the State administration in the collective interest” Finally, in article 351: “The State take over and address on the exploration, exploitation, processing, transportation and marketing through strategic public bodies, cooperatives or community resources, which may in turn contract with private companies and forming joint ventures.”

2) In this context, the present reality shows, for example, that several indigenous communities with vast forest land with natural wealth, but that do not have investment capital, with the approval of the ABT, perform forest resource utilization contracts with private companies. Is this unconstitutional? Is this treason? Do these contracts must be approved by the ALP? Do indigenous people from the lowlands should go to jail and be prohibited from the use of a natural resource that the state gives them, but they could not touch, just exploit it for their survival?

But consider other cases. Imagine the case of radio and television? As they have in their hands a natural resource, the electro magnetic spectrum, to establish partnerships or contracts funded with national or transnational corporations, would they be committing acts of treason? Should these contracts also have to be approved by the ALP?

Or again consider the case of the cement companies, which for their final product, use a natural resource such as limestone. Are they prohibited from establishing agreements or fund contracts? Must these contracts be approved by the ALP?

3) We all know that the cooperative sector is one of the most absorbing occupation. It is said that in Bolivia there are more than 85,000 cooperative miners, which bring together about 370 thousand people. It is also known that most of them are moving in very poor working conditions and within an environment marked by social, economic and legal informality. Here I ask myself why do we want to confine cooperatives to maintain their primitive conditions and they are not allowed access to modern forms of production? Had it not been said under the CPE, that Community companies or social enterprises that have certain advantages over large companies? It is not been given a great opportunity to initiate and encourage the formalization of thousands of enterprises so far as to continue to exploit the resources on a wild capitalism? Is it not time to drop the mask and show the true face?

As F. Molina calls, it’s time that those in power go beyond their “postulate” poses, and realize that capitalism is alive in Bolivia, which is part of their social base and if the capitalism was over, they would have to pay, before anyone else, the socialists and nationalists who still exist.

Without capitalism, populism is impossible. Nobody could exploit the wealth of the lucky ones to finance redistributive policies. No one could sell expensive raw materials to rich countries, to finance for them the bonanza of their governments. The leaders that criticize capitalism would not pursue cultural studies and radical anthropology, inserted in universities in the U.S. or Europe, or where to travel to make their alarmist seminars or go to clinics that would attend them when sick. It is best to walk the reality and contribute to make good capitalism.

Iván Arias Duran is a citizen of the Plurinational Republic of Bolivia.