Ricardo Calla writes in Pagina Siete:
It is already clear that if the regime of Evo Morales manages to extend itself in the governmental command through the elections of October 20 of this year, what will come next is the definitive liquidation of the autonomous project of Santa Cruz that, with all its limitations, until now it has not been defeated by the MAS despite all its efforts of already a decade to achieve it.
This time, by the hand of the fires that have devastated the Chiquitanía, it is foreseeable that, if Evo Morales remains as president of the country for another five years and forward, the department of Santa Cruz will be territorially seized by a downpour of colonizers that will pass to impose there – burning, more fire, rubbing and batches – the hegemonic power project that the MAS has been designing and perfecting in the 14 years it has been in government.
The burning and liquidation of the autonomy project is what can be expected after the fires in the Chiquitanía in the country if Evo Morales continues as ruler in the coming years. This has been suggested to me by an important and brilliant friend, an expert in environmental matters and also an acute political analyst who, for work reasons, must keep a low profile that I must protect here.
For the old friend, we cannot afford naivety. The negligence and carelessness with which Evo Morales’ regime has been facing the gigantic fire in the Chiquitanía are, of course, of abysmal consequences. It is, without the slightest doubt, a negligence and a neglect of catastrophic consequences for the Chiquitano dry forest and that are expressed 1) in the non-declaration of national disaster of the tragedy by the regime and 2) in its Opposition to seek international cooperation on time and urgently to quell the fire.
But the negligence and neglect of the MAS to deal with the Chiquitano fire should not be confused as synonymous with some political or technical-administrative incompetence of the regime to face the tragedy that is being lived in the Chiquitanía. It is probably rather a negligence and neglect on purpose assumed by the regime to consolidate a process of taking political control in the country’s lowlands, changing land use in the Chiquitanía and generating and inducing a dynamic of massive and extensive colonization of the subregion through more and new population settlements and land grants to groups of migrants from western Bolivia.
By way of covering with the masses of colonizers the Chiquitano territory razed by the flames – and taking advantage of political fires with expertise and opportunism – the Evo Morales regime would thus be oriented to demographically transform the department of Santa Cruz to subordinate it to the hegemonic project of a MAS that from its beginnings as a government set itself the goal of taking political power for itself in the lowlands of Bolivia.
The laziness and neglect of the regime of Evo Morales to deal with the tragic fire in the Chiquitanía would be part of a strategy of the regime with a view to moving forward in its “march to the east” and the seizure of political power by the MAS in the whole of the country’s lowlands. No one, of course, can fail to consider how, in a grossly illegal and authoritarian way, the MAS took for itself the political power of Beni at the beginning of 2017 through an astounding annulment of the right of electoral participation of the opposition in that department.
Moreover, no one should forget that the territorial and then political takeover of the lowlands through the transfer of settlers from the west to the subregion has already been experienced and successfully launched by Evo Morales and his power group in the department of Pando. Pando, once an opposition stronghold, is now an electoral and political place fervently co-opted by the MAS based on the invasion of colonizers induced there, for even seven years, under the command of the infamous Juan Ramón Quintana, now active actor in the tragedy , this time, of the Chiquitanía.
The goal of the MAS, now, is the political seizure of the department of Santa Cruz and the liquidation of the autonomist project that radiated from this department in the last decade with the impressive ability to sufficiently undermine the hegemonistic claims on Bolivia of the Morales regime. The environmental expert friend who has caused me to write these lines has made me consider that if in the Chiquitanía a million hectares are being set on fire today – a terrifying immensity of devastated forest -, it would be enough that 50,000 settlers and their families moved there from the west (20 hectares of land endowment per head) to take that burned space.
With this migrant population, the MAS could underpin its efforts to liquidate the autonomy of Santa Cruz as a decentralized perspective of organizing political governance in the country. We must be warned: The fire of the Chiquitano forest could be the prelude to the burning of autonomy and the past of Santa Cruz and its history changes. All Bolivia must declare itself as Chiquitana, all Bolivia must stand in solidarity with Santa Cruz, all Bolivia must assume itself as Beni and Pando and defend, with it, the cultural and social balances in the country.
Ricardo Calla Ortega is a sociologist