Whilst there were many significant popular protests against neo-liberal programmes of privatization in Latin America – notably the resistance to the privatization of water in Cochabamba in Bolivia – the first uprising over privatization that overthrew a government is the 2003 rebellion. This movement was sparked by plans for a gas pipeline, but occurred in the context of a President (a former mining magnate) undertaking rapid privatization, and US pressure to stop all growing of coca, which angered the Andean Indian farmers. As a result indigenous farmers, trade unions, students and neighbourhood groups combined embarked on a campaign including a mass hunger strike, blockades and a general strike. A major march on La Paz in October 2003 (during which miners dynamited bridges to prevent use of tanks) resulted in 70 deaths and 200 wounded, leading some ministers to resign from the coalition government in protest, and to bring it down, Two years later Evo Morales, the first indigenous President, was elected.
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E. IV.3.b. The Rebellion of 2003
Covers other protests over land, water and coca, but the final chapter ‘El Alto and the Gas Wars’ describes and analyses 2003, including brief discussion of women’s organizations and the role of radio.
The state, argues Zibechi, ‘is not the appropriate tool for creating new social relations’, and therefore Morales’ presidency represents a challenge to popular emancipation. Instead, he looks for inspiration to the social struggles in Bolivia and the forms of community power instituted by the Aymara people, especially in El Alto.