Bolivia shows a better world is possible

“Despite near constant destabilisation attempts by the extreme right, the MAS-led government has made massive strides forward in the development of vital medicines to aid the Bolivian people.”

By Logan Williams

As Latin America sees a shift leftwards widely termed as its second ‘pink tide’, it is clear that the Left is continuing to lead the fight to protect and maintain the social progress made during the first ‘pink tide’. One of the clearest examples of this can be found in contemporary Bolivia.

Since the re-election of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government in 2020, led by former economic minister Luis Arce, the Bolivian government has ensured that the social progress initiated by Evo Morales’ government continues across all sections of society.

These progressive steps can be seen through the development of Bolivia’s first cancer drug, the promotion of state-controlled green energy manufacturers, support for fellow progressive governments across Latin America, and the court proceedings being undertaken against those involved in the 2019 coup attempt.

Despite near constant destabilisation attempts by the Bolivian extreme right in the region of Santa Cruz in recent months, the Luis Arce-led MAS government has made massive strides forward in the development of vital medicines to aid the Bolivian people. On Thursday 9th  March 2023, Arce announced to the nation that Bolivia’s state owned medical laboratories had produced Bolivia’s first-ever cancer drug, namely Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which will aid in early diagnosis of cancer.

This huge leap forwards in Bolivia’s medical sector is pivotal as it means the Bolivian government “no longer need to import (..) we are now producing pharmaceuticals that are increasingly specialized for the fight against cancer”. As well as working to end its dependence on the global north for its medicine, this will guarantee access for all Bolivians rather than the wealthy few.

Alongside prioritising ending Bolivia’s dependence on the global north for its medicine, the Arce-led MAS government has worked to generate new state-owned green energy manufacturers. The MAS government announced on the 6th March that it had begun the construction of a new biofuel plant in the city of El Alto. This plant will work to recycle vegetable and other natural oils to produce an estimated 1,500 barrels per day of biofuel.

In addition to constructing biofuel plants, the MAS government has worked to industrialise its lithium production, with plans to install two industrial complexes with Direct Extraction of Lithium (EDL) technology, in Potosí and Oruro, under the control of the government. Each of these two complexes will have the capacity to produce up to 25,000 tons per year of battery grade lithium carbonate which the Bolivian Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy, Franklin Molina Ortiz, has argued will “fulfil a long-awaited dream” of the Bolivian people.

As well as the focus on maintaining the high levels of social progress which defined the Morales governments’ domestic policies, the Arce-led MAS government in contemporary Bolivia have sought to reorientate Bolivia’s international relations, following the coup government’s orientation towards Washington, in favour of governments which fight for social progress and in defence of the people.

This re-orientation can be seen in Arce’s recent speech at the seventh Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Buenos Aires which took place in January. Arce argued that the progressive movements across the region should “become a single voice to condemn, in the strongest and most energetic way, all these acts of violence, torture, terror, destruction of institutions, and destabilization, which threaten the countries of our region, their political systems and peaceful coexistence”.

As well as seeking to unite the progressive movements across Latin America, Bolivia under the MAS government has sought to promote regional integration. A key example of this can be seen with the recent announcement that Bolivia’s nationalized electric company, ENDE, will provide Argentina with 132,000 volts of electricity going forwards. Alongside providing the Argentinian people with electricity, the Bolivian government will also potentially be exporting its new cancer drug to the peoples of Brazil and Argentina.

But the Arce government’s progressive policies are not limited to its domestic and foreign policies. The strive to maintain the social progress made by the Morales governments can also be seen in the MAS government’s fight for justice for all those subjected to horrendous crimes under the de facto government following the 2019 coup.

Bolivia’s Minister of the Presidency, María Nela Prada, has recently ruled out the possibility of an amnesty for those currently in jail for their role in the US-backed coup of 2019, despite threats of a recall referendum and mobilisations across the country from the Bolivian far right. Prada argued that Bolivia has “a united and organized people that are ready to defend democracy and defend the victories of the people” and that “those who have committed crimes have to face justice”.

It is clear that the progressive left forces in Bolivia continue to be at the forefront of the fight to protect the social progress made by the first ‘pink tide’. Therefore, the British Left must continue to support the people of Bolivia and Latin America through building and supporting initiatives such as Friends of Bolivia – and must continue to urge both our party and unions to forge links with their Latin American brothers and sisters to engage in dialogue of how we can forge a global progressive alternative.

  • Logan Williams is an National Education Union (NEU) activist and an organiser for the Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America. You can follow him on twitter here.
  • You can follow Friends of Bolivia on Twitter and Facebook.
  • You can follow Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Sign a solidarity statement with democracy & social progress in Bolivia here.
Featured image: The Bolivian Workers’ Center and the social organisations of the Pact of Unity declare themselves in a state of emergency and permanently mobilise against any right-wing coup attempts against Luis Arce’s Government on January 6th, 2023. Photo credit: Plurinational Legislative Assembly under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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