Quispe on the radio
bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 19 May, 2004 at 08:52 AM | comments (8) | trackback (0)

A radio bulletin last night told that Felipe Quispe denounced his parliamentary immunity to take up armed struggle against the government. Quispe's the radical leader of his political party, MIP (Movimiento Indigena Pachacuti) as well as the CSUTCB (Confederación Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos Bolivianos). He announced that armed road bloqueos would begin soon, and even threatened to attack military installations. He stated he wants a "communitarian revolution to build a socialist regime in our own style."

Quispe led the EGTK (Ejercito Guerrillero Tupac Katari) in the late 1980s, until his arrest in 1992. He was instrumental in the October uprising. Including the events in Sorata & Warisata, where armed, masked campesinos ambushed a military convoy attempting to rescue approximately 1,000 travelers held hostage by the altiplano bloqueo.

The armed forces, despite its current row w/ President Mesa, made a radio statement shortly after announcing that they would be loyal to the president, and go out to restore order if he called on them.

" comments

It's easy to foment an uprising, much harder to build society and institutions. I suspect he's falling back on the former because he can't help to do the latter. Maybe we'll be lucky this time and he'll actually take a bullet. --s

Posted by J.Scott Barnard | May 19, 2004 10:30 AM

Yeah, even though I don't support Quispe's way of doing things..I certainly never wished someone would get KILLED. Why don't we kill all the indios while we're at it?

Posted by eduardo | May 19, 2004 11:30 AM

I think JSB was being flippant, not serious. I certainly oppose killing all the indians. Does anyone seriously propose this? And does it logically follow from wishing on agitator harm?

Ironically, Quispe's not very liked among many of the altiplano indigenous campesinos. He's a caudillo in the old tradition, not much more, despite any rhetoric he uses. Same goes for Solares & de la Cruz.

I'll admit that even I get very frustrated here. Sometimes, a part of me just wishes Santa Cruz and the rest would just secede and leave the altiplano to its sad fate. Sometimes. Then, I take a deep breath, and hope for sane heads to prevail. Unfortunately, the supply of sane heads is pretty slim.

Posted by miguel | May 19, 2004 03:01 PM

I was also put off by the reference to "we", I wonder if he's speaking on behalf of all Bolivians.

I would never support secession by Santa Cruz. However, I would support secession by the Altiplano area homogeneously populated by Aymara Indians. That is a distinct culture dominated by another language, religion, and other cultural characteristics not used by mainstream Bolivia. Those trying to say the same about Santa Cruz are purposely being divisive. The majority of Cruceños are mestizos and are very similar to other mestizos in the rest of Bolivia.

I wonder if part of Santa Cruz's plan for secession involve allowing the indigenous populations to keep all of the gas located on their original territories?

I don't support Quispe's actions at all, but I do acknowledge that there are deep-rooted problems from the times of colonization. Although there have been great strides (i.e. universal vote, elimination of the latifundo system), there still is a major divide between rich and poor. And the majority of the poor are indigenous.

Posted by eduardo | May 19, 2004 04:51 PM

I don't see how supporting Altiplano secession (also discussed by some people) is any different than promoting "media luna" secession. Although cambas & chapacos are also mestizos, they are quite different culturally (heck, we speak totally differently) from the mestizos in the cordillera & highlands region. And also have been culturally neglected for a very long history.

I don't necessarily support secession, of course. But the democratic principle of self-determination does apply in that context. If any part of the country feels it's not being served by remaining in the union, it's citizens have a right to address the issue. Perhaps some of this will come out in the upcoming (?) constituent assembly.

I also agree that Quispe & his followers do speak to long historical abuses by the criollo & mestizo elite ruling this country. I don't support his tactics, and I think the dream of an independent kollasuyu is naive (partly because it's built on an idealized view of Inca & pre-Inca society).

The main problem's that Bolivia is what I call a "fictitious country" (much like many other post-colonial states). It was created by geographical union of distinct territories based on colonial Spanish administrative divisions. That's about it. The people of the tropical lowlands are so different from their highland neighbors, that a union only worked in the past because La Paz elites were able to fuse the country together — in part by coercion (or the threat of it).

Now that economic/political power has shifted in balance, the eastern departments want a greater say. We cambas eat different foods, speak a different dialect, have different social norms, etc. To try to think that they're the same culturally as other mestizos is to pretend that all "Latinos" are the same. We have to recognize diversity, and sometimes it takes non-ethnic forms. Plus, cambas are mestizos between European decendants & tropical indigenous groups, which are differnt than the highland indigenous groups.

Posted by miguel | May 19, 2004 05:01 PM

However, I still don't understand your disdain for nationalism, yet you support and foment regionalism.

Sure, of course I recognize that there are some differences between La Paz and Santa Cruz, all countries have different regions that are characterized by differences. There is also a difference between Beni and Santa Cruz, and the provinces within Santa Cruz, etc.. (should they break away too?) What many cruceños like to do is over emphasize these differences (i.e. write out "voj" and "como estaj?" to remind you where they are writing from), and distance themselves from the indigenous population, who they place the blame for all of the country's and city's problems.

If I recall correctly, your family is from oruro, so that would make you "kolla"? It would, if you are talking in cultural terms. But the correct distinction should be in geographic terms.

This "fictious country" hardly holds weight because of what Santa Cruz is comprised of, mainly immigrants and mestizos who just adopt the region's tendencies. How did it grow so fast after 1952? It cannot be compared to the former Yugoslavia, where they were truly "thrown together" with distinct cultures.

This desire for secession is purely driven by power hungry elitists, who purposely divide the country for their own economic and power gain. If regions with distinct differences cannot co-exist and comprise one nation, then what's the point? I'd rather live in a diverse world.

Posted by eduardo | May 19, 2004 06:29 PM

I don't think I try to "foment" regionalism. And, yes, I oppose most forms of nationalism (though I admire the vision of "nationalism" promoted by Albert Camus). And, yes, secessionist/nationalist/regionalist movements are typically encouraged (or "fomented" if you like) by elites (I recommend "Imagined Communities", a great book on the subject).

But. You pointed out an argument for altiplano secessionism. Not sure how that's much different from "media luna" secessionism (both encouraged by local elites). And that was my main point.

As to how different people write Spanish (or any language, for that matter). It's a difference in coloquialism & commun, very human, poor grammar. People write how they talk. We do it in English, too. I don't think an American who uses "elevator" rathern than the British "lift" is doing so specifically to make their cultural differences known. Or, for that matter, the American "color" and the British "colour".

Also, yes, my dad's side of the family is originally from Oruro, and he was raised in La Paz (later lived in Cochabamba for his young adult life). So that would make me a very typical "camba-kolla". And I'm perfectly OK w/ that.

Yes, there's a great deal of racism against the "indigenous" in the "media luna". But is it any greater than the same racism by mestizo-criollo people in La Paz or Cochabamba? I doubt it.

I'm not trying to "foment" any kind of regionalism. I'm just being very honest about the fact that, indeed, cambas and kollas do have cultural differences. To deny that would make me naive; to acknowledge it doesn't make me a secessionist. I recognize that, as an American, I'm a midwesterner — very different in slang & other "regional" quirks than, say, New Englanders or Southerners. That doesn't mean I want the midwest to secede or whatnot.

Finally, I too would rather live in a diverse world, a pluricultura, multi-ethnic one. But to live in such a world, we have to fully acknowledge all the differences. Don't we?

The fact that bloqueos are primarily an altiplano phenomenon is undeniable. The fact that most protests happen in La Paz is indesputable. Pointing these things out doesn't make a secessionist. It just means I'm trying to make sense of the extreme complexity that is Bolivia (and I'm not claiming that you're not trying to do the same). Let's face it, our birth country is a mess right now.

Posted by miguel | May 19, 2004 06:41 PM

Speaking of regional dialects in Bolivia ... the deliberate use of "regional" expressions go both ways. People in La Paz use "ch'api" to describe a fluffy dog. Or "michi" when something's small. Or "yapa" to describe something good. They punctuate every semi-funny conversation w/ "yaaah". These things are natural parts of daily, spoken regional dialects. For example, I've a hard time pronouncing the letter "ll" no matter how hard i try (like most cambas, I pronounce it like a "y" instead). I also have a difficult time w/ the "rr" (which is actually pretty common among most Bolivians, who pronounce it like a "rzh").

Posted by miguel | May 19, 2004 06:56 PM

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