1 Understanding the process of change: driving forces and objectives
In Cochabamba, it is not difficult to hear news or see street advertisements about the process of change taking place in Bolivia. This process, driven by the political party MAS- Movement Towards Socialism- chaired by the “indio” Evo MoralesAyma, aimed to be a democratic revolution transforming the economical, political and social structures of the country that were shaped after the neoliberal reforms.
As a consequence of the Colonization of South America, the bolivian society was composed by two different groups of people: the European descendants and the indigenous groups. García Linera (in someone…) stated that there could beidentified four dimensions in the bolivian inhabitants, that divide the country in “culturally differentiated”nations. He meant by that to the polarity between the oriental and occidental part of Bolivia, and the indigenous and peasants and the “criollos”or mestizos. The bigger riots and indigenous movements (1780-81, 1850-70, 1890-1910, 1980-1990), almost always were triggered to fight against landusurpation or excessive charges after implantation of liberal reforms and modernizing projects by the governing classes, always “criollos”. The latest indigenous movilization was based on the exclusion and poverty processes generated after neoliberal reforms in the eighties, with the “indios” identity articulating the social movements. Natural resources conflicts, like the gas and water war(Perrault, 2002), where indigenous-populist groups raised against the government, was also a fundamental piece on the puzzle of the changing process.
The neoliberalism and its reforms started in the eighties and ended in Bolivia in 2005. That reforms had the idea of legitimazing traditional authority figures and decentralizing the state structure in response to the autonomy demands. In fact, thecentralized state did not have any inclusion of the rural world (Mitre, 2008), and the neoliberal reform found the descentralization option as the best formula to increase rural participation in the decision-making process. The outcome was the creation of the Ley de Participación Popular in 199? and the recognition of original communities, peasent organization and neighborhood councils asOrganizaciones Territoriales de Base (OTB’s) as official representative organizations. The formula seemed to be good, however it failed to reduce poverty, specially in the rural areas (Cabezas, 2005). This way of incorporating a class-divided, ethnically diverse population into a society based on capitalist relations of production did not benefit indigenous groups and furthermore, increased the gab betweenrich and poors (Zoomers, 2006). Mitre (2008) adds that attending all society demands would have required the empowerment and modernization of the domestic burocratic matrix, which did not take place.
Recognizing traditional forms of representation and promotion of customary institutions and values are often incompatible with some fundaments of liberal democracy, such as private property ideas,gender equity and individual freedoms. (Mitre, 2009). Aswell, as Boelens and Zwarteveen (2005) point out regarding neoliberal water reforms, different actors have different interests regarding decentralization and privatizing processes. Peasent groups see decentralization as an opportunity to be included in the policy and decision making processes with the hope to secure their rights. Internationallending institutions and national governments see decentralization and privatization of water management as a means to reduce government spending on water and to increase the efficiency of water use. State agencies look for mobilizing tax revenues and improve jurisdiction over water and commercial water companies hope to exploit existing and new water infrastructures to get economic profits....