Through personal observations and interviews with social activists, Dangl tells the story of these social movements which have led to the election of Evo Morales in January 2006. Will Morales be able to bring about the reforms for which he was elected? This is the question that hangs over much of the book.
Dangl devotes a chapter to each of the crucial social struggles in
Another social movement, more localized than the struggle to continue growing coca for legal use, was the struggle against the control of water by the Bechtel Corporation in the city of
If water is essential for peoples’ lives, so is land. There is in
It was, however, the conflict over gas with the cry “The Gas is Not For Sale” that had the most internal and external political impact. As Dangl writes: “The conflict that manifested itself in Bolivia was part of a larger global resource crisis. Whether over water, land, or food, resource wars have grown in recent years, the bloodiest focusing on access to oil in the Middle East.” Demands for gas nationalization unified diverse social and labor groups into a nationwide mobilization for change. He writes,”Gas War protesters demanded a state-run gas and oil industry that could industrialize gas within Bolivian borders to benefit the population. This meant not only better access to gas, but more revenue for social programs.” The movement for the nationalization of Bolivia’s gas expressed the need to regain access to basic resources and services. The compromise agreement on the ‘Gas War’ was not an all-out expropriation of the industry, but greater state power over the gas and oil business.
Nevertheless, Ben Dangl sees in such social movements for control over resources the key to the future. In his conclusions he states “Neoliberalism has dug its own grave in Latin America, and new alternatives, both in the street and the state, are evolving over access to basic resources, such as land, coca, water, and gas, have opened new windows of possibility for change. The recent elections of left of center leaders throughout Latin America is a sign that regional economic integration is an attainable goal. However, if these new leaders and economic alliances fail to reverse destructive policies, social movements know what they want and how to make themselves heard Instead of marching for change, their march is the change.”
The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia By Benjamin Dangl
(Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2007, 226pp.)
To see the schedule for the author’s current book tour visit www.BoliviaBook.com
Rene Wadlow is the editor of www.transnational-perspectives.org. and an NGO representative to the United Nations, Geneva.