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Bolivia's vice president on indigenous rights, coca crops, and relations with the US

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It's not true that we've caused division. This country has always had terrible, profound divisions between indigenous and nonindigenous people. We didn't invent this. The elites were used to thinking that there was no problem because they didn't want to acknowledge it, but the problem was there. These fissures from colonialism, from discrimination still exist, and what we're doing is ... seeking out their resolution through practical, democratic measures of equality, justice, structural reforms, improved earnings distribution, and the broadening of rights. What is happening in Bolivia can be summarized this way: the broadening of rights and the redistribution of wealth. The idea that we're only governing for the indigenous people is a biased ideological interpretation.

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What do you think of the recent criticisms from the US over Bolivia's coca policies?

The latest report from the [US] State Department has a balanced reading of what we're doing in terms of drug interdiction, but in terms of coca production, we believe that it commits a series of mistakes, and, in some cases, injustices, regarding what the Bolivian government is doing. The [previous] governments established a vicious cycle that was unsustainable. They militarized everything, detained people, killed people. More people have been killed in democracy than in dictatorship. Human rights were brutally violated. Coca cultivation was reduced from 100,000 to 8,000 hectares in a single year; they showed the international community their achievements, with dozens of people injured and tortured, and then the very next year the previous level of coca would be produced. We don't want to play this kind of phony game with the international community.

To what extent might the government's new policies for capturing more [revenues from] natural resources for the benefit of the Bolivian people serve as a model for other countries in the region, such as Ecuador?

We offer our humble contribution to what we see as 21st century-style nationalization, which means that foreign companies with capital and know-how are present in the country with their machinery, and they can earn profits, but never again can they be the owners of the gas and the petroleum.

Today, sovereignty has acquired a new dimension. Sovereignty can't be viewed as it was in the 20th century, as virtual autocracy, enclosure. Sovereignty is the ability to decide the kinds of links and relationships you want to have to globalization processes. Sovereignty doesn't disappear; it is modified. We can't return to the 20th-century sovereignty of enclosure, because we are profoundly tied to the markets, to the financial markets, to the labor force and to the power of capital.

There has been talk of "a new Latin American socialism." If this exists, how would you define it? Is Bolivia part of it?

We debate this amongst ourselves, and we haven't defined a position. If you will allow me a very personal view on this issue, what is happening in Latin America today is a search for diverse paths to post neo-liberalism. The experience of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, mainly, and Uruguay in its own way, is a search for a road to post- neo-liberalism, of ways to disassemble the processes of financial colonization and public resource privatization of the 1980s and 90s. But where is socialism? I think it's part of a horizon, of a future that you have to start building now. Fortunately, it's no longer possible to associate socialism with the statism that characterized the [former] USSR for almost 70 years. The debate of socialism as statism has been tossed aside, and today the debate is about defining socialism, socialism understood as a post-capitalist society, and not just a post neoliberal one like what we have today. I think we are just seeing the beginnings of this.