Rogelio Mayta: “We are going to exhaust all dialogue scenarios with Santa Cruz” | Interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia

Rogelio Mayta arrived in Buenos Aires to participate in a new meeting of foreign ministers of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), but does not lose sight of a second the tension that is breathed in Bolivia by the national census. The department of Santa Cruz, stronghold of the opposition, has been on strike and indefinite strike since Saturday, demanding that the census be carried out in 2023. This was to be carried out next November, but the government postponed it until 2024, arguing technical problems. Mayta is concerned about this unjustified reaction from the Bolivian extreme right, although he clarifies that unemployment “has already been greatly reduced because what the Bolivian population wants is to work to prevent the economy of everyday life from stopping”.

In dialogue with PageI1, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia celebrates this meeting between peers in Argentina to think about solutions from and for the region. “At this moment, Latin America owes itself a process of reflection, not believing in siren songs and rather believing in the potential it has, in processes of searching for a common horizon”, explains Mayta, who also warns about a future “climate meltdown” if you don’t go from speeches to facts in environmental matters.

– Why is there such a strong rejection of certain sectors to something as basic as a census?

– The census is an eminently technical process. It is carried out every certain time for a period of more or less than ten years, but this time there has been a delay due to the pandemic and the de facto government of Jeanine Áñez. At present, the technical forecast determines that it can reasonably be carried out in the year 2024. This situation has been assumed by the extreme right in my country as a flag, the possibility that this census be carried out in 2023 to generate a certain type of adhesion of the population, telling them that if the census is carried out in 2023, economic resources may reach the region with the largest population sooner, or that they will have more representation in Congress. Okay, eventually at some point that’s going to happen when the census is done. But the technicians say that this can reasonably be done by 2024. And the government, initially responding to all those requests that it can try to have a census in a shorter time, has established that by making efforts, the census can be carried out between April and May 2024 This has generated that these extreme right groups, expressed fundamentally in the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee, have lowered the flags of the 2023 census with great intransigence. The strike in Santa Cruz is still taking place, it is part of the right to protest, they may have an ideological position very far from the government but we listen to reasons, we listen to criteria and we are going to exhaust all possible dialogue scenarios.

– With these types of expressions, do the ghosts of the 2019 coup appear?

– 2019 was a different situation. The right had opened a process of accumulation of forces from a hate speech that was penetrating very deeply into Bolivian society. And there was a fact that triggered all the violence that was the electoral process. In this case, these elements do not exist, there are aspirations of some regions in Bolivia that want greater representation, greater resources, but it does not seem to be transcendental if we speak in temporal terms. We are talking about the fact that they are carrying out an entire civic strike in the middle of a somewhat misleading speech. Undoubtedly, the census is not a cause that should motivate a strike or a mobilization as the extreme right is doing.

– With what expectations do you come to this CELAC meeting?

– Latin America and the Caribbean come from bad experiences. The truth is that we did not do well with the unipolar world, but neither did we do well when the world was divided into those two great areas between the West: the United States and NATO, the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. Our countries, called developing, always end up falling into their spheres of influence. And that ended up defining the plundering of our natural resources on the one hand, and on the other the subjugation, sometimes more hidden and others in a cynical way. The last time there was bipolarity in the world, the United States invented the National Security Doctrine. And in Latin America there have been a series of military governments that have been based on human rights violations and breaking the constitutional order. So I think that at this moment Latin America owes itself to a process of reflection, not believing in siren songs and rather believing in itself, in the potential it has, in processes of searching for a common horizon. In this effort, Celac becomes a good medium.

– Within the framework of this integration, some media reported that the chancelleries of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia would be advancing in a tripartite agreement on the production and commercialization of lithium. Can you confirm?

– It’s something that has somehow been floating in the air for a long time. Bolivia has promoted a process through its Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy, some time ago with a series of meetings and conversations at a technical level. On the other hand, there has also been talk of possibilities of joining forces not only between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, at the time we also talked with Mexico. It is something that is there and I believe that at a prudent moment our countries will move forward as is most appropriate. It is a great possibility.

– How do you expect the second round on Sunday in Brazil? It may be crucial for the region.

– As in any electoral process, the important thing is first the will of the people, that this electoral process be carried out without any type of interference or situations that could tarnish them. From a distance we always wish the best to a brother nation like the Brazilian.

– I ask this because in September the former president and current candidate Lula da Silva promised to expedite Bolivia’s entry into Mercosur, should he be elected. Does that possibility excite you?

– We are in the accession process, perhaps in a longer process than we had initially thought. And precisely at this moment that process is being delayed by decisions of the Brazilian Congress. But we, despite that time and these delays, believe that joining Mercosur is still a good alternative for Bolivia. We are going to continue with the procedure established by the internal rules, and we hope that in any situation a conclusion can be reached with our full adherence.

– A few days ago at the assembly of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) you said that the world is on the verge of climatic collapse. What do you mean exactly?

– I can exemplify them so clearly. The city of La Paz is located at an altitude of 3,600 meters. There is a hill called Chacaltaya, a snowy peak where skiing was practiced. Right now there is no snow. That’s what global warming has done. We see it in everyday life, we who live in the mountains, in our mountain range. It was said that we should avoid reaching a warming that raises the temperature beyond 1.5 degrees, and there are studies that tell us that we have already arrived. It seems unreasonable to us that with the reasoning that we have as a species, we are not capable of changing things. We continue to give speeches at each COP (United Nations Conference on Climate Change), assuming commitments that we do not fulfill. In this way, all we are doing is exposing Mother Earth to collapse, confronting humanity with its potential extinction.