The political crisis magnifies racist attitudes in Bolivia | International

Yolanda Mamani, activist and journalist, attended a rally in La Paz, called in response to allegations of fraud against the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) – the ruling party – in the October 20 elections. This woman, who identifies as a chola (indigenous mestizo woman), says that many of the slogans she heard that night, that of October 23, outraged her because of their racist and homophobic tone: “He who does not jump is a chola masista“Or” shitty Indian, “you heard.

In recent days, social networks and concentrations have served as a battlefield for followers of the ruling party and the opposition to insult each other with all kinds of expletives, alluding to their origin, social class or ethnicity to which they belong. In addition, there have been attempts to destroy national symbols such as the whipala, flag that represents some ethnic groups of the Andes.

Yuri Tórrez, PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies from the Simón Bolívar Andean University in Ecuador, explains that racism in Bolivia is structural. It comes from the colony, it has configured a society not only socially unequal, but, above all, racially discriminatory. “In this context, the privileges of accessing favored spaces, among which were logically the spaces of power, were only for the Creole-mestizo sectors of Bolivian society with an evident exclusion of the indigenous sectors of the country,” adds Tórrez.

The Republic of Bolivia was renamed a Plurinational State on January 22, 2009 to recognize and remember the cultural diversity and importance of indigenous people and peasants in the history of the country. Tórrez explains that this change in the Constitution was intended to eradicate this exclusion and structural segregation.

However, since the formation of a Constituent Assembly in 2006 to draft a new Constitution, a social polarization has remained in Bolivia. This, added to the indigenous presence in power, personified in the figure of the president, Evo Morales, has brought back “the segregationist specters”. However, there have only been changes “in a formal way with the enactment of the Law Against Racism and other forms of discrimination, but, paradoxically, in the imaginary of the creole and mestizo sectors a schizophrenic racism against indigenous people is perceived. Perhaps it is For this reason, the president feels hurt by these racist attitudes and, in his speeches, especially in times of social conflict, permanently alludes to this racial harassment and victimizes himself as part of his discursive and, therefore, political strategy ”Says Tórrez.

Morales, in a tweet posted on October 23, defended himself against accusations of fraud arguing that the opposition does not want to recognize the indigenous vote and that its only crime is “being an Indian president.” The president, in more than one speech, has warned his supporters about the intentions of the right to return to a neoliberal model and put aside the symbols and conquests of the Plurinational State. Andrea Barrientos, a senator elected by Comunidad Ciudadana —the formation that leads the opposition— argues that the president’s declarations of “going back to the past” show that the ruling party, Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), wishes to build a political enemy to create a polarization scenario.

“The enemy of the MAS has been the businessmen, the neoliberal model, the right wing, … but it has also tried to incorporate a sector of the middle and upper middle class of the population. However, he should have sought unity between Bolivians and Bolivians. For us, the Political Constitution is marking the important and necessary symbols in the country and we are not going to change them or go backwards in processes of social inclusion ”, adds Barrientos.

For Sergio de la Zerda, a deputy elected by the MAS, the call to mobilize by Carlos Mesa, the main opposition leader, due to an alleged fraud has reactivated extreme positions that were believed to be surpassed in the country. “I have seen how they verbally and physically attack people from remote neighborhoods who identify with the MAS and indigenous people, without even distinguishing between women, children or the elderly. These groups have come to intimidate the elected candidates, burning and looting our tents and, worst of all, taking photographs of our private homes and even our children. These are clearly fascist actions ”, affirms the deputy.

Alejandra Ramírez, a sociologist and doctor in development studies, considers that racism is only one edge of the “inter-citizen conflict.” “That is what is getting exacerbated these days. Say: ‘This is how they are racists in this population.’ With that, the visible enemy: the State, as in Chile and Ecuador, disappears and transfers the conflict to civil society, making the enemy the one next to you, ”he explains.

The sociologist emphasizes that the president addresses his followers as if there were two different countries, one rural and the other urban. He cites the example of last Sunday, in the municipality of Sicaya, in Cochabamba, where Morales called on the peasant movements to “fence” the cities, to see “if they can hold out” without food. That type of reactions, according to the specialist, also generates racism in the people of the country towards the people of the city. Just as the inhabitant of a city can call the peasant “Indian” or “cholo”, as he explains, a peasant can tell the one who lives in a city jailón (wealthy, with negative connotation), white ass khara (a derogatory way to call someone white in Quechua).

“To say that racism is only on one side, I think it is really Manichean, because all societies always see the other in a disqualifying way and that is being seen in the conflict. On Monday at a press conference, García Linera [el vicepresidente de Bolivia] It gives an idea that there are bad guys and good guys here, when they are not, they have managed to confront us among Bolivians ”, Ramírez concludes.

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