Plurinational State of Bolivia, a former European Colony and probably the most notorious amongst Latin America with respect to the amount of drugs it produces and known worldwide for being the country where the symbol of rebellion, Che Guevara, was executed. Bolivia is a developing country consisting of a multi-cultural population, which includes Asians, Africans, Mestizos, Amerindians as well as Europeans. A developing country; economy of which is supported by fishing, agriculture, forestry, mining and manufacturing textile and refining metals. Bolivia has suffered devastating periods of dictatorships throughout its history, even after its independence in 1825.
Bolivia, runs on a ‘Presidential’ form of Democracy, where the President is the head of the state, head of the government, as well as the head of a multi party system. Executive power is exercised by the government, whereas the Legislative powers are shared between the government and the two chambers of Parliament. The Legislature is bicameral, consisting of two chambers; the Chamber of Senators, which serves for five years and is chosen on the basis of proportion of votes per party, and the Chamber of Deputies which serves five years as well. The major political parties are left wing, and thus inspired by Socialism, which at a glance would make it seem a system of government where everything is divided equally on the basis of need, however, throughout its recent history the examples set by its head of state are not very convincing. In 1982, Bolivia saw the spring of democracy when the first democratically elected government of Hernán Siles Zuazo took power consequently ending the long line of military coups which the country had been suffering for decades. The draft resolution of 2006 which was approved in 2009 seemed to further give way for more political autonomy by providing legislative, executive and electoral powers. However, the centre of power has practically and largely been the Executive Chamber, which is headed by the President, Vice President and includes the several ministries.
Totalitarianism is a system of government which revolves ‘totally’ as the name suggests, on a particular class or person, authority of which can’t be questioned by any means and therefore, it influences every aspect of the society which it governs. Totalitarianism can be deemed a fancy name for dictatorship, to neutralize if not negate the rather negative connotation of the word dictatorship. The word Totalitarianism stems from the philosophy of 20th Century philosopher, Giovanni Gentile, who coined the term ‘totalitario’, while explaining a system of government, which provides “total representation of the nation and total guidance of national goals.” Giovanni has not convincingly been able to shroud dictatorship with Totalitarianism, in order to sustain his ‘ideals’ of Fascism. Perhaps, mentioning the fact that Giovanni Gentile was a staunch supporter of Benito Mussolini can serve as an argument in itself to highlight the fallacy of this form of government. Bronislaw Malinowski analysis on totalitarianism in his book Freedom and Civilization, says, “Totalitarianism, rejects freedom and holds force as the only inspiration of human destiny.” (Magdalena 90) Why then do the masses fail to see the catch behind this form of government? What ‘saves the day’ for totalitarianism, is perhaps the fact that for a start, the dictator (or his party) is ‘elected’ by the people, after which the system of totalitarianism itself serves head over heels to allow every possible authority to the head of state. It differs from Democracy and other forms of government because it cannot be questioned.
In Bolivia, a bicameral legislature does exist, but the main power is in the hands of the executive branch which is the sole authority on all matters of state. The mindset of the current President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is depicted in one of his articles (Best Syndication, 2005), where he goes on to say, “What do South American nations need more than anything else, in my opinion? Benevolent dictators.” This quote clearly identifies the direction in which the Bolivian Head of State is trying to steer his country by misleading it; shrouded in democracy, which keeps the people at large, convinced and happy. The ideology of Evo Morales (or his party for that matter), finds its roots to dictatorship, and a form of government which renders the Executive Chamber, practically unquestionable to whatever the ruling party decides on all matters of state. The ruling party can suggest resolutions, or amendments to the resolution, which more than often due to the highly centralized system of power would be passed, allowing more power to the President. For instance, the referendum in 2009, which the Movement for Socialism-Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (MAS) won decisively, also called for President Evo Morales to stand for re-election, state control over natural gas and limits on the size of land people can own (Euro parl, 2009).
How has MAS been able to accumulate this level of fame amongst the people in Bolivia? The answer to this is, by being an opportunist. MAS put forward itself at a time, when the Bolivian people, who relied heavily on their jobs of mining, had to quit their jobs and switched to farming. Coca being one of the highest agricultural products was the ultimate choice of these miner turned farmers. About the farming of coca, James Read in his book, ‘A Rough Guide to Bolivia’, writes “By 1980s, coca had become a boom industry, generating good incomes for the peasant growers (whose numbers were swelled by thousands of laid-off miners after 1985) and huge fortunes for the traffickers” (Read, 369). Coca is a major ingredient of the drug cocaine, farming of which later on put Bolivia in the line of fire as Bolivia emerged to become one of the top Cocaine manufacturing countries in Latin America, siding with Colombia. Herbert S. Klein, in his book A Concise History of Bolivia, talking about the times before MAS was created, “Equally impressive about the 1989 campaign was the fact that none of the three leading parties challenged the Economic Plan of Pas Estenssoro, and the dismantling of the state capitalist system, which in fact may have been one of the long term factors that would influence their decline.” (Klein, pg256) Therefore, the environment was ripe and open for MAS. The MAS finds its roots in ‘unions’ like Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB) and Confederación Sindical de Colonizadores de Bolivia surfaced in the late 1990s, following the shutdown of Bolivian Mining Corporation. The US International Business Publications clearly mentions in its book ‘Bolivia Diplomatic Handbook’, “Unions are not free from influence by political parties. Most parties have labor committees that try to sway union activity, causing fierce political battles within unions. Most unions also have party activists as members.” (Pg202) These unions became so powerful due to the exponential growth in Coca farming, that they eventually turned towards the idea of entering mainstream politics by building a party to cater to the needs of Coca farmers at a large scale.
This understanding laid the basis of the Assembly for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (ASP), under Alejo Veliz, with Evo Morales being the second in command. The popularity of Evo Morales soon exceeded that of Alejo, which resulted in his forming a new party, which is ruling today, the MAS.
The system of government under MAS today, can be compared to that of the totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea. The government in Bolivia today is a rather mild form of that existing in North Korea, differing, only on the fact that the dictatorship in North Korea runs totally within a family, i.e., a hereditary totalitarian dictatorship. The North Korean system of governance runs on the philosophy of Chuch'e, meaning ‘main subject. The only little ‘democracy’ allowed to the people of North Korea, is that they can form parties within the ruling party, that today is the Worker’s Party Of Korea. However, those parties have to abide by the decisions of the WPK on all matters of state, as the ruling party has de facto control on all matters. The ruling party forms the major part of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the SPA being the highest organ of the state power has de facto control over all matters of state. The system again, runs in favor of the ruling party and by all means strives hard to sustain and feed the centralized nature of the political system. How the system runs can be understood by the experience of an international NGO which worked for a few years in North Korea, the author of the book, Paved with Good Intentions: The NGO experience in North Korea( Pateman, pg 5) L. Gordon flake writes, “Unfortunately, the institutionalized relationships of international organizations with the central government sometimes result in a third type of response: the provision of material support for reason of political expediency or narrow self-interest in ways that directly reinforce the North Korean Leadership and are designed to prop up or sustain the regime.” ( Pateman, pg 5)
My opinion, as is quite apparent is the total eradication of the centralization of power, in all its forms. Totalitarianism in its strictest sense has to be eradicated because it shrouds itself, making it difficult for people in places where its practiced, to understand the repercussions of it and recognize it as a threat to freedom. Totalitarianism, in a way which seems satisfying and convincing to people, takes their power and hands it over totally to a person or class which would apparently be ‘striving’ for what the people want (or in Bolivia’s case, the fight for the ‘rights’ of the ‘deprived’ coca farmers for a start), but actually be working against the best interest of the people who have in good faith handed over their rights to a particular party. The tremors of such empowerment don’t shake just the country where its practiced, but also the regions surrounding it, even if those regions are peace loving. A good example would be the epidemic of cocaine which has taken over much of North and South America, after the rise of power of the MSA. People at large, need to be educated against such forms of blindfolded elections.