Bigwigs of Santa Cruz

After our trip to Pueblos Unidos last week, our bodies barely worked but we were fired up about our project.  We learned how difficult it is for campesinos to survive in el campo. We already knew that a small group of people (approximately 150 elite families) control vast expanses of productive farm land in the Department of Santa Cruz.  So, we decided that it was important for us to make a good faith effort to hear what the “other side” — the wealthy landowners and the business community that supports them — had to say about property rights and economic development in Bolivia.  We entered the CAO (a collaboration of agro industry bigwigs) and the regional civic committee (called Comité Civico), which is promoting autonomy (see below) for the Department of Santa Cruz. 

Upon our arrival, they all gave us time and were willing to explain their points of view on camera.  Throughout recent Bolivian history, the many mestizo residents in the eastern portion of the country have felt alienated from the national government. They spoke about the ways in which, they feel, La Paz and the western region receive more resources than the eastern region in spite of Santa Cruz´s large contributions to the national GDP. As well, they spoke about their desire to mirror the economic development policies of the United States, particularly with respect to private property and the extraction of natural resources.  We did not really mention MST in our interviews, but the people in the business community portrayed MST members as terrorists, as armed and dangerous, and as thieves who steal land from the “productive and hard-working” citizens of Santa Cruz.  They specifically pointed toward the Pueblos Unidos and the fight over Raphael Paz´s hacienda, Yuquises.

This set of interviews, which took place in modern, glitzy, sky scrapers, marked a stark contrast from the realities of life in the rural farming communities like Gran Chaco and Pueblos Unidos.  We are hopeful that allowing this community to speak for themselves will provide insight into the obstacles that MST faces in its continuing struggle for land rights.

[Aside: Autonomy would give Santa Cruz total control over the economic and natural resources that it produces, rather than redistributing them nationally.  Many of the other departments, particularly in the highlands in the western part of Bolivia, have been left with next to nothing after their mineral resources were forcefully depleted during the 20th century. Thus, autonomy would reap benefits for the eastern portion of the country and leave the rest (majority indigenous and poor) with very little.]


2 comments so far

  1. michon on

    Michael Moore …….. step aside. The ladies are putting together a documentary without the biased sensationalism that you put forth, Mr. Moore.

    …take note and take the lesson.

    Can’t wait to see this…..congrats to each of you for an exciting and remarkable journey thus far. Will be interested in hearing how the implicated narratives from both sides flesh out as a result.


  2. friends of mst-bolivia on

    Thanks for your support, Bob! Can´t wait to see you next week and hear all about your trip to Peru.

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