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Could This High Altitude City Become the Haven for Free Thinkers?



Bolivia is a mountainous country, bordering Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. One third of the country is mountain, with the Andes Mountain Range running through it (the World’s largest mountain range).

Bolivia’s capital La Paz is a beautiful sight to behold: a “vertical city” with its center at a lower altitude than the elevated area surrounding it. La Paz is populated by mostly indigenous people, metropolitan area included. Its metropolitan area, including the large city of El Alto, totals a population of 2.3 million.

El Alto is the highest altitude major metropolis on Earth. While poverty is a true thing here, most places in the country now have decent Internet, and 4G is functioning.

The La Paz area is mildly cold, staying around the 40- 50 degrees Fahrenheit range year-round. For a bit of perspective on life in La Paz, here is a video that can provide some insight. The energy in it feels calm and pleasant.

A Westerner can move to La Paz probably with the most ease if they start in a neighborhood such as Sopocachi or Zona Sur, where an apartment can be found for around $500 USD a month, according to a blog by a Westerner who moved to Bolivia. Those two neighborhoods are very close to downtown. This video is an insightful advertisement for a hostel where any tourist can stay, in the neighborhood of Sopocachi.

Bolivia’s population of 11 million has the highest proportion of native people in Latin America, and the culture of native people is quite friendly toward freedom, and unfriendly toward freedom or prosperity inhibiting ideologies such as neocolonialism: it’s the perfect culture for supporting free thinkers, on a planet where no society is really accepting of people who don’t believe in government.

According to Wikipedia: “Indigenous peoples, also called “originarios” (“native” or “original”) and less frequently, Amerindians, could be Andean, like the Aymaras and Quechuas (who formed the ancient Inca Empire), who are concentrated in the western departments of La Paz, Potosí, Oruro, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. There also is an important ethnic population in the east, composed of the Chiquitano, Chane, Guaraní and Moxos, among others, who inhabit the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Tarija and Pando.”

Why might Bolivia be a perfect refuge for free thinkers? Remember, the enemy of the enemy is not necessarily the friend. People know that Russia and China are not exactly friends of the Western elite, but are they free, nice places to live? Absolutely not: China is a veritable hell, and Russia is definitely not free.

Bolivia seems to currently have a sort of relaxed freedom, and a truly non-subservient stance in relation to the Western elite.

Bolivia’s president Evo Morales is South America’s first indigenous president, an Aymara man (Aymara is one of the main indigenous ethnicities in the country).

He kicked the corrupt, cartel-complicit DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) out of Bolivia, severed ties with Western elite entities such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and more.

Unlike fellow South American leaders who claim to be against Western hegemony, Evo Morales is not playing around.

Other South American countries that are relatively opposed to the Western power cliques have worse problems: Cuba and Venezuela are extremely anti-Western hegemony, but the people are nowhere near free. Ecuador and Peru have relationships with Western powers such as the EU and International Monetary Fund.

In 2015, it was revealed by WikiLeaks that the US has been planning for the death of Morales, plotting against him and coordinating with his enemies. According to an article from Mint Press News titled “WikiLeaks: U.S. Supported Unrest In Bolivia, Prepared For Death Of Evo Morales”:

“Morales spent years resisting the United States’ Latin American agenda, leading to a gradual escalation of U.S. attempts to destabilize his government. The Bolivian government now accuses the U.S. government of supporting plans to overthrow the Morales government or even assassinate the president.

In an email to MintPress News in response to a previous version of this article, Beeton noted that while the cables do reveal “questionable conduct by the U.S. embassy,” they do not directly support the allegations lodged by the Bolivian government:

“We note that a U.S. embassy cable from La Paz in 2008, during a violent secessionist movement, took the possibility of Evo Morales death or overthrow seriously. Neither that cable, nor any others we have seen, reveal any U.S. plans to cause Morales’ death.”

TeleSUR, a Latin American TV network, reported last week that the Bolivian government is continuing a formal investigation into the allegations, despite denials by U.S. government officials.”

Morales has resisted Western hegemony by moving away from dependence on “foreign aid,” international loans given out by entities such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that are thinly veiled plots to seize power, as we explored in past articles about those entities stealing land in Uganda.

This year, headlines exploded about the Bolivian president distancing the nation from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. According to an article republished at the Anti Media titled “Bolivia’s President Declares ‘Total Independence’ from World Bank and IMF”:

“Morales has said Bolivia’s past dependence on the agencies was so great that the International Monetary Fund had an office in government headquarters and even participated in their meetings.

Bolivia is now in the process of becoming a member of the Southern Common Market, Mercosur and Morales attended the group’s summit in Argentina last week.

Bolivia’s popular uprising known as the The Cochabamba Water War in 2000 against United States-based Bechtel Corporation over water privatization and the associated World Bank policies shed light on some of the debt issues facing the region.

Some of Bolivia’s largest resistance struggles in the last 60 years have targeted the economic policies carried out by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.”

The president himself tweeted:

“A day like today in 1944 ended Bretton Woods Economic Conference (USA), in which the IMF and WB were established. These organizations dictated the economic fate of Bolivia and the world. Today we can say that we have total independence of them.”

Knowledge of the Bretton Woods conference, or the IMF and World Bank ruling the world are normally confined to the domain of “conspiracy theorists”: but any honest man in power (which is basically no one) can tell you that these entities are no joke.

Bolivia is certainly not an ally of the Western elite, even further proven by its relationship with Russia.

An arms deal between Russia and Bolivia was struck in recent years, in which Russia agreed to provide arms to Bolivia to combat illegal drug trafficking. According to Wikipedia:

“In March 2009, Russia and Bolivia signed a protocol agreement aimed at strengthening democracy in each nation. In February 2009 President Evo Morales visited Moscow. His trip was the first ever by a Bolivian head of state to the Russian capital. During the visit, both leaders signed an agreement strengthening energy and military ties between the two nations in addition to strengthening counter narcotics co-operation. In May 2009, Bolivia’s Viceminister of Foreign Affairs said that Bolivia would be making a multimilliondollar arms and transportation purchase from Russia in efforts to combat drug smuggling and production in Bolivia.”

Bolivia has historically been the land of the coca leaf, producing raw cocaine as Peru and Colombia do. However, the current government seems to fight the cocaine trade while allowing farmers to grow some coca for the indigenous people’s ordinary use of the leaves.

According to a 2016 article from High Times, referring to Bolivian legislation to combat drug trafficking:

Ominously, the bill was announced just as Bolivian Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira was in Moscow for a military hardware trade show, “Foro Army 2016,” where he met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. At the confab, the two ministers signed a pact on bilateral military cooperation. At the signing ceremony, Ferreira said he expected Bolivia to purchase military equipment from Moscow, adding:  “For us, Russia is a fraternal country, with which we have excellent relations.”

Bolivia has made impressive progress in recent years in reducing coca cultivation by addressing the roots of rural poverty through land redistribution and agrarian programs that favor the peasant sector—in defiance of Washington’s prohibitionist dogma.”

Many Bolivian people can appreciate free thinkers, the philosophy of Anarchy (meaning “no rulers,” essentially freedom), and similiar ideas because they suffered under Western hegemony and dictatorships very recently. This article is written from the perspective of an Anarchist, I believe in no rulers. With a world completely and totally dominated by rulers, it would seem Bolivia has a better leader. He is a socialist, but Bolivia is no tightly controlled society like Cuba or Russia.

Everyone knows the Spanish conquered South America and tried to destroy the culture of native people just as the English did to North America. In South America, you often have a dynamic of native people living in rural areas, and more white, more Spanish people living in the urban areas, often not caring about the indigenous people. This dynamic was explained by the indigenous people of Peru, describing the massacre of native Peruvians that occurred in the era of “Shining Path”: neither the Peruvian government nor the communist militants of Shining Path cared about the indigenous people.

Bolivia has a rich history of resisting colonialism, and resisting unwanted influence from the West for the past century. The people of Bolivia have suffered for many years under first colonialism, and then the ruthless CIA backed dictators.

In the 1970’s and 80’s, Bolivian dictatorships were backed by a high ranking ex-Nazi who was brought to Bolivia and protected by the CIA: Klaus Barbie.

Klaus was Gestapo in Nazi Germany, an SS man who was given the grim title “Butcher of Lyon,” having personally tortured French prisoners of the Nazis in Lyon, France. After WWII, US intelligence agencies such as the CIA offered him employment for anti-Marxist efforts, even helping him escape to South America and operate in Bolivia.

Arriving in Bolivia in the mid-1960’s, Klaus lived under the false name Klaus Altmann. In 1970, the Bolivian president Juan José Torres was leading the country in a direction more towards the ideology of Cuba and away from the West, so the Nixon Administration, CIA, and other powers helped stage a coup d’état in 1971.

One man rose to power and became Army General Hugo Banzer, the dictator of Bolivia: he enlisted the help of Klaus Barbie, a critical factor in his strategy, with the blessing of the CIA.

For 7 long years Dictator Banzer ruled with the help of CIA assisted Nazi Klaus Barbie. According to Wikipedia:

“Human rights groups claim that during Banzer’s 1971-78 tenure (known as the Banzerato) several thousand Bolivians sought asylum in foreign countries, 3,000 political opponents were arrested, 200 were killed, and many more were tortured. In the basement of the Ministry of the Interior or “the horror chambers” around 2,000 political prisoners were held and tortured during the 1971-1978 military rule.[2] Many others simply disappeared.”

After a “democratic opening” of the country and some technicalities between 1978 and 1980, a new “cocaine dictatorship” arose in 1980, led by General Luis García Meza. Meza had even more support from Nazi Klaus Barbie than the previous dictator. However, he was arrested and taken out of power about a year later.

A Bolivian journalist named Gustavo Sanchez tracked Barbie down in 1983 and had him finally arrested. He was extradited to France and sentenced to life in prison, where he died of cancer. Reading from a fantastic article by the man who tracked him down himself:

“For decades here in Bolivia we had an infamous tradition of ruthless dictators. In the early 70s General Hugo Banzer siezed power. He turned to the ex-Nazi Klaus Barbie to help him with the repression. It was not the first time that Barbie, a war criminal wanted by the French and German authorities, had mingled with hardliners. Here in Bolivia he used to do big business with the drug lords. He had his own team of assassins, some from Italy and others from Argentina, called the Grooms of Death. He also sold them weapons.

American intelligence officials helped Barbie to become established in Bolivia as part of their crusade against communism. He acted as a sort of counter-intelligence official. Under the alias of Klaus Altmann he worked primarily as an interrogator and torturer. He also helped in the same way in Peru. He did the same things here as in Germany and France. For him the word communist meant “dead”. Many Bolivians died during that dictatorship; one that was prolonged for more than 10 years. Barbie was in charge of the murders of many Bolivian citizens, including priests and members of the opposition.

So some of us felt that we had to do something about it. But in 1980, after General Banzer, an even bloodier dictator, Luis García Meza, rose to power in what was called the narco, or cocaine, coup. Barbie was a key aide then. He was the main ideologue of that coup; he organised absolutely everything. He was even given the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Bolivian armed forces, and was then able to move around with total impunity. Today Bolivians know all about Barbie, but for a long time many even doubted that such a criminal could be here.

I was kind of obsessed with Barbie since the beginning. In the 70s, when I was in Chile with the Marxist Régis Debray and the Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, we masterminded a plan to kidnap Barbie. But we failed. Back then I was a simple leftist journalist, who was on very bad terms with the dictators’ regimes – I knew that if I stayed I would be killed. I was in Chile until General Pinochet took over, then in Argentina until the junta took over, and finally in Cuba, until Bolivia’s return to democracy in 1982 under Hernán Siles Suazo.”

An anarchist and notorious bank robber and forger, Lucio Urtubia aided in the kidnapping of Klaus Barbie: this further illustrates the history of Anarchism in Bolivia.

Bolivia also has a rich history of Anarchist movements, described by Aymara activist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui as “Anarcho-Indianism.” Reading from an interview with her, from the Anarchist Library:

“A general point of departure of Bolivian history with the rest of Latin America is that many–especially anarchists–have had to go through the filter of their own traditions of struggle that are basically anti-colonial. So, what happened is that there was like a mutual breeding, a mutual fertilization of thought and an ability to interpret universal doctrine that is basically a European doctrine in Bolivian, Chola and Aymara terms. That’s why Bolivian anarchism is so important, because it has roots in the grassroots urban unions. Because most urban workers were also Indian in Bolivia and still are. 62 percent of the population in Bolivia self-identify as indigenous, as Aymara, Quechua, Guarani and as many other indigenous peoples. So we have a majority, even in urban settings, and therefore have a particular brand of anarchism.

I would say it is Anarcho-Indianism. And also it is Anarcho-Indianism-Feminism because the chola figure, the women, the female fighter, the female organizer, is part of Bolivian daily life. If you have been there you know what the market looks like, how strong these women are, how in solidarity they are when there is a march coming from the cocaleros, when there are these marches that last ten, twenty days without much to eat. These women prepare these huge pots of soup they give away to the poorest people. They have such a tradition of union associations that self-organize. And they self-organize basically in the administration of space. The market is a space and it’s very symbolic that they take over this space and just grab it from the municipality or from the central state. So, you have a very specific chola brand of anarchism that explains why it was so attractive for so, so many people. And it explains why one of the most salient things in Bolivian anarchist history is that their leaders made their speeches in Aymara. And just thinking that another non-Western language, non-European language is filtering the thoughts of anarchists and helping to phrase, to express the rage, the proposals, the ideas–it gives such richness, you know? In Aymara you can say, “us” in four different ways.”

Even Wikipedia will tell you Anarchy has a rich history in Bolivia, being closely aligned with the beliefs of the large native population and their struggle against colonial rule:

“Anarchism in Bolivia has a relatively short but rich history, spanning over a hundred years, primarily linked to syndicalism, the peasantry, and various social movements. Its heyday was during the 20th century’s first decades, between 1910 and 1930, but a number of contemporary movements still exist.

The first recorded anarchist movement in Bolivia was the Unión Obrera Primero de Mayo in 1906, in the small southern town of Tupiza. The organization edited the newspaper La Aurora Social. Other contemporary libertarian publications were Verbo Rojo, El Proletario and La Federación, published in the cities of Potosí, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, respectively. Several minor trade unions came together to form the Federación Obrera Local (FOL) in 1908, and in 1912 the Federación Obrera Internacional (FOI). They adopted the red-and-black flag of anarcho-syndicalism. In the city of La Paz, FOL maintained the periodical Luz y Verdad, while FOI published the Defensa Obrera, which launched a campaign for an eight-hour day.”

Believe it or not, the dictator Hugo Banzer was actually elected again as president from 1997- 2001.

Supported by the US again, he tried to exploit the country for the profit of corporations such as Bechtel, privatizing water supplies and raising the price of water to where ordinary people could not even afford it. It was called the Cochabamba Water War, and it led to the “reformed” dictator’s resignation in 2001. According to Wikipedia:

“The Cochabamba Water War, was a series of protests that took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, between December 1999 and April 2000 in response to the privatization of the city’s municipal water supply company Semapa. The wave of demonstrations and police violence was described as a public uprising against water prices.

The tensions erupted when a new firm, Aguas del Tunari – a joint venture involving Bechtel – was required to invest in construction of long-envisioned dam (a priority of Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa) – so they had dramatically raised water rates. Protests, largely organized through the Coordinadora in Defense of Water and Life, a community coalition, erupted in January, February, and April 2000, culminating in tens of thousands marching downtown and battling police. One civilian was killed. On 10 April 2000, the national government reached an agreement with the Coordinadora to reverse the privatization. A complaint filed by foreign investors was resolved by agreement in February 2001″

Today, it seems the regime of President Evo Morales is more friendly to free thinkers and common people than perhaps any country in the world.

It’s a very complex can of worms to get into, but when searching for the most friendly place on Earth for free thinkers, Bolivia is looking pretty nice.

Image credit: IB Times, BBC, Europe Reloaded, mundo.sputniknews, ListVerse, the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Heriberto Rodriguez, hd-desktop-wallpapers, nextstoplatinamerica, travelideaz, Wiki

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