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The Militant, 14 September 1946

C. Fernandez

Yankee Imperialism Guided
Overturn in Bolivian Capital

(1 September 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 37, 14 September 1946, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


MEXICO, D.F., Sept. 1—The true character of the northern “Good Neighbor” is shown by an analysis of the events in the capital of Bolivia on July 21. On that day, an uprising led by professors and students and supported by a section of the population overthrew and assassinated President Villarroel. Follow in Washington’s dictates, Yankee press correspondents in La Paz have erroneously reported it as the culmination of a genuine popular movement against the military dictatorship of Villarroel.

It is well to bear in mind that nearly 15 per cent of the world’s tin supply comes from Bolivia, that tin accounts for 70 per cent of the total value of exports from this small South American country and that practically its entire economy is based on the industry.

A mining triumvirate, formed by the multi-millionaire Patino —Owner of the “Patino Mines and Enterprises,” Mauricio Hochschild and the “Compagnie Aramayo de Mines,” is the real power behind Bolivian politics and economy, and the strongest pillar of Yankee imperialism in the country. In the past, Bolivian governments have been mere agents for these tin magnates, and have suppressed the workers with unrestrained fury.

Super-exploitation of the Bolivian masses, carried out primarily. by this imperialist triumvirate, increased enormously during the war. Bolivian workers are desperately impoverished, in the last few years the cost of living has risen fantastically. It is the highest in South America.

Mass discontent reached such proportions during the war that it shook the government to its foundations. In 1943, a group of military leaders, counting on the assistance of the dissatisfied middle class and the passivity of the workers and campesinos (farmers) revolted and lifted Villarroel to power.

To gain support against the tin magnates and in order to stem the mounting tide of discontent among the poverty stricken masses, Villarroel made the latter some concessions such as relative union freedom, slight wage increase, etc. He tried to restrain the intervention of Patino and Co. in the economic and political life of the country. He issued decrees reducing concessions to the tin triumvirate, and began construction of smelting plants in Oruro, an important mining center, in an effort to reduce the profits of the tin magnates.

Wall St. Waited

Washington understood the Bolivian situation very well. It realized that Villarroel would not bow docilely to the interests of Wall Street. Therefore the State Department branded the movement that, lifted Villarroel to power as Nazi-Fascist.

The Yankee imperialists decided an insurrection would be necessary. They patiently awaited the first opportunity to reinstate a “democratic”, government in Bolivia, that is, a government that would resume the role of absolute lackey to the tin triumvirate.

Every action taken by Villarroel against the tin monopoly made his government more unpopular with the Yankee State Department. The imperialists were displeased because Villarroel did not use the army to suppress the mine workers during strikes which followed each other in rapid succession. Both native and foreign mining functionaries shared the same dissatisfaction. They all yearned for a return to the brutal methods employed by President Pen-aranda during the strike in Catavi where more than 400 miners were massacred when they demanded wage increases.

How, then, can the success of the July 21 revolt be explained?

Merciless exploitation had brought the masses to an abysmally low diving standard. Food is not only expensive but. scarce. Agriculture has been restricted by a conscious policy of previous governments who hoped, by discouraging agriculture, to force the native population into the mines. The masses, therefore, were at the mercy of the tin magnates.

They were terribly desperate and the agents of the monopolists were able, through the middle class, to throw the blame for the situation on the Villarroel government. Groups of well-paid and well-organized agitators gave direction to the mass discontent, channelizing it in a manner most favorable to the native and foreign exploiters.

Villarroel, like other Latin-American military-police dictators, relied mainly on the army for support both against imperialism and the workers. He made concessions to the workers only in an attempt to win their support as a counter pressure to the tin magnates. But tfhen crumbs from the national economy failed to placate the miners he restrained their struggles with dictatorial methods. Hence, he had no base in the country other than the army, and when he lost its support he was immediately overthrown. A new gang, selected by the tin magnates, was placed in power.

These further facts show unmistakably who the present government represents: The merchants of La Paz, who are notoriously subservient to the imperialist tin magnates, joined the “general strike” against Villarroel. The reactionary former-President Penaranda expressed joy over the hanging of Villarroel. The insurgents used tanks MADE IN THE U.S. in the street battles of La Paz. And the new government was immediately recognized by the U.S. State Department and its imperialist partner, Great Britain.

Yankee imperialism has demonstrated once again its firm intention to maintain redoubled exploitation of the semi-colonial South American countries at whatever price and by whatever means necessary.

It is obvious that the lack of a strong union movement and a conscious working class with well organized political parties facilitated the task of the imperialists. In the absence of independent working class organizations, reactionary elements were able to direct the discontent of the masses away from their own class interests and into channels favoring imperialism.

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