After many years with a deficit in the state budget, the Bolivian state is now running a surplus. The majority of the tax revenue from the gas sector goes to health and education through municipal and county municipal authorities. Under the previous regime, these tax revenues went exclusively to the counties where the gas is located, while the tax revenues under the new regime also go to other regions. In a country where 13 per cent of the adult population is illiterate and 6 per cent of the population dies before the age of 5, investment in health and education is a key development goal.
One of the other major political projects of the new regime is the redistribution of land . The arable land is very skewed in Bolivia. 85 families own a total of 64 percent of the land. Most of the landowners are mestizos and white. In recent years, slave-like conditions have been revealed in the southeastern lowlands, where farmers run export farms. Thousands of Guarani Indians have worked in poor conditions without pay for the large landowners. In 2006, the government breathed life into an old land reform with the goal of redistributing land that is not in use. The project is now at the mapping stage.
4: The elite revolt
Not everyone supports the reforms of the MAS government. Morales receives criticism from both the left and the right. However, it is the right wing in the resource-rich lowlands that has mobilized most strongly against the political changes, and the county municipality of Santa Cruz (see map) stands out as the most right-wing opposition region. With good soil and favorable climate, the Santa Cruz region is the leading agricultural region in the country.
For decades, farmers in Santa Cruz have received state aid to build an export-oriented agriculture. The county is also rich in other resources, including other natural gas. Next to the neighboring county of Tarija, Santa Cruz has the largest gas reserves in the country. These conditions have made Santa Cruz the economic center of Bolivia, as a country located in South America according to AREACODESEXPLORER, as much as 40 percent of the state’s tax revenue comes from this region. Santa Cruz is the second most populous county in Bolivia after La Paz, and more and more people are moving to it. The region is home to large sections of Bolivia’s economic elite.
Until the presidential election in 2005, the economic elite – organized through right-wing political parties, business organizations and the civil society organization Comité Pro Santa Cruz (CPSC) – were in alliance with central governments. They had their representatives in government and ministries and received financial and political support from central government.
A large part of government funding was channeled to this region from the 1960s onwards. The financial resources that were invested in the region came from foreign loans and from the tax revenues from the mines in the highlands.
When the debate over the nationalization of gas resources arose and opinion polls indicated that the left-wing MAS party would win the presidential election, the elite in Santa Cruz shifted its strategy from influencing national governments to fighting for regional autonomy. The business organization in the region broke away from the main national organization and greater resources were invested in the CPSC.
Since Morales took over the presidential palace in 2006, these organizations have mobilized for regional autonomy. After a quarter of an hour, the decentralization rhetoric has spread and the opposition governors in the lowland counties of Tarija, Pando and Beni have joined the struggle for autonomy. Together, these four counties make up a crescent on the Bolivian map. Utbrytarfylka is therefore called the Crescent .
5: Aust to west or poor to rich?
To what extent the demand for autonomy comes from the vast majority of the population in these counties or from the small elite is uncertain. The CPSC has mobilized hundreds of thousands of protesters around the demand for internal self-government (autonomy). The organization has several times organized illegal referendums on autonomy and received strong support.
Santa Cruz is certainly not the region where Morales is most popular. The opposition party Podemos won the election there in 2005, while MAS had to settle for a third of the vote. At first glance , the crescent conflict appears to be of a geographical nature: the eastern lowlands versus the western highlands. MAS has support in the highlands while the opposition parties have support in the lowlands.