Bolivia is in the news. Petitions are zipping through cyberspace. What is going on? Last Sunday police brutally attacked indigenous people peacefully marching in protest of a road being built through their territory known as the TIPNIS (El Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure). Everyone seems to agree on the fact that marchers were horribly injured and killed. But soon the situation gets very murky.
No one is claiming responsibility for ordering the police to attack the marchers. The quickest finger pointing seems to belong to the US press (both mainstream and activist). They say that President Evo is the one responsible.
But I’m not sure that this is true.
As everyone who has read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States knows, the mainstream press historically has supported US business interests under a cloak of populist sentiment, and sometimes has manipulated the activist press to follow suit.
What do I mean by that?
The cloak of populist sentiment changes with the topic and the times; jargon such as “God’s will” has been replaced with “protect indigenous people and the rain forest.” Of course we want to protect indigenous people and the rain forest. This is vital to our survival as a species. But, is that what we are really doing when we sign one of the petitions that are going around the Internet?
Let’s pause a moment, and look at one of the many historical examples of the press manipulating people to support US business interests: the Spanish American War. This war ostensibly was to help the oppressed Cuban people gain liberty from Spain: That was the rallying cry to get well-meaning people of the US emotionally charged so they would join the military and become cannon fodder.
After the war the Cuban people were not part of the decision-making process for their own new Constitution. The US-mandated constitution basically made Cuba a possession of US businesses. Soon about 80% of the island was owned and controlled by US businesses, such as United Fruit. The people of the US were angry and disillusioned at this outcome, but their voices were not heeded.
With that in mind, let’s look at what is happening in the press nowadays. Sunday a group of policemen brutally attacked peaceful marchers in Bolivia. Starting Monday and Tuesday the US and UK press ran articles denouncing Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia. But, in a far more extreme incident in 2009 militarized Peruvian police massacred hundreds of protesting indigenous people, and the US press was comparatively silent.
Why the difference in reaction?
Could the silence in the US press about the massacre in Peru be because the then-president of Peru, Alan Garcia, was friendly to US business interests, and the road building also benefited US businesses? And could the immediate outcry in the US press over the police attack on the marchers be because president Evo Morales supports the interests of the Bolivian people over the interests of US businesses?
And I have not even mentioned the police brutality that occurs on a regular basis in US cities. No news agency that I have seen has demanded that president Obama be held accountable for the brutal actions of local police.
Police brutality should never be tolerated. I urge that we continue questioning until we reveal the truth of who incited the police to attack the indigenous marchers in Bolivia last Sunday. And I urge that we use the same care in investigating human rights abuses commited, overtly or by ommission, by US business interests.
In the meanwhile, are well-meaning Americans being bamboozled into creating and signing petitions against Evo Morales — the first indigenous president in the Americas, when the real motive is for US business interests to oust President Evo so transnational corporations can control Bolivia’s natural resources and indigenous labor like they have in the past?
I don’t know. But I do know that I am not signing any petitions while these questions linger.