The resistance continues

NS marks Indigenous Resistance Day with an article from Bolivian Campaigner Amancay Colque, who expl

October 12th traditionally was celebrated as the anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas. For the indigenous peoples of the continent, this “discovery” meant hundreds of years of genocide and misery. Now the day has been reclaimed as the “Day of Indigenous Resistance” in Venezuela and Bolivia, two countries with presidents of indigenous descent who are refusing to toe Washington’s line.

Back in 1992, governments in Europe and the American continent were busy organizing the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival. In Bolivia the indigenous population, who at the same time were statistically the poorest in the country, were busy organising and resisting attacks from the neoliberal government

In 1995 a new political party, MAS IPSP, was formed in response to the government of the time blindly following instructions from the IMF and World Bank. For instance, the policy for the eradication of the coca leaf came directly from the US government, and was a direct attack on the cocaleros, indigenous peasants who live in the most deprived areas of the country. Natural resources were privatised and state-owned companies sold off at ridiculously low prices. Trade unions, students and indigenous peasants resisted, but everything seemed to be in vain.

Indigenous people on the continent were aware that wealth would only attract trouble for the indigenous population. Humboldt wrote in his diary in 1806, during his expedition to Latin America, when speaking to an indigenous cacique in Cajamarca:  "I asked him: you are poor, aren't you tempted to excavate this land to discover treasures? He answered calmly: 'We live in misery but we are tranquil. If we had trees and fruits of gold, we would be hated and persecuted.' I admired this indigenous moderation and my eyes filled up with tears."

For Europe, the new continent meant opportunities to accumulate wealth and expand territory, for the indigenous population it meant genocide and exploitation. The only resistance possible was survival. Our continent did not flourish and develop despite the natural wealth, wealth that is still yearned for.

In April 2000, after US engineering company Bechtel took over the state water company, water costs rose 300%, ending in a revolt now called the Water War, when city dwellers and indigenous people joined forces to reclaim the water. The unthinkable became reality, the poor, the underdeveloped, the powerless recovered their voice and their strength, because they had managed to unite. Their unity came under one single banner: "The water is ours".
This event changed the direction in which the continent was moving - if water can be recovered, why can’t we recover our natural resources? Why can’t we recover our own government? The 2002 elections should have brought the MAS party and Evo Morales to government, instead it was stolen by political rigging and given to Goni Sanchez de Lozada. Goni fled the country after mass mobilisations to oust him following the  massacre of 67 people and the wounding of 400 in the city of El Alto in October 2003. He is currently hiding in the US.

In December 2005 Evo Morales-MAS won the elections with 54% of the vote. The demands of the people in October 2003 were the renationalisation of the hydrocarbons industry, a constituent assembly to re-write the constitution so as to reflect people’s wishes, such as land reform and education as well as the extradition and trial of Goni.

The implementation of these demands, which are demands of the people, has put the Evo Morales government in direct confrontation with the powerful establishment. Despite all the criticism, the nationalisation of the hydrocarbons industry took place in May 2006, much to the dismay of the business community, who claimed that Bolivia was making a huge mistake and all companies would rather leave than pay more for gas and oil. A year later and the companies are still there and are trying to sign more contracts.

Bolivia is not a developed country, for this reason most of our natural resources are exported, but we still have something to which Humboldt was referring when he said that we were “beggars sitting in a chair of gold”. He wasn’t just referring to natural resources, he was referring to our human resources, as Evo Morales put it in an interview: "I am convinced that indigenous people are the moral reserve of humanity."

Amancay Colque is an activist from La Paz, Bolivia, and is based in London. She is one of the founders of the Bolivia Solidarity Campaign in London.
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An English hero for the ages: Ian Botham at 60

Botham blends his sportsmanship and deep-seated passion for cricket with a lust for life.

Begging W H Auden’s pardon, it is possible both to honour and to value the vertical man, and in the case of Ian Botham, who turned 60 on 24 November, it is our bounden duty. No sportsman has given Britons so much to enjoy in the past half-century and no sportsman is loved more. Two decades after he retired from first-class cricket, his reputation as one of life’s champions remains unassailable.

No mere cricketer is he, either. Botham is a philanthropist, having raised more than £12m for various charities, notably Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. In December, 30 years after his first walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End, he will set off again, in South Africa, where England are on tour. And he really does walk, too, not amble. As somebody who accompanied him on one of his dozen walks said: “You can’t keep up with him. The man is a phenomenon.”

Of all postwar sportsmen, only Bobby Charlton and, at a pinch, Henry Cooper come close to matching Botham’s enduring popularity. But Charlton, a shy man who was scarred by the Munich plane crash of 1958 (and may never have recovered from its emotional effects), has never comfortably occupied a public stage; and Cooper, being a boxer, had a solitary role. Botham, by contrast, spoke for England. Whenever he picked up his bat, or had a ball in his hand, he left spectators in no doubt.

Others have also spoken for England. Bobby Moore and Martin Johnson, captains respectively of England’s World Cup-winning football and rugby teams, were great players but did not reach out to people as naturally as Botham. Nick Faldo, Lester Piggott, Sebastian Coe and, to bring us up to date, Lewis Hamilton have beaten the best in the world, but they lacked those qualities that Botham displayed so freely. That is not to mark them down. They were, and are, champions. But Botham was born under a different star.

It was John Arlott, the great cricket commentator, who first spotted his uniqueness. Covering a match at Taunton in 1974, he asked the young colt to carry his bags up the rickety staircase to the press box, where Arlott, wearing his oenophile’s hat, pulled out a bottle of red wine and invited Botham to drink. Forty years later Botham is a discriminating wine drinker – and maker. Along with his friend and fellow England great Bob Willis, and their Australian wine­making pal Geoff Merrill, he has put his name to a notable Shiraz, “BMW”.

Arlott, with his nose for talent and good company, saw something in the young Botham that Brian Close, his captain at Somerset, was beginning to bring out. Later, Mike Brearley, as England captain, drew out something even more remarkable. As Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, you’ve got to be carefully taught. And Botham, a fine team man as well as a supreme individual performer, has never withheld praise from those who enabled him to find his voice.

If sport reveals character, then cricket is the game that reveals it most clearly. In no other sport is the individual performance rooted so firmly in a team context. Every over brings a contest of skill and intelligence between batsman and bowler but only a team can win the match. “A cricketer,” as Arlott said, “is showing you something of himself all the time.”

Cricket also reveals national character more than any other sport. Football may be the most popular game in the world but cricket, and cricketers, tell us far more about England and Englishness. It is instructive, in this regard, to hear what Philippe Auclair, a French journalist and author long resident in London, has to say about Botham: “He is essentially an 18th-century Englishman.” In one! It’s not difficult to sense a kinship with Tom Jones, Fielding’s embodiment of 18th-century life, who began his journey, as readers may recall, in Somerset.

A country boy who played for Worcestershire after leaving Somerset, and who lives by choice in North Yorkshire, Botham is an old-fashioned Englishman. Although nobody has yet found him listening to the parson’s sermon, he is conservative with a small and upper-case C, a robust monarchist, handy with rod and gun, and happiest with a beaker in front of him. He represents (though he would never claim to be a representative) all those people who understand instinctively what England means, not in a narrow way, but through something that is in the blood.

Above all, he will be remembered for ever as the hero of 1981. Even now it takes some believing that Botham bowled and batted with such striking success that the Australians, who were one up after two Tests, were crushed. Some of us who were actually at Headingley for the famous third Test – thousands who claim to have been there were not – recall the odds of 500-1 on an England victory going up on the electronic scoreboard that Saturday evening.

Botham made 149 not out as England, following on, beat the Aussies by 18 runs. For three hours the country seemed to stop. In the next Test, at Edgbaston, Botham took five wickets for one run as Australia fell under his spell. Then, at Old Trafford, on a dank Saturday afternoon, he played the most memorable innings of his life and one of the greatest innings ever played by an Englishman: 118 magnificent, joyful runs. Joy: that’s the word. Botham brought joy into people’s lives.

Yet it was the final Test at the Oval, which ended in a draw, that brought from him a performance no less remarkable than those from before. He bowled 89 overs in that match, flat out, continuing to run in when others withdrew with injury. That was the team man coming to the fore. Little wonder his comrades thought the world of him.

Modest, loyal, respectful to opponents, grateful to all who have lent him a hand, and supported throughout a turbulent life by Kath, his rock of a wife, and their three children, this is a cricketing hero to rank with W G Grace, Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Fred Trueman. A feature in the lives of all who saw him, and a very English hero. 

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State