A Bolivian Hell on Earth: Balkanization in the Name of God

Rafael Bautista S.

If hell is a Christian invention, its own history – which is the history of the West – is proof of it, shedding as much blood as possible “in the name of love”.

But the religion of Hebrew-Semitic origin (not Western), which announced the “good news” to the poor, that we are all children of God, was adulterated by Neoplatonic dualism and Gnostic Manichaeism to become, inverted by the same apologists turned into “saints” by the Church, into the new ideological basis of a Roman Empire in decadence.

With this religion, stripped of its revolutionary content (if we are all children of God, we are all equal before Caesar), the Empire is anointed with the impulse provided by the argument of “sin”, as the civilizing justification of the imperial project of domination as salvation. Modernity secularizes the theological terms of this project and conceives of domination as emancipation; and capitalism (with the domination of labor and nature, in addition to the systematic control of production and consumption) offers the possibility of radicalizing these pretensions of domination exponentially – domination ad infinitum.

Imperial ideology becomes self-conscious: it no longer fights for something, it fights for everything and wants everything. The idea of infinity uncovers a drive that is also infinite: greed is the new cult that is universalized. The circle closes, theodicy manifests itself as political economy: God became man now means God became capital. The Empire is the Temple and the Holy of Holies is the financial sphere where the sacred ark of global accumulation is the divine abode. This perverse transmutation is capitalism made rational religion of modern society, turning the process of capital accumulation into the daily pious cult to acquire eternal salvation as a tangible blessing, cash and credit.

That is what the “theology of prosperity” consists of, conceived and developed in the gringo intelligence centers, once the “theology of liberation” and the Christian option for the poor had been annihilated. When Marx pointed out that the first critique is the critique of religion, he was referring to this necessary unmasking of modern fetishism, the critique as the dismantling of the systematic concealment of injustice and the relations of domination that modernity has naturalized in the very belief system of social consciousness.

The more capitalism expands, the more social relations of domination because the social form is produced by the modern world in order to expand capitalism: a world constituted by pure individuals. This is fundamental to emphasize because, for there to be capitalism, human beings must be reduced to mere individuals brought together by purely instrumental and mercantile relations. This produces the atomization of purely individualistic expectations that operate socially through the calculation of immediate interest.

But “love of neighbor” is not the product of any calculation or interest but of absolute generosity and disinterested detachment. Conditions that make capitalism impossible; for an economy of growth, translated into greed as a way of life, cannot distribute wealth democratically. There is no wealth if we are all rich. Wealth is accumulation and can only be conceived as something private, as the deprivation of common goods; that is why wealth generates misery and the more misery it generates, the more wealth is produced (that is why original Christianity must be reversed, because the gospels or “good news” are for the poor, not for the rich: if we are all children of God, the exploitation of the work of the poor is sinful).

However, the basic precept of capitalism is the exploitation of the labor of others. And modern society and its ideology, liberalism, expresses it in this way: the freer the individual is, the more he detaches himself from any relationship that makes him part of a community and from any sense of belonging. That is what his “emancipation” consists of. In such a case, his freedom is individualistic and is determined as a will to power and domination. He frees himself to appropriate what is common (to deprive others of what is common), because for the liberal individual, the common has no meaning; that is why as individuals they compete, to appropriate and benefit from everything as much as possible as private property.

Therefore, any critical pretension, by failing to develop dismantling of modern-capitalist fetishism, leaves aside the clarification of something that is recurrent in today’s capitalism: the so-called “Doña Florinda syndrome” or aporophobia. This, which can also be interpreted as “the poor enemy of himself”, manifests the process of naturalization of the relations of domination, inequality and injustice that produce the meta-narratives of modernity as a bourgeois worldview and that frame the entire horizon of prejudices of capitalism as a secularized religion.

That is why capitalism, through consumption, produces above all individuals whose belief system synthesizes this process of naturalization as worldly religiosity. In this context, the “theology of prosperity” decanted the horizon of bourgeois-capitalist prejudices into a salvific ideology that functionalizes Christianity in an activism devoted to the defense of the values and beliefs of the system, that is, organizing the new crusades against any alteration to the established order.

The dissemination of evangelical churches in Latin America is something that was systematically developed as a deterrent strategy, firstly, against the “ghost of communism”; but now, the imperial intelligence centers have redesigned it as an ideological offensive of interruption of democratic processes and permanent social and political destabilization. The narrative underpinning that makes them potentially dangerous is not only millenarianism or the yearning story of the end of the world, but also the sacrificial tradition of Christianity itself.

Consequently, evil is not converted but destroyed; conversion ceases to be an act of faith and becomes the obligatory payment of an infinite debt. Therefore salvation no longer saves, but, as “individual salvation”, it is presented as a holy competition to acquire the currency of admission to the kingdom of this world. It is therefore a “theology of prosperity”, whose purpose is to beatify and consecrate the wealth of this world, as the perfect sacrifice for the merit of a promised land, which can now be monetized and quoted in the modern tabernacles: the stock exchanges.

The heaven of medieval theology descends to the most earthly and represents the divine epiphany in stock market terms. Everything can be bought, even paradise, which is no longer in the hereafter but in new condominiums and “smart cities” far from the worldly noise. This is why wealth is interpreted as a blessing and the “theology of prosperity” is a constituent part of this new spirituality as individualistic salvation, an evasion and denial of reality. The financial bubbles are now inflamed by a new type of faith that leaps into the abyss dragging everyone to suicide (now even desired by a social conscience, whose death drive makes it imagine the end of the world as “salvation”).

In this sense, evangelical millenarianism disseminates armies of believers in the idea of “holy war”. That is why Islamic terrorism has been promoted by the CIA in the name of Jihad or “holy war”; which is not an exclusive concept of Islam, since the Christian crusaders themselves, who, from all over Europe, marched to liberate Jerusalem, understood that as a “holy war”. It is from the Western European Christian tradition itself that the gringo empire invents the enemy of its globalization: Islamic terrorism. But now the fiction no longer works, after the disasters that the USA and Europe caused to the so-called – geopolitically – Greater Middle East. The bourgeois aporophobia must point out a new scapegoat as the holocaust of the sacrificial operation necessary to restore order. That new enemy is the Indian.

The “theology of prosperity” was designed to displace and definitively annul the “theology of liberation” or the option for the poor. In a continent where the poorest are the indigenous peoples, what the “theology of prosperity” actualizes, as a religious purpose, is what the Conquest did not conclude: the extirpation of idolatries, that is, to de-almarize the Indian, to extirpate from him all remnants of reconstitution of his own subjectivity.

Since 1994 and the Mayan-Zapatista insurgency, until the establishment of the plurinational State of Bolivia in 2009, a new narrative has been installed on the political horizon, questioning and questioning the current paradigm of life. The Empire, its intelligence agencies and think tanks have understood this very well: politics is defined in the dispute of narratives. If a project is no longer credible, no longer desirable, then it has no future.

The current cynicism of the power groups has method, logic and religious performativity, that is why the racism and fascism they unleash is not rejected but adopted as a theological creed. In Bolivia, the appearance of these churches coming from gringolandia is not recent; they constitute a long term plan that began before the Second World War and determines them as one of the operative arms of the Monroe Doctrine. At present, they operate mainly in the lower classes and contribute to the formatting of the common sense in a business sense. In Santa Cruz, the ideologizing apparatuses are the churches and the media, while the Catholic Church appears as the “moral” spokesperson of the power groups. In such a context, there is not only an abduction of the truth but also of the soul of a society.

Faced with such a situation, state action is besieged, encircled and reduced to the purely dissuasive character of legal procedures. Whatever it does does not have sufficient state force, because the blackmail used by the most influential media constitutes the power that mobilizes an activism religiously consecrated to the “holy war”.

This is the dramatism that perverts politics in a suicidal Manichaeism. Because to activate such a “sanctification” of a conflict, the scapegoat (whose sacrifice supposedly brings us back to order, because he is supposedly the culprit of all evils) must be transformed into a monster. But, in order to put an end to a monster, one must also become a monster; thus, the scapegoat story takes on a drama that perverts even the political usefulness of this resource. Attributing all the blame to the colla, becomes the best pretext to transfer exclusive responsibilities from the Santa Cruz elites to the central State; but this does nothing more than exacerbate the resentment of the camba against the colla, that is, the Indian, and becomes the ideological device to unleash the politics of hatred, which only leads to confrontation, war.

This danger has been designed by the Empire and its intelligence agencies to undermine from within democratic processes that seek to restore sovereignty in the midst of the decadence of the unipolar world. The world will cease to be imperial property but its own arrogance will not allow a world among equals. That is why, geopolitically speaking, the Empire does not seek, for instance, in the war provoked in Ukraine, to maintain the strategic balance, but to achieve strategic advantages. A world among equals is impossible for the empire; strategic advantages maintain the inequality of principle which an empire needs to maintain in order to remain an empire.

It is the same lordly logic of our oligarchies: they can negotiate everything, but never their superiority; because a condition for there to be a lord is that there be servants. This is the hatred that gathers the urban social conscience (deformed in the lordly values) as a recruiting base for fascism and allowed it a bloody coup d’état in 2019; and it is this hatred, understood as “holy war”, that feeds an irrational resistance because, in addition, it is encouraged and justified by a media power that intoxicates public opinion to make it complicit in the first crime that war commits: killing the truth.

Those who raise the name of God, spreading anxiety left and right, arrogantly mocking the law they “claim to respect”, as did the coup leader Camacho, do not know this: human justice exists so as not to have to appear before divine justice. Psalm 73 describes it: “the peace of the wicked. For there is no torment for them; they are healthy and plump. They have no share in human afflictions and are not troubled like other men. Therefore pride girdeth them as a collar, and violence covereth them as a garment. They set their mouth in heaven and their tongue wags on the earth. Therefore the people turn after them. Behold there: they are wicked, but quietly they constantly increase their fortune.”

“The people turn after them.” That is why they always see the people as the real danger to their fortune, to their wealth. Anathematizing the people is then fundamental to the preservation of order. When the “theology of prosperity” describes itself as such, it is because it has divinized the existing order and its purpose is the consecration of the defense of that order; in that sense, aporophobia is not a simple discrimination but an act of faith: if wealth is a blessing, then poverty is a divine curse and the poor are cursed. That is why the “theology of prosperity”, in its pedagogy of biblical indoctrination, prepares disciplined, submissive and obedient individuals, fit for an increasingly demanding labor market. The economy is increasingly restricted, but evangelical churches now administer the kind of admission that capital pontificates.

If order cannot be restored, then, in the name of God -the capital-God- the Christian Jihad is unleashed. We have already experienced hell on earth on our continent, since the Conquest. Recently we have seen Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc., burn because of the geopolitics of the Antichrist. The empire was distracted destroying that region, while in our region the “democratic spring” was beginning. Since then, the oligarchies converged in the systematic destruction of popular insurgencies, having at their disposal all the factual powers that were co-opted by neoliberalism. But the indigenous narrative, which in many cases gave new meaning to the political horizon of our popular projects, is still in force, and is what the Empire and the oligarchic complicity intend to annihilate.

In that sense, what the “theology of prosperity” does as extirpation of idolatries can be interpreted as the pretension of annihilating the spirit of our peoples. This was evidenced in the coup carried out in 2019; for with Bible in hand, the coup perpetrators tried to exorcise the ajayu of our people. That is why the psalm says: “the people turn after them”. For the ultimate field from where all resistance makes sense is the spiritual one. The political field is a field in dispute, but what is ultimately disputed is a way of life. That is why it is a struggle of narratives, of cosmovisions, of ultimate beliefs.

In 14 years, it was not understood what a democratic-cultural revolution meant; that should have promoted a pedagogical revolution in all spheres, above all, in a strategic way, the military and the police. Now the government is facing its own reality: it holds the government, but it does not have power. At its maximum point of legitimacy, with 55% as the maximum of common availability, it failed to make the transcendental changes that should have been proposed by a party that was the depositary of the popular triumph against the coup and the dictatorship (it should never have allowed the coup perpetrators to be authorities, since they violated the Constitution itself).

Now it is necessary to know how to pinpoint the type of conflict that is being unleashed and, in response to the hybrid wars that the Pentagon and NATO are setting up as a strategic containment of their decadence, to do what every popular government should do: to promote popular power. Imperial ideology can calculate everything, but it cannot calculate the people factor, because it is the indeterminate, the hard unknown that political equations do not know how to define. There is no algorithm that can solve the metaphysical aspect of politics itself.

The hell that is intended to be unleashed has, with the federalist discourse, a purpose that is not recognized even by the adherents to the camba story: territorial division is impossible in practical terms, Santa Cruz is more full of collas than is believed and that is what establishes a connectivity with the altiplano that is impossible to break. It can even be said that El Alto and its influence is extensible to Santa Cruz itself. The hell that would be unleashed has, rather, the physiognomy of an unfinished balkanization, that is to say, the dissemination of undefined chaos. Because all the scenarios of a hybrid war, war by all possible means, are already unfolded, and with the Manichean dramatism of the “holy war” narrative.

Today, more than ever, naivety in politics is a fatal imprudence. The unleashed violence has its own agenda, its own temporality and its own magnitude. It has the media power to show itself as an obscene spectacle, but it works very well as an “inspirer” of the urban fascist remnant, fed by the lordly dogma of superiority before the Indian. This power has captive the public opinion that believes that the violent is a saint, justifying the inflammation of violence that will always be attributed to those who try to stop it. Violence made spectacle generates its addiction and that already represents its normalization.

This is the role of the media in a process of balkanization: normalization produces the dissemination of chaos; if the violent appear as “saints” and the law can be flouted, then, there are no limits, everything is allowed: the end justifies the means and there is no morality to be admitted. Even defense becomes revenge. To make matters worse, if violence is interpreted as “holy war”, the drama becomes tragedy and death is the only thing that counts in a situation where nothing counts anymore. This is the essence of original sin: unleashing evil in the name of good, sowing death in the name of life. Wars are justified in this way, which is why the first victim of every war is truth.

We have no reason to respond with another force similar to the war they intend to unleash in our country. True power is strategic, even if the danger is imminent. An organized people does not mean being in the streets all the time; it means being aware of what one is, of one’s strength and power and knowing how to manage it strategically, that is to say, innovatively and ingeniously. That is why, in the struggle, the people return to themselves, to their history and culture, and from there reinvent themselves to face adversity, because the struggle is always of all times, of all history. The struggle is ours and of all our ancestors.

The desire for a new constitutional charter came from the indigenous peoples of the lowlands, from Santa Cruz itself. That is why we pointed out that we need a new constituent process, a process of reconstitution of the subject people. Our country will reach the culminating consciousness of what it is to be plurinational when the lowland peoples restart the definitive transformation of our State.

Bolivia was born, as a unitary country, by the legitimate concurrence of the provinces that constituted Upper Peru. At no time did it assume “privative treaties” with any particular region; therefore, the mere civic mention of “reviewing our relationship with the rest of the country” reveals secessionist ambitions. Pretending that a department can, at the will and whim of an illegitimate civic leadership, “review its relationship with the State”, constitutes an attack on national integrity. A part cannot superimpose itself on the rest of the country, granting itself a non-existent right that can condition its relationship with the national whole. That is sedition.

In such a case, the government has all the arguments to enforce the rule of law against the power groups. A certain naïve official perception that aims, as always, to wear down the opposition, will only promote the rearticulation of the right wing, much more dangerous, because its objective, faithful to the imperial program, is no longer another coup, but the balkanization of the plurinational project.

When their coffee analysts only see a possible coup, they do not consider that a process of balkanization is something worse than a coup; because the coup still maintains the physiognomy of a State, even if it is apparent; but an inconclusive and indefinite balkanization is the definition of a failed State. To destroy a country does not necessarily require a coup d’état but, faithful to the imperial doctrine of “constructive chaos”, it is enough to unleash a continuous and growing destabilization for the figure of the failed State to be the argument for irreversible intervention. The policy of feudalization or balkanization that Washington imagines for our region is only possible if the ignition of the conflict comes from within.

Since this is a struggle of narratives, it is necessary, tactically, to deflate the bubble of the “successful” economic model of Santa Cruz and show it for what it really is: a literal failure. If the purpose of all production is to produce the producer, what kind of “success” is that which produces openly fascist and racist individuals, ready to destroy their own country, constituting themselves into hordes thirsty for violence and making show business, frivolity and arrogance their only culture? That their leaders expose, without any shame, a supreme ignorance, shows the degree of degeneration that has reached an ostentatious wealth of spurious origin, originated in dictatorships and “washed” in neoliberal governments. This origin constitutes the immorality of the camba elite and what politically defines its anti-national and anti-democratic vocation.

To deflate the arrogant regionalist Camba discourse as what it is, a bubble, means to put an end to the myth that “Santa Cruz feeds Bolivia”, or what its mediocre intelligentsia pretends to make us believe: that Santa Cruz is the epicenter of the Bolivian economy and politics. Nobody denies its economic importance, but the magnification of its importance is too much overestimated when the decisive political changes for the recent history of Bolivia, took place in the west, to be more precise, in the altiplano. And what Santa Cruz is, cannot be summed up in the mediocre idiosyncrasy of its lodges.

Perhaps, for that reason, our political destiny, as a plurinational State, has placed Santa Cruz as the stage for the balkanizing pretensions of anti-national interests; because there perhaps we will find ourselves definitively as a people, diverse and plural, as what we are historically, Jenecheru, which means: fire that never goes out.

That is why we resisted 500 years and re-founded a State to make our PachaMama, Yvy Maraey, a land without evil. Because, as a people, as Iyambae, living without an owner, we proposed a political project of our own, which proposes a “good living”, that living in community, in harmony, which in Guarani is known as Teko Kavi or Ñandereko.

That is why East and West have always been complementary and not opposed, as the regionalism imposed by elites who came from elsewhere and never deserved the land that gave them a place for their existence. That is why the land does not recognize them as sons, because they believe they are gods with the power to decide who lives and who does not, and they have degenerated hospitality, that Santa Cruz custom, into an arrogant hostility.

The unity pact has just declared a state of emergency and permanent mobilization in the face of the present destabilization. It is now up to the government to rise to the occasion and respond decisively to this support. True political power comes from the people. In this sense, if a government does not promote, develop and protect popular power, it condemns itself to isolation and a vacuum of power that inevitably ends in its capitulation.

Rafael Bautista S., author of: “The Angel of History. Genealogy, execution and defeat of the coup d’état: 2018-2020.”


Translation by Miguel S. for Internationalist 360°