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Limits to “counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining

expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo...

Article in Geoforum · September 2015

DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002


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Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the

marginalisation of post-extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia
Diego Andreucci a,⇑, Isabella M. Radhuber b
Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain
International Political Ecology Research Group, Vienna University, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Vienna, Austria

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The expansion of resource extractivism in Latin America in the last decade has been related to previous
Received 24 July 2014 neoliberalisation processes, which opened-up mineral exploitation to transnational firms and granted
Received in revised form 24 August 2015 investors favourable conditions. Extractivism, however, expanded equally (or more) in countries which
Accepted 1 September 2015
have undertaken ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform—as it is most clearly the case for Evo Morales’s Bolivia.
Available online xxxx
Building on regulationist approaches and strategic-relational state theory, this paper analyses recent
changes in the governance of Bolivian mining. It contributes to understanding how and why the
Morales governments’ objectives to initiate a transition towards a more plural and diversified econ-
omy—informed by social movements—have not been achieved to date. We make three interrelated
Resource governance claims. First, the expansion of mining has been enabled by the maintaining of institutional arrangements
Post-neoliberalism for mineral exploitation established during neoliberalism, favouring transnational firms and self-
Regulation theory employed (‘‘cooperative”) miners over state-owned and community-managed operations. Second,
Strategic-relational state theory despite the new government’s improved legal framework for the promotion of environmental and indige-
Political ecology nous rights, the mining sector has continued to benefit from de facto lax environmental regulation, which
Bolivia constitutes an indirect incentive to expansion at the expense of ecologies and indigenous–peasant liveli-
hoods. Third, the state has played a central role in weakening social resistance to mining expansion, by
demobilising those social forces—particularly peasant–indigenous organisations—whose proposals and
demands conflicted most clearly with extractivist development. We suggest, therefore, that analysing
changing state–society relations is central to understanding the counter-neoliberalisation of resource
governance and its limits.
Ó 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction socio-environmental implications as well as relations of unequal

exchange at the global scale (Gudynas, 2013). From a political
The extractive boom of the last decade has had mixed economic perspective (Becker, 2013), extractivism can thus be
consequences for Latin America, fuelling economic growth, understood as a regime of accumulation which is primarily
political change and redistribution, but also increasing extensive and extraverted; that is, based mainly on nature’s
socio-environmental conflicts and primary-export dependency appropriation and oriented towards primary commodity export.
(Bebbington, 2009). The term extractivism has been adopted in To the extent that ‘‘post-neoliberal” Latin American govern-
the Latin American debate to capture the renewed emphasis on ments set for themselves the goal of overcoming primary export-
extraction as a growth strategy in the region. Drawing on based development, the expansion of resource extractivism in
Gudynas (2013: 3), we define extractivism as a type of natural these countries is considered paradoxical (Svampa, 2013). Bolivia
resource extraction which (a) is large scale and/or very intensive; is a good case in point. Since 2006, the government of Evo Morales
(b) is oriented primarily towards export; and (c) entails little or and his Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS, Movement Towards Social-
no industrial processing. While extraction of natural resources ism) party have implemented a political project which has been
is not per se a negative thing, in ‘‘peripheral”, resource-rich presented as radically alternative to neoliberalism. An important
countries extractivism is typically associated with negative aim of this project has been to diversify the economy and
strengthen communitarian productive forms, as part of a perceived
⇑ Corresponding author. need to shift away from primary export-based development
E-mail addresses: diego.andreucci@gmail.com (D. Andreucci), isabella.radhuber@ (Government of Bolivia [henceforth GoB], 2007). Eight years on,
gmail.com (I.M. Radhuber). however, Bolivia’s economy is more dependent on primary exports

0016-7185/Ó 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
2 D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx

than before.1 This is in line with a general trend in the region, incen- social forces. Second, these changing relations are played out
tivised by high commodity prices; it does, however, point to the through and influenced by the state. The state should then be
challenges involved in using resource rents to fund economic understood as a specific reflection (or ‘‘condensation”) of social
diversification. relations, which also actively intervenes in these relations by
Research in political ecology has extensively documented the enabling certain political projects and hindering others.
impacts of growing extraction (Bebbington, 2012); the debate The rest of the paper is structured as follows: In the next sec-
around the drivers of the extractive boom, however, remains less tion, drawing on regulation theory, we lay the conceptual bases
developed. Extractive activity expansion has been related primarily for our analysis. We do so by discussing the relationships between
to high international commodity prices, but other political eco- resource governance and state–society relations and by unpacking
nomic drivers have also been discussed. Specifically, there is a the notion of ‘‘post-neoliberalism”. We also position our contribu-
broad consensus among critical scholars that neoliberalisation tion in relation to debates in geography and other social sciences
has played a central role in facilitating private investment in around heightened dependency on primary exports in post-
extractives (Bebbington et al., 2013). In Latin America, the main neoliberal Bolivia, by suggesting that the marginalisation of social
effect of neoliberal globalisation has been the restoration of the forces opposing extractivism is an important and under-researched
primacy of ‘‘export-led development” (Robinson, 2008). The imple- issue. In Sections 3 and 4, we engage with the empirical case of
mentation of neoliberal mining codes in the 1980s–’90s has shifted Bolivian mining, with two objectives. First, we identify the main
investment patterns towards countries in the South by improving changes and continuities in the post-neoliberal reconfiguration of
‘‘risk/reward ratios” for transnational extractive capital (Bridge, mineral governance, and relate them to the issue of expanding
2004). As part of global neoliberal reform, investment in Southern extractivism. Second, we discuss some important ambiguities
countries has been encouraged by multilateral institutions, by and contradictions which have accompanied ‘‘counter-neoliberal”
reducing the ability of states to extract rent and impose regulations reform. Section 5 identifies important shifts in the overall balance
(Emel and Huber, 2008). How much do these neoliberal conditions of power among social forces in Bolivia and discusses the role of
matter, however, to countries which have undertaken a process of the state in reinforcing these shifts. It also briefly discusses the
ostensibly ‘‘post-neoliberal” counter-reform? new Mining Law as a condensation of power relations in the sec-
This paper sets out to analyse the complex reconfiguration of ond term of the Morales government. Our main conclusions are
mineral governance which followed the crisis of neoliberalism in summarised in Section 6.
Bolivia, and how this reconfiguration has related to the continued
expansion of resource extractivism. Particularly, expanding a 2. Regulation, governance, and strategic-relational state theory
regulationist approach to governance by combining it with
strategic-relational state theory (Jessop, 2008), we analyse the role The regulation approach is concerned with the social embed-
of changing state–society relations in influencing this process. Our dedness of the capitalist economy and the forms of social regula-
argument is based on an empirical exploration of the case of tion which seek to solve its tensions and contradictions (Jessop
mining in Bolivia. Primary data for our investigation has been and Sum, 2006). It places emphasis on institutions and relations
accessed in two ways. First, we have analysed relevant statistical that sustain accumulation regimes in historic cycles of capitalist
data as well as legal and policy documents produced by national development (Jessop and Sum, 2006; Becker, 2013). Regulationist
and international institutions. Second, we have drawn on data accounts distinguish between the ‘‘accumulation regime” and the
produced via extensive fieldwork conducted in Bolivia between ‘‘mode of (social) regulation”. The accumulation regime is under-
2012 and 2014, focused primarily on conflicts around mining in stood as the social organisation of production, circulation, con-
the Oruro region in the Bolivian highlands. Field research included sumption and distribution, including relations with non-capitalist
participation in community meetings and social mobilisations, as forms. The mode of regulation refers to the ways in which the
well as over 50 semi-structured interviews with representatives accumulation regime is reproduced ‘‘despite and through its con-
of the Huanuni mine, state authorities, experts and members of flictual and contradictory character”2 (Lipietz, 1988: 11). It com-
social organisations, NGOs and affected communities. prises the social institutions, rules and norms which stabilise (or
Our findings show that, in the Bolivian mining sector, the ‘‘regularise”) accumulation in the face of contradictions and crises
expansion of extractivism has been related to the reproduction of (Himley, 2008: 437; Jessop and Sum, 2006). A regulationist
political economic conditions established under neoliberalism. approach, therefore, is particularly well-suited to capture the ways
Despite the government’s declared commitment to re- that institutional configurations are restructured in response to
establishing state control over the exploitation of mineral socio-ecological challenges to accumulation—and how such a
resources, promote economic diversification and support commu- restructuring affects the governance of natural resources.
nitarian productive forms, reform has been limited. While the reac- Since the early 2000s, geographers have drawn on the regula-
tivation of the state-owned Bolivian Mining Corporation tion approach in order to capture the changes in resource gover-
(COMIBOL) resulted in greater state participation in the production nance and environmental policy brought about by
and processing of minerals, the unprecedented increase in extrac- neoliberalisation and related scalar restructuring (Gibbs and
tion and exports experienced during the Morales years was pri- Jonas, 2000; Bridge and Jonas, 2002; Himley, 2013). Moving from
marily driven by booming transnational investments and a a critique of the nation state-centred focus of early regulation the-
burgeoning self-employed (‘‘cooperative”) miners’ sector. This, ory (Bridge and McManus, 2000), these scholars have shifted ana-
we will argue, has implications for the way we conceptualise lytical emphasis towards other institutional arrangements,
post-neoliberal resource governance. First, institutional reconfigu- particularly at the sub-national scale. Consistent with an under-
rations aimed to stabilise accumulation in response to the crisis of standing of neoliberalism as implying a shift from government to
neoliberalism are shaped by changing power relations among governance (Bridge and Perreault, 2009; Himley, 2008), they have
given greater importance to non-state actors such as private firms
and social movements. Contradictions and conflicts related to
From 2005 to 2012, the contribution of primary goods to the total value of exports
rose from 89% to 95% (ECLAC, 2013: 111). In the same period, the primary sector’s
contribution to the Bolivian GDP grew from 21.6% to 24.5%, while that of industrial Among these, here we focus primarily on intentional processes of de-regulation
manufacturing declined slightly, from 11.6% to 10.2% (own elaboration based on data and re-regulation undertaken by the state in relation to a range of competing social
from CEPALSTAT, 2015). forces.

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx 3

extractive sectors or projects, it is argued, are temporarily avoided degree of influence. Rather it has depended on a dialectical tension
through regulatory changes which result from negotiations and and shifting relations between, on the one hand, demands for more
struggles among competing (local) actors (Bridge, 2000; Bridge or less radical change coming from different movements and social
and McManus, 2000; Himley, 2013; Horowitz, 2015). sectors; and, on the other, political and economic incentives and
This analytical focus is useful for understanding the ways that pressures for maintaining, restoring or expanding neoliberal condi-
accumulation is stabilised in the face of socio-ecological contradic- tions—all this mediated by the state.
tions and conflicts. To the extent that post-neoliberalism is associ- This conceptual framework thus enables us see how current
ated with a ‘‘return of the state” (Grugel and Riggirozzi, 2012), uses of the word ‘‘post-neoliberalism” conflate three aspects of
however, we argue that understanding institutional restructuring the concept.5 First, the diverse politico-ideological projects which
associated with the post-neoliberal shift requires an engagement have emerged in opposition to neoliberalism—post-neoliberalism
with state–society relations at multiple scales. Following Jessop proper, with emphasis on the final ‘‘ism”. In Bolivia these would
(2008), we thus complement a regulationist approach with insights include, for instance, mineworker unions’ proposals for state re-
from ‘‘strategic-relational” state theory (see also Brand et al., 2011). appropriation of the mineral production chain, or peasant–
This allows us to better integrate ‘‘analysis of political economy indigenous visions of ‘‘plurinationality” and ‘‘vivir bien”. Second,
with analysis of civil society and/or state” (Jessop and Sum, 2006: the concrete policies and practices through which post-neoliberal
4). Informed by Marxist approaches to the state—particularly the principles are actualised in specific contexts—referred to as
work of Poulantzas (Jessop, 2008)—strategic-relational theory pro- ‘‘counter-neoliberalisation” processes (Brenner et al., 2010). Examples
poses an understanding of the state as a ‘‘social relation”, whereby include nationalisation of strategic companies or redistribution of
the state reflects the changing balance of power among social land to peasants. Third, the hybrid outcome of uneven, partial actu-
forces. The state, at the same time, is not a neutral actor: it actively alisations of post-neoliberal principles in pre-existing (neoliberal)
constitutes this balance of power rather than simply reflecting it. contexts—sometimes called ‘‘actually existing post-neoliberalism(s)”
This is well captured by the notion of the state’s ‘‘strategic selectiv- (Yates and Bakker, 2014). This refers to the actual situation of left-
ity” (Jessop, 2008), which refers to the ways that the state can be leaning countries whose governing political parties have defined
more accessible for some social forces than for others, or can themselves explicitly in opposition to neoliberalism.
advance or obstruct competing interests. Strategic-relational the- It is important to treat these three aspects separately, in order
ory, therefore, helps us to explain the ways that resource gover- to understand their causal relations: some post-neoliberal projects
nance is remade as the outcome of changing power relations result in counter-neoliberal reforms, but not others; counter-
among social forces, played out through the state. neoliberal reforms, in turn, interplay in various ways with neolib-
eral continuities and resurgences to produce hybrid institutional
configurations. How resource governance is remade, therefore,
2.1. Post-neoliberal governance
depends to an important extent on how post-neoliberal pro-
jects—and the social forces which sustain them—are differentially
Combining the regulationist approach with strategic-relational
institutionalised, disciplined or marginalised.
state theory provides a useful framework for the analysis of ‘‘post-n
eoliberalism”. The latter is understood as a set of social, political
2.2. Limits to counter-neoliberal reform in Bolivia
and economic transformations which emerge out of the crisis of
neoliberalism (Brand and Sekler, 2009). As a political project,
The counter-neoliberalisation of Bolivia’s resource governance
post-neoliberalism has entailed a range of strategies for overcoming
has not resulted in a reduced dependency on extraction; extrac-
free-market orthodoxy—including re-socialising the economy and
tivism has in fact expanded. This has been related to the Morales
deepening democracy (Yates and Bakker, 2014). The outcome of these
government’s inability to undertake structural, macroeconomic
strategies, however, is not necessarily a complete replacement of
reform (Bebbington and Humphreys Bebbington, 2011). Existing
neoliberalism (Yates and Bakker, 2014; Brenner et al., 2010). While
research identifies at least three reasons for this. First, the presence
in some cases—such as in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela—the extent
of structural constrains to the possibility of steering the trajectory
of transformation was seen as potentially quite radical, in actuality
of development away from extractivism—including the ‘‘path-
these countries have experienced rather limited structural change.3
dependent effects” of neoliberal gas governance (Kaup, 2010) and
This is consistent with a regulationist reading. According to reg-
weak institutional capacity, which results in the inability to re-
ulation theory, the capitalist state is caught between the twin
invest revenues in long-term diversification plans (Kohl and
imperatives of (a) fostering accumulation and (b) guaranteeing a
Farthing, 2012; see Wanderley, 2013). Second, a reluctance on
degree of social cohesion, stability and legitimacy (Boyer, 1990).
the part of Evo Morales’s MAS (Movement Towards Socialism)
Post-neoliberal restructuring has sought in many ways to partly
party to embrace some of the more radical demands arising from
re-embed the economy in order to reactivate and stabilise accumu-
popular struggles (Webber, 2010, 2011)—and the related need to
lation. The ways that (and the extent to which) institutions have
use extraction rents to maintain political legitimacy in the short
been reconfigured in specific contexts has not, however, been pre-
term (Kohl and Farthing, 2012). Third, the presence of conservative
determined by agreement to an overarching plan. It has not, for
social and political forces within the country, which has forced the
instance, resulted from the application of ‘‘neo-structuralist” policy
government to seek compromises and thus limit the extent of
prescriptions4 (Leiva, 2008)—although these might have had a
reform in key areas (Kaup, 2013). This is the case, for instance, of
the aggressive opposition of landholding elites in areas such as
Particularly, they have not altered (and have in fact deepened) the primary export land reform (Valdivia, 2010).
orientation of their economy. While post-neoliberalism cannot, of course, be reduced
As regards the mining sector, the opposition of social forces
to shifting away from primary export-led development, in resource-rich countries in
Latin America this element has been central to ‘‘post-neoliberal” governments’ plans which benefited from neoliberal political economic arrangements
(e.g., GoB, 2007)”. is considered a primary limiting factor for counter-neoliberal
‘‘Neo-structuralism” is a set of policy principles devised by the UN Economic reform. First, unsurprisingly, transnational firms expressed con-
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in the mid-1990s. It cerns over plans to increase state presence in mineral production
advocates a greater role of the state and civil society as a way of improving Latin
America’s terms of insertion in the global market; unlike the post-war structuralism
of Prebisch and others, however, it does not question the primary export orientation See Peck and Tickell (2002: 383) for a similar discussion on the notion of
of the region’s economy (Leiva, 2008). neoliberalism.

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
4 D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx

chain and increase levels of taxes and royalties (Kaup, 2014: 1845). The restructuring of the economy which ensued hit the mining
Second, self-employed (‘‘cooperative”) miners’ federations—repre sector profoundly. Neoliberalization of the mining sector, orches-
senting the largest portion of workforce in the Bolivian mining sec- trated by the national mining elite led by Gonzalo Sánchez de
tor after the dismantling of the public sector begun in the 1980s— Lozada (Kaup, 2013), had three main effects. First, it deepened
also resisted paying higher taxes and royalties and actively the process of privatisation, with the partial shutdown of the
opposed nationalisations (Kaup, 2014; cf. Webber, 2011: ch. 4). state-owned Bolivian Mining Corporation (COMIBOL) in 1985–86.
Cooperatives, for Kaup (2014: 1846) successfully struggled to Second, it demobilised the country’s historically powerful—and
maintain the favourable conditions granted to them under neolib- politically radical—miners’ unions. Restructuring of COMIBOL was
eralism—such as fiscal incentives and the possibility of signing followed by the ‘‘re-localisation” (a euphemism for dismissal) of
joint-venture contracts with transnationals—thus limiting the over 20,000 mining workers, which also increased informality in
reach of counter-neoliberal reform. Third, the political power of the sector and prepared the ground for the expansion of self-
the mining sector as a whole functioned as an obstacle to reform employed (‘‘cooperative”) mining (see below). Third, it opened
in areas such as environmental protection and indigenous rights up the sector to transnational investment, particularly in the
(Perreault, 2013). The predominance of social forces interested in 1990s, when Sánchez de Lozada was elected to the country’s pres-
maintaining the neoliberal institutional configuration was there- idency for the first time (1993–1997).
fore central to limiting counter-neoliberalisation. Neoliberalisation reached its peak in this period. As part of the
We share with these accounts an analytical focus on the role of restructuring, a new Mining Code was adopted in 1997 (GoB,
competing social and political forces in challenging or reproducing 1997), aiming to further liberalise the sector and foster foreign
neoliberal continuities. In this article, however, we seek to add to direct investment (FDI). The Code explicitly favoured private and
them in two ways. First, we further emphasise the importance of transnational mining firms by, inter alia: granting concession-
those post-neoliberal social forces whose projects, visions and holders indefinite and exclusive rights for all mining activities; giv-
demands opposed—directly or indirectly—extractivism. The role ing firms unlimited rights over the use of land and water found on
of these ‘‘post-extractivist” (Escobar, 2012) forces—such as, most the concession; limiting the role of COMIBOL to administering the
notably, the peasant–indigenous movement in specific conjunc- sector; and implementing a fiscal regime favourable to private and
tures—is not sufficiently explored in relation to Bolivia’s macroeco- transnational investors (including low royalties and taxes and the
nomic restructuring. Yet, they have arguably played a central role possibility to repatriate profits). This reform was part of a World
in shaping the discourses and plans of the MAS government—even Bank-led strategy for remaking the region’s mining sector along
though their projects have not resulted in structural changes of the neoliberal principles (World Bank, 1996), implemented in Bolivia
extent demanded. Second, we place greater attention on the state, as part of a loan agreement (World Bank, 1989). As an overall result
as the arena in which these processes were played out and fought of the reform—according to a 1997 World Bank report—‘‘Bolivia, a
over. It is through the state that the demands of post-extractivist country known for its traditional underground tin mining, is now
forces were institutionalised, disciplined or marginalised, and their considered to have significant potential for the exploration, and
organisations co-opted or de-mobilised. Therefore, we suggest, subsequent production, of diverse minerals by a high technology,
analysing the role of these social forces in their relationship with large-scale mining industry” (World Bank, 1997: xx). Conditions
the state is central to understanding the contradictions and short- were thus created for the transnationalisation of the sector.
comings of Bolivia’s counter-neoliberalisation process.
3.1. Post-neoliberal plans

3. Neoliberal continuities and counter-neoliberal reform The political shift begun in 2006 reversed to an extent the struc-
tural imbalance between transnational capital and the state. This is
In keeping with a broader trend in the region, Bolivia’s develop- reflected in new policies and principles for the extractive sector.
ment trajectory has been characterised by a history of resource- The 2007 National Development Plan (NDP) recognised popular
based, outward-oriented and dependent capitalist integration demands for increased state control of natural resources and eco-
(Brand and Dietz, 2014; Almaraz, 2010). In the central decades of nomic diversification, as well as for greater democracy and com-
the twentieth century, several Latin American countries attempted munity participation (GoB, 2007: 22). For mining, the NDP
to redirect development towards a more inward-oriented pattern, proposes increased state participation in production and industri-
through the promotion of domestic market expansion and so- alisation, to be achieved through a reconstituted COMIBOL (GoB,
called ‘‘import-substitution industrialisation” (ISI)—an accumula- 2007: 123). The 2009 Constitution (GoB, 2009) further emphasises
tion model usually referred to as ‘‘developmentalism”. Neoliberal the importance of national resource sovereignty, the socio-
restructuring started in Latin America with authoritarian govern- economic function of mining and protection of indigenous rights.
ments in the 1970s, followed by a formally ‘‘democratic” wave of The displacement of the national mining elite from the centre of
‘‘structural adjustments” from the mid-1980s. After the 1952 Revo- national power and the correspondent increase in the influence
lution, Bolivia also undertook a developmentalist experiment, of workers’ unions and peasant–indigenous sectors thus informed
based on mining nationalisation and agrarian reform. This, how- plans for partial counter-neoliberalisation (Kaup, 2013).
ever, didn’t last long, as liberalisation measures started again in Counter-neoliberal reform resulted in greater state presence in
1955. After a further re-regulatory wave in the late sixties, Bolivia the mining sector and the reactivation of COMIBOL. This is shown
underwent a profound neoliberal adjustment in the 1980s (Kaup, by the increase in public funds directed to state-owned enterprises,
2013; Klein, 20076). including in the mining sector (Radhuber, 2014). While public
companies received 4% of total state expenditure in 2005, in
2011 their share reached 35%. Public investment targeted primar-
ily the hydrocarbon sector; starting in 2007, however, mining
In the midst of a hyperinflation crisis, Bolivian president Victor Paz implemented emerged as a second important target. Funds destined to public
a ‘‘shock therapy” reform designed by Jeffrey Sachs and the IMF in agreement with mining companies, which had dropped to 2.5% of the public budget
former dictator Hugo Banzer (Klein, 2007). A profound neoliberal restructuring was
the object of a comprehensive legislative package including the infamous Supreme
in 2006, averaged 6.2% from 2007 to 2011. State-led industrialisa-
Decree 21060, passed in 1985, which was later defined as a form of ‘‘economic tion projects and nationalisations have also taken place, including
Pinochetism” (Klein, 2007: 151). the full nationalisation of the Huanuni and Colquiri tin mines and

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx 5

Fig. 1. Price of the three main minerals produced (in US dollars per fine pound). Source: Own elaboration with data from the National Institute of Statistics, Bolivia.

political economic conditions established under neoliberalism.

First, the efforts made since the 1990s to encourage foreign invest-
ment, coupled with an upswing cycle in mineral prices starting
from 2003 (Fig. 1), have led to a marked increase in transnational
mining operations. Private investment, booming around the same
time (Fig. 2) has been concentrated in a few transnational-led
projects producing primarily zinc, lead and silver—the most impor-
tant being the San Cristóbal open-pit mine in Potosí, operated by
the Japanese corporation Sumitomo (Tapia-Montecinos, 2011).
Second, self-employed miners (referred to as ‘‘cooperatives”7)
experienced unprecedented growth. The sub-sector began to expand
under neoliberalism. Neoliberal governments supported coopera-
tives, partly in order to absorb the workforce expelled from COMI-
Fig. 2. Investment in Bolivian mining (in millions of US$). Source: Own elaboration
BOL, but also as a way of countering the power of the more
with data from the Ministry of Mining and Metallurgy, Bolivia.
radical, salaried miners’ unions (Francescone and Diaz, 2013). Coop-
eratives were assigned marginal mineral reserves and given fiscal
the Vinto foundry, as well as the signing of several joint venture incentives and technical assistance; the Mining Code, moreover, for-
(now called ‘‘association”) contracts with COMIBOL majority. These malised cooperatives’ rights to sign joint venture contracts with pri-
measures mark a clear reversal with respect to the previous two vate firms and to sub-rent them concessions (GoB, 1997).
decades of neoliberalisation. The counter-neoliberal process, how- During the Morales government, cooperatives experienced a
ever, has been partial and fraught with ambiguities and second moment of strong expansion. They have been explicitly
contradictions. treated by this administration as a key mining actor and political
The post-neoliberal principles identified in the NDP and the ally, deserving state support (GoB, 2007: 158; GoB, 2009: art.
Constitution have been implemented in very partial ways. First, 369). As a result—and, again, incentivised by high commodity
despite the changes highlighted, no overarching reform of the prices—the number of cooperatives grew from 690 in 1995 to over
mining sector has taken place in the period considered (2006– 1400 in 2012 (Poveda, 2012: 29; Francescone and Diaz, 2013: 38).
2014). (While a new Mining Law was passed in May 2014, the The subsector’s contribution to both exports and employment
possibility that it may deepen counter-neoliberal reform is increased substantially—though, importantly, with limited contri-
strongly contested by most commentators; see Section 5.) Second, bution to revenues (Francescone and Diaz, 2013: 37). In 2011, a
progressive principles coexist in the same documents with total of 60,067 miners worked in small-scale and cooperative min-
neoliberal continuities, reflecting an effort to maintain favourable ing; they contributed 31.1% of national production, but only 8.6% of
conditions for mining operators in general and transnational tax revenue from mining. In comparison, COMIBOL employed only
investors in particular (GoB, 2009: art. 311; GoB, 2007: 158). Fur- 5732 miners, who account for 8.9% of production and contribute
thermore, mining is still explicitly favoured over communities’ 1.9% of tax revenue, while private mining employed 4650 people,
activities such as agriculture. The Constitution does recognise, but produced 60% of minerals in Bolivia, contributing 89.5% of
for instance, that communities have a right to autonomous the sector’s tax revenue (Arellano-Yanguas, 2013).
indigenous territorial administration, to a healthy environment
and to practice their traditional political, legal and economic 7
The term cooperativista (cooperative miner) comes from the colonial period and
forms; mining activities, however, are considered of higher value
refers to workers who took over Spanish mines and operated them illegally. In the
than agriculture when both compete on territories (GoB, 2009: context of today’s Bolivian mining, ‘‘cooperative” refers to the legal incorporation of
art. 107–112). These shortcomings and ambiguities have con- most miners who have no formal employment relations. Mining cooperatives vary
tributed to a limited counter-neoliberal reconfiguration of mining greatly in size and in organisational form. The larger ones tend to function as
governance. businesses, whereby a minority of members (socios) employ low-paid (and extremely
precarious) wage labour (peones) and sub-contracting (Francescone and Diaz, 2013;
Poveda, 2012). It is mostly small cooperatives, especially in mineral-poor areas, which
3.2. Changes in the structure of mining tend to follow a horizontal style of organisation. In general, while maintaining a
strong relation to their original communities, cooperative miners are perceived as
acting in a predatory way, with little sense of social and environmental responsibility
The expansion of mining extractivism under the government of (author interview with Domingo Alegre, 15/06/2012; Cajías, 2013; for an account of
Evo Morales has been related primarily to the persistence of the history and internal structure of cooperatives see Absi, 2005).

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
6 D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx

4. The ambiguities of counter-neoliberalisation

In what follows, we discuss two aspects which exemplify some

of the challenges and limitations of the counter-neoliberalisation
process in Bolivian mining—namely, the ambiguities of nationali-
sation policies and the inability to improve socio-environmental
regulation. We do so by looking at two intersecting struggles
around the Huanuni tin mining project in the Oruro region, in
the Bolivian highlands: (a) conflicts related to cooperative miners’
demands for access to mineral resources and state employment,
which resulted in the nationalisation of the Huanuni mine; and
(b) mobilisations by affected communities’ and peasant–indige-
nous organisations over greater socio-environmental regulation
Fig. 3. Production of the three main minerals by volume (in thousands of fine of the sector. We argue that, despite the government’s declared
metric tons). (p) = preliminary. Source: National Institute of Statistics, Bolivia. commitment to re-establishing state control over the exploitation
of mineral resources, the nationalisation process has happened in
haphazard and incomplete ways (often in response to conflicts)
and in an effort to balance radical goals and demands with the
maintenance of favourable conditions for cooperatives and
transnational operations. At the same time, despite the greater
importance given in legal documents to empowering peasant–
indigenous communities, advances in the socio-environmental
regulation of mining have been limited at best.

4.1. Nationalisation of the Huanuni mine

The Huanuni mining project—exploiting one of the largest tin

deposits in South America—was the first mining sector nationalisa-
tion carried out by the Morales administration, in 2006 (Webber,
2011). The nationalisation process, however, was not unambigu-
Fig. 4. Value of mineral exports by subsector (in millions US$). ⁄⁄In the Bolivian
ous. After the mine’s first nationalisation in 1952, it was privatised
legislation, ‘‘small mining” refers to private operations which produce up to 300
tons of mineral per day; ‘‘medium mining” (minería mediana) refers to privately run in 2000 through a joint venture contract between the Bolivian Min-
operations of over 300 tons per day of production. It is only after 2013 that the ing Corporation (COMIBOL) and the British company Allied Deals
Ministry of Mining started to organise its data into cooperative, private, and state (López, 2010). Following the bankruptcy of Allied Deals in 2002,
sector operations, irrespective of their size (personal communication by personnel struggles by Huanuni workers—affiliated to the Federation of
of the Statistics Unit of the Viceministry of Mining Policy). Source: Own elaboration
based on data from the Viceministry of Mining Policy, Bolivia.
Mineworkers Unions of Bolivia (FSTMB)—forced the government
of Jorge Quiroga to lift the legal prohibition for COMIBOL to inter-
vene directly in production and to return the operation into state
hands. Part of the Huanuni deposits was operated by cooperatives
In this context, mining extractivism in Bolivia registered a con- to which COMIBOL granted concessions (Collque and Poveda,
siderable expansion. Mineral production and exports boomed 2010; Villegas, 2013). With the so-called ‘‘Huanuni nationalisa-
(Figs. 3 and 4). The total value of exports increased from an average tion” Decree of October 2006, the government revoked those con-
of US$ 412 million for the period 1999–2005 to US$ 2.258 million cessions and established full control of the operation. This
for 2006–2012—a staggering 448% increase (CEDIB, 2013: 26). measure, however, had as much to do with the political power
Growth was associated primarily with booming transnational and boldness of cooperatives as with the state’s commitment to
investment and a burgeoning cooperative sector; while state oper- nationalisation and counter-neoliberal reform.
ations increased, their contribution to exports remained marginal. State intervention in Huanuni resulted from a confrontation
Revenue collection also increased substantially. The contribution between cooperative and unionised miners—at that time around
of the mining sector to state revenues grew from US$ 32 million 4000 cooperativistas and 800 company employees. The cooperative
in 2005 to over US$ 290 million in 2010 (CEDIB, 2013: 15). Signif- miners wanted to take over part of the mineral deposits on Poso-
icantly, however, in percentage terms revenues remained very low. koni Mountain, while COMIBOL employees made an alliance with
With the exception of the introduction of a 12.5% ‘‘tax on enter- local communities trying to consolidate their rights over their
prise income” for extraction of highly priced minerals (Law 3787 lands. The ensuing fighting resulted in 16 deaths and approxi-
of 2007), there has been no significant increase in taxes and roy- mately 100 injuries. After a long process of mediation involving
alties under Morales. Taxes and royalties paid by companies aver- multiple civil society organisations and state actors, the govern-
aged only 8% of the value of exports for the period 2006–2011, ment fully nationalised the mine and employed cooperative miners
providing very favourable conditions for investors8 (CEDIB, 2013: in the state company (Möeller, 2007). This was a partial victory for
16). The reproduction of an enabling environment for the growth FSTMB, which had been demanding greater state and workers’ con-
of transnational and cooperative operations, therefore, has been cen- trol of the operation (Webber, 2011). Thanks to the nationalisation,
tral to the expansion of mining extractivism. according to ex-political leader and miner Miguel Zubieta, the
company was ‘‘re-born with a clear revolutionary vision” (author
interview, 14/06/2012). The Huanuni conflict also shows an under-
This figure is four times higher than what was collected by the state in the
lying imbalance of power between a weakened miners’ union
neoliberal period, yet very far from the 36% average of the period 1952–1981 (CEDIB, movement and an emboldened cooperative sector. As described
2013: 16). in the previous section, the expansion of cooperatives is a legacy

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx 7

of neoliberal reform and a form of adaptation to the mass unem- 4.2. Mining and rural livelihoods
ployment it created, encouraged by the state. While Huanuni’s
trade union benefitted from the nationalisation process, at the Mining in the Bolivian highlands also reveals tensions between
national scale the much more conservative Federation of Mining peasant–indigenous communities and mining actors10 (Perreault,
Cooperatives (FENCOMIN) has proven to carry the greatest political 2013, 2014). The main contradiction between mining and agricul-
power (Kaup, 2014). tural activities, in Huanuni and elsewhere, is access to water. Mining
The government has shown no willingness to reduce the power is a much more water-intensive activity than peasant, semi-
of cooperatives (Webber, 2011: ch. 4). At an anniversary celebra- subsistence agriculture as practiced in the semi-arid Andean high-
tion of the Regional Federation of Gold Mining Cooperatives, in lands (altiplano) (Perreault, 2014: 112–114). The Huanuni mine, for
June 2012, for instance, Morales highlighted that ‘‘the most impor- instance, consumes over 28 million litres of water a day, positioning
tant social power within mining is the mining cooperatives” (Los it as the second most water-consuming extractive operation in Boli-
Tiempos, 2012). Several Supreme Decrees have been promulgated via. Moreover, peasant agriculture does not usually use chemicals,
by the current government specifically to favour the cooperative whereas mining does in great and increasing quantities, which has
sector, through fiscal incentives, credit and technical assistance led to massive contamination in the area (Perreault, 2014). Due to
(Francescone and Diaz, 2013). As the manager of the Huanuni Min- mining, the Huanuni River can no longer be used for irrigation.
ing Enterprise explained, cooperative miners have now much more The lakes Uru-Uru and Poopó, downstream from Huanuni, have also
power in the legislative and executive than other groups (author been heavily affected. As a result, fish populations have virtually dis-
interview with Vitaliano Ojeda, 10/05/2013). As we will show in appeared (along with traditional Uru fishing communities) and the
Section 5, this has been clearly visible during the process which whole basin suffers from water scarcity and declining soil fertil-
led to the approval of the new Mining Law, where cooperatives ity—aggravated by climate change and related soil salinisation pro-
have been much more represented than unionised miners and cesses (Perreault, 2013). As Perreault (2013) has shown,
other social sectors (Erbol, 2014; author interview with Carmen contamination of soils and water dispossesses rural populations of
García, 04/05/2013). their livelihood, including legally recognised indigenous groups
Re-nationalisation in Huanuni also shows the challenges (Pueblos Indígena-Originario-Campesinos)—something which is func-
involved in re-activating state-owned mining; that is, in creating tional to capitalist accumulation.
a company with social and environmental responsibility, competi- Weak socio-environmental regulation is also an indirect incen-
tive in the national and international context. One of the most tive to mining companies. A legal framework for environmental
important effects that residents of Huanuni expected from the protection was created in Bolivia in the 1990s, with the passing
nationalisation process was job creation. The nationalised mine of the Environmental Law (GoB, 1992) and a set of related bylaws.
has indeed created an important number of jobs, by incorporating The Law represented a clear step forward, as there was no legal
cooperativistas. After the conflict the company’s ranks swelled to framework for environmental protection before then (author inter-
5000 employees. Currently, however, only 1500 workers would view with Juan Pablo Ramos, 16/09/14). Nevertheless, it is consid-
be needed to meet production needs. In the words of its manager, ered by experts and practitioners to be lacking in important ways
the company is ‘‘overpopulated,” ‘‘inflated with personnel”, a ‘‘so- (Andreucci and Gruberg, forthcoming). First, sanctions for environ-
cial company” (author interview with Oscar Roca, 13/06/2012). mental irregularities and crimes are inadequate to the entity of
Because of lack of investment and planning, a conflictive relation- damage and do not constitute a sufficient incentive for operators
ship with the workers’ unions and, since 2011, declining tin prices to comply with legislation. Second, the legal framework gives pri-
(Fig. 1), production has been stagnating in the last years and the ority to compliance ‘‘on paper” rather than in actual practice
company has been facing prospects of bankruptcy9 (Pagina Siete, (López, 2010). Unless infringements are denounced, the state
2014). assumes that formally correct environmental reporting by compa-
The Huanuni case is but one instance of the challenges and nies is proof enough that contamination is under control (author
contradictions which have characterised the counter- interview with Emilio Madrid, 05/08/14). This is clearly not the
neoliberalisation process carried out by the Morales administra- case; Huanuni, for instance, despite holding an approved Environ-
tion. The only other state-owned operation, the Colquiri tin mental Licence, is the largest contaminator in the region.
mine in the La Paz department, was also re-nationalised in The situation is aggravated by weak institutional capacity—lack
2012 due to conflicts between cooperative and unionised min- of personnel, funds, and technical means to conduct more rigorous
ers. In this case, nationalisation was a demand of the coopera- control of documents and, above all, inspections—and by a political
tives themselves, particularly their most exploited members unwillingness to threaten mining interests. This was clear under
(known as peones) seeking to improve their work conditions neoliberalism, when the mining elite ruled the country; it has
(Ribera-Arismendi, 2012; author interview with Emilio Madrid, not, however, changed significantly under Morales, due to the
05/08/14). The Vinto foundry in Oruro was renationalised in ‘‘strategic” economic importance of mining as well as political alli-
2007 following a contractual issue in the sale from Allied Deals ances with miners’ unions and cooperatives (Andreucci and
to another multinational, Glencore (Collque and Poveda, 2010). Gruberg, forthcoming). Personnel of the Environmental Secretariat
In general, the most profitable silver, zinc and lead operations of Oruro’s regional government feel powerless to enforce imple-
have remained in transnational hands (Villegas, 2013), mentation, due to aggressive resistance by miners and lack of sup-
while, as we have seen, the cooperative subsector has grown port from the national government: ‘‘our hands are tied, all we do
to become the largest and most politically influential is in vain. . . it’s impossible, it can’t go on like this” (author
(Kaup, 2014). interview, 30/07/14). The Secretariat, for instance, tried to revoke
Huanuni’s operating licence on the grounds of environmental
infringements three times between 2010 and 2013; all three times
Huanuni’s workers resisted violently, blocking the city of Oruro
The availability of mineral is not an issue, for the moment, in Huanuni. According and threatening to occupy the Secretariat’s offices if the measures
to COMIBOL’s president Édgar Pinto, ‘‘the reserves projected (proven) by Empresa
Minera Huanuni show us that at the (current) rate [of extraction] of 1800 tons a day,
they have an estimated lifetime of 18 years. If this rate exceeds 3000 tons a day (with
the new processing plant), the life of the reservoir will be about eight years” (cit. in Miners and communities are, however, hybrid categories, as miners often
América Economía, 2013, our translation). maintain strong relations to their original communities.

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
8 D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx

were not revoked. The Secretariat, complained our informant, safeguarding the rights of communities to a healthy environment
received no support from the national government, due to the and to benefit from resource exploitation. The limited implementa-
obvious negative political and economic implications of shutting tion of the Decree, however, alongside a general lack of improve-
down the largest state-owned mining operation. ment in the socio-environmental governance of mining, signals
In recent years, growing contamination, due to expanding once again a willingness not to counter the interests of the mining
operations and increased use of chemicals in mineral processing, sector (author interview with Emilio Madrid, 05/08/14), including
led to increases in social struggles against socio-environmental in this case state as well as private and cooperative actors.
impacts. Greater awareness of environmental and indigenous
rights on the part of the local populations also influenced mobil-
5. Shifts in state–society relations
isations. Opposition to current mining practices in the altiplano
has resulted from two main grievances. First, indigenous organi-
The remaking of resource governance associated with counter-
sations, most notably CONAMAQ,11 complain that communities
neoliberalisation reflects changes in the balance of power among
are not given the possibility to practice communitarian mining,
social forces, played out through and influenced by the state. We
as established by constitutionally recognised principles of plurina-
identify two main shifts in this balance which have resulted in
tionality and co-government12 (Padilla, 2010; author interviews
the current institutional configuration of mineral governance in
with Felix Becerra, 20/05/2013 and Carmen García, 04/05/2013).
Bolivia. First, a phase of growing political articulation among pre-
Second, environmental justice movements such as CORIDUP13
viously marginal social forces, at the centre of which were peasant
claim that companies do not contribute to local development
and indigenous organisations. This led to the election of Evo Mor-
and, for the reasons outlined above, undermine the livelihood of
ales as Bolivia’s president in 2006, and shaped much of the post-
affected populations (author interviews with Domingo Alegre,
neoliberal project which finds expression in the 2009 Constitution.
14/06/2012; Gilberto Pauwels, 12/06/2012; Nemesio Yucra,
A second shift, which starts to emerge during debates around the
14/06/2012). While these two social forces maintain separate pro-
Constituent Assembly in 2008 and becomes explicit since 2011,
jects and identities, they have converged in the years following the
marks the marginalisation of indigenous demands around plurina-
election of Evo Morales in demanding greater social and environ-
tionalism and re-establishes the primacy of developmentalist and
mental checks to mining activities in the region.
extractivist social forces (Vega-Camacho, 2012; Tapia-Mealla,
The most important social mobilisation addressed the newly
2011). These two opposing movements have influenced the shape
elected government and focused on demanding environmental
and direction of Bolivia’s counter-neoliberal reconfiguration.
remediation of the Poopó basin. Strong social pressure and a pro-
test march to La Paz led by CORIDUP obtained to the issue of
Supreme Decree 0335 in late 2009. This decree declares the Hua- 5.1. From plurinationality to renewed extractivism
nuni sub-basin an ‘‘environmental emergency zone”—an unprece-
dented measure for mining contamination—and designs In Bolivia, a new balance of power among social forces began to
strategies for mitigation and the ‘‘integral remediation” of the area emerge in the 1990s and led to a crisis of neoliberalism (UNDP,
(CEPA, 2009). Five years on, however, no significant improvement 2007). A wave of social mobilisations intensified after the
has taken place. As part of the Decree, studies have been conducted Cochabamba ‘‘water war” in 2000; it focused on resource
which further detail the extreme seriousness of the situation in the re-appropriation and democratisation—particularly gas nationali-
Poopó Basin in terms of socio-environmental and health impacts sation (Perreault, 2006; Spronk and Webber, 2007; Kohl, 2006).
generated by mining (Vargas, 2013). Mitigation and remediation Some post-neoliberal proposals emerging in this period, however,
actions have been completely inadequate to respond to such also problematised the centrality of extractivism for Bolivia’s
impacts, due to limited funds and organisational shortcomings development, in two main ways. First, Marxist and structuralist-
(author interview with Jaime Gutiérrez, 04/09/14). The main miti- inspired positions identified the need for the state to initiate and
gation measure proposed—the construction of a tailings dam in direct a (more or less gradual) shift towards industrialisation and
Huanuni, scheduled for 2011—is yet to be completed at the time diversification of the productive matrix (GoB, 2007). Unionised
of writing. miners, for example, have stressed the importance of state-led
To conclude, the contradictions identified in the nationalisation industrialisation in order to reinstate national sovereignty over
process also apply to the government’s attitude towards commu- the mineral production chain (COB/FSM, 2014: 7). Second, propos-
nity demands for a more socially and environmentally just mining. als articulated by the peasant–indigenous movement demanded
Despite the greater importance given in legal documents to (albeit implicitly) a shift away from extractivism as part of a
empowering peasant–indigenous communities, advances in the profound rethinking of society–nature relations in Bolivia, within
socio-environmental regulation of mining have been limited at a ‘‘plurinational” state paradigm. In the years preceding Evo
best. The approval of Supreme Decree 0335 is in line with the Morales’s election and in the first term of its government, these
post-neoliberal principles expressed in the 2009 Constitution social forces were important enough to inform official plans for
overcoming primary export-based development via economic
diversification (GoB, 2007).
The National Council of Allyus and Markas of the Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) is the
largest indigenous organisation of the Bolivian highlands, mostly comprising Aymara- Among post-neoliberal visions, the plurinational state project
and Quechua-speaking rural communities which do not affiliate to campesino unions had the clearest anti-extractivist dimension. In the context of
(see Perreault and Green, 2013). struggles around gas nationalisation, peasant unions and indige-
According to this proposal, communities should be represented by a communi- nous organisations built a national alliance named the ‘‘Peasant–
tarian company, which would exercise social control and evaluate environmental
Indigenous Unity Pact” (Pacto de Unidad Indígena-Campesino). The
impacts, since these communities understand best the significance that those impacts
could have. This process could also be supported by the fulfilment of another demand Unity Pact played a leading role in the articulation of social forces
of the communities: the formation of indigenous autonomies, which would become which led to the approval of a new Constitution in 2009 (Tapia-
part of the state administration (Author interview with Felix Becerra, 20/06/2013). Mealla, 2010). The plurinational paradigm, as articulated by the
The Council for the Defence of the Desaguadero River and the Lakes Uru-Uru and Unity Pact (Garcés, 2010), aimed to promote peasant–indigenous
Poopó (CORIDUP) was funded in 2007 in the Poopó basin by members of rural
communities affected by mining. It was created with support from the Oruro-based
organisational and productive forms within a plural economy
Centre for Andean Ecology and Peoples (CEPA), an NGO affiliated to the National and society. The new Constitution institutionalised this principle
League for Environmental Defence (LIDEMA). by (a) recognising the de facto plurality of Bolivian society and

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx 9

the precolonial existence of ‘‘indigenous–originary–peasant” government intercession contributed to the division and partial
nations and peoples (pueblos indígenas originarios campesinos) dismantling of the two largest indigenous organisations—the
(GoB, 2009: art. 2); and (b) stressing the importance of CONAMAQ (National Council of Ayllus and Markas of the Qullasuyu)
communitarian economies—a diversity of systems of production and CIDOB (Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern
and reproduction founded on peasant–indigenous principles and Bolivia)—representing highland and lowland indigenous groups,
visions—and promoting their development and articulation with respectively. The government fostered internal divisions in the
other productive forms (GoB, 2009: Art. 306–310). This two organisations by offering logistical and financial support to
conjuncture represented thus a ‘‘period of opportunity” (author their pro-MAS members. The headquarters of CIDOB were taken
interview with Juan Pablo Ramos, 16/09/14), allowing for a over by the faction supported by the government in July 2012,
profound rethinking of Bolivias’ development trajectory away from and the same happened to the offices of CONAMAQ in January
extractivism and towards plurinationality. This period of 2014 (El Día, 2014; Bolpress, 2014). These interventions
opportunity was followed, however, by a gradual reaffirmation of significantly reduced the political influence of the indigenous
extractivist interests (Juan Pablo Ramos, 16/09/14). sector. They also arguably reduced the mobilising power of rural
A counter-shift in the balance of power began to take place as communities vis-à-vis mining actors, de facto removing social
a result of tensions and conflicts among competing social forces, obstacles to the deepening of extractivism.
which became visible especially in the final negotiations of the
Constitution in October 2008. First, conflicts between the govern- 5.2. The Mining Law as a condensation of social relations
ment and the opposition forces. After the right-wing opposition
blocked the final approval of the constitutional text, parliamen- The demobilisation of the peasant–indigenous bloc added to the
tary committees where created for negotiations. Following agree- state’s continued support of mining interests. This balance of
ments between the MAS party and the opposition, greater power is clearly reflected in the Mining Law passed in May 2014
autonomy was granted to regional governments (departamentos), (Ley 535 de Minería y Metalurgia; GoB, 2014). The Law shows
as demanded by agribusiness and cattle ranching sectors. In the changes as well as important continuities with the neoliberal
process, the rights to indigenous territorial autonomy, which regime. In keeping with the principles included in new Constitu-
should support indigenous self-governance within state adminis- tion, it recognises more state presence and the goal of redressing
tration—by many considered the heart of the plurinational state the primary-export orientation of the current framework. At the
project—were reduced (Tapia-Mealla, 2014). A second, related line same time, however, it proposes to enhance opportunities for for-
of conflict began to emerge between the indigenous and peasant eign investors—by guaranteeing legal security and a ‘‘competitive”
factions within the social movements. Peasant unions supported tax regime—and grants continued support to the cooperative sec-
the government’s moderate approach, as they focused their tor. This shows that the potential for progressive change, contained
demands on redistributive policies; whereas indigenous organisa- in demands inspired by a post-neoliberal vision and capable of
tions also demanded self-government through indigenous reversing enabling condition for extractivist expansion, confronted
autonomies and co-administration within the state, thereby important contrary tendencies.
opposing power concentration benefiting the MAS. These two The contradictory character of the Mining Law reflects the
lines of conflict thus marginalised indigenous groups in favour greater ability of miners, particularly cooperativistas, to influence
of other interests. Agreements between government and opposi- the debates and processes that led to its approval (author inter-
tion parties privileged regional rather than indigenous autono- view with Carmen García, 04/05/2013). On the one hand, coopera-
mies, while a focus on redistribution rather than tives took a very aggressive attitude during the approval process.
plurinationalism privileged the peasant sector and undermined For instance, in April 2014, they organised nation-wide road block-
indigenous rights. ades which ended in violent clashes with the military—in order to
These related trends were central to the emergence of a new protect their ‘‘right” to lease concessions to private enterprises and
balance of political power (Radhuber, 2015; see Hylton, 2011; participate in joint ventures. The by then weakened indigenous
Gutiérrez-Aguilar, 2011). This is consistent with a strategic- sector, on the other hand, was completely excluded from the pro-
relational understanding of the state as a ‘‘social relation” (Boyer, cess. While the government claimed that the formulation of the
1990; Jessop and Sum, 2006), whereby institutional reconfigura- Law was inclusive and representative of all interests (Minería
tions reflect or ‘‘condensate” changes in the balance of power Noticias, 2014), no organisations representing affected communi-
among social forces (Brand et al., 2011). The state, however, is ties were involved in discussions which led to the Law (with the
not a neutral actor: its functioning is characterised by what partial exception of the leadership of the Irrigators’ Association).
Jessop (2008) calls ‘‘strategic selectivity”, which can facilitate or Significantly, the ‘‘bases” of peasant organisations participated in
obstruct competing interests and political projects, thereby influ- mobilisations, but their leadership was too tied to the ruling party
encing the balance of power itself. As became explicit in the second to express any form of dissent (author interview with Edwin
term of the Morales administration (2010–2014), power asymme- Armata, 10/10/14). The Law thus ‘‘condensates” the growing asym-
tries which marginalised indigenous visions of plurinationality metry between an emboldened mining sector and disempowered
were reinforced by the government in various ways. Changes in indigenous-communitarian organisations.
the state’s strategic selectivity contributed to deteriorating rela- It is no surprise, then, that the Mining Law also reinforces the
tions between indigenous and peasant organisations, which led priority of mining activities over communities’ and indigenous
to the breaking up of the Unity Pact in 2011. The articulation of demands. Even compared to the neoliberal Mining Code, the new
social forces demanding a plurinational alternative to extractivism Law is seen by many critics as representing a step back in terms
was thus politically demobilised. of socio-environmental regulation and indigenous rights (CEDLA,
The proactive intervention of the government in this demobili- 2014; CEDIB, 2014; author interviews with Felix Layme,
sation process is shown by two related trends. First, the main peas- 22/05/14; and Cancio Rojas, 08/08/14). First, it limits indigenous
ant unions’ confederations, such as the CSUTCB (Unified Syndical rights to ‘‘free, prior and informed consent” and to participation
Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia)—a key political actor in the benefits of extraction (in violation of the International
in the cycle of anti-neoliberal struggles which led to election of Labour Organisation Convention 169). Second, constitutional rights
Morales—were largely co-opted by the government as their leader- to communitarian participation in resource exploitation and in
ship was integrated in the MAS ranks (Tapia-Mealla, 2014). Second, shaping mining policies are not considered. Third, legal sanctions

Please cite this article in press as: Andreucci, D., Radhuber, I.M. Limits to ‘‘counter-neoliberal” reform: Mining expansion and the marginalisation of post-
extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
10 D. Andreucci, I.M. Radhuber / Geoforum xxx (2015) xxx–xxx

for communities’ opposition to mining projects are increased— double shift in this balance—an initial empowerment of post-
which is seen as a criminalisation of protest. Finally, no extractivist political projects, articulated around the ‘‘plurinational
improvement has been introduced with regard to environmental state” proposal, later progressively disciplined and marginalised—
management, which continues to be based on the (lax) institu- which resulted in the current configuration of mineral governance
tional arrangements in place since the 1990s (CEDIB, 2014). A in Bolivia. Second, we have maintained that these shifts in power
coalition of civil society, indigenous and affected communities’ relations are played out through and influenced by the state. Both
organisations was formed to counter the approval of the Law the demobilisation of peasant–indigenous forces and the
(CEDIB, 2014). The weaknesses resulting from the dismantling of empowerment of mining actors (particularly cooperatives) were
CONAMAQ and the lack of support from the peasant confedera- reinforced by proactive state intervention. While the Morales
tions’ leadership, however, meant that the ability of this coalition administration’s support for mining cooperatives has been
to mobilise popular support was nearly non-existent. The demobil- documented, less emphasis has been placed on government inter-
isation of post-extractivist forces was thus as important as the ventions which contributed to marginalising peasant–indigenous
power of cooperatives in limiting Bolivia’s counter-neoliberal visions of plurinationality, thus removing social obstacles to the
reform process. deepening of extractivism. Understanding the role of post-
extractivist social forces—and how their proposals are selectively
institutionalised, disciplined or marginalised by the state—is thus
6. Conclusions central to understanding the contradictions and shortcomings of
counter-neoliberalisation processes.
In analysing the complexities of counter-neoliberal reform in
Bolivia, this paper has aimed to shed further light on the relation- Acknowledgements
ship between ‘‘post-neoliberalism” and the continued expansion of
resource extractivism. Scholarly attention has been drawn to the Many thanks to all our informants and the individuals and
issue of increased dependence on resource extractivism experi- organisations who supported our field research in Bolivia. Research
enced by ‘‘post-neoliberal” countries, such as Bolivia, which had for this paper benefited from the People Programme (Marie Curie
set for themselves the goal of increasing economic diversification. Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme,
While the context of high commodity prices has provided impor- under REA agreement N° 289374—‘‘ENTITLE”; and from the
tant incentives for extraction, critical research has shown that Conflict and Cooperation over Natural Resources in Developing
neoliberal institutional conditions designed to encourage export- Countries (CoCooN) programme—Project ‘‘Nationalization of
based resource exploitation have also been maintained. The rea- Extraction in Bolivia and Ecuador”—of The Netherlands Organiza-
sons why this has been the case are several, including structural tion for Scientific Research (NWO). The authors wish to acknowl-
constrains to change, short-term dependency on extraction rents edge Ulrich Brand, Gavin Bridge, Begüm Özkaynak, Tom
and the persistent power of social forces which oppose directly Perreault, Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos and two anonymous review-
or indirectly counter-neoliberal reform. In this paper, drawing on ers for helpful comments on previous versions of this paper. The
a regulationist approach and strategic-relational state theory, we usual disclaimers apply.
have further explored the role of changing power relations among
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extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
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extractivist forces in Evo Morales’s Bolivia. Geoforum (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.09.002
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