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DISCOURS DU PRÉSIDENT BOLIVIEN SUR LA NATIONALISATION DES MINES



Date: 31 octobre 1952

Après un renversement du général Hugo Ballivian, Victor Paz Estenssoro est assermenté à la présidence de la Bolivie le 16 avril. Il tient un discours rassurant, déclarant entre autres qu'il n'est pas communiste. Dès 1952, il fait des ouvertures aux syndicats et fait adopter une série de mesures importantes, notamment dans le secteur de l'éducation. Après avoir accordé le suffrage universel, en juillet, le gouvernement procède ensuite à la nationalisation de trois compagnies minières - Patino, Hochschild, Aramayo - , une mesure qu'il annoce dans un discours le 31 octobre 1952.

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Government has satisfied its people. This morning, in the field of María Barzola, still damp from the blood spilled at the Cataví Massacre, the Decree has been signed, nationalizing the mines of Patino, Hochschild, and Aramayo. The riches of Bolivia now belong to Bolivians and the country is the master of its destiny. . . .

As a result of the high commercial value that tin attained since the end of the past century and the acquisition by Simón I. Patino, the Aramayo Company, and Maurice Hochschild of the best deposits, there was produced a concentration of wealth in their hands, disproportionate to the general level of the country's economy.

Since only a minimal share returned to the country, the value of mineral exports of the three great companies produced a permanent drain of national wealth, so much more serious because, as an essentially extractive mining industry, it was subject to inevitable exhaustion. . . .

The flight of wealth that occurred during 25 years continued without interruption until today. That constant flight of capital has caused the country's progressive impoverishment and destroyed the possibilities for creation and development of an internal market, with all of its disastrous consequences for agriculture, industry, commerce, and transportation.

The country's subordination to the interests of the great mine owners annihilated the agropecuarian and industrial development of extremely rich zones of our territory, since the preference for the

importation of foreign articles of consumption deprived all national producers of incentive. . . The giant companies, without considering the country's greater interests, subordinated the national effort exclusively to the exploitation of their mines, impeding systematically all other activities, almost transforming Bolivia into a simple mining camp. . .

As a result, the potentates of tin continued accumulating enormous fortunes in foreign lands. . . Because the mining industry, principal source of national wealth, was practically exempt from tax burdens, due to the protection of the unshakeable domination that it exercised over the political powers.

In the face of increasingly more demanding fiscal needs and the awakening of workers' consciousness, after the massacre of Uncía in 1923, the Government found itself obliged to enact the first law taxing mining profits and establishing initial measures for social protection. . .

[In response,] the companies internationalized their organization through the fiction of distributing shares among the citizens of powerful countries, thereby pushing Bolivia into a condition of a semi-colony controlled by imperialism.

Over the course of a half century, to implement and sustain a similar regime of exploitation, the three mine owners, relying upon bribes, flattery, and intimidation, succeeded in dominating officials of all three branches of the State, the leaders of political parties, and even organs of publicity charged with shaping public opinion, all the while persecuting and eliminating, when necessary, those who refused to obey them unconditionally.

If some Government tried to impose limits on the companies' unscrupulous intervention in the Nation's public life, they would not hesitate to organize revolutions, coups d'etat, and riots, thereby changing the Republic's normal democratic development.

The work regimen imposed by the great mining companies is by nature so inhuman and oppressive that the average life expectancy for workers in the mines is scarcely 27 years, as international investigators of the Bolivian social problem have corroborated.

The demands for wage increases, strikes, and other collective demonstrations originating in the workers' hunger and desperation were systematically repressed with persecution, mass firings, suspension of water and housing services, labor under armed guards, black lists, and finally periodic and indiscriminate massacres of men, women, and children, meticulously prepared by the companies and carried out by the governments at their service.

Having thereby ended the fundamental motivation of mining concessions in favor of those private companies, the State has the right and the duty to return them to its control so that, in the future, the wealth extracted from the subsoil will be for the national benefit and serve the interests of the collectivity.

The sacrifice, heroism, and perseverance of mine workers in the struggle against the oligarchy have been decisive elements in the triumph of the National Revolution. The principal factor, as in the process of production, the effort of workers in the exploitation of the mines that now pass into the power of the State is worthy of special recognition. Just as the participation of workers in the better management of the [State mining company] Bolivian Mining Corporation (COMIBOL) has been established, it is fair to give workers control and intervention in the local management of the nationalized mines.”


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