- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — Adriana Gil braved death threats, public insults and social ostracism to campaign for Evo Morales in Bolivia’s conservative eastern region during the presidential election last year. She now feels “betrayed” by the ruling Movement Toward Socialism, which expelled her and invaded her family’s land.

Miss Gil had won a seat representing MAS on the city council, and her family contributed generously to Mr. Morales’ campaign. But none of that has protected her from the new government’s revolutionary land redistribution policies.

She cried before TV cameras earlier this month when truckloads of armed Quechua Indians occupied her farmland, burned down the homes of tenant farmers and seized their cattle.

“It’s a conspiracy and a vendetta against me,” said Miss Gil, a 24-year-old Santa Cruzheiress who described herself in an interview as a “social democrat.”

She said she is being persecuted for speaking out against the increasingly authoritarian policies of the new president. “The Bolivian people voted for change, not for a dictator,” she said.

Miss Gil this month announced the formation of her own political group, the Social Democratic Force, to oppose the radical program that Mr. Morales seeks to introduce through a national constitutional assembly to be held in August.

Only days later, her land was invaded by squatters, who have camped out along 2,500 acres of her 11,000-acre property. Miss Gil, who spends most of her time at a house in the city, said that the squatters have not taken over the farmhouse, but that more are arriving.

“They are Indians from the highlands sent by the government,” she told The Washington Times. “They show written permits to occupy our land signed by [Rural Development Minister] Hugo Salvatierra.”

She also accused Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera of inspiring the takeover of her and other farms, a charge he has repeatedly denied.

“We have a government of lies,” said Miss Gil, one of several intellectuals, professionals and businesspeople who supported MAS before the December elections but now feel ignored by the hard-line leftist leadership and its indigenous peasant base.

“They want to put us all in ponchos and chulos [traditional Indian wool caps] and make us chew coca,” she said, referring to the source of cocaine. “The president only seems to govern for the Quechuas and Aymaras.”

Miss Gil’s problems with the MAS hierarchy began even before the election, when she started feuding with Santa Cruz party elder Chato Peredo, a Cuban-trained Marxist who formed part of Che Guevara’s ill-fated guerrilla expedition to Bolivia in the 1960s.

Miss Gil further irked MAS bosses after the election when she denounced corruption in government road-building contracts and championed the protests of workers laid off because of the Morales government’s expulsion of a Brazilian mining company.

She said she became disillusioned with the government’s “closed outlook” when ministers failed to respond to an offer from U.S. investors interested in bidding for the vast iron ore mining concession of El Mutun in the eastern town of Puerto Busch.

“They refused to consider the American offer, which could have brought $10 billion in market capital to the region, using anti-imperialist arguments,” said Miss Gil, who presented the Morales administration with letters of intent from two U.S. companies in March.

It was announced this month that El Mutun would go to a company from India, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd., for $2.3 million. But Santa Cruz businessmen and civic leaders have charged publicly that the government is trying to turn one of the world’s largest iron deposits into a joint state venture with Venezuela, which has been taking over Bolivia’s hydrocarbon reserves.

“We are seeing the destruction of our productive apparatus,” Miss Gil said. “I was always hoping that MAS would turn toward democratic socialism. Sadly, I was wrong. The illusion of changing Bolivia made me delude myself.”

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