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Synthesis/Regeneration 15   (Winter 1998)

Green Power: An Ecological Alternative in Bolivia

by Diego Torres Peñaloza, Poder Verde

Terrible social conditions and extreme poverty which afflict the majority of the Bolivian population have resulted in political parties concentrating on economic measures designed for economic growth. For this reason, until the middle of the eighties, no political organization had concentrated its attention on environmental and ecological problems.

Consequently, a group of Bolivian intellectuals, artists, and professionals took the initiative to organize an Intergenerational Movement to focus on ecological issues. Thus, "Green Power" (Poder Verde) was born on June 5, 1987, when its leaders publicly presented its goal of offering a political alternative capable of halting the destruction of the country's environment and natural resources. Its message is designed to increase people's awareness of what has caused the planet to be in the state it is in, paying special attention to local problems. Thus, Green Power began the slogans: "Preserve life and intelligence from social regression" and "Mankind, the principal species threatened with extinction."

Before this moment, ecology was a subject dealt with only by non-governmental organizations in Bolivia. Many people did not understand the relationship between the environmental and the political.

...a group of Bolivian intellectuals, artists and professionals took the initiative to ...focus on ecological issues.

The movement continued to develop its activities independently and with few resources. But, in 1992, it had the chance to make an accord with the Free Bolivia Movement (Movimiento Bolivia Libre, MBL), a party of the center-left which had a good reputation for the honesty and capability of its leadership. The goal of the agreement was to incorporate environmental themes into the political program of this party and to ensure that the ecologists of Green Power took responsibility for environmental politics. In a public speech at its National Congress, Green Power representative Diego Torres Peñaloza said that it was "an historic date" for a generation which was hearing his words, that "it would bring forward an alternative to the old political answers, proposing a 'green politics' as the combination of the positive ideals of human coexistence in harmony with nature while getting rid of demagoguery, false promises, and unethical alliances."

Afterwards, Green Power presented its first political document, entitled "Green Strategy for Social Transformation." It analyzed both planetary and national conditions: When we speak of a predatory mode of existence and of a system under which social life is ruled by a predatory outlook, we refer to a type of dictatorship of values and norms which is putting an end to the planet, including every country and every one of us and our descendants.

The "Green Strategy" also refers to state institutions, affirming that "Greens should give some fresh air to the Parliament, some fresh air to Democracy." These phrases were used later during the campaign for the 1993 General Elections, in which Green Power participated jointly with MBL, running two candidates for Deputies of the regional government of La Paz, Diego Torres Peñaloza and Waldo Lizón Taboada. Even though too few votes were received to gain a seat in Parliament, the experience was important for learning the people's response to an environmental platform.

In 1994, Green Power distanced itself from MBL, which had entered a government with a neoliberal program. During this time, there was a meeting with Les Verts (The Greens) of France, which was an occasion for establishing similar principles and programs. This was the beginning of Green Power's maintaining relationships with the Federation of European Green Parties and its incorporation into the world ecology movement.

A new opportunity for political participation arose in 1995, this time in the government of La Paz with a populist-oriented party, "Conscience of the Native Land." Mayor Mónica Medina de Palenque belonged to this party. The political agreement allowed Green Power's representative Diego Torres Peñaloza to become head of the Municipal Environmental Office.

Moving forward with an ecologist in the management of the largest municipal government of Bolivia demonstrated that Greens were able to develop an efficient administration. In order to celebrate Earth Day on April 25, 1995, Green Power organized the first Ecological Convention, which was attended by over 150 delegates. The Convention produced a new document on the basics of Green Strategy, including concrete proposals for the municipal and national level such as a position dealing with "sustainable development."

...traditional parties have not taken a genuine interest in absorbing ecological principles...

In 1996, the Green Power movement ceased working with the Conscience of the Native Land party due to ideological differences. Here, it should be noted that traditional parties have not taken a genuine interest in absorbing ecological principles and only attempt to use environmental protection as a way of staying on good terms with some social groups.

As a result of experiences from the two political alliances that Green Power made, at the beginning of 1996, the 10 member Directing Collective made the decision to work independently. They worked out a Refortification Plan in order to carry out a campaign of collecting 10,000 signatures by 1998 so that Green Power will be recognized by the National Electoral Court as an ecological political party and be able to participate in future municipal and national elections in Bolivia.

Currently, Green Power is a founding member of the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas.

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