What is ‘Post’ in Post-Neoliberal Economic Policy? Extractive Industry Dependence and Indigenous Land Rights in Bolivia and Ecuador
18 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 4, 2011
Bolivia and Ecuador are considered examples of post-neoliberal regimes: both have left governments which have been supported by strong social movements, and have been legitimized in a radical democratic process. Both regimes have enacted innovative constitutions which recognize autonomy and political participation for indigenous people, strong protection of the environment and a universal social welfare system.
In the economic arena, both regimens have blamed neoliberalism for their poor economic conditions, and have promoted nationalization of the hydrocarbon sector and a more equal distribution of wealth. However, these economic policies have been criticized from the right and from the left political spectrum. The neoliberal critique argues that these economic reforms are driven by populism; they threat international investment and reduce the possibilities to obtain economic development. On the other hand, the critique from the left asserts that there was not nationalization in reality, and most important, these countries still depend on the extractive industry and foreign capital.
The critique from the left is especially relevant because it denies the idea that there is something really “post” in the post-neoliberal economic policy of Bolivia and Ecuador. This argument can explain why in these countries still indigenous people are affected by dispossession of their land, resulting in a contradiction with the social improvements recognized legally. Likewise, this critique points out how economic dependence is perpetuated by institutional and economic constraints.
This essay will focus on this critique to explain the economic policies in both countries and the social conflicts triggered by their implementation. The first part will analyze the political economy in Bolivia in a historical perspective, the real meaning of the nationalization of the hydrocarbon sector, and the limitations and critiques of Morales’ agenda. Then, it will analyze the political economy of Ecuador, the dependence on oil extraction, the attempts to change the pattern of economic development, and the change in the political discourse and praxis in Correa’s administration. Finally, it will argue that the essence of the political economy in both countries is the dependence on extractives industries resulting in accumulation by dispossession of indigenous communities.
Keywords: post-neoliberalism, economic policy, indigenous land rights
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