The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
The Gas War
Neighborhood Council of Villa Santiago II, El Alto, Alison Spedding, 2018. "The Gas War", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
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For the urban communities of relatively recent origin faced with the economically precarious conditions in El Alto, neighborhood councils (juntas de vecinos) play a key role in everyday forms of collective social organization. Each has its distinctive character, given the origins of its migrant residents. Like a form of local self-government, it operates outside of state auspices to coordinate everything from infrastructure and services to festivals and sports within its jurisdiction, as well as to define neighbors’ obligations to the community. Approximately six hundred such associations are grouped together in the city’s Federation of Neighborhood Councils (fejuve). The southern neighborhood of Villa Santiago II, offcially founded in 1979, has not only residents of rural Aymara and Quechua origin, but a majority presence of former miners who migrated to El Alto after the closing of the state mines due to neoliberal restructuring. They brought with them the traditions of collective solidarity and political militancy from the historic mining camps. During the Gas War, in October 2003, this instrument of social organization became a powerful grassroots political vehicle, capable of mobilizing thousands of local residents on short notice based on the decisions taken in daily assemblies. The following document, by the neighborhood council of Villa Santiago II, recounts the actions of residents during the social protests in El Alto that brought an end to the neoliberal regime established in 1985.