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Volume 51 / Social Sciences


KEVIN J. HEALY, Foundation Representative, Inter-American Foundation, Rosslyn, Virginia

IN BOLIVIA, THE BOOM in the coca-cocaine industry has generated another boom in social-science publications on this fascinating and multi-faceted topic. While the legal economy in Bolivia continues to make a slow economic recovery despite strict adherence to the International Monetary Fund's stabilization programs during the past four years, the production of coca leaf, coca paste, and national refining of cocaine continues its rapid growth. Social researchers (items bi 89002805, bi 91003776, bi 90007968, bi 91003774, and bi 90007973) offer overlapping and complementary views of the political economy of this phenomenon. All the authors focus on the dynamic role of the peasant producer in responding to the price incentives offered by this illicit underground economy and the national importance of the drug industry in terms of financial capital and employment. They also identify the different social groups involved in related drug processing and distribution activities and their forms of organization. Several authors (items bi 90007968 and bi 89002805) examine the social-movement aspects of the resistance of peasant producers opposing the coca-leaf eradication campaigns sponsored by the Bolivian and US governments. Another work presents the official positions espoused by the numerous political parties in Bolivia toward this booming illegal sector (item bi 90007967). Discussions of the military, police and US policy dimensions of the campaign to curb drug trafficking and coca-leaf production are addressed by Lee and Oporto Castro (item bi 90007968 and bi 90007973).

Several studies of urban attitudes toward uses of the coca leaf (item bi 90007967) and urban consumption patterns for pitillos or coca paste (item bi 90007974) are important contributions toward explaining the distinct cultural currents in Bolivia and the emergence of drug consumption as a growing domestic problem.

Given the continuing crisis of Bolivia's legal economy, it is important to mention recent works (items bi 91003784 and bi 90012859) which help to elucidate both the harsh manifestations and foundations of an economy that was created by national policies and development patterns established by military regimes during the 1970s. In Paraguay, sociologists also continue to explore the various internal contradictions manifested in the national economy resulting from differential social impacts of State policies (item bi 89002676).

Thanks in part to CEDLA, a La Paz-based social research center which gives priority to issues of labor and land tenure, land reform is likely to resurface as an important political issue in Bolivia during the 1990s. Such studies will provide peasant unions and political parties with material to develop polemical discourses on the land-reform question. Two studies by CEDLA (items bi 90007970 and bi 88000978) show that patterns of land concentration and specific State agrarian policies tend to reinforce the concentration of wealth among the principal landowning groups in the eastern region of the country.

Given the number of decades on the back burner, it is not surprising that in Paraguay the issue of land reform is emerging with greater intensity than in Bolivia. The problem has been exacerbated since the fall of Stroessner and the "democratic opening" in 1988 by a proliferation of peasant land invasions in the countryside. Given these circumstances, it is probable that social research can play a useful role in the clarification of land-tenure conditions and policy alternatives for possible social reform.

Labor studies, although few in number, continue to be important in Bolivia, covering aspects such as the diminishing power of the mineworkers and the Central Obrera Boliviana (item bi 88000969), peasant activism via various forms of political mobilization during the Siles-Suazo 1982-85 period (item bi 89002805) and the anarchist-syndical movement among both male and female artisans in urban La Paz during the 1920s (item bi 90007971). It is expected that the guarantee of civil liberties in Paraguay will also allow social researchers to turn their attention to urban and rural labor issues. Finally, migration studies in the Cochabamba (item bi 88002242) and Santa Cruz (item bi 88002244) regions continue to offer new material and interpretations for understanding the economic history of these two important regions.

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