Property Obliges


LA PAZ/BERLIN (Own report) - Before Bolivia's election (Sunday June 2) of a Constitutional Constituent Assembly can take place, the German government has already announced that it intends to influence the formulation of the country's new constitution. The constitutional process is given high significance, not least of all because of the new La Paz government's plans for nationalization, which run contrary to the interests of foreign companies, but are supported by a broad social movement. German development organizations, intending to interfere in the preparations, both in practical questions and in questions of content, have been successful, in the past, with imposing privatization measures against the opposition of broad sections of the population. Whereas the current German intervention is carried out under the auspices of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ), Berlin's earlier attempts at winning influence was mainly through the German emigrant community ("Auslandsdeutschtum" German Folk Abroad) and German military instructors sent to the country. Both factors created the conditions that made it possible for the Nazi war criminal, Klaus Barbie, sentenced to death three times in France, to live underground and organize counter-insurgency for several of Bolivia's putsch regimes.

German organizations will participate in the preparation of the Constitutional Constituent Assembly in Bolivia, it was announced by the BMZ. This announcement refers explicitly also to questions of content. The German Association for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) had already attained an influence on Bolivian policy and helped in reforming its justice and administration (including decentralization projects). This time, there will also be participation in the "conceptual preparation of the themes," informs the BMZ.[1] The constitutional process, in which Berlin wants to exert an influence, is of great significance to the reform policy of the new Bolivian government, which orients itself on the Venezuelan model and plans further measures for the nationalization of industry, as well as, implement land reform. Similar to Venezuela, these reforms enjoy broad popular support, but the government is also encountering resistance both from the elite at home and from those abroad, who see their companies' expansion interests being jeopardized.


Under the pretext of development assistance, German organizations have intervened into Bolivia's domestic conflicts concerning nationalization and privatization, over the past years. Thus the GTZ fought attempts, with wide popular support, to assure access to a supply of clean drinking water, in several cities of the country without reliance on private capital. According to an opponent of Berlin's imposed privatization program, threatening the population with drastic price increases for the basic water supply, the GTZ "would assure the financing only if the companies will be established as mixed public-private enterprises."[2] The operation of the German organization, which is called a "dictate" in Bolivia, furnished lucrative returns for German enterprises. Thus on behalf of so-called GTZ development aid, the MVV Energy Inc., from Mannheim, carried out several "advisory functions" in the Bolivian hydrosector - a contract reaping millions.

Decisive Influence

As in several other Latin American countries, German-Bolivian relations is founded on the influence of the German emigrant community ("German Folk Abroad") who since the 19th century have, in growing numbers, settled in Bolivia.[3] Around the turn of the century (19th - 20th) German merchants held a prominent standing in this South American country. Germany was leader in Bolivian foreign trade. Concerning the Bolivian descendants of German immigrants, it was written in the late 1970s "according to recent data the Germano-Bolivians exercise a decisive influence in approximately 30% of the private industry of the country."[4] At that time Hugo Banzer's military dictatorship had just ended. Banzer, a "Germano-Bolivian," had come to power in a putsch in 1971, to save private industry, among them enterprises of other "Germano-Bolivians," from social movements' demands for a reapportionment of wealth.

Military Reform

Banzer, born 1926, had been essentially conditioned by his career in the Bolivian military, which he joined at the age of 14. That was before Bolivia decided to enter the war against Nazi Germany and when German military traditions still enjoyed high prestige in the army.[5] The basis for this prestige is the Berlin government's dispatch of a military delegation to La Paz in 1911. The German officer, Hans Kundt, began with the reorganization of the Bolivian army along the lines of the Prussian model - a setback for France, which was thereby vacated as Bolivia's main military partner. After serving on the German East Front in World War I, Kundt returned to Bolivia, already in 1921. He circumvented sanctions imposed by the Versailles Treaty, by making public appearances allegedly as a private citizen and by having assumed pro forma the Bolivian nationality. Kundt became Bolivia's Minister of War in 1923. His reforms of the military have had a great influence on the army of the period.[6]


The Nazi war criminal, Klaus Barbie, sentenced to death three times in France, used the Germano-Bolivian structures, to live underground in this South American country. Barbie, as head of the Gestapo in Lyon during the Second World War, had been responsible for the deportation of Jews and had participated in the torture and murder of resistance fighters. In Bolivia he assisted in the brutal suffocation of social unrest and in the protection of the country's elite against mass protests: he placed his experience in torture of the Nazi period, at the disposal of several Bolivian military dictatorships. When Gen. René Barrientos Ortuno came to power through a putsch in November 1964, Barbie was given the national assignment for insuring internal security and counter-insurgency. He worked, with the rank of Colonel ad honorem, as teacher and advisor to the security forces under Hugo Banzer. In 1980, the Nazi war criminal known as the "butcher of Lyon" supported the coup d'etat of Gen. Luis García Meza. It was only when a democratically elected government rose to power, in January 1983, that Barbie could be extradited to France.

[1] Millenniumsziele und Verfassungsreform im Mittelpunkt der deutschen Unterstützung für Bolivien; Pressemitteilung des Bundesministeriums für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung 26.06.2006
[2] Wieder Ärger ums Wasser. Die deutsche Entwicklungszusammenarbeit als Vorhut der Privatisierung in Bolivien; ila 285, Mai 2005
[3] see also Europäische Position
[4] Reinhard Wolff, Harmut Fröschle: Die Deutschen in Bolivien, in: Hartmut Fröschle (Hg.): Die Deutschen in Lateinamerika, Tübingen/Basel 1979
[5] Auch der spätere chilenische Militärdiktator Augusto Pinochet erhielt die entscheidende Phase seiner Ausbildung in einer deutsch geprägten Armee - in den chilenischen Streitkräften der 1930er Jahre. See also Siegeskreuz
[6] Unter den deutschen Soldaten, die Kundt unter Umgehung des Versailler Vertrages in den 1920er Jahren nach Bolivien folgten, befand sich auch SA-Chef Ernst Röhm.

see also Wandel durch Entwicklung, Warnings and Absatz- und Beschaffungsmarkt