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From the Guerra Del Agua to the Guerra Del Gas: Resource Governance, Neoliberalism and Popular Protest in Bolivia

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Abstract

Recent resource protests in Bolivia have crystallized broad sets of claims involving livelihood rights, political participation, regional autonomy, and the meanings of citizenship and the nation. In both the 2000 “Water War”, and the 2003 “Gas War”, protestors objected to the restructuring and re-scaling of resource governance that has taken place under recent waves of neoliberal reforms in Bolivia. In both cases, protestors demanded greater participation in decision-making regarding resource management, more equitable distribution of the economic benefits derived from resource exploitation, and a more socially oriented alternative to Bolivia's neoliberal model of economic development. In spite of these similarities, however, these struggles were characterized by markedly uneven geographies of popular protest. The water and gas wars had different spatial dynamics, stemming in part from the biophysical differences between water and natural gas, and the ways these resources enter into social life. Moreover, the protests had very uneven social effects, and in some respects excluded the most marginalized sectors of Bolivia's poor.

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