12/19/2005

Indigenous Uprising in Bolivia

All eyes are on Bolivia today as the country elected its first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Morales seems to be an unlikely candidate. He is a former llama herder and cocoa farmer with only an eighth grade education.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

One of seven children born to a poor family in a tin-mining town in the district of Oruro, high in the Bolivian altiplano, Morales was one of only three who made it past infancy. He grew up herding the family IIamas and never finished high school. When the mines closed in the late 1970s, his parents migrated to the Bolivian lowlands of Chapare to become coca farmers.

Morales's start in politics came in 1993 when he was elected president of a local coca farmers federation, and later he helped found MAS and was elected to congress in 1997. In 2002 he narrowly lost the presidential race to Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who was soon forced to resign amidst massive street protests largely by MAS supporters.


The leftist has promised to decriminalize coca and renegotiate longstanding natural-gas deals with foreign companies working in Bolivia. Although Washington has not made an official statement about Morales' election, insiders are worried about the 'left turn' Latin America is making.

During the last presidential election in 2002, then US Ambassador Manuel Rocha criticized Morales, only to see his support triple. "My campaign manager," Morales often refers, jokingly, to the diplomat.

Also from the Christian Science Monitor:
Asked if he is considering traveling to the US for an official visit if elected president, he admits that he has not been invited.

His first trip if he is elected, he says, will be to visit former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. Next on his agenda: China and Spain. "Harvard University has invited me to speak," he notes, "... but no one in Washington has expressed any interest yet."

Asked if he had immediate plans to visit his friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, he says no, but makes it clear he admires the man. "You can't compare me to [Cuban revolutionary] Che or Chavez," he says, "... because I am not on their level. I am just beginning the struggle ... but I admire and aspire to learn from them."

But Morales has a warning for Bush: "That Chavez!" he chuckles, "... giving out cheap fuel in the Massachusetts! Watch, he will be more popular than Bush in the US soon!" he says, and raises the final glass of the evening. "Of that, I am sure."

Seated at a long table heaped high with coca leaves and surrounded by locals chewing the stimulant, Morales gave his last press conference Sunday, stressing that the US needs to work with whatever government is elected here.

"If the US wants diplomatic relations, they have to be on an equal basis. The relationship cannot be one of subservience," said Morales before he left the Chapare region to fly back to La Paz Sunday.

1 Comments:

At Tuesday, December 20, 2005 12:15:00 AM, Blogger A Christian Prophet said...

Thanks for the very interesting post on Bolivia. I hadn't paid attention at all until today when the Holy Spirit gave a message on The Christian Prophet blog saying that Bolivians would soon regret their choice.

 

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