View Full Version : Bolivians set to elect left-wing leader

12-02-2005, 02:39 PM
Evo Morales, an indigenous leader and candidate of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), is favored to win Bolivia’s presidential elections on Dec. 18.
People's Weekly World (http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/8179/1/296/) (CPUSA)

His party and a coalition of popular forces are calling for the nationalization of natural resources and formation of a constituent assembly to consider indigenous rights and land reform. Landless peasants, coca farmers, the urban poor and indigenous people have built a movement that opposes foreign intervention and transnational corporations.

Eighty percent of Bolivia’s population is indigenous, and Bolivia possesses large natural gas reserves.

On Nov. 4, Morales joined Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez before 40,000 people attending a “Counter Summit” in Mar del Plata, Argentina, where the Summit of the Americas was taking place. President Bush departed that session at a loss, specifically over the failed prospects of so-called free trade for the hemisphere. Bolivia, with Morales as president, would be joining a growing coalition of South American nations, led by the left, that is resisting U.S. hegemony.

British writer John Pilger, reporting from South America, set the stage: “In 2000, open rebellion burst upon the white business oligarchs [in Bolivia]. ... There was never anything like it, because it came from the majority Indian population.”

Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of protesters forced the Bechtel Company to give up on privatizing drinking water supplies in Bolivia. In October 2003, reacting to a prospective sell-off of natural gas rights to U.S. corporations, mass demonstrations sent President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada into exile, but not before his troops killed over 70 demonstrators.

In 2004, a law was passed that strengthened the government’s role in the oil and gas industry and taxed hydrocarbon production at 50 percent of revenues. Slow implementation provoked demonstrations that peaked in May and June 2005, forcing President Carlos Mesa to resign. An interim president called for the new elections.

The parties opposing Morales derive support from Europeanized middle- and upper-class sectors. They are strong particularly in Bolivia’s eastern province of Santa Cruz, where significant natural gas reserves are located. The region is home to a well-organized movement for provincial autonomy and to the Radical National Socialist Union of Bolivia, a fascist group. Several transnational corporations are headquartered there also.

When Morales ran for the presidency in 2002, the U.S. ambassador warned that if he won, U.S. economic ties to Bolivia might be cut. The threat backfired: Morales’ vote rose to within 1.5 percent of the winner’s tally.

While Morales’ politics have certainly been left-of-center, some left-wing labor and political groups have criticized him for what they see as his unnecessary compromises with right-wing political parties and his ambivalence on nationalization.

Washington is nervous, however. This year the U.S. ambassador compared Morales to Osama bin Laden. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, visiting Paraguay on Aug. 16, commented on “evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways.”

Rumsfeld’s words on Bolivia are significant, not least because 500 fully equipped U.S. troops arrived July 1 at a military base located in Paraguay, 120 miles from the border with Bolivia, specifically near Santa Cruz. The base at Mariscal Estigarribia has long runways and can house 16,000 troops.

Paraguay, enticed by promises of economic aid, exempted U.S. troops from criminal prosecution in Paraguayan courts and the International Criminal Court. U.S. troops were granted an 18-month stay, to be extended automatically. The previous limit was six months. The FBI will be opening an office in Paraguay’s capital.

The U.S. government says that the troops will be undertaking “humanitarian” missions. Another claim is that U.S. troops will be “fighting terrorism” by leaning on “terrorist-supporting Middle Eastern immigrants” living in the region. Analysts speculate that Washington wants to prod Paraguay into serving U.S. ends within Mercosur, the increasingly independent South American trade alliance.

But who would deny that U.S. troops in Paraguay have something to do with Bolivia? Certainly not a U.S. Defense Department official who last summer said, “You have a revolution going on in Bolivia, a revolution that potentially could have consequences as far reaching as the Cuban revolution of 1959.” Quoted in the New York Times Magazine, Roger Pardo-Maurer IV warned of “repercussions in Latin America and elsewhere that you could be dealing with for the rest of our lives.”

12-02-2005, 02:41 PM
Brazil and Argentina support Bolivia’s Morales
Mercosur (http://www.mercopress.com/Detalle.asp?NUM=6844)

Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Argentina Nestor Kirchner praised Wednesday Bolivian Indian leader Evo Morales whom opinion polls identify as the front-runner for the December 18 general election in his country.Meeting in the border town of Puerto Iguazu, President Lula da Silva said that "At no moment in history have we enjoyed the opportunity of having a South America completely devoted to its people". The Brazilian president went on to say: “imagine what Chavez's election meant for Venezuela. Imagine what it would mean if Evo Morales won Bolivia’s election”.

"These are extraordinary events that not even the most talented political scientists could have ever written about it or even less forecasted”, he added.

And turning to President Kirchner, "I’m certain that what you are doing in Argentina is evidence of leadership and progress, having more people committed to help people to advance and overcome poverty".

President Kirchner also expressed preference for Mr. Morales in Bolivia's coming December 18 presidential election saying that he has given proof of “caring for people, for his country, for the fair exploitation of his country’s resources”.

President Lula recently met in Brasilia with Morales, currently a member of Congress and leader of the Movement Toward Socialism, MAS, who has promised he will not seize oil and gas companies' property if he is elected, a most controversial issue in Bolivian politics which caused the ousting of two presidents in the last two years.

Last May the Bolivian Congress passed a new hydrocarbons bill raising taxes on oil companies and royalties which had a significant impact for foreign companies such as Brazil’s Petrobras and Spanish-Argentine Repsol-YPF, among others.

Brazil is land locked Bolivia’s main foreign investor and yields great influence in business and politics.

However Mr. Morales also leads the strong coca planting peasants’ movement which does not please United States that has invested millions of dollars in trying to convince Bolivian farmers to grow conventional crops.

Washington also believed that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was behind the political turmoil in Bolivia financing radical groups, but it now seems that the country is back to its more traditional course with neighbours Brazil and Argentina playing a more active role.

Bolivia with large reserves of oil and particularly natural gas, second only to Venezuela in South America, is expected to have a growing responsibility as a future reliable gas and oil supplier for energy short Mercosur and associate members.

Public opinion polls show Mr. Morales leading in vote intention but not enough yet to avoid a run off. Runner up is conservative former President Jorge Quiroga.

12-02-2005, 02:52 PM
And here's what the right wing free trade fetishists think of him: An article fromthe Independent Institute - which claims its "program is pursued to rigorous standards without regard to any political or social biases". A quick look at the board of directors will soon show who's 'independent' interests this thinktank serves. See also the Sourcewatch (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Independent_Institute) entry for the II.

Board of Directors

* Robert L. Erwin
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Large Scale Biology Corporation
* James D. Fair
Chairman, Algonquin Petroleum Corporation
* John S. Fay
President, Piney Woods Corporation
* Peter A. Howley
Co-Founder, IP Wireless Inc.
* Bruce Jacobs
President, Grede Foundries, Inc.
* Willard A. Speakman
President and Chief Executive Officer, Speakman Company
* W. Dieter Tede
President, Audubon Cellars and Winery
* David J. Theroux
Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Independent Institute
* Mary L. G. Theroux
Former Chairman, Garvey International, Inc.
* Peter A. Thiel
Founder, Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PayPal, Inc.
* Sally von Behren
Businesswoman and Philanthropist

In Memoriam Board of Directors

* Johan F. Blokker
President and Chief Executive Officer, Luxcom, Inc.
* A. Neil McLeod
Founding President, Liberty Fund, Inc.Bolivia's Nightmare
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (http://independent.org/aboutus/person_detail.asp?id=494)

The forces of Latin American populism are arrayed behind Evo Morales, the former coca grower who toppled two Presidents of Bolivia through violent street action and promises a nationalist revolution if he wins the elections on December 18th. Although he is ahead in the polls, a parliamentary vote will decide who the next President is if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the ballots. But even if Morales does not, the next President, possibly center-right candidate Jorge Quiroga, will be at the mercy of Morales' movement.

Unfortunately, Morales is not a character in a Romantic novel by Chateubriand, the 19th-century French author who assuaged Europe's bad conscience by idolizing indigenous Latin America. This is a real-life tragedy that will have lasting consequences for Bolivia.

Evo Morales and his party, MAS, have led a successful crusade against foreign investment in Bolivia the last couple of years. Foreign investment has dropped to one tenth of what it was in 2003. By forcing the cancellation of foreign contracts and the introduction of confiscatory new taxes, Morales has prevented Bolivia from developing natural gas reserves amounting to 52 trillion cubic feet.

Morales represents a particularly toxic mix of nationalism and populism that has re-emerged in South America in the last few years. His movement has potential "spill-over" effects in the countries that border Bolivia, including Peru, where Ollanta Humala, another nationalist populist, is rising fast in the polls.

One only needs to look at Morales' own life story to realize his own deprivation, like that of so many other Aymara Indians, was the result of nationalism, populism, and socialism, and not, as he maintains, of globalization.

Why did he become a coca grower in the 1980s? He was born in Isallavi, in the tin-mining region of Oruro, at a time when tin mines lay in ruins. The reason for their decline was the 1952 revolution, which "nationalized" them and created a bureaucratic mining entity known by its acronym COMIBOL. The revolution raised miners' salaries by 50 percent but failed to keep up investments, so production collapsed. Eventually, thousands of families, among them the Morales family, had to move elsewhere.

Now Evo Morales wants to do to the natural gas fields of Tarija what the 1952 revolution did to the tin mines of Oruro and other parts of Bolivia.

Where did Evo Morales go to escape the consequences of those policies as a young man? He went to the Yungas, near La Paz, to try agriculture. What did he find? In 1953, the revolutionary government had undertaken land reform, expropriating those estates it deemed unproductive and handing them to some peasant associations. Restrictions on property rights were so abundant and legal frameworks so dodgy that a few years later Bolivia had to import food because its unproductive minifundia were useless. Unlike Taiwan's agrarian reform, which created a property-owning mass of peasants, Bolivia's revolution undercapitalized the land. So when Evo Morales arrived in Yungas, he realized agriculture was in no better shape than mining.

Now Morales is proposing to do to his country's farms precisely what was done to the land in 1953. He wants to expropriate "those that are unproductive" and hand them over to peasant cooperatives under the same restrictions that made economies of scale impossible five decades ago.

Where did young Evo go after Yungas? To the rainforests of Chapare, which offered the only opportunity available to him. That opportunity was coca -- coca not exactly geared towards the production of shampoo, toothpaste, and medicines. In Chapare, the new coca grower rose through the ranks of unionism, until he emerged in 2000 as a voice against foreign capital and the insufficient free-market reforms of the 1990s, which he blamed for social ills that were the result of five decades of nationalism and socialism's ill-fated attempt to correct the oligarchic legacy of the colonial era.

Morales accuses U.S. capitalism of impoverishing Bolivia. But the U.S. should actually be faulted for funding populism and socialism! Between the start of the 1952 revolution and Morales' internal migration in the 1980s, nine tenths of the money Bolivia received from abroad were grants and soft credits from the U.S.. By 1957, the United States was subsidizing 30 percent of the government's budget. With this encouragement, more nationalizations took place in the late 60s under general Ovando and in the early 70s under general Juan José Torres. Needless to say, the protectionist policies in vogue throughout the region, including import substitution, were dominant under most Bolivian governments.

It is hardly surprising that in those circumstances thousands of families should have turned to coca. Then, caught up in the anti-drug effort, they saw their livelihood almost disappear at the end of the 1990s when coca leaf was reduced from close to 100,000 acres to 7,000 acres through eradication efforts (another 24,000 acres are legally grown elsewhere). Morales emerged as a national hero.

In the last few years, Morales, not the most radical among the radicals, has held his country by the throat, squeezing it every time it gulped for air, as when it tried to export gas to the U.S. through Chilean ports. Inevitably, the reaction to this populist leader in the more modern parts of the country has fueled the separatist cause of south-eastern regions like Santa Cruz. The result is a powder keg of a country that Bolivia has become.

Good luck on December 18th!

Alvaro Vargas Llosa (http://independent.org/aboutus/person_detail.asp?id=494) is a Senior Fellow and director of The Center on Global Prosperity (http://independent.org/research/cogp/) at the Independent Institute. He is the author of Liberty for Latin America (http://independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=55).