Bolivian President Evo Morales announced his cabinet on Monday, filling it with Indians, union leaders and intellectuals to set the poor South American country down a more socialist path. "There’s a clear intention to maintain […]
After winning a landslide election victory on December 18th, Bolivian president-elect Evo Morales announced plans to nationalize the country’s gas reserves, rewrite the constitution in a popular assembly, redistribute land to poor farmers and change the rules of the U.S.-led war on drugs in Bolivia. If he follows through on such promises, he’ll face enormous pressure from the Bush administration, corporations and international lenders. If he chooses a more moderate path, Bolivia’s social movements are likely to organize the type of protests and strikes that have ousted two presidents in two years.
The turnout in the Bolivian presidential election was high – around 80 percent – and included 82 year old Manual Cruz Quispe of El Alto, who was ill and poor, but determined to have his say. So he got his son push him to the polling station in a wheelbarrow and, seconds after casting his vote, Manuel passed away. His last act was to participate in a decisive call for change.
According to exit polls, socialist Evo Morales received 51 percent of the votes in Bolivia’s December 18th presidential election, enough to secure his victory. Right-wing candidate Jorge Quiroga admitted defeat with 32 percent of the votes.
"I hope xenophobia will be extinguished," declared Bolivia’s president-elect at a press conference on Sunday morning after casting his vote in front of hundreds of villagers on the school grounds at Villa 14 de Septiembre in Chapare, Bolivia. Morales, soon to become Latin America’s first indigenous president, said: "We only want to live well The poor don’t want to be rich, they just want equality."
Juana Carvagal and her husband Marcelo decided to stay safely indoors when they heard the crackling of gunfire on the streets of El Alto, the huge township which sprawls, 4,500 feet high, across mountains overlooking the Bolivian capital, La Paz. But when Marcelo went to shut a window, an army bullet sliced through his chest and buried itself in their bedroom wall. Marcelo was one of 60 people killed in October 2003 when President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada tried to crush opposition to his plan to export the country’s gas to California.
In Washington he’s been referred to as a "narco-terrorist" and a "threat to stability". In Bolivia he’s simply called "Evo." For many in the Andean country, Presidential candidate Evo Morales represents a way out of poverty and marginalization. He has pledged to nationalize the country’s natural gas reserves, reject any US-backed free trade agreement and join the growing ranks of Latin America’s left-of-center governments. He makes the Bush administration nervous and corporate investors cringe. Yet when Bolivians head to the polls Morales is expected to win a majority. However, the range of scenarios that could result from the election suggests that the show may be far from over by the end of Election Day on December 18th. […]
According to the United Nations, as of October 2005, 100 families control over 25 million hectares of land in Bolivia while 2 million campesino (farmer/peasant) families have, combined, access to 5 million hectares of land. In other words, the wealthiest 100 landowners possess five times more land then 2 million small landowners.*
Over two years have passed since Bolivian security forces killed 59 and left over 200 people seriously injured during widespread demonstrations protesting the management of Bolivia’s gas reserves in September and October of 2003. As with other social conflicts in Bolivia, there have not been legal consequences for the human rights violations committed during the "Gas War."
In June 2005, two weeks of massive street protests and widespread blockades in Bolivia culminated in the resignation of President Carlos Mesa and a subsequent power vacuum in the country. U.S. officials suggested that Bolivian coca leader and Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party head, Evo Morales, manipulated popular protests within the country. Washington has also asserted that the governments of Cuba and Venezuela provoked and funded the social unrest. […]
The recent shift to the left among Latin American governments has been a cause for concern in the Bush administration. The White House has tried in vain to put this shift in check. Presidential elections in Bolivia on December 18th are likely to further challenge U.S. hegemony. Evo Morales, an indigenous, socialist congressman, is expected to win the election. How far will the U.S. go to prevent a leftist victory in Bolivia? Some Bolivians fear the worst.