Podemos’s Latin American Roots

Source: Jacobin

Our people are winning here,” read a message Pablo Iglesias sent to Íñigo Errejón in early December 2005. Iglesias was in Bolivia watching the presidential election unfold from up close. A Spanish political scientist and now the leader of the leftist party Podemos, Iglesias had arrived in Bolivia planning to write an academic article about a promising party called Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) that finally had the chance to govern.

The formation had put forth an indigenous presidential candidate, Evo Morales, in a nation whose political and economic organizations had been dominated by creole elites since Simon Bolívar took office as Bolivia’s first president in 1825.

What’s more, its vice-presidential candidate, Álvaro García Linera, had been imprisoned during the 1990s for participating in the radical Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army. On December 18, 2005, Bolivians elected MAS with 53.7 percent of the vote. (Their center-right opponents, who ironically went by the pseudo-acronym Podemos, received 28.6 percent.)

Coming on the heels of the alter-globalization protests, which had stretched from Seattle, Washington to Porto Alegre, Brazil, the MAS victory showed that the Left could transform political indignation into institutional power.

That’s why Iglesias was there: to figure out how MAS had so powerfully mobilized Bolivia’s indigenous and working-class people. He and his colleagues were “determined to replace the Eurocentric glasses” of the Spanish left and make Bolivian social movements intelligible to those who also wished to fight neoliberalism in Europe.

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