A Gander at Bolivia

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Evo Morales, the current President of the Bolivia, has quietly carried out a socialist program in his country.

Tellingly, Evo Morales is the first  fully indigenous president of Bolivia since the Spanish Conquest in a country that has an ethnic majority of indigenous people (Quechua and Aymara, respectively). Ideally, this would mean that Morales, unlike his predecessors, would work to serve the majorities’ interest.

60% of Bolivia’s population live underneath the poverty line,  which ranks as the poorest country in South America next to the non-Spanish speaking Suriname.  Clearly, if widespread poverty is so prevalent, it has to be addressed. The people of Bolivia think Morales has the answer–in December 2009 elections Morales garnered a respectable 67% of the peoples’ votes to send him into his second presidential term.

Morales’ Actions Thus Far

Morales’ most controversial actions thus far have been to nationalize the natural gas industry; in 2006, Evo Morales signed a decree into the law: “the state recovers ownership, possession and total and absolute control of  hydrocarbons”. That is fine, although whether the revenue obtained by the Bolivian state from Natural Gas will go to the people is not guaranteed; when such a large amount of resources is placed within the grasp of a select amount of people, the possibility for corruption increases. Unlike in Venezuela, the foreign corporations affected by the gas nationalization have not ceased operations.

There are signs, however, that Morales is attempting to undermine a critical safety device for a democracy to operate without concurrently trampling on the interests of others: Just this month, a law passed that will allow Morales to appoint top judicial appointments into vacant spots. The justification behind it is plausible:

Ruling party lawmakers argue that the law is necessary to deal with thousands of cases pending in the courts and reduce chronic delays in the administration of justice.

Likewise, in the freshly written constitution(pushed through by Morales’ ruling party),  allows for members of the high court to be elected by popular vote. Although certainly a detraction on checks and balances, these moves by Morales are not too alarming. For example, in the United States, many judges are appointed by popular election. Furthermore, our Supreme Court, although not directly elected by the people, tend to side with the ideology of the political party  which appointed them. In essence, Morales’ action seem to support his stated purposes–to put power into the hands of the people, the indigenous majority.

Distinction

Evo Morales has been a consistent ally of Venezuela and Cuba.  For example, Morales has signaled support for the Chavez-created term of “axis of good”, which consists of Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia and has also said uttered the catchphrase anti-capitalist bit:  “The worst enemy of humanity is U.S. capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism.” Considering the priorly mentioned poverty of Bolivia, it is hard to argue that U.S. capitalism has helped Bolivia. That being said, although Evo Morales supports the likes of Castro and Chavez in words, his actions in running Bolivia have been critically distinguishable.

To better serve the indigenous majority, Morales and his party, MAS, called for a constitutional referendum. Significantly, Morales and his party acceded to the demands of the opposition to maintain a term limit for the presidency. In other words, Morales cannot run for president after 2014. This is a far-cry from what has occurred in Venezuela, where  Hugo Chavez can run for president indefinitely. Furthermore, although there have been reports of government restriction on independent media in Bolivia, there does not seem to be a systematic evisceration of opposition press like that has occurred in Venezuela.

A Possible Rationale

Bolivia’s economy is tiny with a GDP of $45 billion. Venezuela’s GDP stands at over $355 billion. Morales’ support of Venezuela and Cuba could be a strategic decision to maintain allies, other than those tied to the U.S., that have substantial clout. Alone, Bolivia would be more susceptible to external forces, like the need to cede to countries like the U.S. to extract its resources.

This is an admitted leap, so read it with skepticism. Morales derives his support from poor, uneducated indigenous people. What the latter most likely want is a life in which they don’t have to worry whether their children will want for food. I sincerely doubt that they are aware of the high ideological arguments of Capitalism v. Socialism, at least within the context of the Venezuela/Cuba v. The United States lens. If they were, perhaps they would not look highly upon Evo Morales because of the following reason: the governments of Cuba and Venezuela(especially Cuba) have severely limited the freedom of their people. Cuba is an irrefutable totalitarian state. The people have NO SAY. Chavez is trying his hardest to emulate his honorary godfather Fidel in the same way–create a government that is for the people but only has a couple of people making the decisions for the people.

From my short research on Bolivia,  Morales is not(yet) a dictator disguised as a socialist like Chavez and Castro. I urge Evo Morales to continue to do what is best for his people but ensure that it truly reflects what the people want.

NOTE: my knowledge of Bolivia is admittedly slim. Therefore, if I missed anything, please let me know.

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3 Responses to “A Gander at Bolivia”

  1. m_astera Says:

    It takes a great statesman and a great soul to work for the betterment and greater good of all of the people of a country, and not just curry favor with those who support him with the personal goal of remaining in power.

    Chavez and Castro have certainly failed that test and I see no evidence of Evo Morales doing any better. One is known by the company they keep, and the allies he has chosen are some nasty pieces of work.

    I guess the same could be said about the vast majority of world “leaders”. As the old Russian proverb goes, scum rises.

  2. AmigoDeChapaco Says:

    For those interested in Bolivia:
    http://mabb.blogspot.com/

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