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Evo_Morales

Evo Morales

Juan Evo Morales Ayma (born October 26, 1959 in Orinoca, Oruro), popularly known as Evo is the President of Bolivia since 2006. He has been declared the country's first fully indigenous head of state in the 470 years since the Spanish Conquest.

Morales was first elected President of Bolivia on December 18, 2005, with 53.7% of the popular vote in an election that saw the participation of 84.5% of the national electorate. Two and a half years later he substantially increased this majority; in a recall referendum on August 14, 2008, more than two thirds of voters (67.4%) voted to keep him in power. Morales is the leader of a political party called the Movement towards Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, with the Spanish acronym MAS, meaning "more"). MAS was involved in social protests such as the gas conflict and the Cochabamba protests of 2000, along with many other groups, that are collectively referred to as "social movements" in Bolivia. The MAS aims at giving more power to the country's indigenous and poor communities by means of land reforms and redistribution of gas wealth.

Morales is also titular president of Bolivia's cocalero movement — a loose federation of coca growers' unions, made up of campesinos who are resisting the efforts of the United States government to eradicate coca in the province of Chapare in central Bolivia.

Background

Morales was born in the highlands of Orinoca, Oruro, and is of indigenous (Aymara) descent. He was one of seven children born to Dionisio Morales Choque and Maria Mamani; only Morales and two of his siblings survived past childhood. He grew up in an adobe house with a straw roof that was "no more than three by four meters." At age six, he traveled with his father to Argentina to work in the sugar cane harvest. Like many Bolivians, his parents, while Catholic, made offerings of coca leaves and alcohol to mother earth, or Pachamama. At the age of 12, he accompanied his father in herding llamas from Oruro to the province of Independencia in Cochabamba.

When he was 14, Morales showed his organizational skills by forming a football team with other youths; he continued herding llamas to pay the bills. Three ayllus (network of families) within the community elected him technical director of selection for the canton's team when he was only 16 years old. That same year, in order to attend high school, he moved to Oruro. There he worked as a bricklayer, a baker, and a trumpet player for the Royal Imperial Band (which allowed him to travel across Bolivia). He attended Beltrán Ávila High School but was not able to finish school, and fulfilled his mandatory military service in La Paz.

Farming in the lowlands

In 1980, while Morales was in his 20s, the effects of El Niño caused a 70% decline in agriculture and killed 50% of the animals in his home region. Evo joined the Morales family when they left Orinoca to participate in the colonization of the tropics of Cochabamba, located in the eastern Bolivian lowlands. Working on his family's land, he grew crops of oranges, grapefruit, papaya, bananas and coca. Morales soon joined a union of coca growers. Morales claims on his website that by 1981, he became motivated to defend his fellow coca farmers after learning that one of them had been beaten, covered in gasoline, and burned alive by drunken soldiers of the government of Luis García Meza Tejada. In 1981, he was made the head of his local football organization; after his father's death in 1983, he was forced to give up that position in order to concentrate on managing his family's farm.

Union activity

By 1985, Morales was elected general secretary in his union of coca farmers and by 1988 was elected executive secretary of the Tropics Federation. He retains this position to this day, even while serving as president of Bolivia. Around this time the Bolivian government, encouraged by the USA, began a program to eradicate most coca production (see below). By 1996 Morales was made president of the Coordinating Committee of the Six Federations of the Tropics of Cochabamba. Evo was among those opposing the government's position on coca and lobbied for a different policy. This opposition often resulted in him being jailed and in an incident in 1989, beaten near to death by UMOPAR forces (who, assuming he had been slain, dumped his unconscious body in the bushes where it was discovered by his supporters).

Morales soon led a 600 km march from Cochabamba to the capital of La Paz. While they were often attacked by law enforcement, they managed to proceed by sneaking around their control posts. They were often greeted by supporters who gave the marchers drink, food, clothes and shoes. They were greeted with cheers by supporters in La Paz and the government was forced to negotiate an accord with them. After the marchers returned home, the government reneged on the deal and sent forces to harass them. Morales claims that during this time in 1997 a United States Drug Enforcement Agency helicopter strafed farmers with automatic rifle fire, killing five of his supporters. He also claims he was grazed by assassins' bullets in Villa Tunari in 2000. He was recognized in 1996 by an international coalition against the “War on Drugs”. Morales then found an audience in Europe for his positions and traveled there to gain support and to educate people on the differences between coca leaves and cocaine. In a speech on this issue, he told reporters “I am not a drug trafficker. I am a coca grower. I cultivate coca leaf, which is a natural product. I do not refine (it into) cocaine, and neither cocaine nor drugs have ever been part of the Andean culture.”

1995 election, formation of MAS

On March 27, 1995, Morales was among a united organization of farmers, colonizers and indigenous people who founded the Assembly for the Sovereignty of the Common People (ASP) and the Political Tool for the Sovereignty of the Common People (IPSP). Morales and others decided to run for political office in Bolivia under this party. Since the National Electoral Court did not recognize the new organization they were forced to run under the banner of the United Left (IU), “a coalition of leftist parties that was headed by the Communist Party of Bolivia (PCB).” On June 1, 1997, Morales (who carried 70% of the votes) was one of four IU candidates that won a seat in Congress. The area he represented included the provinces of Chapare and Carrasco and Morales received the most votes of any candidate in Bolivia. Facing continual legal problems because the Bolivian Supreme Court continued to refuse to recognize IPSP, for the local elections of December 5, 1999, Morales came to an agreement with the leader of MAS-U, David Añez Pedraza, to assume the acronym, name and colors of that inactive organization. So the IPSP became the Movimiento al Socialismo or Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). The MAS is described as "an indigenous-based political party that calls for the nationalization of industry, legalization of the coca leaf … and fairer distribution of national resources."

Expulsion from Congress

While Morales was a Member of Congress, the governments of Hugo Banzer and Jorge Quiroga broadened the eradication campaign through Plan Dignidad (see below). The coca producing region of Chapare which Morales represented was beset with hundreds of police and military officers who were seen by Morales as “committing an innumerable amount of abuses and assassinations which violated the most basic human rights and liberties.” Morales denounced the militarization and said that the government was committing a massacre in the Chapare, he declared that the peasants had a right to resist militarily against the troops who were said to be shooting at protesters. Then three police officers were slain when they attempted to close a coca market. In light of Morales' comments about armed resistance on January 24, 2002 a 104-member majority of Congress voted to have him expelled. The Congressional Ethics Commission declared that Morales had committed “serious inadequacies in the execution of his duties.” With his popularity rising for standing up to an unpopular government, on March 5, 2002, he submitted an objection to the Constitutional Tribunal saying his rights had been violated. He said his right to defend himself, to the presumption of innocence, and to parliamentary immunity had all been unjustly ignored.

In an interview in November 2002 with The Ecologist, Morales spoke about the expulsion saying “I was the congressman with the highest proportion of votes for his area and ‘obeying an order from the US’ they voted to expel me from Congress. It is only recently that the constitutional court finally declared the whole farce illegal, and now they are having to pay compensation for what they did.”

The 2002 elections

The same day he petitioned the Constitutional Tribunal, Morales resigned from the Confederation of Coca Producers of Cochabamba and was endorsed by the Six Federations of the Tropics as the MAS 2002 presidential candidate. The supportive crowd cheered him on saying “Kausachum coca!” (Long live coca!) and “Huaiñuchum yanquis!” (Down with Yankees!), they also “hoisted the wipala, the multi-colored checkered flag that is the emblem of the Andean cultures, along with the standard tri-colored Bolivian flag.”

In the 2002 presidential election, Morales came in second place, a surprising upset for Bolivia's traditional parties. This made the indigenous activist an instant celebrity throughout the continent. Morales credited his near victory in part to comments made by then U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Manuel Rocha, who warned, "As a representative of the United States, I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if you elect those who want Bolivia to become a major cocaine exporter again, this will endanger the future of U.S. assistance to Bolivia." Morales said that these remarks helped to "awaken the conscience of the people."

The 2005 elections

As a result of growing discontent and popular unrest, and the resignation of President Carlos Mesa Gisbert under pressure by MAS and their supporters, led by Morales, by means of road blocks and riots , Congress and President Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé decided to move up the 2007 elections to December 2005.
At a gathering of farmers celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of MAS in March 2005, Morales declared, "MAS is ready to rule Bolivia", having "consolidated its position as the [prime] political force in the country". He also said, "the problem is not winning the elections anymore but knowing how to rule the country."

Preliminary polls placed Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism in an uncomfortable three-way tie with center and right wing forces and urban majority leaders Jorge Quiroga, from the party Social and Democratic Power (PODEMOS), and Samuel Doria Medina, with only a few points' difference. By August 21, Morales had chosen his running mate for the presidential elections, left-wing ideologist, sociologist, mathematician, and political analyst Álvaro García Linera, who fought alongside of Felipe Quispe as part of the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army (EGTK).

By December 4, Morales had moved ahead in the polls to around 32% of the vote. Quiroga hovered around 27% with Samuel Doria Medina coming in at less than 15%. All of the parties promised national solidarity, nationalization (in some form) of the hydrocarbons, and wealth for the people.

On December 14, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Most polls give the 46-year-old Mr. Morales a lead of about 34% to 29% over his nearest rival, conservative former President Jorge Quiroga." Over 100,000 election judges were sworn in as the country prepared for the elections on December 18.

Exit polls were published almost as soon as voting closed, with Morales expected to win 42–45% of the vote and Quiroga 33–37%. Quiroga conceded defeat within a few hours.

By December 22, the official count was at 53.899% of the vote, with 98.697% of the ballots tallied, and no congressional vote was necessary to determine the winner.

Domestic Policy

Politics

Morales articulated the driving force behind MAS in the following terms:

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. If the entire world doesn't acknowledge this reality, that nation states are not providing even minimally for health, education and nourishment, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated.

He also stated:

… the ideological principles of the organization, anti-imperialist and contrary to neoliberalism, are clear and firm but its members have yet to turn them into a programmatic reality.

Morales has argued for the establishment of a constituent assembly to transform the country. He also proposed the creation of a new hydrocarbon law to guarantee at least 50% of revenue to Bolivia, although MAS has also shown interest in complete nationalization of the gas and oil industries. Morales has taken a middle ground: supporting the nationalization of natural gas companies, but supporting foreign cooperation in the industry.

Morales has referred to the U.S.-driven Free Trade Area of the Americas as "an agreement to legalize the colonization of the Americas" and has supported the stated desire of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to form an "Axis of Good" between Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela, in contrast to the "Axis of Evil" comprising the United States and its allies.

In March 2006, President Evo Morales announced in Santa Cruz an increase in the minimum wage of 50%. As it is currently set at 440 bolivianos(45 euros) per month, it would then increase to 660 bolivianos (67 euros) per month. Morales had earlier stated that it should be increased by 100%. However, 6 out of 10 workers are part of the informal economy, thus limiting the impact of this increase.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Morales opened on August 6, 2006 an assembly to begin writing a new constitution aimed at giving more power to the indigenous majority.

Education reform

Indigenous languages in schools

Morales supports a movement to teach indigenous languages such as Aymara, Quechua, and Guaraní which are spoken mainly in the rural areas of Bolivia. His government estimates that only 37% of the population speaks a native language that predates the introduction of Spanish in the 16th century. Morales's Education Ministry has declared the drive to increase this percentage as part of a broad effort "to decolonize the mindset and the Bolivian state." The program is seen as "emblematic of his government's indigenous-based social agenda". In 2006 Morales's Minister of Education and Culture, Felix Patzi, announced that he would be requiring all government employees to take indigenous language training. The Morales government's proposal to require state schools to teach the languages has angered many urban Bolivians who see it as a move to replace Spanish. This is denied by the Morales government who point out that over half of Bolivians claim indigenous heritage and that it should not be shameful to speak an indigenous language outside of the home or local community. Patzi brought further controversy to the movement by calling Bolivians who can't speak an indigenous language "an embarrassment" and by issuing a letter stating that no school would be recognized unless they guaranteed indigenous language instruction in the 2007 academic year.

Reform of religious classes in state schools

In June 2005, Minister Felix Patzi brought organizational opposition against the Morales governments' ideas when he declared that "Catholicism would no longer be ‘the official’ religion taught at schools." After mass protests led by the Catholic hierarchy this proposal was shelved by Morales.

Aftermath

Morales, initially supportive of Patzi and his policies, faced with the opposition of the Catholic hierarchy dropped the proposal to change the religion classes in state schools. Morales also relaxed the language requirement, no longer requiring it to be obligatory in 2007. In late January 2007, Morales replaced several members of his cabinet, including Patzi whose suggestions had "got Morales in hot water with the Roman Catholic Church". The Bolivian media reported that this cabinet shuffle “reduced the number of ministers of indigenous descent, and incorporated more middle-class politicians from the radical left to his cabinet.”

Economy

Nationalization of natural gas industry

In 2005, following popular protests and president Gonzalo Sánchez "Goni" de Lozada's resignation, Congress passed an energy law that added a 32% tax on production to an already-existing 18% royalty. It also required that companies renegotiate their contracts with the state.

As of May 1, 2006, President Morales signed a decree stating that all natural gas reserves were to be nationalized: "the state recovers ownership, possession and total and absolute control" of hydrocarbons (Bolivia has the second largest resources of natural gas in South America — 1.38 trillion cubic meters — after Venezuela). He thus put to some effect his electoral promises made during the various Gas Wars, declaring that "We are not a government of mere promises: We follow through on what we propose and what the people demand."

The announcement was timed to coincide with Worker's Day on May 1. Ordering the military and engineers of YPFB, the state firm, to occupy and secure energy installations, he gave foreign companies a six-month "transition period" to re-negotiate contracts, or face expulsion. Nevertheless, Morales stated that the nationalization would not take the form of expropriations or confiscations. Vice President Álvaro García said in La Paz's main plaza that the government's energy-related revenue will jump to $780 million next year, expanding nearly sixfold from 2002.

Among the 53 installations affected by the measure are those of Brazil's Petrobras, one of the largest foreign investors in Bolivia, which controls 14% of the country's gas reserves. Brazil's Energy Minister, Silas Rondeau, reacted by condemning the move as "unfriendly" and contrary to previous understandings between his country and Bolivia.

US Exxon Mobil Corporation, Petrobras, Spain's Repsol YPF, UK gas and oil producer BG Group Plc, and France's Total are the main gas companies present in the country. According to Reuters, "Bolivia's actions echo what Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, possibly Morales' biggest ally, did in the world's fifth-largest oil exporter with forced contract migrations and retroactive tax hikes — conditions that major oil companies largely agreed to accept." YPFB will pay foreign companies for their services, offering about 50% of the value of production, although the decree indicated that companies exploiting the country's two largest gas fields would get just 18%.

Nationalization of smelter

On February 8, 2007, Morales announced that a metal processing plant outside of the city of Oruro owned by the Swiss mining company Glencore International AG would be nationalized. The plant processes tin, lead, and silver. Morales said that there had been “a lack of transparency in its financial dealings” and that corporations that abide by Bolivian law had nothing to fear. He said “Companies that respect Bolivian laws, that do not steal money from the Bolivian people, will be respected. But if the companies do not respect the laws, I have no other alternative than to recover those companies." Vinto was privatized by the Banzer government in 2000, when it was sold to London-based Allied Deals. However, Allied Deals promptly went bankrupt and was unable to meet its commitments, forcing the government to liquidate the asset. The liquidating entity Grant Thornton sold Vinto to Compañía Minera Colquiri, owned by Compañía Minera del Sur (51%) and Great Britain's Commonwealth Development Corporation (49%), in June 2002. Glencore purchased the plant from Comsur-CDC in 2004.

Coca

Licit and illicit uses
Coca is the raw material for cocaine but is prized by many Bolivians (especially among those of Amero-Indian descent) for its traditional uses in medicines and herbal teas. Long before coca was used to make cocaine, the indigenous people of the Andean region, the Aymara and Quechua, chewed coca leaves as a dietary supplement, a means to ease pangs of hunger and thirst and an antidote for altitude sickness. Many Amero-Indians continue to view the plant as sacred. In modern Bolivia, coca leaves may be legally consumed and are most often prepared in teas like mate de coca. The legal sale and consumption of coca leaves are part of daily life for some groups of Bolivian peasants, especially those in mining and other fields of heavy labor. Noted celebrities who have consumed coca tea include the late Pope John Paul II and Princess Anne. While a limited market exists for coca leaves, since the early 1990s the U.S. has put pressure on the Bolivian government to reduce the amount of coca leaves produced for refinement by the international drug trade.
Plan Dignidad
In 1995 at the height of coca production, one out of every eight Bolivians made a living from coca. The country was the world’s third largest grower of coca after Peru and Colombia. In 1997, 458 square kilometres of land were being used to produce coca leaves, with only 120 km² of that being grown for the licit market. In August 1997, with strong support of the US government, Bolivian President Hugo Banzer developed "Plan Dignidad" ("The Dignity Plan") to counter the "scourge" of drugs. The plan focused on eradication, interdiction (through lab destruction), efforts to counter money laundering, and implementation of social programs that countered and prevented drug addiction. The plan’s heavy emphasis on plant eradication and noticeable lack of focus on trafficking organizations was noted by its critics at the time. The US Embassy in Bolivia defended the aggressive focus on crops, maintaining that Bolivia was devoid of significant trafficking organizations and claiming that the bulk of illegally exported coca went through small ‘mom-and-pop’ operations. This claim continues to be rejected by scholars of Bolivian society who say “Bolivia is very vulnerable to the influence of international trafficking organizations and that it is very likely that the participation of Bolivian entrepreneurs in the illegal business has increased.” During the initial years of the operation area of coca production dropped. While in 1997 it had been 458 km², by 1998 it was down to 380 km²; in 1999 it fell to 218 km², and in 2000 it reached its lowest point at 146 km². Since the 1990s, the US has been funding the Bolivian government's eradication program by an average of $150 million a year.
Opposition to eradication, rise of Morales
Critics of the aggressive focus on farmers and the program's lack of effort against traffickers argued against the claims that Bolivia’s traffickers were only “mom-and-pop organizations”. They pointed out the increase in prices offered to Peruvian coca farmers during 1998 as proof that international trafficking organizations were going to Peru to make up for the Bolivian shortfall caused by the program. They also pointed to the 1999 indictment for drug trafficking of Marino Diodato who was married to the niece of President Banzer, and was an Italian believed to have Mafia and Camorra ties. By 2001 coca planting in Bolivia moved outside of the traditional growing areas of Chapare and Yungas and the area in production began to climb ever since.

Along with an increase in world wide coca production, the program contributed to a decline in the real standard of living of Chapare peasants leading to protests and violent social unrest (where both demonstrators and police were slain). The Bolivian government's use of the military in coca-growing regions during the unrest brought criticism from NGOs such as Human Rights Watch. Promises of alternative development for farmers stagnated because of worsening external economic conditions. These conditions caused social mobilization among coca farmers like Evo Morales who called for an end to forced eradication and other measures enacted with the intent of countering narcotics. From 2000 forward, the Bolivian government made several agreements with coca grower federations to end confrontations, but they failed to follow through on their promises causing further opposition to these governments. Morales rose to national attention by leading the political opposition to eradication and this position is a central reason for his election to the Bolivian Congress. His association with anti-eradication forces caused his expulsion from Congress in 2002 which led to his Presidential campaign with its surprising showing that same year.

Morales coalition prevails
Pressures from the Morales led coalition caused president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to stop forced eradication. To address some of his opponents concerns in 2003 he initially proposed allowing families to cultivate small plots of coca but in the face of strong pressure from the US Embassy he withdrew the idea. Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada resigned the presidency due to the Bolivian Gas War. When his successor Carlos Mesa was unable to stem the increasing conflict over distribution of wealth from fossil fuel production he also resigned. Morales's support from coca farmers was seen as a large reason for his victory to the open presidential office in the 2005 election.

On his way to vote during the 2005 election Morales carried a coca plant. After it was declared that he was the front runner in the election he called for a referendum on how the plant should be controlled. Countering US fears that he would ignore cultivation expressly done for narcotic purposes Morales said, "There won't be the free cultivation of the coca leaf.” He also called on America to enter into an agreement to truly fight drug trafficking. He repeated his position calling for “zero cocaine and zero drug trafficking, but not zero coca or zero cocaleros [coca growers]." He announced his government would study whether the amount of coca allowed for legal traditional consumption should be increased. At the time coca growing was legal on 29,000 acres (120 km²) of the Yungas valley with lesser area in the Chapare region.

In early 2006, soon after taking office, Morales traveled to the tropical region of Chapare and met with a crowd of 20,000 consisting mainly cocaleros. A garland of coca leaves was placed around his neck and more leaves placed upon a straw hat he donned to shield him from the sun. He told the crowd, “The fight for coca symbolizes our fight for freedom. Coca growers will continue to grow coca. There will never be zero coca.”

There is much disagreement between Morales's administration and the United States regarding anti-drug laws and cooperation between the countries, but officials from both countries have expressed a desire to work against drug trafficking, with Sean McCormack from the U.S. State Department reinforcing the support of Bolivian anti-drug policy, and Morales calling for zero cocaine and zero drug trafficking.

Processing plant
In February 2007, Venezuela loaned Bolivia $250,000 to build two coca processing plants in Chapare and Las Yungas to turn coca into tea and trimate (a mixture of aniseed, chamomile and coca). The plants are set to be up and running in September or October 2007 and the products will likely be sold in Venezuela.

Foreign policy

World tour

From December 29, 2005, Evo Morales undertook an international tour described by Latin American media as exceptional. For two weeks, Morales visited several countries in search of political and economic support for his agenda for the transformation of Bolivia. This tour is said to have constituted a break with decades of tradition in which the first international destination visited by a president-elect in Bolivia was the United States. His itinerary also reinforced the view that his election was part of a strengthening of "anti-imperialist" governments and movements in Latin America.

In September 2006, he spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, holding a coca leaf, saying ‘I should like to take this opportunity to speak of another historical injustice: the criminalization of the coca leaf. This coca leaf is green, not white, like cocaine. The coca leaf is symbolic of Andean culture, of the Andean environment and of the hopes of peoples. It is not acceptable that the coca leaf be legal for Coca-Cola and illegal for medicinal consumption not only in our country but throughout the world.

‘The United Nations should be aware that scientific studies have been carried out in American and European universities that have shown that the coca leaf has no negative effects on human health. I am very sorry that because some have a drug habit, the coca leaf has become illegal. We are aware of that. That is why, as coca leaf producers, we have stated that there will not be unfettered coca leaf production, but neither will there be zero production. Conditionality-based policies implemented in the past focused on zero coca-leaf production. But zero coca-leaf production is equivalent to zero Quechuas, zero Aymarás, zero Mojeños, zero Chiquitanos. All of that ended with another Government. We are an underdeveloped country with economic problems resulting from the pillage of our natural resources. We are here today to begin to regain our dignity and the dignity of our country.

‘In that context, I wish to say that the best contribution to combating drug trafficking has been through an agreed, voluntary reduction, with no deaths or injuries. I was pleased to hear that the United Nations report recognizes the honest and responsible effort that has been made to combat drug trafficking. Drug seizures have increased 300 per cent. However, yesterday I heard the United States Government state that it would not accept coca cultivation and that it was imposing conditions on us so that we would change our system.’

In September, 2007, Morales appeared on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart". There he discussed various political issues. Morales was only the second sitting head of state to appear on the show and the first to be interviewed on the show using a translator.

On April 28, 2008, again he addressed the United Nations at the inauguration of the UN’s VII Indigenous Forum UNPFII - United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, with his proposed 10 Commandments to save the Planet, summarized as:

1. In order to save the planet, the capitalist model must be eradicated and the North pay its ecological debt, rather than the countries of the South and throughout the world continuing to pay their external debts.

2. Denounce and PUT AN END to war, which only brings profits for empires, transnationals, and a few families, but not for peoples. The million and millions of dollars destined to warfare should be invested in the Earth, which has been hurt as a result of misuse and overexploitation.

3. Develop relations of coexistence, rather than domination, among countries in a world without imperialism or colonialism. Bilateral and multilateral relations are important because we belong to a culture of dialogue and social coexistence, but those relationships should not be of submission of one country to another.

4. Water is a human right and a right for all living things on the planet. It is not possible that there be policies that permit the privatization of water.

5. Develop clean energies that are nature friendly; put an end to energy wastefulness. In 100 years we are doing away with the fossil fuels that have been created over millions of years. Avoid the promotion of agrofuels. It is incomprehensible that some governments and economic development models can set aside land in order to make luxury cars run, rather than using it to provide food for human beings. Promote debates with governments and create awareness that the earth must be used for the benefit of all human beings and not to produce agrofuels.

6. Respect for the mother Earth. Learn from the historic teachings of native and indigenous peoples with regard to the respect for the mother Earth. A collective social consciousness must be developed among all sectors of society, recognizing that the Earth is our mother.

7. Basic services, such as water, electricity, education, healthcare, communications, and collective transportation should all be considered human rights; they cannot be privatized but must rather be public services.

8. Consume what is necessary, give priority and consume what is produced locally, put an end to consumerism, waste, and luxury. It is incomprehensible that some families dedicate themselves to the search for luxury, when millions and millions of persons do not have the possibility to live well.

9. Promote cultural and economic diversity. We are very diverse and this is our nature. A plurinational state, in which everyone is included within that state - whites, browns, blacks, everyone.

10. We want everyone to be able to live well, which does not mean to live better at the expense of others. We must build a communitarian socialism that is in harmony with the Mother Earth.

Timeline of Morales World tour

  • December 30, 2005: Evo Morales visits Cuba after celebrating his democratic victory in his base town of Orinoca. In Havana Morales is extended the red carpet and receives full honors from Cuban president Fidel Castro. Morales signs a cooperation agreement between Bolivia and Cuba whereby Castro promises assistance to Bolivia in issues such as health and education. During his speech Morales describes Castro and Chávez as “the commanders of the forces for the liberation of the Americas and the world”.
  • January 3, 2006: He meets Hugo Chávez in Caracas. Chávez offers Bolivia 150 000 barrels of diesel per month in order to substitute the current imports made from other countries. In exchange Bolivia will pay Venezuela with agriculture products from Bolivia.
  • January 4, 2006: Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero receives Morales in the palace of La Moncloa. Zapatero announces the writing-off of Bolivia’s debt with Spain, a sum of 120 million euros.
  • January 5, 2006: Juan Carlos of Spain receives Morales in his palace at La Zarzuela. Conservative Spanish media criticizes Morales for dressing informally, wearing a sweater made of alpaca wool with Amerindian motifs and colors during his encounter with the king. At the same time José María Aznar shows through his private fund-raising organization his criticism against Castro, Morales and Chávez.
  • January 6, 2006: Morales meets French President Jacques Chirac in Paris. Chirac promises economic and political support as long as French investments in Bolivia are protected. The same day he meets Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot who promises aid of €15 million a year.
  • January 7, 2006: Morales meets Javier Solana in Brussels, who also promises economic support for Bolivia in return for protection of European investments in Bolivia.
  • January 9, 2006: Morales meets Hu Jintao and the Chinese Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai. Morales invites entrepreneurs and the government of China to invest in projects of exploration and exploitation of gas, and to participate in the construction of gas refineries in Bolivia.
  • January 10, 2006: Morales is received in Pretoria by South African President Thabo Mbeki. Morales compares the struggle of black Africans during Apartheid with the struggle of the Amerindians in the Americas.
  • January 11, 2006: Morales meets with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who describes him as a man of 'remarkable humility and warmth', as well as former president F.W. de Klerk.
  • January 13, 2006: Morales visits Brazil and meets with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, describing him as "comrade and brother". Morales and Lula agree to work together on a program of cooperation to end poverty.

Anti-Americanism

After the reciprocated explusions of ambassadors with the U.S.A. started by Bolivia, tensions grew further when Bolivia rejected U.S. support on anti-drug measures. Morales said Bolivia does not need U.S. help to control its coca crop as he stepedup his anti-Washington rhetoric with his rejections of an American request to fly an anti-drug plane over his country. In addition, Iran's top diplomat in Bolivia said his country would open two low-cost public health clinics in the country, South America's poorest. Iranian business attache Hojjatollah Soltani said his country planned to use Bolivia as a base for future Red Crescent medical programs across the continent. Morales was also named to the Time 100 in 2008 with the help of skyrocketing commodity prices, which earned him the ire of the oil companies and the envy of other Presidents in the region as he renegotiated outdated energy contracts to earn more money for the country's coffers — a portion of which he put toward increased health-care and social spending. He also said his country should not fear U.S. suspension of a trade deal with Bolivia that is worth 20,000 Bolivian jobs and $150 million a year. In Vallegrande, near where Che Guevara died, he said: "We don't have to be afraid of an economic blockade by the United States against the Bolivian people." Still, his government announced it would send a delegation to Washington to lobby for the country's continued participation in a regional trade pact rewarding Andean states for cooperating with U.S. anti-narcotics efforts.

Inauguration

On January 21, 2006, Morales attended an indigenous spiritual ceremony at the pre-Columbian archaeological site and modern spiritual center of Tiwanaku where he was crowned as Apu Mallku or Supreme Leader of the Aymara, the indigenous group to which Morales belongs, and received gifts from many groups representing indigenous peoples from various parts of Latin America and the world. Morales claims this is the first time since the days of Tupac Amaru that an indigenous person has held sovereign power in Bolivia. The ceremony was attended by the Slovenian president, Janez Drnovšek.

On January 22 he officially received power in a ceremony in La Paz attended by multiple heads of state, including Argentine President Néstor Kirchner and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, whose country has had a history of diplomatic conflict with Bolivia (see War of the Pacific) was also present and met with the dignitary in private. Morales described his presidency as marking a new era, and that the 500 years of colonialism were now at an end.

Style

His behavior contrasts with the usual manners of dignitaries in Latin America. For example, in January 28, 2006 he cut his salary by 57% to $1,875 a month. He is single and, before the election, he shared a flat with other MAS officers. Consequently, his older sister Esther Morales Ayma fulfills the role of First Lady. He has two children from different women.

He also aroused much interest in his choice of dress after being pictured often in his striped sweater with world leaders during his world tour. Some speculated that he would wear it to the official inauguration, where he actually dressed in a white shirt without tie (itself unheard of in Latin America in modern times for a head of state at their own inauguration) and a black jacket that was not a part of a conventional suit. The sweater (in Bolivian Spanish, a chompa, from the English word jumper) became his unofficial symbol and copies of it sold widely throughout Bolivia. Some accounts described Morales's signature sweater as alpaca-wool; others reported that it was actually made of common acrylic, because native materials had become too expensive for most Bolivians and were sold mostly in the tourist trade.

Evo Morales is a soccer enthusiast and plays the game frequently, often with local soccer teams. Morales is also a big admirer of Che Guevara and in 2006 held a memorial on the anniversary of Guevara's killing by the Bolivian army in 1967.

Constitutional Assembly

One of Morales's electoral promises was to establish a Constitutional Assembly to re-write the Bolivian constitution. This was also one of the central demands of the Bolivian social and indigenous movements who supported Morales's candidature for the presidency. A Constitutional Assembly was established and elections for assembly members were held in July 2006. The Assembly then sat in Sucre, in the Teatro Gran Mariscal and was given 12 months to write a new Bolivian constitution. The process of drafting the constitution was initially stalled by debates over voting procedures (whether a simple majority or two-third majority should be required to make decisions) and then by the introduction of an arcane debate about which should be Bolivia's capital city, Sucre or La Paz. The draft Constitution was finally approved in December 2007, in a session which took place in Oruro. Although most of the members of the opposition party, PODEMOS, absented themselves from the session, the assembly was able to pass the draft constitution with the two-thirds majority required.

Recall Referendum

On August 10, 2008, a recall referendum was held in Bolivia on the mandates of President Evo Morales, his Vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera and eight of the nine regional prefects. Evo Morales won the referendum with a resounding 67% 'yes' vote, and he and Garcia Linera were ratified in post. Two of the prefects, both aligned with the political opposition in the country, failed to gain enough support and had their mandates recalled with new prefects to be elected in their place. The elections were monitored by over 400 observers, including election observers from the Organization of American States, European Parliament and Mercosur.

Ethnicity

Evo Morales has declared himself the first Amerindian president, a controversial claim due to the Amerindian heritages of such prior Bolivian presidents as Mariano Melgarejo (1864), Carlos Quintanilla (1939), René Barrientos (1964), Juan José Torres (1976), Luis García Meza (1980), and Celso Torrelio Villa (1981). While the claim is a potent symbol, it has been challenged publicly by the novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who accuses Evo of fomenting racial divisions in an increasingly mestizo Latin America.

The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano responded to Vargas Llosa saying: "I see what is happening in Bolivia as a very significant act of affirmation of diversity [which is opposite to] racism, elitism and militarism, which leave us blind to our marvellous existence, to that rainbow that we are".

Be what he may, it is important to remember that Andrés de Santa Cruz, President of Bolivia from 1829 to 1839, claimed that through his mother he descended directly from Inca rulers.

Conflict with Reyes Villa

Among Morales's most outspoken political opponents is Cochabamba Governor Manfred Reyes Villa. In early 2007 his opposition to Morales' policies inspired many of the President's supporters to take to the streets and demand his resignation. As the group interacted with police and Reyes Villa's supporters events escalated into violence, leaving two dead and 100 injured before calm could be restored.

Ponchos Rojos

On January 23, 2007, Morales and Bolivian military chiefs attended an indigenous peoples rally of the "Red Ponchos" (Ponchos Rojos) who support him in the Andean region of Omasuyos. At the rally Morales thanked the group, saying "I urge our Armed Forces along with the ‘Ponchos Rojos’ to defend our unity and our territorial integrity." Because the group is seen as armed and militant by Morales's opposition they accused him and the Armed Forces of supporting "illegal militias." The rally was held in Achacachi which during the 1970s was the center of the leftist guerrilla movement EGTK (Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army) which had Morales' vice president Álvaro García Linera in their membership. To the cheers of the crowd Morales chastised those calling for regional autonomy saying, "No caballero [a term for white colonizers] will be able to split apart Bolivia."

Advisor faces terrorism charges in Peru

Walter Chávez resigned on February 1, 2007, after being indicted for acts of terrorism in his native country of Peru, which seeks his extradition. Chavez fled Peru following the 1992 coup carried out by Alberto Fujimori to Bolivia where he sought and gained refugee status after presenting his case to the Bolivian government and the United Nations. For 15 years, Chavez made a name for himself in public life as a journalist for numerous newspapers, including La Razon—perhaps Bolivia's most important daily newspaper.

Chávez was hired by the Morales’Presidential campaign and continued on as media advisor for the Presidency once Morales took office. He is accused by Peruvian authorities of “having been a member of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement guerrilla group that carried out bombings and kidnappings in the 1980s and 1990s.” The specific charges against Chávez is that he was “a MRTA member who extorted two Peruvian businessmen on behalf of the group in 1990. …[that same year] Chávez was arrested after receiving $10,000 from one of the men, was released on bail a month later and in 1992 fled to Bolivia.” He is also accused "of receiving $5,000 in another case." Chávez has repeatedly denied the charges, saying "They accused me of being part of an MRTA cell but they never proved anything against me."

The resignation came as the Bolivian Senate (which is led by an alliance of opposition parties) announced its intention to rapidly investigate the extent of "Chávez's duties and how he obtained residency in the country." Peruvian television, Bolivian newspapers and the Miami Herald were also pursuing the story with ever more vigor, in the days leading to Chávez leaving the Morales government. He explained his resignation to the Miami Herald, saying that "A lot of things have been said that weren't true. This is beginning to hurt the government." In 2006, Peru had quietly asked for the extradition of Chávez but was turned down as he had been granted political asylum by the Bolivian government. Peru announced that it would be re-filing its extradition request. Chávez said he has no plans to defend himself in court by going to Peru.

Miners protest

In early February 2007, parts of the Bolivian region of La Paz were brought to a standstill as 20,000 miners took to the roads and streets to protest a tax hike to the Complementary Mining Tax (ICM) by the Morales government. The protesting miners threw dynamite and clashed with those passing by. The Morales government had attempted to head-off the demonstration by announcing on February 5, 2007, that the tax increase was not directed at the 50,000 miners who are co-op members but at larger private mining companies. This did not dissuade the thousands of protestors who had already gathered nearby the capital in the less affluent city of El Alto.

Movements for regional autonomy

Morales's economic policies have generated opposition from several departments, including Santa Cruz, which have oil and agricultural resources. Political parties that oppose Morales, along with pro-market groups disrupted the workings of Bolivia's Constitutional Assembly by disputing voting mechanisms within the assembly and then by introducing a divisive debate about which city should be Bolivia's capital. Six of the country's nine governors are also demanding more autonomy from the central government and a larger share of government revenues.

The six are the governors of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Pando, Beni, and Tarija. The remaining three governors are part of Morales's Movimiento al Socialismo party. They are among the first generation of popularly (directly) elected governors. Before December 2005, all governors were political appointees of the President.

The call for autonomy comes mainly from the resource-rich, lowland regions of Bolivia, which are centers of opposition against Morales. It has been alleged that the autonomy question “has relatively little to do with language, culture, [and] religion… it is mostly about money and resources — specifically, who controls Bolivia's valuable natural gas reserves, second largest in South America after Venezuela's.” There are also racial overtones to the autonomy movement, quasi-fascist groups such as the Nación Camba and the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista use violence and intimidation tactics against indigenous groups, using autonomy as a tool to subvert the elected government. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, also published a report on the situation in Santa Cruz following a visit in December 2007 and observed that the political climate had give rise to ‘manifestations of racism more suited to a colonial society than a modern democratic state’.

Morales sees the calls for autonomy as an attempt to break up Bolivia and has vowed to fight them. He has “repeatedly charged that rich landowners and businesspeople from the eastern city of Santa Cruz, an anti-Morales stronghold, were fomenting and funding the autonomy movement in a bid to grab national resources.”

Four departments, Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando, announced in December 2007, shortly after the proposal of a new Bolivian constitution, that they would seek more autonomy and self-government. Santa Cruz and Beni called referendums on autonomy to be held on May 4th 2008 and June 1st 2008 respectively. However, the autonomy statutes which they have proposed have been declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Bolivian National Electoral Court.

On May 4, 2008, authorities in Santa Cruz held a local referendum on the autonomy statutes that had been presented in December 2007. The scheduled referendum vote was struck down by Bolivia's National Electoral Court and no international observers were present, both the Organization of American States and the European Union declined to send observers. There was a high rate of abstinance from the referendum and some polling booths were blocked and ballot boxes destroyed. There were reports of disruptions in areas which are known MAS strongholds, where people took direct action to destroy ballot boxes and stop voting. These were especially pronounced in areas of major immigration from the western highlands, like Yapacani and San Julián, as well as in areas under indigenous control. In Guaraní territory, ballot boxes were burned in a rejection of the legitimacy of the vote. There were also allegations of fraud and ballot box interference. Reports allege that ballot boxes were delivered already containing pre-marked ballot papers on which crosses had been placed next to the YES option. Many of the protesters accused Santa Cruz leaders of trying to secede from Bolivia and expressed support for a draft constitution written by Bolivia's Constituent Assembly that grants several different levels of autonomy including departmental and indigenous autonomy. Despite this, results showed 85% approval for the autonomy statute, though abstention was recorded at 39%. The Santa Cruz autonomy movement conflicts with the constitutional reform proposed by Evo Morales, who seeks to create, as Morales and his supporters perceive it, a fairer state which includes full rights and recognition of the previously marginalized indigenous majority.

The results thrilled leaders in the eastern Bolivian province of Santa Cruz, who had defied the order of the National Electoral Court, the Congress and President Evo Morales by putting the statute up for a vote. The statute would give the department additional powers such as the right to form its own police, set tax and land-use policies and elect a governor.

On May 8, the National Congress passed a law establishing a recall election for the mandates of the President, Vice President and nine departmental Prefects (six of whom are sympathetic to the opposition). President Evo Morales supported this initiative.

The racist elements of the autonomy movement came to the fore in the city of Sucre on May 24. Peasants from settlements outside Sucre came to the centre of the city to participate in a ceremony with President Morales. Instead they were accosted by an aggressive group of young people and marched to Sucre's central square. There they were made to strip to the waist and burn their ponchos, the flag of the MAS party and the wiphala (the flag of the indigenous peoples). While they were doing this they were forced to shout anti-government slogans and were physically aggressed. Present in the square at the time were Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga, former president and leader of the opposition party Podemos, opposition Senator Oscar Ortiz and Prefect of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa. After these events the government declared it to be a "day of national shame".

Dispute with Europe over Immigration

A new EU immigration law detaining illegal immigrants for up to 18 months before deportation triggered outrage across Latin America, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatening to cut off oil exports to Europe.

Evo Morales wrote an open letter to the EU criticizing the new restrictions, published in the British Guardian newspaper as an Oped on June 16, 2008. On June 18, Morales said that the European law was "racist."

Said Morales on EU immigration law:

"We, too, could say that we are going to expel those who have looted and stolen from us, those who imposed policies of hunger and misery, those who exported illness, exploitation, discrimination.

References

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