Byline: Jimmy Langman
Alvaro Garcia Linera's official title is bolivian vicepresident, though that doesn't quite capture his position in the Latin American left. The 43-year-old mathematician and soci-ologist--and prolific author--is, most importantly, considered the key architect behind socialist President Evo Morales's controversial policies in Bolivia, and a growing influence throughout the region. As Morales's government passed the six-month mark, NEWSWEEK's Jimmy Langman sat down with Garcia Linera in La Paz. Excerpts:
Langman: Your government, along with Venezuela's Hugo ChAvez, is accused of being on the irresponsible, populist left.
Garcia Linera: The people who say that this government is irresponsible and populist don't read the newspapers enough. Our inflation is right now the lowest it's been since this government began six months ago. Exports have increased 40 percent since we took office. The neoliberal governments before us all had significantly larger budget deficits. The salary increases we have given are not populist. For 20 years no government in Bolivia could force the transportation sector, the bus drivers and taxis, to pay taxes--we are the first to get them to pay taxes. No populist government raises taxes like that. We are responsible, disciplined, very austere and very careful.
So Bolivia isn't just a foothold for ChAvez's Venezuelan model? Clearly we are friends with ChAvez, but we are also friends with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, and that does not mean we will have a model like that of Argentina, because that would mean we would have to change hundreds of years of our history. We are good friends to those countries that want to collabo-rate with us, especially when it is un-conditional help. Our relations with ChAvez, Kirchner, with Lula in Brazil or with George Bush are all done under conditions of help, collaboration, equi-librium, respect for internal decisions and support for our own unique culture.
Morales, though, has become especially close to Castro and ChAvez.
Each leader has his differences. You can't compare ChAvez with Castro or Evo with ChAvez. They all have differences. If anything, though, Evo is more like Brazil's Lula, as they both have risen as political leaders out of labor movements. More than anything, we are different because our countries are very different. Bolivia is a multicultural country with 36 indigenous cultures, with a distinct history and a complex economy with modern urban, communitarian and traditional sectors that marks an enormous difference with these other countries. …