3 Perspectives of Evo Morales

Canadian Dimension, March-April 2006 | Go to article overview

3 Perspectives of Evo Morales


A Different Latin America

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL

DECEMBER 24, 2005

Bolivia's recent presidential election was almost as history making as Iraq's parliamentary vote. The winner, Evo Morales, will be the first member of the indigenous majority to run Bolivia since the conquistadors arrived nearly five centuries ago. His victory was one of the most decisive since the return of democracy more than two decades ago.

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But do not expect any toasts from the Bush administration. During the campaign, Mr. Morales advertised himself as Washington's "nightmare." He opposes almost everything the Bush team stands for in Latin America, from combating coca leaf production to privatizing natural resources and liberalizing trade. His favorite Latin leaders are Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba. And the political popularity of these anti-Washington positions is part of a growing regional trend.

The political balance in Latin America has clearly been shifting to the left. Nearly 300 million of South America's 365 million people live under left-wing governments. While many of these governments, like Brazil's and Chile's, have worked hard to cooperate with the United States, others, like Venezuela's, have gone out of their way to bait Washington. Mr. Morales gives every indication of following the Chavez approach. And there could be similar lurches to the demagogic left in the numerous Latin American elections soon coming up in places like Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua.

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Evo Morales Populist Gestures and Neoliberal Substance

There are at least two views on what to expect from an Evo Morales presidency, views which cross ideological boundaries.

The exuberant Left and sectors of the far Right (especially in the U.S. and Bolivia) evoke a scenario in which a radical leftist Indian president, responding to the great majority of poor Bolivians, will transform Bolivia from a white, oligarchic/imperialist-dominated country based on a neoliberal economy, to an Indian/peasant/workers' state pursuing an independent foreign policy, the nationalization of the petroleum industry, a profound agrarian reform and the defense of the coca farmers. This is the view of 95 per cent of the Left, and the view of the extreme Right, including the Bush Administration.

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An alternative scenario--the one I hold--sees Morales as a moderate social-liberal politician who has over the past five years moved to the centre. He will not nationalize petrol or gas multinational corporations (MNCS), but will probably renegotiate a moderate increase on their taxes and "nationalize" the subsoil minerals, leaving the companies free to extract, transport and market the minerals. …

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