Thursday, January 24, 2008

Two years of Evo Morales, 500 years of colonialism

This is an article destined for Green Left Weekly.

Celebrations of Evo Morales´s two years of presidency took place here in La Paz on Tuesday 22nd January. In typical Bolivian style big rallies blocked the streets, fireworks rang through the air and workers and campesinos met to plan the next steps ahead for Bolivia ´s democratic, indigenous revolution.

The largest rally of the day : 10,000 – 15,000 workers - was led by the federation of Central Workers of Bolivia (COB). Demonstrating the differences that exist within workers within Bolivia, this rally was “against the Morales government”. COB, dominated by militant miners, is calling for the MAS government to provide a basic salary for all Bolivians. At the moment MAS is providing $26US per month to Bolivians over 60 – “Renta Dignidad” who have no fixed, regular income. This is an addition to the assistance provided through the program for school children. “Bono Juancito Pinto” is a $26US yearly cash grant to each child who goes to primary school. 1,321,812 children have benefited from this program.

Workers at the COB rally chanted loudly against Media Luna – the right-wing oligarchy – who - based in Santa Cruz, are calling for autonomy from the less gas rich west of Bolivia. COB has fought hard for the nationalization of the countries resources. Bolivia, historically rich in gold and silver, was mined almost dry by Spanish colonialists. During this prolonged robbery, noted an historian in 1831, Bolivia was like "a beggar seated on a throne of gold."

Under Morales 83% of gas and petrol resources have been nationalized. Within two years the state has received almost three and a half million US dollars from its program to take back the countries wealth. With this money from nationalizations, the government has provided Renta Dignidad and Bono Juancito Pinto.

An indigenous rally weaved its way past COBs rally into the centre of La Paz´s morning bustle. In contrast, the campesinos supported Morales and MAS. Two thousand campesinos from within the state of La Paz rallied, then met to talk about their collectives, production and the new constitution. Within two years – in a “Agrarian Revolution” the Morales leadership has transferred 10,000 hectares of idle land to poor, landless peasants based in collectives. The proposed constitution will solidify this move and outlaw any holdings over 10,000. Theoretically, idle land will be confiscated and handed over to poor campesinos.

In the late afternoon one thousand health and education workers rallied through La Paz taking many people to Plaza Murillo, where Congress meets. A chant “Evo, hermano, el pueblo estan contigo” (Evo, brother, the people are with you) kept in time with traditional drum rhythms. A national program to combat illiteracy, developed in Cuba, “Yes, I am able” has assisted 453,935 people in overcoming illiteracy. Assisted by Cuban doctors a program titled Universal Secure Health for all has attempted to provide free health care to all Bolivians. Mission Miracle, a program to eliminate blindness caused by malnutrition has helped 215,000 people with their sight.

Poverty is shockingly apparent in La Paz. Indigenous women and children sleep in the streets. Running water is a privilege. Houses half built, precariously withstanding rain and wind with sticks from trees to hold their half erect forms. To combat homelessness, the government implemented a Plan of Social and Secure Living which has built, modified and bought 9,000 homes in rural and urban areas. To generate more economic growth Morales outputted almost four million dollars to 2,754 individuals and collectives.

The day to celebrate Evo Morales´s second year anniversary as Bolivia´s first indigenous president ended with Morales giving a five hour speech detailing the last two years and charting the way ahead. Morales said he will accelerate the program of structural transformation and the “decolonization” of the State with the help of a National Commission for Change, which will out-rank the cabinet of ministers and will not necessarily be made up of Movement Toward Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS) party activists. One of its first measures will be the reversion and expropriation of lands controlled by ranchers who enslave the indigenous of the Chaco region of Bolivia. Although it seems unbelievable, to speak with one of the indigenous in Chaco region, individuals one must ask permission from their boss.

Morales said in his speech “This revolution is a peaceful, democratic, cultural and indigenous one. The Bolivian people have taken up the challenge of decolonization and therefore foreign nations will never again be able to impose their will.


philb said...

Fantastico, es muy interesante Rachel! Your grass roots reporting is great. I just finished reading your article in Green Left Weekly re the Bolivian right's revolt and noticed your blog.
Our travels are going to be more touristy than yours, but we hope to make as much indigenas & local contact as possible, after leaving San Pedro de Atacama on 7/4 overland via Sucre (we hope the fireworks don't become the real thing again there) to La Paz for 2 days from 17/4 before Rurrenabaque and leaving LP for the Caracas brigade from 26/4. I think you said you'd be leaving before we got there?
Keep well, regards - Philb

rachel evans said...

heya Phil hope you are Annie are good. i am here in Surce at the moment and things are pretty quiet, IO dont think there will be any trouble. Morales´s tactic of further negotioations with them seems to have worked for the moment to have stopped the autonomists violence. Sounds like you will have enough time to meet some good people in Bolivia. Lets hook uop before you go and I will give you everyone I have. La Paz is a good spot to meet communists, socialists and indig leaders. I´ll get back way before you leave. Great quote I found on a Che poster here "If I advance follow me. If I stio, push me. If I return (sell out) kill me". Youll love it here. rach