Manfredo Kempff writes in El Diario:
The charade of bilingualism
Bolivians have always been quite bluffers, but that has increased a hundredfold with this multinational, multiethnic government, showing many ways of buffoonery that are printed in the preamble of the Constitution, although it was cited by Pope Francisco. One of the bluff is in the 37 official languages of the State and the requirement that all public employees must speak Spanish and a native language, which can be Aymara, Siriono, machajuyaikawaya or another.
Bolivia is not a bilingual or multilingual nation, which does not mean that many Bolivians talk Aymara or Quechua, besides Spanish. But if the 2001 census records that 18% speak Aymara, Quechua 28% and 1% Guarani, how many do speak in Mosetén, Toromona, Zamuco or shaman? Almost nobody. It is clear that bilingual or multilingual nation is a farce in a country where 88% speak Spanish (2001 census).
There are bilingual and multilingual nations in the world, of course. But in South America, Paraguay is the only bilingual because 95% of the population speaks either the Castilian and Guarani. In western Bolivia, bilingualism exists in urban centers where Aymara and Quechua have settled from the country side. They have those languages as their mother tongue and in the cities learned Spanish in order to work. They are the only bilingual.
In the cities of the East -mainly in Santa Cruz- Castilian was the only one been spoke. In my many years, I never heard anyone speak Guarani or any of the other languages that the Constitution mentions. I did not hear not even in the country side. Therefore, only the cruceños who are Aymara-speaking or Quechua speakers, there are many now, may meet the constitutional requirements. The rest should be devoted to immediately learn any of the 36 native languages to avoid running out of work.
Deputy Minister of Decolonization, Felix Cardenas, said that the country has 350,000 public employees, of them, 23,500 (6.71%) learned a native language in the last nine years. That means that if the law is applied as the government says, charges and promotions in the Plurinational State would have to benefit those who, besides Spanish, speak Quechua or Aymara, because we know what the Guarani does not count numerically. If this were to be fulfilled, bilingualism is going to become the greatest revolutionary event that H.E. [His Excellency] can offer to the MAS’ greed.