Morales Ever More?

Alex Tyler reports for Raddington Report offers a more or less good recount on evo’s performance …

Bolivian Thoughts opinion: It is NOT true that evo succeeded with his economic policies … he only inherited the debt forgiveness that all the international donor community started paperwork in 1996, under the HIPIC, which came into effect when he was in the presidency. He also benefited from the extremely high international prices on ALL our commodity export. His “economic policies” had nothing to do with the great revenues that came to Bolivia, ever! During his twelve years as president, where he held absolute control of ALL State powers, becoming an autocrat in the verge of turning into a dictator, he wasted over $180 billion dollars on very poor economic decisions: built an urea plant far away from the market, bought train cars for that urea without having the railroad to connect the Brazilian market … and there are dozens of examples where we see on a daily basis, blooming cases of corruption. And that is not mention the high volumes of cash that are poured into our economy, coming from cocaine trade and smuggling goods in the country! Let’s not forget that there are more than 700 Bolivians that fled the country due to political persecution. More than 60 Bolivians were dead as a result of several critical situations were violence took over, another clear example of evo been a great liar: he said that if there would be one person dead because of him, that he would abandon the presidency, more of those casualties happened as a result of poor management of the police force … evo, as I cannot write his name with upper case, is in fact the worst president we ever had! NO MORE evo, he should finish his mandate and leave office forever!

Bolivia’s President seeks a fourth term despite a shifting support base

Since Juan Evo Morales took office in 2006, Bolivia’s economy has grown by an annual average of 4.6%, more than twice the rate of the rest of Latin America. His policies have resulted in the nationalization of natural gas reserves, and market-friendly economic initiatives, in order to provide revenue for social programs. As a consequence, more than two million people from poverty, nearly a fifth of Bolivia’s population. The country’s poverty has dropped to 36.4%, 23.5% lower than it was when he took office

The effect has been especially pronounced for indigenous people, who now have more complete access to electricity, sewage, and water. Economic empowerment has led to greater political prominence. Indigenous groups have begun to experiment with local, autonomous government, meant to replace the distant, homogeneous rule. Morales too has made a point of supporting indigenous candidates, appointing indigenous men and women to official positions. Yet, Morales has been losing indigenous support since 2011 and the dissent is gaining more and more traction as Morales continues to consolidate his own power at the cost of his indigenous support base.

Morales was elected as Bolivia’s first indigenous president twelve years ago. As of today, he is the longest consecutively serving head of state in the Americas. He began as a union leader in the coca-growing Chapare region, serving as a senator for the cocaleros (coca-growers) in the 1990s, before heading the socialist party, Movimiento al Socialismo-Unzaguista (MAS) in the early 2000s, which currently governs the country. He promised to raise Bolivia’s poor and indigenous peoples out of poverty and to remake the government to benefit them. In 2009, he put forth a new constitution that was approved, renaming the country to the Plurinational State of Bolivia. The new constitution enhanced state control of natural resources and gave indigenous communities the right to administer their native lands. However, In 2011, Morales moved to build infrastructure and grant energy concessions on tribal lands. His plan to build a road through the Tipnis National Park in the Amazon caused a rupture from native elements within his government. At the time, demonstrations caused Morales to halt the project.

On August 13, a congressional bill nullified the land’s untouchable status in order to pave the way for the road to be built after all. Indigenous populations living in the Tipnis are concerned not just about the loss of biodiversity and viable planting acreage for their own crops, but also that coca growers will monopolize the land and push out other agriculture. While the bill was passed due to a survey from the area that showed overwhelming support, many claim that the surveyors bribed the poorer residents with cooking appliances, televisions, grants, and cars, in order to attract favorable responses.

In December 2013, Morales supporters invaded the headquarters of the highlands indigenous groups, the Confederation of Aymara and Quechua Communities (Conamaq) and installed a government of loyalists. A disputed election between rival factions within the group led to a police siege of their La Paz headquarters, which were followed by a series of violent clashes, hunger strikes, vigils, and road blockades. The following January, the pro-MAS group seized control of CONAMAQ’s headquarters while the state looked the other way. The rupture within CONAMAQ was seen as a strategy of Morales, intended to undermine the organization’s leadership as well as to gain more support for his own party, MAS.

The MAS party’s primary function has become keeping Morales in power. This is a far cry away from its original aim, which was to get indigenous and union leaders elected to Congress by letting grassroots organizations pick their own candidates. Those same grassroots movements now pose a threat to Morales’ administration, as many organize marches against his seeking future terms.

Sine its creation, MAS has struggled to hold together a disparate alliance of cocaleros, union leaders, indigenous interest groups, and socialist political parties. Morales has been the glue that holds the alliance together and no other candidates have been able to get as much widespread support. Yet, as he loses his indigenous base, and dissent about his seemingly endless presidential administration grows, the MAS party – Morales’ power base – is beginning to come unglued.

It has been a steady decline. In 2014, Morales was elected to a third term when the Constitutional Court ruled that his first term did not count toward the current constitutions term limits. He received 60% pf the vote and won eight of the country’s nine states. He dedicated his victory to Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s late former President, Hugo Chavez, claiming his election was a “triumph of the anti-colonists and anti-imperialists.” He promised to continue his policies of economic liberation to move Bolivia forward. Yet in a February 2016 referendum, 51.3% of Bolivians voted ‘no’ to Morales running for a fourth term. His lost popularity among the people can be attributed to a defamatory campaign waged against him.

Last year, Bolivia’s Constitutional Court annulled the referendum’s results, allowing Morales to run for a fourth term in 2019. The next month, the Court then abolished any kind of term limit, ensuring his viability as a candidate in the all future elections. With nearly 70% of Bolivians opposed wanting him president a fourth time, protesters took to the streets of La Paz, chanting “Bolivia dijo no” (“Bolivia said no”)

Last month, protesters took to the streets again, chanting similar slogans, such as “This is not Cuba or Venezuela; this is Bolivia and you must respect Bolivia.” Beyond grievances with Morales’ specific policies, Bolivians are worried about what the implications of an ignored referendum for the future of Bolivian democracy. Jim Shultz, an activist and a co-author of a book about Bolivian indigenous resistance to globalization, notes that “Bolivians, across all economic classes, are nervous about the implications of a President who is directly ignoring a vote of the people that he himself called for. They see the rise of violent authoritarianism in Venezuela and Nicaragua and wonder if this will be their country’s future as well.”

Another detractor from Morales’ popularity has been the Lavo Jato (Clean Slate) investigation, that has revealed region-wide corruption at the highest levels of Latin American governments. Morales launched official corruption inquiry last April, it is an open question as to whether the move will help or hurt him. Bolivia is one of the few Latin American countries that did not appear in the US Department of Justice’s 2016 investigative report on Lavo Jato. Yet in April of this year a Brazilian police report linkedthree Bolivian officials to bribes from Carmago Correa, another Brazilian company that received a contract to construct a highway in Santa Cruz. More recently, ties between OAS, the principle highway contractor during Morales’ early administration years, and Brazil’s development bank, BDNES, have engendered suspicion that the corruption scandal might saturate Bolivia’s infrastructure projects as well. Last month, at least three companies involved in Argentina’s Cuadernos scandal had a questionable multi-million dollar contract with the MAS government.

Under Morales, Bolivia has experienced a golden age. Poverty rates have dropped, while literacy rates and public health numbers are on the rise. His economic policies have surprised international analysts, who have seen Bolivia move forward despite regional evidence that a radical left-wing government is ineffective. Yet as Morales pushes policies that adversely affect indigenous people, he is losing larger and larger amounts of support. That, coupled with the stain of corruption and aggressive efforts to consolidate power, has Bolivians fearful for the future. If Morales is not careful, his recent actions will leave Bolivia will in serious trouble.

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