Evo Morales

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Evo Morales

Juan Evo Morales Aima (born October 26, 1959) is a leader of the Bolivian cocalero movement, a loose federation of coca-growing campesinos who are resisting the efforts of the Bolivian government to eradicate coca in the province of Chapare. Morales is also leader of the Bolivian political party, Movement Toward Socialism (MAS in its Spanish initials). In the 2002 Bolivian elections, MAS came in second, a surprising upset for Bolivia's traditional parties. As leader of MAS, it brought Morales within a hair's breadth of being elected president of Bolivia, a unique and unprecedented event in the post-columbian history of South America. It made the indigenous activist an instant celebrity throughout the continent.

An Aymara speaker, Morales was born in Orinco, a mining town in the department of Oruro, in the Bolivian Altiplano. In the early 1980s, his family, like many indigenous highlanders, migrated to the lowlands in the east of Bolivia, in search of a better life. In his family's case, they settled in Chapare, where they dedicated themselves to farming, including crops of coca. During the 1990s, the cocaleros came into repeated conflict with the government of President Hugo Banzer, who had promised the United States to completely eradicate coca in Bolivia.

As an emerging leader of the cocaleros, Morales was elected to the Bolivian Congress in 1997 as a representative of the provinces Chapare and Carrasco de Cochabamba. He received 70% of the votes in that district, the highest share of votes among the sixty-eight members of parliament who were elected directly in that election.

The 2002 elections

In January, 2002, Morales was deposed from his seat in Congress, ostensibly because of a charge of terrorism related to anti-eradication riots in Sacaba that month in which four coca farmers, three military soldiers and a police officer were killed, but reputedly due to great pressure from the American embassy to have him removed from the government.

Morales nonetheless declared his candidacy for the following presidential and congressional elections, to be held on June 27. In March, the eviction of Morales from Congress was declared unconstitutional, but he did not reclaim his congressional seat until the new congress was sworn in on August 4. MAS had a meager share of only 4% in the polls, but it used its scant resources to mount an imaginative campaign, which attracted a great deal of attention. The party dispensed with the traditional campaign tactics of mass give-aways of t-shirts, baseball caps, calendars, and other political "confetti". One controversial TV spot portrayed an indigenous Bolivian maid exhorting the masses to vote their conscience and not as their bosses ordered. MAS returned a small grant from the state (less than US$ 200,000) which is provided to every political party.

Capitalizing on resentment of U.S. presence in general and U.S. ambassador to Bolivia Manuel Rocha in particular, MAS circulated a poster that appeared in Bolivian cities, with an enormous photo of Morales in the middle. Above, in enormous letters: "Bolivians: You Decide. Who's in Charge? Rocha or the Voice of the People." The poster had a huge impact and hundreds of thousands more had to be printed than had been planned on.

None of the candidates of Bolivia's mainstream parties wanted to debate Morales, dismissing MAS as a "minor party". In June, Morales told the media that he wasn't interested in a public discussion with them either: "The one who I want to debate is Ambassador Rocha — I prefer to argue with the owner of the circus, not the clowns."

Several days before the election, in a speech he gave in the presence of the outgoing Bolivian president, Jorge Quiroga, Rocha said “I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if you elect those who want Bolivia to become a major cocaine exporter again, this will endanger the future of U.S. assistance to Bolivia.”[1] (http://www.wola.org/publications/ddhr_bolivia_brief_text.htm) Undaunted, Bolivians, particularly in the heavily indigenous departments of the Altiplano, voted for MAS in droves, giving it a share of 20.94%, only a couple points behind that of the winning party. Afterwards, Morales credited the American ambassador for the success of MAS: "Every statement [Rocha] made against us helped us to grow and awaken the conscience of the people."

Owing to his refusal to compromise (which some saw as intransigence), Morales and MAS were excluded from the coalition which ultimately determined who would become president (it was Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada); MAS, led by Morales, therefore entered Congress as a strong opposition party.

Morales is criticized for not having a clear program; it is clear what he is against (he is a rousing speaker) but less obvious what his alternative proposal is. In any case, Morales sees little in the current form of government by parliamentary democracy as seen in Bolivia; viewing it as too easily corrupted from within and manipulated without by foreign interests. For him, Bolivia's impoverished campesinos need above all autonomy, equal opportunity, and access to the land.

When the Bolivian Labor Union (COB) called a indefinite general strike on September 29, 2003, in response to the killing of seven protestors by the armed forces during the Bolivian Gas War, Morales and MAS declined to participate, preferring to concentrate on gaining power in the 2004 regional elections. The decision was seen by observers as a step-down from Morales' earlier, more radical stance. However, Morales did participate to some degree in the continuing protests in the capital city in June, 2005, which forced the resignation of Carlos Mesa.

Towards the 2007 elections

At a gathering of farmers celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of MAS in March 2005, Morales declared that "MAS is ready to rule Bolivia", having "consolidated its position as the first political force in the country". He acknowledged, however, that "the problem is not winning the elections anymore but knowing how to rule the country." [2] (http://www.plenglish.com/article.asp?ID=%7B90EBE9EE-BA62-452D-9EEE-3A64CD0E2340%7D&language=EN)

Ideology

Morales has articulated the driving force behind MAS:

The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism. If the entire world doesn't acknowledge this reality, that the national states are not providing even minimally for health, education and alimentation, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated.

He has also stated:

the ideological principles of the organization, anti-imperialist and contrary to neoliberalism, are clear and firm but its members have yet to turn them into a programmatic reality. [3] (http://www.plenglish.com/article.asp?ID=%7B90EBE9EE-BA62-452D-9EEE-3A64CD0E2340%7D&lang)

He has articulated the goals of his his party and popular organizations as the need to achieve national unity, a constituent assembly to transform the country, and to develop a new hydrocarbon law which guarantees 50 percent of revenue to Bolivia.

Morales has expressed his admiration of Guatemalan indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchú and Fidel Castro, the latter for his opposition to the USA.

External links

es:Evo Morales


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