Friday, December 16, 2005

Contemplating a Morales Presidency


With just a couple days away from presidential and prefectural elections, the international spotlight is certain to point to Bolivia -albeit briefly- as the country decides its future in a landmark election. We will face the choice of accepting very different world-views and philosophies of government, which will lead us for the next five years. A difficult decision, when major sectors of the population seem polarized between absolutes. One sector who perceives itself as being destitute, lead by individuals who want to return to an endogenous model of production, archaic methods of land distribution and oppose the inevitable force of globalization. The “others” represent the growing middle class, conservatives, business sectors and the traditional “elite”.

Much of the international coverage has focused in the candidacy of the “savior of the left” Evo Morales (if “the left” is in need of salvation is a matter of debate). Morales, who is seen as the agent of the poor, the indigenous and the “disenfranchised”, has consistently lead the polls and has so far, managed an excellent campaign. By refusing to debate his opponents, by appearing in equal step with the current leaders of the South American left and by courting the military and other strategic segments of the population; Morales has so far being very successful in his strategy.

However, one thing is campaigning or blockading effectively and a completely different one is governing effectively. If elected Morales will face a number of difficult issues:
  • Governance. - Will Morales manage to create a sustainable alliance, and be able to govern without the traditional “neo-liberal” sectors? Should his victory occur, will he have effective control of the house and senate, or the newly empowered departmental (prefectural) governments? As head of the executive power Morales will face the situation he helped to create for the last decade: completely undermined authority of the executive power.
  • “Nationalization” of oil and gas resources, production, refining and industrialization. - Which Mr. Morales has promised to his supporters, a complex issue given that they seem to understand nationalization as expropriation, that is, a takeover without compensation. This proposal is fundamentally flawed, given that in terms of ownership and control the oil and natural gas industry is already a “national” industry. Then we have the issue of how to compensate foreign firms, if indeed, the “intelligent nationalization” Morales proposes occurs, and after such depletion of funds takes place, how to enable industrialization and export of gas reserves. Please note, the moment nationalization is executed Foreign Direct Investment from traditional sources (read Europe and the United States) dries up.
  • Departmental Autonomies. - This comes back to the issue of governance, given that following this election a “meso” level of governance will effectively be created [1] (creating a middle layer between national and municipal levels). The Santa Cruz and Tarija departments are sure to be carried -by a landslide- by autonomist parties. And given that Santa Cruz is the new entrepreneurial and productive axis of Bolivia, and Tarija the repository of the nations largest natural gas reserves, autonomist governments there will have significant say in enabling any of Mr. Morales plans.
  • The Constituent Assembly. - Or as many have called it Asamblea del Pueblo V.2.0, where our Constitution is supposed to be redrawn. Issues of participation, effects and viability of this experiment are certain to shock any government that assumes its functions next week.
  • Coca and cocaine production. - This issue wouldn’t be as important as the prior four if it weren’t because it has traditionally being a driving force for Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). Every Bolivian citizen understands the negative effects of cocaine production and narco-trafficking and since the end of military rule every government has taken a firm stance in combating the drug trade. But Morales’s traditional supporters are precisely cocaleros, producers of the coca leaf and raw material providers to the drug trade. An agency problem, if there ever was one.

These are the nominal issues a Morales presidency would face, other than that we could ask how he plans to attract new foreign investment to a discredited country, avoid or stop violation of property rights (seizure of lands), handle foreign pressures, service debt and control the opposition. Will the Morales presidency become just another transitory government?

It all depends on how he handles the situation; the issues cited above and what variables enter into play. It’s easy to imagine a worst case scenario: a slippery slope into chaos: stimulated by broken promises and the action of fringe groups, which culminates sooner or later into a situation similar to “Octubre Rojo” only worsened by ethnic, economic and regional factors. That is the kind of scenario that officially inducts Bolivia to the “failed state” club – and invites in the blue helmets. Of course, that is the scenario we have to avoid at any cost.

Now, I'm not a pessimist, so I believe that another scenario is possible. An scenario in which -before the elections, or at least before Congress determines who will be president- the main parties sign a public agreement to enable governability. In which Morales promises to let go of his sindicalist past of authoritarian decision making and ruling by intimidation, and he promises not to "take 'the people' to the streets" when he doesn't have his way. And conversely, the other candidates promise not to excersise whatever power they have within their circles, or reasonably facillitate the passage of legislation. This second scenario is one that imagines cooperation and inclusion, of course, all antidemocratic acts that have plagued us in the past (ex. blockades or seizure of lands and property) and allows for system efficiencies (of our mixed economy) to take place.

[1] See Barrios Suvelza, El Estado Triterritorial (La Paz: Plural Editores)

1 comment:

Luis Calderón said...

*¿Por qué Evo no puede ser presidente?*

Luis Calderón, La Paz.- Ya lo dijo el *Bigotón *que tanto nos enseñó del fútbol y de la vida: "Querer no siempre es poder". Evo, lo ha dicho hace un mes en San Francisco, quiere ser presidente de Bolivia. Pero ¿puede? Y lanzo esta pregunta para encontrar respuesta en el hombre, no en el análisis político interesado o en el enfoque periodístico sesgado. Evo, lamentablemente, no puede ser presidente. ¿Por qué? Porque no es apto, no está preparado para el cargo, porque no tiene el mínimo conocimiento de las cosas, para él – como quedó constatado en su última entrevista con Bolivisión – "valor material" es igual a "mi padre y mi familia".

Sus adeptos improvisados e interesados promotores aseguran que llegó la hora de Evo, porque llegó la hora del indígena. Esa es una falacia. Porque para el cargo de presidente no es suficiente argumentar ser indígena u originario, para el cargo de presidente, antes que nada se tiene que ser ciudadano boliviano. Evo, además, no es un indígena. Nació en un pueblo aimara, pero se aburguesó. Hace ocho años que vive en La Paz y el Chapare con todas las comodidades de un parlamentario. Nos engaña cuando habla de la pobreza porque pasa su vida en vuelos y hoteles de primera clase. No pudo debatir en aimara ni en quechua con Roberto de la Cruz.

Además, existen en Bolivia, miles de indígenas con más capacidad y preparación que no usan su origen como excusa para sortear los exámenes de aptitud y esfuerzo antes de acceder a un cargo importante. Pero supongamos que la falta de preparación se puede suplir con "equipo", como dicen en el MAS. ¿Es posible un gobierno de Evo y sus asesores? No, porque la gente resentida, oportunista y beligerante de la que se ha rodeado Evo actúa impulsada por la ambición y la sed de venganza. No,
porque muchos de esos acólitos han provocado la división regional que pone en peligro la unidad del país. No, porque Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija ni Chuquisaca – resentida con el MAS porque quieren hacer la Constituyente en El Alto – reconocerán un eventual gobierno de Evo.

Lo accesorio sigue la suerte de lo principal, dice un gran principio jurídico. Evo no puede ser presidente y hacerse cargo de la suerte de todo el país porque no pudo ser responsable con lo principal. Fue irresponsable con sus hijos, no los reconoció ni les pagó pensiones, y por tanto no será responsable con el país. Si fue incluso malagradecido con el hermano e incluso con su mentor político Filemón Escobar, ¿qué se puede esperar de otros? El afán de Evo en despenalizar la coca de El Chapare provocará un bloqueo internacional de organismos cuya ayuda económica es imprescindible, al menos por el momento, para un país en vías de desarrollo como Bolivia.

Pero si estos argumentos son insuficientes, es necesario tomar en cuenta que un eventual gobierno de Evo será víctima de sus propias bases cocaleras que
ansiosas de ejercer poder, exigirán un gabinete con dirigentes de las seis federaciones del trópico. Y la última razón, quizás la más valedera: Evo no puede ser presidente
porque no cree en Dios. Ningún hombre puede lanzarse a semejante responsabilidad, sin capacidad, rodeado de tantos oportunistas y sin la guía de Dios.