Monday, July 10, 2006

An Interview with Evo Morales

Evo Morales:

"I feel I’m more of a syndicalist leader than a President”[1]

(Página/12, my translation follows.-) The Bolivian Air Force’s helicopter takes flight and in a few minutes one can see the infinite and arid extensions of the Altiplano. The trip is to the Pampa Aullagas community, the “lost Atlantis” –according to the British cartographer Jim Allen- and center of a regional llama and quinoa trade fair.

The duration of the trip was the time president Evo Morales gave to Página/12 to talk about his first five months in government and his next visit to Buenos Aires, were he’ll meet Néstor Kirchner in the town of Hurlingham and sign an accord to raise the price of natural gas exported to Argentina.

A short time before arrival, Evo Morales looks at a dot in the landscape and remembers “in that little town I made 100 dollars playing for the Imperial band” he’s visibly touched; minutes later the helicopter flies over his old adobe house in Orinoca. “Every time I come back my family and friends make me cry”, he confesses. In the middle of those remembrances, Morales surveys the topics of the day and his government, and calls Kirchner ‘a South American patriot”.

- What accord are you signing Thursday 29 with Néstor Krichner?

- Fundamentally, volumes and price of natural gas exports. But also other aspects like investment and credits to industrialize natural gas in our territory and other productive projects. We are also working between at a diplomatic level in topics related to enhancing the [quality of life] conditions of Bolivian residents in Argentina.

- Do you believe Kirchner is part of the “new nationalism” current running through Latin America?

- Yes, of course, he’s part of the Latin American patriotic [current] since the moment he started to dignify Argentina by opposing the intrusion of the United States.

- The Bolivian opposition says that you have only changed dependence to the United States for dependence to Venezuela…

- There’s no dependence to Venezuela and Cuba, these to sister nations have expressed great and unconditional solidarity in favor of Latin American integration. And we recognize that help, for instance Cuba has helped us in the alphabetization issue just as countries like Holland, Denmark, Sweden or Canada. Italy or Spain helps us with road and irrigation projects, Argentina helped with medicine and food during natural disasters. I want to express my solidarity to the Argentinean airmen who have died in Bolivia for solidarity. Why does Podemos fear Hugo Chávez? Since Chávez has confronted the United States, the instruments of Bush’s empire, like Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, also confront Chávez. There’s no intromission, there is solidarity and cooperation, thanks to Venezuelan investment there’s going to be industrialization of our gas.

- Did the Chávez visits and his speeches in Bolivia damage the relationship with the United States’ embassy?

- The embassy and the US government have a defined line: attack, provoke and conspire against our governments. There’s an example, Leonilda Zurita, when she was a coca-grower leader she had a visa to the US and now that she’s a senator she doesn’t; the same with the water vice minister René Orellana. When the [US] diplomatic corps came to visit me only the ambassador was absent, and that night we invited congressmen, senators and ministers for a dinner. Those are provocations. Second, the North American military presence in Bolivia, camouflaged as qechua students, when according to trustworthy sources, they are doing intelligence. It’s not that the arrival of Chávez affects or doesn’t affect [relations], the United States’ position is defined: to conspire against our government.

- Colombia and Peru already signed a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, and Venezuela [Chávez] said “the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) is dead”, why insist in resuscitating a block in which you are now pro tempore president?

- If the CAN returned to its foundational principles, which are to strengthen the national and regional economies, it would be very different. CAN was weakened by the Free Trade Agreements, which destroy the small producer and the farming communities. We have the obligation to return to those principles and strengthen the block, but not to benefit the transnational economy, but the popular and communal economy of the Andean region.

- What is your balance after five months in the government?

- In five months we’ve consolidated as government and addressed social demands and, at the same time addressed structural issues. We have increased salaries and derogated labor flexibility; we advanced alphabetization, national ID and health policies for the poor, like Operation ‘Miracle’. All of this accompanied by strong austerity and anti-corruption measures. In the structural space, we’ve nationalized hydrocarbons and approved a law to call for the Constituent Assembly, which will‘re-found’ our country; in these five months we’ve followed the slogan of mandating while obeying and today we enjoy great support from the Bolivian people.

- A while ago, you declared to be comfortable with the “comrade president” or “brother president” denomination, what distinguishes Evo the president with Evo the syndicate leader?

-I feel I’m more of a syndicalist leader than President of the Republic, sometimes I don’t even believe I’m the president. I more like (Más me gusta) than they call me Evo, comrade Evo, given that it shows more trust. Presidential security used to call me Mr. President, now they only call me President or ‘Presi’. We eat as equals and that generated trust with people from the Police or the Armed Forces. Y don’t trust that ‘Mr. President’ thing, I like ‘brother president’ or ‘comrade president’, it’s part of the friendliness my comrades express.

- Why are you still president of the six Chapare coca-grower federations?

- It was the unanimous will of the six federations, besides it’s a guarantee for them, who are my extended family. Through my activities in the farmer’s union movement I learned my politics, we marched together, faced repression, mourned the dead and wounded of the Chapare, and we danced and partied our triumphs together. It’s something I’ll never forget. Because of that brotherhood I accepted the role as union directive,

- The medical corporations (?) reject the presence of Cuban physicians, what is the government’s response?

- Some doctors say “out with the Cubans”, but those doctors don’t have any feelings with the national majorities, the poor and the indigenous, who, for the first time have free healthcare (sic). The ophthalmologic centers built with Cuban cooperation have state-of-the-art technology, specialists and I’m very sorry that some doctors oppose the idea when the great majority of the population supports it. Bolivian doctors threat the indigenous as stinking pigs, while Cubans work with a lot of love and friendship.

- You recently accused the Unitel’s owners of acquiring land illegally, and announced your government would promote communitarian radios and alternative media, what is your relation with the press and other communicators?

- Businessmen shouldn’t be the only ones with access to the media, the poor, the farmers, also have the right to own their own communication channels. Today the only opposition we have is the big media corporations, who defend the interests of a fistful of families who lived off politics and concentrated the economic power. That has to change; they attack the popular movement and the MAS government every day.

- How far is your government going with the ‘agrarian revolution’?

- We are beginning to prepare the agrarian revolution, which is not a simple distribution or redistribution of land, but markets for the products and mechanization of the fields. We have begun with fiscal lands and we will continue with the latifundios that don’t have an economic function.

- Many people say ‘why would we want a constituent assembly, if we already have a president that represents the social movements’. What then is the constituent assembly for?

- The constituent assembly is not only to have an indigenous president, but to peacefully change the structure of the State, it’s to recover the territory and natural resources, incorporate communitarian justice –currently justice is corrupt- and re-found our nation incorporating the national majorities. That way we will reverse Bolivia’s original sin: having been founded excluding ninety percent of its population.

- During the [electoral] campaign, you declared yourself a socialist, are you still a socialist?

- Of course, that’s the goal.

Notes and Sources:

[1]. - Original interview by the Argentinean daily Página 12 available in as of July 10, 2006, original interview by Pablo Stefanoni. I have tried to keep Evo’s grammar and other language idiosyncrasies as close to the real thing as possible. This is certainly not the interview I (or any other non Evo-apologists) would have conducted, but there are some priceless pieces of demagoguery (the last line of paragraph 10 is specially touching) which shouldn’t go unrecorded. As always I encourage participation in the comments section.
Tag: South America, Bolivia, Intervie, Evo+Morales, Cuba, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela, Demagogia.


Mar said...

what is demagogery, besides one of our politics favorite word? what is proselitism?

Jonathan said...

del griego pue'... to lead the people by appealing to prejudice, fear and resentment (if not hatred) towards others, mix in some populism and there you have it, evospeak. Proselitism, como lo conocemos: politiquear y hacer campaña para un partido, the true definition; to try to convert someone to your beliefs, not that Evo does that, he's happy ony to "consolidate the base" any means necessary.

Miguel (MABB) said...

thanks for the translation!

Jonathan said...

De nada! There needed to be an updated interview in English. the last I found was pre presidential election.

Alvaro said...

Pagina12 siempre ha mostrado una tendencia super orientada al socialismo-izquierdismo. Este tipo de entrevistas son más que normales en este diario.

Boli-Nica said...

Que lastima que el tipo tenga ideas tan estupidas. Seria tremendo presidente si no fuera un dogmatico apegado a ideas tan desprestigiadas.

Y esa paranoia?
Dice recibir "informaciones fidedignas" sobre presencia de agentes de intelligencia gringos entre estudiantes. Si estan en lo correcto, solo personal de contra-intelligencia al nivel de los Cubanos tendrian la capacidad y informacion para detectarlos. O sera que le estan dando informacion falsa a proposito, o esta loco.

Jonathan said...

Lo que mayor "gracia" me causo fue lo de la cena para la embajada, osea que a Evo lo dejen plantado (casi) con la cena lista es una provocacion internacional. Dios nos salve de que el consul chileno no se lo cruce por la calle sin saludarlo, porque sino hay guerra!

federico said...

yo entiendo que ustedes tienen un punto de vista y tienen buenas intenciones. pero for the sake of dialogue, les tengo que decir que honestamente me duele su actitud, y desde mi opinion personal muestra una falta de entendimiento de nuestro pais. ojo, no estoy completamente a favor de Evo ni peor del MAS.

igualmente, gracias por la traduccion.

Jonathan said...

We (who may be perceived as critical of the current government) are at best commentators, the ones who should be willing to be open for dialogue are the policy makers - and in the case of Evo, he does not have the slightest intention of doing so. He prefers to divide and conquer. It's our right and obligation to protest this attitude, specially when it comes from our president.

HODAD26 said...

Viva Morales,
thanks for the translation, muchisimo
need to hang Bush and his cronies in public
how embarrasing for me to be from usa sometimes, when the norm is
arrogance,greed, ignorance, obesity, and xenophobia , especially in the South, where I am from
at least I am lucky, I moved to El Salvador in 1994,
in our disasters, the first to arrive, within hours in Venezuala and Cubans[incidentally, the most educated and health conscious people in the America's] I know
keep it going Sr. Morales,
and Viva El Frente


Evo Morales regala tierras a Chavez

El presidente de Bolivia mantiene su intención de quitar propiedades a
extranjeros y estatizarlas. Un acuerdo con su par venezolano muestra
para qué tipo de negocios utilizaría esos espacios.
Venezuela construirá dos instalaciones militares en Bolivia y
comprará bonos de ese país por cien millones de dólares, para
ayudarle a cubrir el déficit de su presupuesto, informó hoy una
fuente parlamentaria.
Los acuerdos pertinentes, además de otros dos de intercambio
tecnológico y ayuda para medios de comunicación, fueron aprobados
anoche en el plenario de ese cuerpo legislativo, dijo el presidente de
la comisión de Relaciones Exteriores de la Cámara de Diputados,
Michiaki Nagatani.
Según Nagatani, las fuerzas armadas venezolanas construirán un puerto
en Quijarro, sobre el río Paraguay, en la frontera con Brasil, y un
"fuerte militar" en la población de Riberalta, en el departamento
amazónico del Beni.
Según cálculos preliminares, el puerto costará 25 millones de
dólares y el "fuerte militar" otros 22 millones, pero aún se
desconoce si será una donación o un crédito venezolano, dijo el
diputado, que milita en el opositor Movimiento Nacionalista
Revolucionario (MNR).
El gobierno del presidente socialista Evo Morales ha negado que la
ayuda militar venezolana suponga "una injerencia o intromisión" en la
seguridad interna de Bolivia, como ha denunciado la oposición.