MAS’ decisive victory in Bolivia is a positive step forward for Bolivia. No one believes for a second that miracles will happen overnight (well, some think it should, but more on that later), but more than half of the country desperately wanted a change from the mess that the traditional political parties and politicians left behind. No candidate ever reached such a vote total of over 50% and because of that, there is a clear mandate to fundamentally change the way the system operates. The way the system operated was the the poor, rural and marginalized were deemed second class citizens in a country, where the indigneous groups were the majority of the population. But one sure couldn’t tell that by seeing who ruled the country and the way large corporations had their way with the natural resources through exploitation under terms agreed upon by politicians with no concern with the Bolivian people. And NO, (despite the name) pure socialism is not the goal of this government.
It was amazing to see how a feeling of fear was created through a “guerra sucia” during the campaigning. Late in the campaign, in the Zona Sud of La Paz and in Cochabamba, some ingenious individuals spraypainted the walls of large houses and businesses claiming it as “Social Property of MAS”, hoping to lead some to believe that MAS supporters were getting ahead of themselves by scouting out prime properties. Many people were incorrectly afraid that private property would be expropriated and reverted back to the state. It is unfortunate that the name Morales borrowed “Movement Toward Socialism” stuck, because what has been reiterated on the television interviews and post election press conferences that the private property and business will not only be respected, but they will be protected. The only property that will be returned to the state are the large estates that are unproductive and in many cases, were dished out to a few families through presidential decree. This concept is nothing new as it already exists in the INRA Law.
The television channel Unitel was tremendously biased towards the campaign of Tuto Quiroga. In fact, they went out of their way to discredit Evo Morales. For example, often during the news programs, the channel would summarize the words of the speaker at a press conference and place subtitles under the image. In one interview, Morales said that “he didn’t believe in private investment that sought to rip off the Bolivian state”. Unitel would summarize his words as “Morales does not believe in private investment”.
It is amazing to see how subjectivity has entered the world of journalism and continues throughout different blogs. Adjectives seem to be a favorite tool of some writers. Nearly every single headline or story continues some variance of ” (Insert adjectives here) Evo Morales Wins Presidential Elections in Bolivia.” Some of the favorite descriptive terms used are cocalero, llama farmer, indigenous, anti-US, and some have even used far-left radical, which one can safely say is clearly a matter of opinion. How many times in the US do journalists label George W Bush as Far-right radical Bush? There are many who hold that opinion, but if a journalist would dare use that adjective, it would be highly questioned.
Did you know that many so-called Trotskos (Trotsky-ites), those considered to be even farther left than MAS despise him? If Morales is far-left, what are the COB, Jaime Solares and other Trotskos? Perhaps they circled all the way around and are right-wingers again. Many of these groups are already giving a MAS administration deadlines to when all the problems of the country should be solved. Thirty days, they say, or else measures of pressure will be implemented. I wonder if they voted for Felipe Quispe, who said during his close of campaign that if elected, all of the country’s problems would be solved in 5 days max.
Anyone who has followed this blog knows how critical I have been of Morales in the past. I always have higher expectations for the left. However, my two weeks in rural Bolivia really changed the way I looked at my own opinions and I admit that I got too comfortable in giving my opinions without taking a look at what I am doing to affect change in Bolivia. If I wanted things to stay the same, make sure that I could find cheap labor, pay miniscule amounts for goods and maintain the social status that my family retains, then sure I would vote for the status quo, which means Tuto Quiroga. I truly believe that Morales holds genuine concern for those who are powerless and at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. I believe that Quiroga holds genuine concern in maintaining the status quo for him and the rest of those who joined the coalition of convenience, PODEMOS.
Some like to paint him as part of this unholy alliance with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, but as underreported, he has friendships and alliances with Lula de Silva, the Spanish government, and recently received an invitation from Nelson Mandela (who coincidentally received the same peace prize from Libyan leader Gaddahfi that Morales received).
Finally, the dirty propaganda war painted Morales as a narcotrafficker, but don’t you think after these ten years that there would have been some proof? Ironically, it has been the traditional political parties that have been accused of having ties with drug dealers. Jaime Paz Zamora’s (ex-MIR and part of every government until 2003) right hand man, Oscar Eid Franco, spent time in jail for his ties with drug barons. Zamora was supported by Tuto during his Prefectual run in Tarija. Many, many MIR transfugas made up part of PODEMOS. Yet, Morales is the one with drug ties, correct?
I would never deny the fact that I considered myself a leftist liberal and find nothing wrong with that label. In the end, I consider myself someone who does not live my life only for myself. I see hundreds of thousands who do not live like I do and that bothers me. Morales in office will not suddenly give college diplomas to cocaleros or improve living conditions of obreros. But it will help change the dynamics in the country so that the marginalized in this country will gain the confidence to feel equals with those like me who have ruled this country.
Sure, I know this sounds all sappy and nostalgic, but the plan for the country seems sound and I feel reassured that there are thousands of professionals, businessmen, intellectuals who are supporting MAS.
Every single candidate said that they were the candidate of change, which was a way to recognize that the system was corrupt. But in the end, MAS was the only alternative left to attempt to make those changes. There will certainly be bumps along the way, but the way that many are painting Morales in the media and in blogs has been very frustrating. It is far too easy to criticize from afar and do nothing about the current situation in Bolivia. People say that the country should now give MAS a chance to see what they can do, but I say, we are all in this together.