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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Real Hope, From America Del Sur

Socialist Hero: Evo Morales

[Aside: It is a relief to get Noriega's mug off of the top of my blog. Gratifyingly, he is replaced by someone more representative of the hemisphere.]

I must share my pleasure with this article from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (h/t quebecdude commenting at FireDogLake.)

Go read it, of course. I am excerpting liberally, as it were, some of the more gratifying passages (yes, FaveB, I am baiting you.) Any emphases are mine.

The lede:
Evo Morales, Bolivia’s indigenous President, started his second term in January by declaring colonialism dead in his country. Morales emphasized that he has attempted to “eradicate all vestiges of colonial repression and discrimination against Bolivia's indigenous majority.” He certainly has, which is one reason why Morales was re-elected by a landslide in December 2009, with an impressive 67% of the vote. This was more than twice the vote obtained by his closest rival and makes him the most popular President in Bolivian history.
Declaring colonialism dead. Why can't we get presidents like that?
...[The indigenous] majority has long been kept in poverty and denied power, land, education, medical care, and even the use of its resources by a small white élite which has been a puppet of the U.S. government and multinational corporations...

...Morales highlighted the historic significance of the new constitution in his speech at the 2009 World Social Forum (held in Belem, Brazil), just days after the referendum:

“Sisters and brothers,” he said, “I want to let you all know that this Sunday past, in Bolivia, we have turned the page on neoliberalism and colonialism. Thanks in part to the social conscience of our people, we have placed a permanent block in our constitution that will prevent any future privatization of our natural resources as well as our social services. With this new state constitution, a product of 500 years of struggle, we have accomplished the full recognition of the rights of the indigenous and first peoples of Bolivia....”

...Tomas Huanacu represents the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu, or CONAMAQ, an important indigenous organization in Bolivia made up of the Aymara and Quechua nations. Ayllus are extended family communities; Markas cover a wider area, and Qullasuyu denotes the Bolivian highlands. Huanacu explained in a speech at the Belem World Social Forum:

“And where does this overriding right, this entitlement as indigenous peoples, come from? It stems from the understanding that we are the children of our Mother Nature, of our Pachamama. We need to turn away from that Western education model which domesticized us, which turned us into subordinates. We are stewards of these lands. We are the ones to whom the land belongs. Yet the invaders are the ones who live happy, they are the ones who are well fed. And they don't even make up fifty percent of the world's population. It is a mere five percent of humanity that controls us. We have to fight against this [injustice].”

Morales’s first significant step towards empowering native Bolivians was to ensure that they controlled their natural resources. On May 1, 2006, the President nationalized Bolivia’s oil and gas sector, which had been controlled by foreign multinational corporations. "The looting by the foreign companies has ended,” he declared. “The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia re-takes absolute control of our natural resources."...

...Morales made clear his opposition to capitalism in his speech at the Belem World Social Forum, when he said: “The world is being shaken by many crises: of finances, energy, climate, food, and institutions. But all of these crises are part of one big crisis that is being experienced by the capitalist system. If we, the peoples of the world, are not able to bury capitalism, this same capitalism will bury our planet.”...

...Along with the indigenous majority, the Morales government has also empowered another majority that is just as important: that of women. Half of Morales’s cabinet is made up of women. “The government of Evo Morales,” Rosemary Irusta explained, “has strongly helped empower women. Many of them have been placed in positions of influence."...

Sabina Gonzalez adds: “We see more women occupying positions as ministers, as prefectoral delegates; we see more women working in the ministries and the vice-ministries. And they are part of the decision-making process; they are not tokens, but make decisions; they have power. This is what we have witnessed. This is very important. We women are protagonists in this revolution. We have seen and facilitated, we have initiated and participated, and I believe we form a vital part of this revolutionary process.”...
He's a feminist! More fun:
...The success of the Bolivian revolution is a major defeat for U.S. imperialism, which has kept Bolivia poor and oppressed for decades. Bolivia has long been dominated by the United States, which has imposed on it brutal military dictatorships led by mass murderers, cocaine traffickers, and even Nazis. The U.S has treated Bolivia with such horrific contempt that it placed a notorious Nazi as a senior security assistant to two Bolivian dictatorships that Washington put in power. The Nazi was SS officer Klaus Barbie...
OK, I need a shower...
...When Morales came to power, the U.S. tried to overthrow him by using its ambassador, Phillip Goldberg, to foment a violent secessionist movement in the eastern provinces of Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni, and Tarija.

Morales reacted by expelling the U.S. ambassador and jailing the governor of Pando for killing 15 peasants. Morales has also kicked out the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Agency for International Development...
Kicked out the DEA? My man!
...According to [Rosemary] Irusta, “Gaining back our freedom from the imperialist powers has been very important, not only for our country, but also for the rest of Latin America. The right-wing has suffered a great shock to its economy, that sector they used to control; we the masses welcome this shock despite years of conditioning....
Behold the near future.

Last, and not least, Che!
The Bolivian victory over U.S. imperialism, so far, has been especially inspired by Che Guevara, Latin America’s most famous revolutionary. Guevara was killed in Bolivia in October 1967 by the U.S.-directed military. He had come to start the Latin American Revolution. In 2009, President Morales spoke at a tribute to the legendary guerilla hero, calling him “invincible in his ideals.” Morales added: “And in all this history, after so many years, Che inspires us to continue fighting, changing not only Bolivia, but all of Latin America and, better, the world.”


  1. Your Favorite BartenderMay 7, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Not a whole lot I can say here...but I don't want to disappoint...

    First, let’s see where they are in five years. The economy is now a world economy. It seems (at first reading) as if Morales is either interested in a completely isolationist system, which seems a little bit to be cutting off the nose to spite the face. I applaud them taking more control over their resources, but the last time I checked the cartels weren’t run by “Mike” typically, they were run by “Manuel” and the end point of those drugs was “Mike.” (wink wink).

    The oil on the other hand is absolutely a brilliant move…if it works. From everything I have read Morales is not simply a compelling figure, he’s a true believer, a leader who both inspires loyalty and values his people and their wishes. If he can keep the corruption that will (almost certainly) attempt to wiggle its way into a nationalized industry as potentially profitable as oil (and it’s not like any of the massive oil companies are going to care if they’re dealing with a true believer or genocidal dictator...) then it should be a massive advantage for the Bolivian economy, and finally give them something more profitable than blow to distribute.

    Now how that oil fits into the world economy is the question. Is Morales going to create “Bolivian Oil?” Do they operate their own wells, distribution, refining? This would require an insane investment by the government, but that doesn’t appear to be something Morales would shy away from. If not, then what? Let their biggest chip just sit there on the table? Let their biggest resource waste away?


  2. Your Favorite BartenderMay 7, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Ultimately that’s the biggest test here, and one that will indeed teach us lessons. People don’t get involved with the cartels because they think it will be a fun time any more than they get involved with the Bloods or Crips in Los Angeles because they think it’s fun. They do it because there aren’t any other options. If nationalized oil can provide those people better, more lucrative (not mention safer) jobs, perhaps that will be thing that will ultimately bring down the cartels (Lord knows the “war on drugs” hasn’t done it).

    The other option (if they aren’t going all isolationist) appears to be that Morales wants to rally the Latin Americas and get them working together. My first instinct was that this could end very much the same way the Middle East has. I have always found it interesting when people have talked about bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East, because if those peoples ever started actually working together, they’d pretty much be in the catbird seat world wide. They would control (most) of the world’s most valuable resource (oil), they (for the moment) control what could very easily be two of the biggest hubs for shipping and travel in the world economy (Dubai and Cairo), and they would (because of the two aforementioned items) hold such a massive sphere of influence over (at least) three continents that the world would pretty much have no choice but to genuflect to them.

    But they all hate each other, and can’t work together.

    Latin America, however, does not have the deep seated religious hatred of one another that the Middle East does. If Morales can rally the Latin American countries to work together and pool their resources they could become a major player in the world economy, and do it on their own terms.

  3. Do you see that are analyzing from the framing of a capitalist mind? Try looking at it without measuring "success" in capital or $$$. See where it takes you.

    "We need to turn away from that Western education model which domesticized us, which turned us into subordinates. - Morales"

    "We" is me and you, you know.

  4. Your Favorite BartenderMay 10, 2010 at 7:51 AM

    I'd love to turn away from the idea that "success" is measured in dollars, but dollars are critical to the success that Morales wants to achieve.

    I'm not talking about Bolivia becominga world economic power, I'm talking about the (amazing) social programs that Morales wants to implement.

    These cost money, and as she wants many (if not most) of these programs to be funded by the government, that means that the government needs capital.

    Which is why I think, specifically, that the government takeover of the oil industry is brilliant. In an industry ripe with corruption and price gouging, Morales has the ability to kill two birds with one stone (cleaning up the industry and providing much needed dollars for the programs).

    If it is done correctly, this should (but won't, we know it won't ever happen, please let me know that you are aware this WILL NEVER HAPPEN in the US) become a template for how to take a private enterprise that is horrible, convert it to a government controlled business, and use it to A) help a struggling economy and B) provide useful and needed programs to a country's people.

    This might...check that...ABSOLUTELY WOULD be deemed "socialist" be some, most of whom have no earthly idea what actual socialism is. Screw them, I'm rooting for Morales. I'd love nothing more than for this thing to work. My only worry is that it will require a group of incredibly intelligent people to make it work, and unfortunately incredibly intelligent people have a nasty habit of finding ways for it to work...for them.

  5. I take your points, but I have a longer view. Providing for basic human rights - what you call "social programs" - need money only because the world is still nominally capitalistic, and countries like Bolivia are held hostage to the dollar. Capitalism's isolation of, and aggression towards, socialistic movements throughout the 20th century are a testament to this.

    Capitalism, however, will eat itself eventually (the feast has begun).

    As for whether or not it will happen in the U.S., well it depends on what your definition of the U.S. is. Serious economic collapse will render D.C. irrelevant to the country, and local pockets of humanity could very well decide to throw off the yoke of capitalism.

    Basic human rights should not cost money. We will eventually be taking care of each other properly, directly, with no need to "buy" services.

    This prediction is certain - it is the "when" that is in question. Certainly not in my lifetime, but (barring complete self-immolation) humanity will evolve to live the verities that we have long known.

    As for "intelligence" - such cleverness is perhaps necessary, again, because we are wading in capitalistic waters, and we have to navigate its sociopathic hazards. Doing the right thing by each other requires no special talents.

    I am heartened that you are rooting for the socialist. I hope the people of this country come out of the fog soon and begin to see how Castro and others have been unfairly demonized, again, in the interests of capitalism.

    Thank you again for coming by, FaveB.

  6. Your Favorite BartenderMay 11, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    I appreciate the longer view, but capitalist or socialist, human beings are relatively simple in the way they react. If it works, it it appears to give me pleasure/security/peace then I'll do it again. If it doesn't work, if it appears to hurt/scare/kill me or those I love, I won't do it again. As a species we tend NOT to have the longer view. Morales will get some leash from those who follow him, but if his economy collapses they will rebel (just as he is leading a rebellion against capitalism and puppetism...not a word, I'm aware...I'm starting a trend, check twitter), particularly if that person can cut people some big checks while Morales is asking them to survive on national pride. I'm rooting for him, but wouldn't bet on him.

  7. The very fact that we can observe our own nature and talk all "meta" about it means that we are not locked into that nature.

    There is nothing simple about us, but plenty simple about our poorly-educated world-view. That world-view is plastic, and can be improved upon.

    There has to be a critical mass, a tipping point of maturity and wisdom among us. The individuals already exist. They've been popping up over the centuries, often, but not always, slapped down. When they have some measure of success, their message resonates throughout history. You know their names (albeit, many work quietly and anonymously - helps in avoiding that "slapping down" bit.)

    New post up - should explode your head pretty nicely.

  8. Your Favorite BartenderMay 11, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    I agree with you that there is a tipping point, and that individuals pop up throughout history, and that often but not always, they are slapped down. I think what I'm hoping for is that a couple of these people can pop up at the same time, and that they can actually start a movement, and who knows when that next person will pop I want Morales to have success, and last long enough that the next one (and the one after that and the one after that) can get some traction...that's when people like myself will finally have the cajones to climb on the bandwagon...

    Saw the new post, still trying to digest it...head hurts...

  9. OK, J... oops, almost lost it there...

    OK, FaveB, you've given me some red meat with your (very positive) input here.

    You say:

    "I think what I'm hoping for is that a couple of these people can pop up at the same time, and that they can actually start a movement..."

    With this statement, with all of its laudable sincerity and concern, you reveal the essential flaw in our collective diamond, at the moment. It is still a search for leadership, and part of the essential requirements of true human wisdom is that all such quests come to an end.

    The tired maxim that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" illustrates that we should move beyond tempting mere human beings to be overlords in any sense. Now, I know you are not asking for this - none of us do - but human beings cannot help but be bent by power. Power should be eschewed, absolutely and completely and forever. It is The Problem, and The Problem is as much a responsibility of the "victims" of power as it is the perpetrators... it is we who are still in thrall and enable the whole goddamned paradigm!

    Can you see?

    When we are personally responsible, in our guts, for whatever is happening around us, with no "hired help" (be they bosses or servants) to "deal with it," this will be a measure of the maturity and wisdom. If you want something done right, do it yourself... right?!

    Waiting for "someone to come along" will be so passe.

  10. Your Favorite BartenderMay 12, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    Now wait a second, you're sitting here saying, essentially, that we as Americans, should change what has become, after a couple of know...the ENTIRE time we've actually been "Americans" our very being (capitalism). Something that is very much ingrained in us since almost literally birth is supposed to magically change.

    But at the same time you don't think we can overcome the "absolute power corrupts absolutely?"

    Do you have faith in the human being's ability to change, or do you not?

  11. But at the same time you don't think we can overcome the "absolute power corrupts absolutely?"

    Do you have faith in the human being's ability to change, or do you not?

    What a bizarre pair of questions! Of course I think people can change. When one discovers a poison, one eschews it. One does not do a physiological morph so that the poison is now sugar!

    Possible change vs. impossible change.

    Power is poison. And frankly, so is "leadership," which makes both the givers and the takers of the poison sick.

  12. Your Favorite BartenderMay 12, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    You don't recognize the dicotomy there? Why is it that power MUST be poison? Have there not been examples of leaders who did not let the power steer them in the wrong way? Ghandi comes to mind. I simply don't understand how it is that one thing (eschewing our capitalist instincts) is so achieveable, but the other (not turning into a complete asshole when we achieve some level of power) is so NOT achieveable!
    (Maybe I'm just jealous of all the attention you're giving to the Conservative jackweed...I NEVER got a two panel response!)

    Whatever, I'm totally the moderate middle here now...I am the warm soft center in this casserole! I can generate bipartisan...well...I guess support is the wrong word since neither one of you agree with me...I can bridge the chasm! You can come together over a mutual disdain for me!

    (Come and get me Conservative guy!)


I welcome all reactions and points of view, so comments here are not moderated. Cheerfully "colorful" language is great. I'll even tolerate some ad hominem directed against me... each other, not so much. Racist or excessively abusive comments (or spam) will be deleted at my discretion.