Bolivia’s Morales rallies immigrants in Spain

By Paul Day

MADRID, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Bolivian President Evo Morales on Sunday told thousands of legal and illegal Latin American immigrants during a visit to Spain that he would push to have the rights of all to legal status recognised.

The speech in a bullring in a working-class neighbourhood of Madrid was clearly pitched at the Bolivian electorate ahead of a Dec. 6 general election which Morales is expected to win easily, although he may struggle to win control of the legislature.

Around 100,000 Bolivians have legal residence in Spain, with a further estimated 150,000 living there illegally, but many do not have the right to vote in the Bolivian general election.

“When the Spanish and Europeans came to Bolivia, nobody ever called them illegal. To declare immigrants illegal is a serious error,” Morales said to loud applause and chants of “Evo! Evo!”

“We are working with the United Nations to reach an agreement so workers, who contribute socially and economically, are no longer considered illegal,” the former cocoa farmer said.

Many Bolivians attending the event said they had difficulties securing work visas and consequently experienced problems finding work and abuse from authorities.

“We feel like criminals for not having papers, and we’re treated like criminals. We’re here to find out what the government can do to help us,” said Bolivian construction worker Nemecio Vidal, 58.

Vidal is returning home next month after living in Spain for five years and having his application for work papers repeatedly rejected.

Early polls in Bolivia already show Morales, an Aymara Indian from a poor background, way ahead of the competition though he will need a resounding victory to dominate the legislature. [ID: nN08282304]

On his first visit to Spain since he became president, Morales will meet Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, King Juan Carlos and Bolivian business leaders.

“This visit is just propaganda to win votes back home. If Evo reaches agreements which will help Bolivian immigrants, he’ll win votes,” said auto parts worker Rolando Callisaya Paz, 20, who has been in Spain three years but is set to return soon. (Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

Source: Reuters India


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