Changing the World from a Bicycle

By Luis Baez and Pedro de la Hoz

The first time we spoke with Evo Morales in La Paz on a cold night in the austral winter of 2008, one of us, after finding out the birth date of our host, mentioned: “That same day in Havana Fidel summoned the people to create the Revolutionary National Militia.” The Bolivian President nodded, and after a short silence added: “That means I’m also a militiaman.”

Fifty years after his birth, on October 26th 1959, Evo will surely “celebrate” his birthday embroiled in one of his regular rounds. He will get up at four o’clock in the morning, dispatch the first items an hour later and be immersed in a whirlwind of work until well into the night.

Maybe he will travel to some part of Bolivia to inaugurate a facility, supervise a program, talk with residents, correcting outlooks, righting wrongs, and envisioning new possibilities for his people.

Since January 2006, Evo has been the President of all Bolivians. He won the presidency with more than 53% of the vote and was ratified by a referendum in August 2008 by an overwhelming majority.

Since the elections held on December 6th, the very first to be conducted under the new State Political Constitution, no other candidate seems capable of defeating him. In favour of Evo, there is an unprecedented trail of developments in the history of his country in terms of social justice, production incentives, education and health. He has restored the dignity of a people who have at last managed to benefit from all the profits coming from the exploitation of hydrocarbon and mineral resources. And the dignity of the descendants of the original settlers-Aymara, Quechua, Guarani and some thirty-indigenous ethnic communities -, who along with his government have gone from long suffered invisibility and denial to collective leadership participation.

Senator Antonio Peredo, who is also a policy analyst in the media, commented:

“At this moment I cannot see any consistent, serious figure, other than Evo, because the only program on the Right is to go back in time. The only program they hold is that U.S.  accepts us, that the D.E.A. again faces up to the coca growers, that nationalization is fine in theory but why nationalize if we have no capital and surrender our natural resources to the lowest bidder, and other old ideas like that. The opposition has run out of arguments. They cannot tell the people that they will keep the changes, and the people are convinced that the right path is to change and the only one who can do that is Evo Morales. “

This does not mean that such a path is clear. On the contrary, there are hovering manoeuvres and threats. In an exclusive interview, Juan Ramon Quintana, Minister of the Presidency, offered his views: 

“When you think of the great enemy, one must be careful to remember that the enemy does not have the virtue of political transparency, but the cunning of not offering itself as the great opponent and uses third parties. I could say that our opponents are politically palatable because they are incapable of producing an alternative project to the one we have. They are opponents ashamed of their reality, they have no identity, not even a doctrine of their own; their proposals are the result of external speculations, so they follow a script given them; therefore, they do not concern us much. What worry us are the great enemies of this Revolution:  once there were the transnationals until we hit them. Later they shifted to political secessionist projects but bit the dust. Today they are harassing us from the shadows, but we know who is behind this. Of course, they are using all unimaginable methods to undermine this process and, clearly, there was a prefecture civic coup; and then, they shifted from that coup attempt to a separatist terrorist coup adventure. I warn that that could lead to suicidal adventures. 

Evo received one great birthday present on the eve of the ALBA Summit held in Cochabamba last weekend. Comrade Fidel’s reflection entitled “A Nobel Prize for Evo” offered Cuban and world readers a very accurate profile of the Bolivian President’s merits.

On another night of confessions, Evo told us that sometimes he dreamed of Fidel, and as he had learned from his ancestors, the dreams were premonitions. We asked him to recall the first time he met the Commander in Chief: 

“It was at a ceremony held in Havana in 1992, he said. With the help of several friends I got together the money to buy a one-way air ticket to Havana. I travelled to Havana to visit Cuba and meet Fidel. I delivered a three-minute speech and Fidel was chairing the meeting. I did not get to greet him, but later I learned that he had noticed me. The return trip was complicated. I got a ticket to Lima, where I arrived with one dollar in my pocket and I exchanged it into Peruvian sols. Fortunately, a Peruvian friend, Juan Rojas, lent me a hundred dollars to cover the leg back to Bolivia. ” 

What about later?

“I have had several meetings with Fidel. He is the wise elder brother, whose basic principle is solidarity and the struggle for dignity and justice. Fidel is the best doctor in the world. You have to see how he cares about others’ health, and he is also a great teacher. I feel that Fidel is the Commander of the liberation forces of America.”

The day Evo was elected as the head of his union in the Chapare coca plantations – previously he had been sports secretary and later, and still is, chairman of the six Union Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba – he did not have the money to travel by bus to the assembly being held in Villa Tunari.

“I went by bike, he told us, and it was several miles away. I was riding along and thinking at the same time. Ideas were sprouting in the air. I thought that the world could not go on like that, very few having a lot and the majority having nothing. It became clear to me that our struggle would be anti-imperialist.” 

In the international arena, Evo has built up an impressive reputation for his diaphanous positions and ethical verticality in the defence of the dispossessed and Mother Earth. He has even earned good assessments from politicians, as was the case with former U.S. president Bill Clinton. According to an EFE news agency report on  May 16th  2006, he was asked during a press conference in New York what he thought about the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the situation in that South American country. Clinton responded in turn with a question: “What if I were a Bolivian miner who works 60 hours per week and has to feed four children, who have no prospect of progress?” Who would you vote for? ” 

Evo also regards Hugo Chavez as a brother. Chavez is reciprocal. At the recent bicentenary commemoration of the libertarian outcry for freedom in La Paz, he said:

“I see Evo stronger than ever, more clearly than ever, much more a leader than ever. Support him!  Do not listen to those voices of the oligarchy, which seeks to demonize him and confuse the people every day. (…) Join him with love and map out and build the great Bolivia of the 21st Century.”

Many things in this world amaze Evo. His supreme values are openness, honesty, decency and respect for the elderly. He does not stand for vanity or lying. He enjoys listening to various opinions before acting. In Cuba, he told us in confidence, he would just make one personal plea: “Let Silvio come to sing here.”

Source: Granma Daily

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