"In Bolivia, what we have is an indigenous nationalism"

Interview with Pablo Stefanoni and Herve Do Alto, authors of "Evo Morales, from coca to the Palace" by Abdel Padilla, Semanario Pulso

What ideological source has influence the Movement Towards Socialism the most - revolutionary nationalism or katarismo (indigenism)?

Both sources are central and it is difficult to establish at the ideological level which is predominate. In fact, in the cabinet we can see ministers who belong to a more nationalist tendency, such as [Minister for Hydrocarbons] Andres Soliz, or those who, on the other hand, are closer to indigenism, such as [Education Minister] Felix Patzi or [Foreign Minister] David Choquehuanca.

What about at the operative level?

We believe that primary here is revolutionary nationalism given that the principal measures carried out by the government, such as nationalisation , have this influence. Overall, it is already a nationalism hegemonised by the indigenous campesino movements and no longer by the urban middle classes. Therefore, it is a new nationalism, an indigenous nationalism

Has the assimilation of indigenous peoples as a historical subject been achieved or does the image of campesinos predominate?

Both visions are also combined because the border is very diffuse between who is indigenous and who is a campesino. What there is, for the moment, is an indigenisation of campesinos, perhaps because the discourse tends to be each time more indigenised

The book mentions that MAS is a reformist left, therefore it is not in a phase of transition towards a socialist state but rather a deepening of democracy, yet some ideologists from the movement, such as the actual vice president Alvaro Garcia, seem to not be so sure of this and are wagering rather to strengthen the state in favour of a future vision which is more communitarian…..

Firstly, we say it is reformist because no tendency within MAS, and generally, in any Bolivian social movement is putting forward a revolutionary and socialist perspective which would transform in a radical way the capitalist structure. What does exist is demands for profound reforms within the framework of capitalism. A capitalism in which the state recuperates a protagonistic role, especially in the exploitation of natural resources. The position of Garcia Linera, that of andean capitalism, is still not, as he himself says, a rigorous formulation. Secondly, revolution in stages, which in our case, would be strengthening andean capitalism to later think about socialism, has never occurred in any country….

Is this a caudilloist movement?

The new emergent nationalisms in Latin America, as in the case of Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales, are based on the figures of leaders. On the other side, traditional Bolivian politics is very caudilloist, nevertheless in the case of MAS it is a caudilloism reigned in by the social movements, in front of whom the supposed caudillo, in this case Evo Morales, has to answer to in a manner which is not very normal for Latin American populist caudillos. Nor Peron nor Velasco Alvarado, nor Getulio Vargas had to do it. There are many decisions which are centralised in Evo Morales, which at different times he has to answer for. This shows that there is a type of double power between state and social movements, which is not usual for Latin American populism.

In the book you warn, however, of the appearance of forms clientalist or buying off as a product of this centralisation of decisions…

There is a tradition in the world of Bolivian politics based on clientalism and this has maintained itself, but is less strong. Obviously there are sectors who are in MAS in exchange for some particular benefit. This logic is difficult to resolve whilst poverty and unemployment persist…

Pablo Stefanoni y Hervé Do Alto, "Evo Morales, de la coca al Palacio", Malatesta,
La Paz, 2006

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