“If the Constituent Assembly goes bad, we will force it through"

At 44 years of age, the mayor of Achacachi, Eugenio Rojas Apaza, is being profiled as the replacement for Felipe Quispe, el Mallku, who use to be a campesino leader. His first great battle will be aimed at ensuring that the constituent assembly delegates bring together an assembly that is in harmony "with the will of the bases, the communities and the people".

How and when did you being your political activities?

After coming out of being a rural teacher in mathematics in Warisata, I studied sociology at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres where my lecturers were Alvaro Garcia, his ex-wife Raquel Gutierrez, the Paz brothers, Ricardo and Eduardo, Silvia Rivera, amongst others. Following that, I was a trade union leader and lecturer, but in the Goni era I was expelled by the Minster of Education Hugo Carvajal, who accused me of being a guerrilla. So they closed it down saying that inside they were teaching bad things.

After we expelled Goni, by invitation from another education minister, Donato Ayma, I returned to lecturing in Warisata and during that time the people encouraged me to run for the mayor of Achacachi. I had never though of doing such a thing, but I understood the enthusiasm of my brothers and sisters from the base, therefore I accepted. We won without any problems because we carried out the campaign on foot, we went with coca and our ch\'alla saying: "the time of the originarios has come". That is how we were able to win with a majority and now we want to launch ourselves even further, to work for the country.

Are you put yourself up to be the successor to Felipe Quispe?

Felipe is tired, what we have to do now is make sure we don't fight amongst ourselves. I don't want to fight with Felipe, I respect him, I am faithful to him, we have an ideological political agreement; the people say to me that I should take up the leadership that was left vacant by Felipe. I hear them and I have not interest in doing so, but if society needs it to be that way, we have to confront it and work, although Felipe has his own character.

You speak of working for the country. In what way would you do this?

We always work looking towards the national level, looking at Santa Cruz, Chaco, Pando, Beni. Although many say that the Aymaras want to dominate, it is not like that. The Aymaras respect the small nationalities that exist, the ethnic groups; we respect their cultural values, their politics, their form of economy, their self-management, but we need a common trunk at the national level, and that does not mean domination. A people can not speak however they feel like, they cannot be totally autonomous, we are a nation, we are a country that is very old, but united by its people.

What would be your first steps in making concrete your ideals for the country?

In the first place, we have to guarantee the Constituent Assembly, that is our objective. This Constituent Assembly needs to be carried out with a lot of care, it can not be carried through simply by the delegates, because that is where they were mistaken, saying that they could direct the country without returning to the base. Many of them do not know the necessities of the peoples, therefore the delegates should come down to the communities to consult the bases in open meetings and assemblies to get a sense of the sentiment of the peoples. That is the way to guarantee the success of the Constituent Assembly, but if it is going to be an assembly that only represents the political parties, it will end up finishing badly.

At the moment it is though that MAS is the party that is directing the assembly, and there is also PODEMOS which is going against MAS. Therefore here we have a fight between two political parties, the officialists and the opposition. If we work within this framework then the Constituent Assembly will be totally distorted and it won't have a future. Here we are not dealing with a problem of parties, that is why we believe the assembly delegates should resign from their party, because those from MAS will obey Evo Morales and those from PODEMOS will obey Tuto Quiroga. Then what are we left with? A fight between two people. This seems absurd to me, we need to consult with the people. That is why we are going to fight, so that the assembly delegates come down to the communities, so that it all finishes well.

Will you go to Sucre so that the assembly delegates hear you?

Firstly we are going to send some resolutions from our meetings and if they don't listen, we will send a commission to Sucre to explain – we will not go to blockade nor to hit anyone – we are going to go to explain our position to the assembly. For now we can not go, it is very hard to mobilise the people, it requires a lot of organisation because the movement of 2005 was prepared 10 years before. We have traveled through the communities, we have slept in the hills, we have been expelled from our communities, we have been persecuted and many of us were put in prison.

Do you see any influences inside the assembly?

It appears that the business owners, those who have always been in power, are exerting their influence. Given that we are millions, we need to guarantee the success of the Constituent Assembly, although we think that this assembly could fail because the political parties are involved, it appears as though the struggle is between two parties and this puts a lot of limitations on it and could make it fail.

If the assembly fails there will be another one sometime between now and 50 years from now. That is why we can't lose this one, we have to defend it no matter what.

Who are the "ponchos rojos" [red ponchos]"?

We are the ponchos rojos, the peoples, the youth, the older ones, those who work in our communities, our authorities who know that the ayllu lives on. The communities have lived through and guarantee our movements and as long as the communities exist we will always struggle until victory. We are organised, the organisations are present, they are alive. Therefore, it is simply a matter of coordinating a bit better and work towards mobilisations.

Are you talking about an armed confrontation between Bolivians?

If the Constituent Assembly fails, we will impose it by force; we have experience in making change. Evo Morales is president today not because of democracy, democracy in the form of the elections was the last instance, all of the social movements were the ones who made the changes, and it was through force, the massacre of Warisata, the killings in El Alto, the blockades of roads, all change was made through force.

We think that if this fails through good means, then we will have to confront each other. Although we believe that confrontation will be the last recourse; we have done it many times before and it is our only hope at the end, it would be the only thing left for the movements to do, change and confrontation, because we are millions.

Are you preparing the people for this?

We have always been prepared: we went to the quarters, our grandfathers, fathers and us, we went to the quarters. We were always organised, therefore it is simply a matter of calling on the social movements and taking up some strategies.

Translated from La Razon

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