Alfredo Rada “We are a government that is faithful to its roots”

Marcelo Guevara, January 21, La Epoca

The deputy minister for Coordination with the Social Movements, Alfredo Rada, is a man of few words when it comes to expressing opinions.

He does so, however, with the depth that comes from his knowledge of the strategy of this government and its most varied and controversial proposals for 2007.

La Epoca sought his opinions on the first year of administration by President Evo Morales, which began with his historic inauguration on January 22, 2006.

La Epoca: After one year, to what degree has the indigenous Head of State fulfilled the promises made in the election campaign?

During this period the program of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), which put forward some ten points, has been carried out to a considerable degree.

One demand was for the establishment of a Constituent Assembly as a body for the refoundation of the Bolivian State. In this regard, the Assembly has displayed the potentialities of its plenipotentiary and sovereign character, in spite of the attacks from the opposition from the very moment it was convened.

Since the installation of the Assembly in Sucre last August 6, I think it is safe to say that this relatively democratic environment has been strengthened and recovered its legitimacy.

At the moment the commissions charged with drafting the new Political Constitution of the State have been formed. And the directorate of the Assembly, notwithstanding all the attacks from the opposition and the conventional parties, has held to its course.

So we feel optimistic that this forum will be able to submit the draft of the future Magna Carta by August of this year, for approval by the people in a national referendum at the end of the year.

A second point in Evo’s commitments to the social movements was the nationalization of hydrocarbons. On that front, the MAS proposed to the country a nationalization that combined the implementation of the new Hydrocarbons Law, the current Constitution and the action of the masses.

The result has been highly beneficial for Bolivians, as is demonstrated by the high revenues now accruing to the State through the signing of new contracts with the foreign companies operating in the country.

And we have adhered to the principle promoted by our President that “we want partners, not bosses.”

This maxim has been expressed concretely with the new rules ensuring that these firms are no longer in control of our hydrocarbon resources, and are converted into service providers to the national state through YPFB [the state oil and gas company].

A third, very important aspect is the beginning of a process of recovery of our mining resources, with the formation of a new company in the southern region of Huanuni.

A key component of this program is the reincorporation into the workforce of more than 5,000 miners, former cooperative members, and the refoundation of Comibol [the state-owned mining company].

In barely two months, the state mining company was producing profits, which speaks for itself, because the new policy in this industry will begin to be strengthened in 2007.

Another theme in the commitments this government made to its people is the Agrarian Reform, but going beyond the classic concept of this transformation. In that respect, President Morales has advanced the idea of an agrarian revolution that, in addition to redistributing lands and handing out titles, involves the mechanization of agriculture, the search for markets and government support to producers.

And the government has complied with its Andres Ibáñez proposal on autonomous regions, and the fight against corruption, with the recent bill tabled in the Parliament, referred to as the Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz bill.

La Epoca: If we turn to concrete achievements in the economic and social fields, which would you mention?

I would have to mention, firstly, that the government has demonstrated in barely 12 months that it is possible to achieve economic and social stability. This has been achieved without tax hikes, wage cuts or new gas taxes.

On the other hand, in this first stage it should be noted that the national minimum wage and the pay of teachers and healthcare workers have been increased, as have pensioners’ incomes.

In one year of government, substantial revenues from the nationalization of hydrocarbons and their contribution to the nation’s overall finances have enabled us to overcome the chronic situation of fiscal deficit and we are now able to show a surplus, the first for Bolivia since 1970.

These results confirm that it is possible to manage the economy without having to apply neoliberal policies.

And in social policy we have managed to restore compliance with workers’ rights that were flouted by previous governments.

Similarly, in health policy we were able to go beyond the National Health system. In healthcare, 2007 will also be the year of furthering Bolivians’ access to more and better health services through new programs and a draft bill now before Parliament.

On the other hand, I think that the “Tarifa Dignidad” [Dignity Rate] on electric energy service and the new mobile phone regulations means we can guarantee better living standards for Bolivians.

La Epoca: And what is still needed ...

In the particular case of my responsibilities, there must be improvements in 2007 in the government’s mechanisms of coordination with the social movements, especially in the political sphere.

To do this, the founding of the National Political Coalition for Change is of decisive importance, since grouped within it are representatives of the Executive, the social movements and the MAS members of the Constituent Assembly and Legislature on the basis of a unitary line of march.

Another challenge for the national government is the necessary reforms needed to the pension system. This is a reform that will be handled responsibly with the objective of protecting individual savings, as well as strengthening a state savings system in the employment sector.

We intend as well to transform the educational system in Bolivia through the Elizardo Pérez and Avelino Siñani Law, tabled in the Parliament and subject to amendment based on a full and frank debate with the society as a whole.

And 2007 will the year of consolidation of the new mining policy and we can assured that those transformations, will not be traumatic since they will take account of the interests of all the sectors involved in the development of this industry.

In the year that has just begun, the Constituent Assembly will be delivering to us the draft of the new Constitution, which Bolivians must approve in a national referendum.

And 2007 is the year of Bolivia’s insertion internationally, given that we are assuming the pro tempore presidency of the CAN [the Community of Andean Nations] and we are striving to become a full member of Mercosur.

At the last summit of the South American Community of Nations (CSN), the heads of state agreed to make Cochabamba the seat of the South American Parliament, which implies playing an important political role in the region.

However, to meet all these challenges it is necessary to establish democratic stability in the country, and to that effect this government is prepared to create all the necessary procedures for joint action and openness to dialogue.

With this aim, we are talking with the regions, the business sector, the governors and the social movements to establish a climate favourable to a process of change that is irreversible.

La Epoca: In his inaugural speech, Morales mentioned a number of martyrs who have paved the way, including the Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara.

These are emblematic figures who symbolize principles. We are a government that is faithful to those principles, to its roots. All of those martyrs mentioned by President Evo Morales, such as Tupak Katarí, Marcelo Quiroga, Bartolina Sisa, but also Andres Ibáñez, serve to remind us of the need to defend the principles of social justice in the midst of profound changes.

Translated from La Epoca, edition 268, 21-28 January, 2007

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