''Some thought we would be a government without future,'' he said. ''Others asked how a campesino could end up being president.''
While Morales spoke, and some La Paz residents danced in the streets to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of the first indigenous president in a country that is 65 percent indigenous, Bolivians of all political stripes looked back on his challenging first year.
Morales' anniversary came just 11 days after street battles in
The clash illustrated the polarization between
Commentary on Morales' first year reflected this polarization, with his opponents and much of the media accusing Morales of heightening ''racism'' and confrontation within the country, and his supporters detailing his success at improving the lives of Bolivia's poor, and in promoting the indigenous culture and tradition of the country.
Morales' critics point to the
Walter Guiteras, of the opposition party Podemos, accused Morales of ''totalitarianism'' and of relying too much on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Cuban government.
''Morales is a captive of Aymaran fundamentalism,'' he said in an interview with La Razon, ''and this has put the Eastern region, the middle class, and business people at risk.''
Other analysts disagreed, saying Morales' government contained ''unionist'' and ''indigenist'' forces that were sometimes at odds with each other.
Guiteras, along with other opposition party members, joined with Morales' supporters in congratulating Morales on his nationalization of
For Morales supporters like Quechuan political analyst Juvenal Quispe, Morales has begun important steps in distributing economic benefits to the poor, in a country where 64 percent of its people live in poverty.
In his 12 months of office, Morales has reduced the salaries of government officials, including his own; cut energy rates for the poor; raised the salaries of doctors and teachers; instituted literacy programs for 300,000 people; and imported volunteer Cuban doctors who have provided free medical care. He recently announced state medical insurance for young people and the elderly.
In addition to nationalizing Bolivia's natural gas resources, he has broken up the unproductive estates of large landowners and put territory into the collective hands of indigenous campesinos, the descendants of people who were forced to work these lands as slaves for many years.
In his constitutional assembly, Morales has promised to refound
For some indigenous activists, Morales and his constitution have not gone far enough.
''Currently the political constitution of the Bolivian state says it is multi-ethnic,'' concluded a commission of the Continental Indigenous Encounter in October, held in
The commission went on to state that Morales had not included enough indigenous representation in the current constitutional assembly, and urged a separate, indigenous constitutional assembly.
For Quispe, Morales' greatest achievement has been in shifting the identity of
''Evo Morales, for the virtues, the dreams and the identity that he incarnates, woke up in the stigmatized indigenous people the pride and the will to be authentic,'' he wrote in a recent e-mail.
For Quispe, the combative attitude of the wealthier people in the east shows their unwillingness to give up power and privilege.
''The rich don't want to admit that an Indian is teaching them how to govern,'' he said.
However, Quispe agreed with some of Morales' opponents that his governing style had been at times too confrontative.
Morales has strained relations with the United States with his nationalization of natural resources and his efforts to legalize the coca plant, which the U.S. government claims is threatening its war on drugs.
In January, ''in the framework of dignity and reciprocity,'' he said he would require a visa for the entry of
In response to the street battles of
On Jan. 25, he replaced seven of his ministers and vowed to work on achieving consensus within the country, a move that was criticized by one former minister, Felix Patsi, who feels a consensual attitude will slow the process of
Current polls show Morales' popularity at 59 percent, with 35 percent in the eastern regions and more than 80 percent in the largely Aymara district of El Alto in
Republished from Indian Country Today