When I was in high school in the 1970s, Latin Americans were taking back democracy from military dictatorships. Practically everyone in my high school was on the left. I was a participant in the political awakening of those times. Back then, you couldn't excite people if you didn't talk about Lenin, Trotsky, Hegel, or Gramsci.
In 1979 I witnessed the first siege of the city of
Three things have fascinated me about the indigenous world ever since: first, the history of their struggle for equality, for Indians and non-Indians to be equals before the state and society; second, the question of how to create mechanisms for correcting mistakes in the management of our state and society that have done injustice to the indigenous world; and third, the communal component of indigenous social structures, which I consider to be a vein of a future postcapitalist society, a tiny, almost invisible vein that is nonetheless present.
I don't have a romanticized idea of the indigenous world: in the indigenous world there are social classes, personal appetites, personal interests, divisions and injustices, but deep down there is also a small, communal nucleus that could be strengthened.
A goal of Evo Morales's government is to improve the lives of
Last week I was visiting a town in Potosí with the president. A young peasant boy, who couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old, walked up to the president. He was wearing his best poncho because the president was there. The president asked him if he'd received his Juancito Pinto voucher yet, and the boy said, "Yes." Then the president asked, "What are you going to do with the 200 bolivianos?" And the boy responded very proudly, "I'm going to prepare myself to be like you, Mr. President."
Indians used to see themselves as servants, peasants, laborers, or in a best-case scenario, as salaried workers. That would be the limit or ceiling of their ascent. Now Indians see themselves as having rights on all levels.... President Evo Morales has brought about the most important symbolic and cultural revolution in centuries.
Just as important, in one year of government, per capita income has risen from US$950 to $1,035. That isn't a huge difference, but it's still an 8 to 9 percent increase. We are improving access to information technology by bringing computers to high schools in the countryside, some in areas where there wasn't even electricity before. We are also carrying out what we are calling a "technological revolution" by implementing modern machinery for agricultural work.
Members of the political opposition have claimed that the government's efforts to "re-found
It's not true that we've caused division. This country has always had terrible, profound divisions between indigenous and nonindigenous people. We didn't invent this. The elites were used to thinking that there was no problem because they didn't want to acknowledge it, but the problem was there. These fissures from colonialism, from discrimination still exist, and what we're doing is ... seeking out their resolution through practical, democratic measures of equality, justice, structural reforms, improved earnings distribution, and the broadening of rights. What is happening in
What do you think of the recent criticisms from the
The latest report from the [
To what extent might the government's new policies for capturing more [revenues from] natural resources for the benefit of the Bolivian people serve as a model for other countries in the region, such as
We offer our humble contribution to what we see as 21st century-style nationalization, which means that foreign companies with capital and know-how are present in the country with their machinery, and they can earn profits, but never again can they be the owners of the gas and the petroleum.
Today, sovereignty has acquired a new dimension. Sovereignty can't be viewed as it was in the 20th century, as virtual autocracy, enclosure. Sovereignty is the ability to decide the kinds of links and relationships you want to have to globalization processes. Sovereignty doesn't disappear; it is modified. We can't return to the 20th-century sovereignty of enclosure, because we are profoundly tied to the markets, to the financial markets, to the labor force and to the power of capital.
There has been talk of "a new Latin American socialism." If this exists, how would you define it? Is
We debate this amongst ourselves, and we haven't defined a position. If you will allow me a very personal view on this issue, what is happening in
There is no single model for socialism; every country has to find its own internal post-capitalist forces. In
One criticism by opposition parties has been that the government of Hugo Chávez has too much influence on [
Look, the most important business dealings we've had as a government have been with
You mentioned the military issue, and it's very important to clarify that
Can you say how many Venezuelans are currently working for the government?
Venezuelans, Argentinians, Cubans, Brazilians, and Americans are present in the social area. American pediatricians are coming, we have Cuban eye specialists, Cuban and Venezuelan teachers are working on the literacy issue, computer technicians are helping to prepare ID cards, and Argentine officials are working on reconstruction and providing civil support for the flood victims. The number varies, because they do a job and then they go. We don't have any advisers or collaborators in political areas or in areas that aren't social.
There is a possibility that the
We started to fight for our own ATDPEA because
So the government of Evo Morales would never sign a free-trade agreement with the
A free trade agreement, no. But a just and lasting trade agreement, yes. We need to move ahead on that and we want to move ahead. And we hope that the authorities responsible for international commerce in the
The international press has asserted on various occasions that your political ideology is more leftist than Evo's. Is this true?
We are here to collaborate with President Morales. I have a Marxist/Indigenous intellectual and academic background, and I don't know if it's more or less radical [than his]. But because my background is very rationalist, with a strong Hegelian influence – according to which all that is real is rational, and all that is rational is real – this allows me to have a very realistic view of the world rather than a utopian one. I don't have a utopian reading of the world today, as a part of this government. I have a more realistic reading of the possibilities, and in this sense I try to collaborate with President Morales. That's all I can say.
First published at Christian Science Monitor