Evo Morales: "I believe in the consciousness of the people"

President Morales, one of the great challenges that you will confront during your term in government will occur in 13 days, when Santa Cruz holds its autonomy referendum. How far will the government go to avoid the referendum going ahead?

Firstly, the supposed referendum on the autonomy statutes is not only unconstitutional; it is anti-constitutional, because autonomy does not exist in the current referendum

Secondly, it is illegal because the agreement in the Law of Referendums is that the national congress is the body which has to approve legislation to convoke a referendum. Therefore, what we will have on May 4 will not be a referendum, it will be a survey, an opinion poll, which is non-binding.

But many are saying that Santa Cruz could move towards a “de facto” autonomy. What will the government do to avoid this?

Nothing. I believe in the consciousness of the Bolivian people. There is resistance in the rural areas, even in the city, there are professionals, intellectuals and lawyers who are ashamed of how some civic leaders and the prefect what to confuse the Bolivian people and the people of Santa Cruz.

First comes the new constitution. And via the new constitution the government will guarantee autonomies; but autonomies for the people, not autonomy for the oligarchy and the Santa Cruz elites.

Let’s talk very clearly: first the mother and after the child; the child cannot come first and afterwards the mother. First we have to guarantee the approval of the new constitution and then the election of the departmental councillors, who, elected by the people, should draft, firstly, a law of autonomy and secondly, autonomy statutes. That is the proper procedure.

So you view is that the constitution should be approved first and then afterwards a debate over the question of autonomy for the regions?

That’s right. But autonomy as unity, as equality, within legality; autonomy with equality between the departments.

In a letter published this week, Fidel Castro said that he feared a tragedy due to what he called a “fratricidal struggle” in Bolivia. Do you believe that there is a real possibility of clashes in Bolivia over the next few days, weeks and months?

There will be a strong resistance from the indigenous movement, the peasant movement, from the misnamed “colonisers” sectors who are people who have settled on fiscal lands. Unfortunately, this proposal is aimed at causing division.

I want you to know what is really behind all this: the problem is not issue of autonomy or statutes; the problem is Evo Morales

They cannot accept that an indigenous peasant can be president of the republic. And if we look at history, there have always been struggles for the federalisation of the Bolivian state when oligarchic groups lost control over the national government, and when they recuperated it, they forgot about autonomy, or the so-called nationalisation or decentralisation

If this is directed at you, do you think that your term in government is in jeopardy over the issue of autonomies?

No, no. This strengthens me, it makes me more powerful

In what sense?

It’s that these groups are the historic enemies of the indigenous movement throughout colonial times, during the republic, during the neoliberal era. This class practices politicking, and not politics, which is the science of serving the people. They do not accept new political leaders who aim to serve the people and making changes regarding structural, social and agricultural issues.

I believe in the consciousness of the people and we are in the stage of how to construct peoples’ power and it is a historic struggle; there is not need to be frightened.

Will the government foment protests and manifestations against the autonomy movement in regions such as Santa Cruz?

It is not about foment or giving incentives. The people, the social forces are wise enough to be able to identify their historic enemies and also their conjunctural enemies.

Do you think that within a year these demands for autonomy will calm down or be satisfied?

They will resist, just as there is a resistance in Venezuela after so many years of government. That will always be there, but what is most important is the search for equality and justice for our peoples, and the whole world knows that.

There have been various actors, such as Argentina, Brazil and the OAS (Organisation of American Status) who have tried unsuccessfully to intervene in order to mediate in this conflict. Is their an actor, internal or external, that could help in mediation?

This government is transparent. Come from where they come, if they are facilitators, mediators, if they are institutions or personalities, I have no problem. It’s better that way, so that they know what is happening in Bolivia: discrimination by these groups, these families, these elites. They have rights, and we respect them, but the people have more of a right to social justice.

To finish, what do you imagine will be the scenario when the people are voting on May 4?

I feel that there won’t be many problems. Perhaps in some regions, provoked by these so-called "cruceñista" youth. [But] May 4 will pass by, then will come May 5, May 6….

Translation of transcript published by MINCI of interview done by BBC

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