Bolivia: Making the oligarchs cry

Pablo Stefanoni

In full campaign mode, as Bolivia prepares to go to the polls again on August 10 to decide the fate of the president and nine departmental prefects [state governors] in recall referendums, Bolivia’s left-wing indigenous President Evo Morales took time out to speak exclusively to Argentinian journalist Pablo Stefanoni in the presidential palace.

The Morales government has faced increased resistance from the racist Bolivian oligarchy to its program of refounding Bolivia on the basis of justice for its indigenous majority and reversing the neoliberal policies that have impoverished the nation. The former is expressed through the constitutional assembly that has produced a new draft constitution to go to a national vote, while the latter is expressed by policies of nationalising hydrocarbon and other industries.

Also, a land reform program to redistribute idle land to landless peasants threatens to affect powerful agribusiness interests, especially in Bolivia’s east.

In response, the oligarchs based in the east of the country have organised a campaign, including illegal referendums, for “autonomy” that would see wealth and power stay in their hands. The recall referendums for Morales and the prefects have been organised as a potential way out of the crisis.

In the interview, Morales addressed the recent European Union decision to expel immigrants under the newly approved “return directive”, which he and other Latin American leaders have strongly condemned. He also spoke about what reception he would give to US ambassador Philip Goldberg when he returns from talks in Washington, following massive demonstrations outside the US embassy in Bolivia. The demonstrations were against the US government’s decision to give asylum to a former minister of defence responsible for the massacres in 2003 that left more than 60 dead.

The interview was originally published in the Argentina daily Clarin on June 29. Below is an abridged, translated version, published with permission of the author.

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The opposition prefects have united in rejection of the recall referendum, what will the strategy of the government be?

The people have already begun to identify the overlords of these so-called autonomous regions that want to control land and economic resources such as gas. If it is true that in the autonomy referendums they obtained 80% support, why are they running away for the recall referendum now? I feel that the neoliberal and pro-Yankee prefects will all go.

Ruben Costas (from Santa Cruz, which is a stronghold of the oligarchy) as well?

He is not that far away. But the debate is not over people, it is over economic models: return to neoliberalism or deepen the changes.

I believe that this process of change has no going back. That is why they reject the recall referendum. Their request to bring forward elections, when there is a president elected with 54% of the vote, is a coup against democracy.

The prefects are calling for a grand national accord, what is your response to this?

What moral authority do those who operate illegally and unconstitutional[ly], with racist and fascist methods, have to speak of a national accord? If they want to talk about reconciliation they should renounce their privileges, their latifundio (large land estates) … Their plan is to create inflation and hoard products, in order to put the blame on Evo Morales.

You like to bet on election results, are you willing to give a forecast for August 10?

If the recall referendum were to be held tomorrow, I am sure that [the result in favour of Morales continuing as president] would surpass 54%, I’m optimistic.

So, the recall referendums are going ahead, no matter what?

They have to happen, no matter what.

I am happy with three things that I achieved during my time in the presidency. The structural changes, the social changes and the fact that I am making the oligarchs cry …

Is the return directive approved by the European parliament really like you called it, the ‘directive of shame’?

In times of war and famine, Latin America opened its doors and received Europeans with caring arms — there were no visas. But when some Latin Americans seek to improve their living conditions in Europe, they are confronted with discrimination, racism and now expulsion. What else is the return directive if not this?

You spoke of Europe as a strategic ally, how does this stand now?

I have said many times that Europe is a strategic ally in the defence of human rights, but with these types of directives I lose hope. It is an aggression against life and humanity.

It is important to wage a battle against these types of directives. It seems that globalisation exists only for trade — focused on the market and money — and not human beings.

Could this put a brake on trade negotiations underway between the Andean Community and Europe?

Yes. What sense would this have if they are talking about expelling our brothers and sisters? Bolivia has never thought of expelling. Europe speaks about cooperation but what we see is a return to the looting of our ancestors.

If Europe wants to continue waving the banner of the struggle for human rights, it should revise this return directive.

If the US ambassador Philip Goldberg returns, will you let him into the presidential palace or will you place him in the freezer?

Just two words. I am, and will die, anti-imperialist. One thing is guaranteeing private property, all of us have this, but another thing is capitalism, neoliberalism, globalisation.

Republished from
Green Left Weekly

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