ITWASSOOTED: the US Embassy in La Paz has acted for decades as a virtual senior branch of the Bolivian government,

Saturday, January 07, 2006

the US Embassy in La Paz has acted for decades as a virtual senior branch of the Bolivian government,

Bolivia’s “socialist” president-elect Morales guarantees private property
By Bill Van Auken
4 January 2006

In the two weeks since his December 18 victory at the polls, Bolivia’s president-elect Evo Morales has combined verbal swipes at Washington and lightning visits to Cuba and Venezuela with solemn pledges at home to respect the private property of the transnational corporations and the Bolivian oligarchy.

Winning 54 percent of the vote as the candidate of the Movement towards Socialism, or MAS, he is the first politician in modern Bolivian history to be elected with an absolute majority of the ballots cast. He will also be the first Amerindian to occupy the presidential palace in a country in which 85 percent of the population is descended from the indigenous population.

Morales’s victory has been proclaimed by much of the international left to be a historic victory for Bolivian working people and the oppressed, while in Washington, the Bush administration openly opposed the MAS leader’s rise to power and has hinted darkly that the Bolivian election results are the product of Cuban or Venezuelan subversion.

Events in Bolivia itself in the wake of the vote suggest that, Morales’s left populist rhetoric and US hostility notwithstanding, his rise to power will only further a last-ditch effort by the country’s ruling elite to rescue itself from revolutionary upheavals.

While Morales will not be inaugurated until January 22, in the aftermath of the election he launched a whirlwind international tour that took him first to Cuba and then to Venezuela. A spokesman for the president-elect said that Bolivia aimed to forge an “axis of good” with these two countries—a clear reference to the Bush administration’s attempts to demonize the governments of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

“We join in the task of Fidel in Cuba and Hugo in Venezuela to respond to the needs of the national majorities,” Morales said in Caracas Tuesday. “These are new times. This millennium will be for the peoples, not for the empire.”

In Cuba, which the president-elect visited on December 30, Morales declared that if the US “wants bilateral diplomatic and commercial relations, it will have them, but without submission, without subordination, without conditions, without blackmail.” He dismissed the threat of a military coup on the grounds that the Bolivian people had decided on a change “by means of democracy.” He added, “Before thinking about a coup, the government of the United States would do better to think about withdrawing its troops from Iraq and finishing with the military bases in South America.”

Morales noted that he had “never had good relations with the US.” He came into politics in the 1990s as the leaders of the coca growers’ protests against the US-backed coca-eradication campaign launched by the government of Bolivia’s former military dictator Hugo Banzer. During that period, many former miners, who lost their jobs in the wave of privatizations and mass layoffs that swept the country, had turned to cultivating the plant as a means of survival.
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