This time last year, Bolivia and the rest of the world was buzzing about the inauguration of President Evo Morales and the novelty of it all. With approval ratings at sky-high levels, many wondered and were hopeful about the upcoming year. Would he follow through with all of his campaign promises? Since then, bloggers have remained attentive to the positive and negative changes implemented by this new government. Many blogs have emerged as clear critics of this administration, while other have continued to steer clear of politics.
Edmundo Paz Soldán, award-winning Bolivian author, rarely writes about politics on his blog Río Fugitivo [ES]. However, he took the opportunity to discuss his tally regarding Morales’ first year and how it has proven to be quite disappointing, following this hopeful feeling.
A un año de gobierno, está claro el lider sindical sigue mandando en el Palacio Quemado, y que los profundos cambios políticos, sociales y económicos impulsados por su gobierno –nacionalización del petróleo, una nueva reforma agraria, mayor centralización del poder– se intentan imponer a través de un estilo autoritario, verticalista, que no tolera disensos ni oposición alguna. El proyecto político de Evo y el MAS es claro: crear una hegemonía de corte populista articulada en torno a lo indígena.
En su búsqueda del poder absoluto, Evo y el vicepresidente García Linera han fomentado la polarización racial y regional de una Bolivia de por sí muy fragmentada. La confrontación verbal ya ha dado paso a los balazos y a los machetazos. A un año de conducción del aparato estatal, los logros del gobierno –inclusión de sectores tradicionalmente excluidos, acuerdos energéticos beneficiosos, un clima de distensión con Chile, mayor presencia internacional— se ven oscurecidos por su tendencia natural a la intolerancia. Evo está haciendo todo lo posible para tornar una fácil victoria en una derrota. Ojalá que un posible gran líder no termine siendo recordado como el hombre que llevó a Bolivia a la guerra civil.
A year later, it is clear that the union leader still is in charge in the Burned Palace (name of the presidential palace) and that the profound political, social and economic changes pushed by his government – nationalization of petroleum, a new agrarian reform, increased centralization of power – that was attempted through an authoritarian style, vertical and that does not tolerate dissent or any form of opposition. The political project of Evo and of MAS is clear – create a hegemony of populism articulated through the indigenous.
In his search for absolute power, Evo and his vice-president Garcia Linera have fomented the racial and regionalist polarization of a fragmented Bolivia. The verbal confrontation have already made way to bullets and machetes. After a year in power, the accomplishments of the government – the inclusion of groups traditionally excluded, beneficial energy agreements, goodwill towards Chile, and increased international presence – are overshadowed by its natural tendency of intolerance. Evo is doing everything possible to make an easy victory into a defeat. Hopefully, a great leader does not end up being remembered as the man that took Bolivia towards civil war.
Some of this use of rhetoric caught Andres Pucci’s eye, especially the use of a ten-year old boy to rally supporters. Pucci laments, as do his readers, that the boy was used for such a publicity. Briegel Busch of Bolivia-Eclipse [ES] gives his thoughts on the matter.
En general Morales ha pecado de soberbio, y ha menospreciado la opinión de quienes no están de acuerdo con él. Me parece que no ha podido asumir la figura de Jefe de Estado por encima de los intereses de los grupos a los que representa. Además, ha abusado del discurso agresivo en contra de la “oligarquía”, hasta hacer que la clase media se sienta amenazada.
Overall, Morales has the flaw of being arrogant and has scorned the opinion of those that are not in agreement with him. It seems to me that he has not been able to assume the role of head of state ahead of the interests of the groups that he represents. In addition, he has utilized the abusive rhetoric against the “oligarchy” to the extent that the middle class feels threathened.
Two English-language Bolivian bloggers that have written about politics in Bolivia for several years also provided their own take on the first year scorecard. Miguel Buitrago of MABBlog summarizes Morales’ four-hour State of Union speech in which he alienated the opposition, which walked out in protest. Miguel Centellas of Ciao! believes that Morales’ mouth is what gets him in the biggest bind. He provides examples of actions and statements that have bigger repercussions that may be considered, such as allowing a close advisor, who is also wanted on terrorism charges in Peru to be a member of his inner circle. In the end, Centellas comes to the conclusion, “Evo & his close supporters are woefully under-prepared to run a modern state,” and that, “Bolivia is at a delicate place, politically. It can't afford to have a series of PR crises on a weekly (and daily!) basis making things worse. Evo's first year has been shaky. Let's hope in 2007 he finds more competent advisors who can coach him & other key MAS figures.”
This time of year also marks the celebration of Alasitas, which is a festival that dates back to pre-colonial times in which a small idol named Ekeko is revered and is believed to possess the ability to grant material wealth and good fortune. Stands set up in the city center of La Paz sell minature replicas of cars, educational diplomas, houses, stacks of Euros, and other goods are sold by these vendors. Vania Balderrama, a Paceña living in Santa Cruz remains nostalgic for this festival. As she writes in her blog Capsula Del Tiempo [ES] writes,
Cuando era niña (hace muuuchos años) esta Feria era lo máximo. No íbamos a las doce del medio día porque el tumulto de gente no da para que vayan los niños, pero en la nochecita, cuando mi mamá regresaba de la oficina, nos íbamos a dar la primera vuelta. Empezábamos por la sección de la comida y nos tomábamos un api(bebida caliente) con pastel (empanada de queso frita). La parte de las comidas con sus fragancias deliciosas, claro que me impresionaban los conejos apanados a los que los apilaban medio a la vista del público con cabeza y todo (brrrr ya me han dado escalofríos). Si ya habíamos cenado entonces empezábamos por el sector “masitas” donde hay todo tipo de pasteles y dulces pequeñitos, como todo en esa feria.
When I was a young girl (a loooong time ago), this festival was the best. We didn’t go at midday because the crowds of people didn’t allow for small children to go, but we went at night, after my mother returned from the office and we went for our first visit. We started in the food section and drank some api (hot drink) with pastel (fried empanada with cheese). The part of the foods with its delicious aromas also amazed me to see the breaded guinea pigs that were piled up in front of the public with head and all (brrr, I just got the chills). If we had already eaten, we would start at the section with all types of pastries and small sweets.
Joaquin Cuevas, who usually transmits his opinions on particular subjects through his drawings on his blog El Inofensivo Chico Larva [ES], decided to drop his pen this time and add his two cents. He goes on to list reasons why Alasitas should be made into a holiday because the majority of the city would like to, but cannot attend because of work commitments. He also acknowledges this change of pace by adding, “That’s my opinion. I owe you a drawing on this issue.”