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Bolivia: Evo Morales on the Daily Show

According to the Comedy Central channel's website, last Tuesday evening's guest would only be the 2nd sitting president to appear on the comedy fake-news program. In late 2006, the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf would appear and was interviewed by host Jon Stewart. Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was in New York City for the United Nations summit, took the opportunity to appear on the television program that is largely unknown to most Bolivians. Blogs like Comunica Bolivia [ES] provided a bit of background information about the program in anticipation of the appearance. However, the clip soon appeared on video sites such as Google video, YouTube and on the Daily Show's own website, allowing Bolivians and Bolivian bloggers to follow along and give their verdict.

Unlike Musharraf, Morales does not speak english and was aided by the use of translator. However, many noted that many of Stewart's jokes became lost in translation and that Morales took the interview way too seriously. Jose Andres Sanchez of El Pais de las Maravillas [ES] provided a translation of the transcript. Soon after the clips and transcripts appeared online, many bloggers provided their own thoughts.

The blogger Alkolica [ES] didn't buy Morales description of his own administration:

y puedo decir que a pesar de ser una pequeña entrevista, recibio bastante apoyo de la audiencia, sus respuestas fueron directas, humildes, llenas de verdad (nada que ver con la realidad actual) evo debe saber que se consigue mas con miel que con hiel de las personas, por primera vez, escuche hablar de la diversidad cultural, en un momento de la entrevista se refirio al anfitrion diciendole que en bolivia tambien tenemos rubiecitos, y que todo se trata de vivir en nuestra diversidad cultural, llevando la Paz, y que por favor no lo consideren DEL EJE DEL MAL, refiriendose a chavez y a castro, que todas las naciones deberian unirse para luchar y salvar a la humanidad, …. si eso fuera verdad yo estaria llena de orgullo en este momento….

Even though it was a short interview, (Morales) received a lot of support from the audience, his answers were direct, humble and full of truths (however, it had nothing to do with the current reality). Evo should know that you accomplish more with honey than with bitterness, for the first time, I heard him talk about cultural diversity, and at one moment during the interview he referred to the host saying that in Bolivia there are also light-skinned people and that we should try to live our cultural diversity in peace and that please do not consider him part of the axis of evil, referring to Chavez and Castro, and that all of the nations should united to fight and save humanity…it that was true then I would be full of pride at this moment.

At one point during the interview, Stewart read three of Morales’ campaign promises, which includes the nationalization of hydrocarbons, calling a Constitutional Assembly and agrarian reform that he is said to have delivered. Sarcastically, Stewart asked, “what are you trying to pull?” Many that follow Bolivia closely think that things are not as black and white as they may seem. Martin Gutierrez of La Vitrina de la Realidad Boliviana [ES] disputes whether all three can actually be considered as accomplishments, such as the Constituent Assembly that has had to extend its deadline and the ongoing dispute over the debate regarding the location of the seat of government.

However, others like Hugo Miranda of Angel Caido [ES] hopes that the tone Morales used will carry over back in Bolivia.

Ojala se de cuenta en algun momento que para gobernar no necesita andar peleando con medio mundo y como dijo en esta entrevista en bolivia habemos gente de todo tipo hasta como el mismo Jon Stewart.

Hopefully he realizes that in order to govern one does not need to be fighting with everyone and as he said in the interview that in Bolivia there are all types of people even people that look like Jon Stewart.

From a strictly political point of view, political science professor Miguel Centellas provides his own analysis at Pronto*, although overall he writes that he was not impressed:

Evo’s performance did make him seem reasonable, calm, and appealing to a broad constituency of moderate liberals. In that sense, his performance was a rousing success—particularly when contrasted to last year’s Chávez “devil & sulfur” theatrics at the UN or this week’s Ahmadinejad fiasco at Columbia University. And that is, of course, the primary concern—from a political point of view.

Finally, many believe that the appearance of the popular television program did a lot to boost Morales’ reputation in the United States, as he presented his ideas in a plain and concise manner. Clare Sammells writes on the collective blog Gringo Tambo that the appearance was appealing to most U.S. viewers.

Most U.S. listeners would hear a clear subtext: how did you overcome the structural inequalities and discrimination you faced? How did you beat the system? Americans are impressed by rags-to-riches stories, tales of people who rise to achieve far more that those in power would expect. President Morales is a perfect example of the kind of successful individual we admire.

13 comments

  • Just for the record, I was unimpressed from a strictly “comic” point of view (it wasn’t funny). Otherwise, it was a great PR success for Morales.

  • Umm…in this interview Morales appears to be this hero President that has changed Bolivia for the good, bringing more money into the country and trying to unify people, and talking about the “millenium of life”??? Seriously, what the hell…if you track down this President on what he says and does in his country, Bolivia, he is full of CRAP. He is a communist, rancorous, selfish, angered individual. he wishes for the rise of the indigenous and the fall of the whites/mestizos/middle upper class in Bolivia. In short, Bolivia every day looks more and more like Cuba becuz of this guy, who is transforming the law and constitution to favor himself, and the indigenous population who do little for the country.

  • Jason

    I’ll admit that Morales might have come off a bit rosier than is warranted, but Domer’s name-calling and insinuations are way off-base. After the failed, corrupt and brutal presidencies of de Lozada and Mesa, he does look like a hero. And the $1.7 billion that his hydrocarbon tax initiative generated for the state last year, and the expected $1 billion plus it will generate in future years, have been, and will continue to be, a boon for poverty alleviation, health, and education programs.

    It’s true that confrontations between indigenous and poor groups and lowland economic elites continue, but they’re no worse than the brutality of the prior administrations’ security forces against indigenous protestors. Further, in January 2007, Morales purged his cabinet of controversial pro-indigenous peoples ministers in favor of technocrats. A move toward the multi-culturalism he spoke about. Lastly, there is a reason that Morales enjoys a 70% approval rating.

  • Carlos

    Overall it was a PR plus for Evo Morales. If anything, it ought to underline the fact that his presidency and the policies he sponsors are only possible because of the absolute failure of prior, market oriented, neoliberal administrations.

    The semi-white elites that ruled the country for more than a century, have looted and profited from a very rich country that is often referred as “the poorest in Latin America” leaving a destitute population no alternative but to embrace the gospel of Evo.

    We can only hope that – for the benefit of Bolivia – Mr. Morales overcomes the well financed local and international opposition he currently faces.

  • Hats off for President Evo Morales. He is truly admired in several parts of the world. I wish his administration the best and may succeed in making Bolivia a better place for ALL Bolivians. I wish Peru had a leader of his level, instead of the egocentric, corrupted assassin Alan Garcia we got in the fake 2006 elections.

  • figment

    Domer,

    You don’t know CRAP about Bolivia. Latin America generally has been ransacked by amoral capitalists like Bush/Cheney. Morales represents an effort by Native Americans to get their country back from the imperialists that have trashed it and created an elite class that is now pouting because they finally aren’t getting their way, completely. Morales is the only dignified statesman I’ve seen in quite sometime. He’s much more a traditional statesman than any of these clowns in the West right now, especially Bush, who is a puppet and demogogue.

    Peruanista knows what I’m talking about —

  • When you fully comprehend the lengthy historical trail and destructive effects of imperialism throughout the world, you’ll understand why the majority of Bolivians are a gazillions of times better off with Evo Morales. Back in 2003, then Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Losasda, (who grew up in the US and speaks Spanish with an American accent), proceeded to privatize everything that was not nailed down, but then he overreached.
    He initiated a government contract to privatize the country’s gas reserves with a transnational consortium in order to export the gas to the US by way of Chile and Mexico. The consortium, Pacific LNG, is made up of British, Spanish, and Argentine corporations. A US company held the contract to transport Bolivian gas from Chile to Mexico. Within three weeks of Sanchez de Lozada’s attempted sell-out of the country, the people of Bolivia reacted.
    In responding to this threat to their sovereignty, the people of Bolivia were not foolish enough to ask their legislature for help because they understood that many of its members had something to gain from the privatization (much like the connection between the US Congress and corporate lobbyists). In addition, they were not naive enough to think that they could get Sanchez de Losada out of office through an election. Otherwise, how else could a series of privatizing capitalists, with the mentality of white men, continue to hold the presidency in this largely Indian country unless the elections are perpetually rigged?
    No, they got Sanchez de Losada out by marching, blocking roads, raising hell for weeks and not stopping. The Sanchez de Lozada government did not help itself when it sent the Bolivian army into the fray, killing over 70 protesters. Like most victims of perennial imperialism in the global south, the Bolivians had nothing left to lose. You either fight back or you die. They know that it is a tactical mistake to enlist the keepers of imperialism in their fight. This is something too many people still don’t understand well here in the US.
    So, when Evo Morales became president, the majority of Bolivians, for the first time in 500 years, had someone in office who not only looked like them, but more importantly, who thought like them.
    Rather than relying on his appearance on the Daily Show to figure out what you think, check out Morales’ speech to the UN General Assembly http://www.un.org/webcast/ga/62/

  • Pa!

    I totally disagre he is an example. He was the leader of nthe group of people who brougth violence and destroy roads and bulding in 2003 in Bolivia. He also did not answer the questions in the interview. If you go to Bolivia rigth now, there are three big factors that his goverment increase (inflation, violence, and lack of investments). If you research more, there had been reports that contradict that the economy in Bolivia is good. Ofcourse rigth now it is in the best economic situation for Venezuela aid and the natural gas. But how about later? If he is preparing Bolivia for the future?

  • Well opposing to someone that wants to sell your country’s best natural resource sounds only good to me, and if you weren’t so much biased I am pretty sure you wold appreciate it as well.
    I just would like to know what’s in a person’s mind that they can only blind themselves and defend the interests of all powerful economic companies that won’t give a shit about them.

  • Loko One

    to domer:
    you say “the indigenous population who do little for the country”… that line sums up the reason people like Morales need to come to power, to correct all the evils people like you have created.

    What have you done for the indigenous? What have you done for Bolivia and Latin America? Sell her off to your yankee mentors?

    The way i see it Domer..the white skinned/mestizo/middle class have been in power (and stayed in power) all over Latino America..what have they done for the rest of the population? How can a group that makes up less than 10% of the total population control over 90% of wealth.

    I have one way of telling whther a Latino leader is serving the ppl. or private interest. as soon as the white midddle and upper classes try to paint the leader as a ‘communist’ bogey man, then I know they are doing something right (or is that left..)

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