Tuesday :: Aug 12, 2008

Landslide Morales Win Deepens Democracy in Bolivia

by Jeff Dinelli
"What happened today is important not only for Bolivians but for all Latin Americans," Evo Morales told several thousand cheering supporters Sunday night from the balcony of the presidential palace in La Paz. "I dedicate this victory to all the revolutionaries in the world."

Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales sailed to victory in a referendum Sunday with two-thirds of the country's vote. The question was yes or no, do the President, Vice-President, and most regional governors stay? The No's were led by governors who have pushed for autonomy for their resource-rich provinces. The answer was a resounding yes. It was basically a poker bet, in which the opposition challenged Evo, as he's known there, to a recall, and Evo said, “OK, let’s do it.” And nobody really anticipated he would do that. Evo is a champion of the country's long-struggling working poor by giving land to the landless, has nationalized the natural gas fields so that Bolivia holds onto 85% of the profit, and in general shares the people's humble background and is genuinely dedicated to lifting up their lives.

The Wall Street Journal and others on the right in this country have for years made Evo out to be nothing short of Satan. "He's a puppet of Venezuela's foreign minister Hugo Chavez." "He's gonna take away the rich white elite's homes and power." To be sure, Evo attempts to redistribute power and wealth to those who have always been blocked from both. His massive support comes from the poor and in rural communities, where it's pretty much unanimous, and any opposition comes from the cities, where the media outlets are run. He beat the Powers That Be, in other words.

Nationalization in Bolivia isn’t really nationalization. For example, look at what Evo did on gas back in 2006. Nationalization is where you confiscate the property, and you take it over. What Evo has done is essentially raise the taxes and renegotiated the contracts to bring in something on the order of a billion dollars a year of new revenue into Bolivia’s treasury. Most think he’ll continue that kind of process.

The real question here is what he does with the constitution. That’s really the battle ahead. There’s this constitution that is basically an Evo Morales’s political party-written constitution that opponents vehemently object to. Now he has an option, which he’ll probably exercise, to bring that constitution forward to a public vote in 2009, because if he keeps the same vote he got on Sunday, he could probably win ratification of that, which would make the opposition go completely nuts. The issue they object to more than anything else in the constitution is it would allow for the president to be reelected. Under current law, Evo can’t run for reelection in 2010. The new constitution would allow him to do that.

A great story, people taking control of their country and their lives behind a revolutionary leader. Good news, for once.

Jeff Dinelli :: 12:37 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!