Bolivia: Strong Popular Support for “Evo Pueblo” and the Continuity of the “Process of Change”

Hugo Moldiz Mercado

The gathering in Chimoré, in the Cochabamba tropics, estimated at one million people, was charged with immense presence and symbolic force. “Evo pueblo” was more than “Evo Presidente” and that touched the hearts of the people. Perhaps it is the key to victory.

On May 18, a mass assembly of social movements and MAS militants gathered in the town of Chimoré, in the center of the country, to officially launch the candidacy of both Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera. Tens of thousands of people travelled from all parts of the country to express their full support for a president and a government that in various fields of social life have broken records that were impossible in Bolivia 14 years ago. But, as it was breathed in the air, in the gestures of the people, it is the support for the president declared Evo Pueblo, Evo a politician and comrade.

Gathered along the runway of the international airport of Chimoré, in the Cochabamba tropics, the followers of Evo Morales gave living testimony of their commitment to the continuity of the Process of Change which, despite certain cyclical decelerations and problems that are “natural” faced in terms of management, is the deepest that this country has experienced in the heart of South America. “This process, Morales said, is unstoppable, with no return, thanks to the conscience of the people”.

The entire event was brief. And it was in the words everyone expected that Evo appeared as a “politician and comrade” rather than as “Evo President” or “Evo statesman”. The people, those diverse faces of workers from the countryside and the city, connected more emotionally with Evo Pueblo. And this is what the occasion was for, to (re)build a subjectivity that, converted into material force, is the guarantee of the continuity of the Process of Change.

It is not that people did not see Evo Presidente, who otherwise asked them – as the original source of his power – for five more years to fulfill the Bicentennial Agenda, which has translated into great achievements, more development, eradication of poverty and a leap to the agenda of the 21st century, where Bolivia wishes to be incorporated. Emotional faces, with joy expressed even in tears, bathed the one million people who felt represented by someone who came from the people and who in 14 years did for Bolivia what many politicians with degrees from universities in the United States and Europe never did in more than 180 years. “We are demonstrating to the world that we workers know how to govern, helped by professionals,” Morales said, referring permanently to the concept of workers. And he also said: “we can make mistakes, we are human beings, but we correct our mistakes, we have never stolen, we have come to serve the Bolivian people”.

Evo wants the people to remain in power for life. Years ago, he said, “We’ve arrived so that we’ll never leave again. Now, placing his trust in the people – a concept in which the enemies of the homeland cannot penetrate – the charismatic politician maintained that five more years as president – which would become his fourth term since January 2005 – is “to guarantee liberation for life”.

And this symbolic force was present at all times. It was an interreligious act, with banners in blue, red, yellow, carrying either the face of Che Guevara or Evo Morales, flying along 80 percent of the runway set up for the occasion at that airport. “From a center of domination to a center of liberation,” the indigenous leader emphasized, referring to the change in the condition of that airport, which for two decades served to conduct the failed “International War on Drugs,” with peasants murdered and persecuted with absolute impunity by the repressive forces.

The indigenous leader was also in step with the opinion matrix that seeks to install in the collective imagination the idea of a “corrupt government”. Before we talk about this, there are candidates who should not forget that they have accounts abroad, that they must declare to the Treasury the total amount of resources that they receive from the sale of property, and that they requested authorization from the National Congress – now the Plurinational Legislative Assembly – to grant immunity to the US soldiers who operated in Bolivia. The missile was aimed at Carlos Mesa, a historian who led the state, first as vice-president (2002-2003) and then as president (2003-2005), of the last neoliberal government that was installed in Bolivia as a result of the “Democracy of Pacts”.

The political instrument of liberation, to which Morales made reference, emerged after years of construction in March 1995 with the convergence of three main organizations: the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), the Confederación Sindical de Colonizadores de Bolivia (CSCB) -now converted into the Confederación de Comunidades Interculturales- and the Federación Sindical de Mujeres Campesinas “Bartolina Sisa”. Evo later broadened his vision and incorporated the urban workers and the mining proletariat, united in the historic Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), whose main leader, Juan Carlos Guarachi, confirmed the support of that organization to the official binomial.

In Bolivia, with few moments of harmony, the key to the permanence of the Process of Change, no longer attributed with the horizon of Vivir Bien or Community Socialism, has been the establishment of a new type of relationship between people and government.

The indigenous leader never ceased to dispense his symbolic messages and to appeal to the deepest core of men, women, young people, adults and the elderly that would not accept any substitution. I believe, he said, in the conscience of the people, in their political-electoral unity, in their commitment to the Homeland that we have recovered.

Evo knows that the fight will be hard. His bet is to win the elections by 70 percent, which is actually a very high goal that the Bolivian leader has set himself. Evo knows a lot about this since he was a union leader and then president. But he also knows that the noblest tasks can fail if there is no active accompaniment of the people. And that is why it is not unexpected when he said, with emotion: “never abandon me brothers and sisters, we come from much struggle and much suffering”.

The gathering took place, even though a timetable of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has not yet been officially issued at a time characterized by prematurely active campaigns, but with results that, for the moment, are clarifying the electoral tendency in favour of Morales, and in the middle of a Latin American situation in which Venezuela is at the center of the storm as a result of the imperial and conservative counteroffensive. Although Bolivia is not in the first line of fire of the enemies of the emancipation of the peoples, as is the case with Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, Evo knows that we must not lower our guard.

According to several studies measuring electoral trends, President Evo Morales emerges as the favourite and progressively breaks away from his immediate follower, Carlos Mesa, who shows clear signs of regression or at the very least stagnation, which appears to be due to the absence of an alternative proposal to what has been done since January 2006 and a solid opposition leadership. If one takes into account the latest survey conducted by Pagina Siete, where Evo has 34% and Mesa 28, it is evident that the indigenous leader is currently close to 50 percent when adding up the average vote in rural areas, which are not included in the survey, where the indigenous leader is hegemonic with votes that do not fall below 86 percent in the voting centers.

But if the political outlook for Morales has improved compared to the first months of this year, the massive concentration was enhanced by the presence hours before the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, who affirmed on Friday morning, to the astonishment of the opposition, that preventing the participation of the indigenous leader in the October 20 elections would be a discriminatory act. Almagro’s words served to resolve a debate with the opposition, but that does not mean that the danger has passed. The opportunism and pragmatism of the Uruguayan who, in his young years, played the revolutionary, weigh more than any respect for the word.

The opposition, as the editorial in La Época points out, had no choice but to react with bewilderment and with strong declarations from its main leaders who presented themselves as resignation to count on the support of the OAS to achieve, from the outside, what objectively they will not be able to conquer from the inside, given the electoral fracture and their impossibility of organizing a social mobilization of gigantic dimensions to block Morales’ participation in the elections. The opposition’s bet is that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the pressure of the United States, in which Almagro would not have any problem of operating with a low profile, block Morales’ candidacy.

However, the fact that the relationship of forces is progressively turning in favor of the continuity of the Process of Change does not mean that the trend is irreversible. Between now and election day, there is still a little more room for manoeuvre.

But if the political outlook for Morales has improved compared to the first months of this year, the massive gathering was further enhanced by the presence hours before the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, who affirmed on Friday morning, to the astonishment of the opposition, that preventing the participation of the indigenous leader in the October 20 elections would be a discriminatory act. Almagro’s words served to resolve a debate with the opposition, but that does not mean that the danger has passed. The opportunism and pragmatism of the Uruguayan who, in his early years, played the revolutionary, outweigh any respect for the spoken word.

The opposition, as the editorial in La Época points out, had no choice but to react with bewilderment and strong declarations from its main leaders who presented themselves as resigned to having the support of the OAS in order to achieve, from the outside, what objectively they will not be able to conquer from the inside, given the electoral fracture and their impossibility of organizing a social mobilization of gigantic dimensions to block Morales’ participation in the elections. The opposition’s bet is that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the pressure of the United States, in which Almagro would have no problem in running with a low profile, block Morales’ candidacy.

However, the fact that the relationship of forces is progressively turning in favour of the continuity of the Process of Change does not mean that the trend is irreversible. Between now and election day there is still a little more than five months to go and an unexpected political event, manufactured from outside and implemented by its agents in Bolivia, may stop the process or even place the electoral situation on the opposition’s side. Evo Morales was previously the victim of a political-media conspiracy in February 2016 and it would be naïve for the government and MAS not to be prepared to confront any plan in that direction.

That is why the slogan with which Evo Morales ended his short address becomes more meaningful now than ever:

Homeland or Death!

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