The Cocalero Leader Who Could Replace Evo Morales in Bolivia

Lucía Barrios politician and coca grower leader Andrónico Rodríguez, whom some media report as a possible candidate for the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), told Sputnik that he could run if he has the support of former president Evo Morales (2006-2019). He also said that the MAS should commit to self-criticism and unity in order to generate a true process of change.

Rodríguez, a 30-year-old with a degree in political science, is vice president of the Seis Federaciones de cocaleros del Trópico de Cochabamba, the organization from which Morales emerged.

Local media describe him as “the heir” of the former president or the “man most trusted by Morales in his greatest bastion”.

In the last few hours your name has been in several international media because it is pointed out as a possible MAS candidate. What do you have to say about this?

In the social networks and in the media my name is appearing quite a lot, even more in this difficult moment that we are experiencing. Many people see me as a possible candidate, although nothing is defined because departmental meetings are still being agreed upon.

As of yesterday, there was a period of between five and eight days, within which there will be an organic determination of how the MAS will be structured and who will be its leaders. I saw that some international media have been naming me quite a lot, but a great deal will depend on the approval of President Evo Morales himself, who is also leader of the MAS at the national level and president of the movement that I integrate. The truth is that I am currently serving as vice president of one of the most important organizations in Bolivia.

If the MAS organization defines you as a candidate, are you willing to take on this responsibility?

The truth is, I feel an inexplicable sensation. None of this was in my plans or in my mind, despite so much propaganda on social networks. Because I am more engaged in social struggle, in detainees, persecuted and disappeared. It is an organic instance that must be clearly defined. I’m not so sure. Finally, if MAS’s parent organizations at the national level support me and President Evo approves, there will be no other way to go. But it is a very difficult moment and the responsibility that one has to assume is very great.

If the MAS elects you as a candidate, what things would you promote within the party?

There are many issues to deal with at this moment at the internal level of the MAS, such as restructuring the regional, departmental and national ones. That’s going to be a big task. At the moment there are many self-appointed leaders who are not so organic, since the MAS responds to its bases, first it is important to work to generate conditions of unity at the level of the regions and departments and converge at the national level.

It is very important to start taking into account the well-engaged people, who have acted with conviction during the coup, resisting it. Because the president resigned, some also resigned not only from office, but as militants. It is going to be important to make a change with very honest individuals, with commitment, who take the reins. Also identify some mistakes that have been made in this time and assume them very responsibly and self-critically but also defend the great successes that we have had in these more than thirteen years of government. As a political party it will be extremely important to take an X-ray to identify what we have done wrong.

You say that it is necessary to identify errors. What do you think they have been?

There are many errors; we want to concentrate all these actors from the nine departments so that many proposals and errors surface. One of our big problems is that candidates have been imposed, ignoring the organic. We have let the decision of the rank and file pass and more interested in being a friend of the minister or the influential leader. It will be necessary to take into account the opinion and decision of the rank and file. I also think it is going to be very important to take into account that, being an authority, mayor, leader or minister, you have chosen to be conformist. At a time of stability we do not innovate ideas, we do not generate unity or political debate. One of our big mistakes is that in moments of social peace and stability we have not politically educated our militants.

In the media there is a lot of the idea that you have a very fluid relationship with Evo Morales. What do you have to say about this?

President Evo Morales is also president of the Seis Confederaciones del Trópico de Cochabamba, and at a congress last year I was elected by proclamation of all delegates as to how to follow Evo. I am his immediate successor because we have to coordinate very closely all the activities pertaining to both political and social tenor of the confederation. The president is always attentive and attentive to how the bases are, what the people say, and what is missing in production.

Some authorities accused him of terrorism and sedition. What do you think about this?

Overnight the president is not president and is in Mexico. He becomes a usurping president. Some media and politicians begin to question the leaders. The truth is that it is nothing new. In 2001, 2002 and 2003 it also happened, it was said that Evo was a terrorist, seditious, dangerous, the one blocking the country and the one attacking the Bolivian economy. They said that mobilization is wrong when it is a right to protest. We said that they are pressuring the president to make him resign and usurp the position.

The president said, “I’m not going to be a candidate, let’s go to new elections, but let me finish my term until January”. The truth is that we doubt very much that the opposition, after using violence, anti-democratic methods, closing institutions, beating public officials, causing anxiety in the cities, can respect democracy when by order of the government the police and military go out to shoot the people. We said that we are mobilizing against this unconstitutional government. What happened has me a little worried. But it is the citizens who judge and have the last word.

We considered it was necessary to mobilize because the threats were not only to the president but moved to the streets, seeking to burn our campaign headquarters, our properties, even seized relatives and threatened unless you spoke against Evo.

There is no freedom, rights are truncated, that is why we mobilize. I was blamed for leading an armed movement, conducting training, collecting weapons, receiving advice from the FARC (the dissolved guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), or defending drug trafficking. Everything is totally false. They are still filing a criminal appeal accusing me of generating violence in Bolivia when they initiated it and are responsible for the situation. They present a criminal appeal without any evidence. They do not advance their denunciation if no evidence is presented. Protest is legal because it is a human right. If something happens to the leaders or to me, they will invent criminal offences. It is serious what they did and that frightens us a bit. Finally, I would like to ask all the social movements in Bolivia and Latin America to create conditions of unity, because these are difficult moments that we are experiencing in Bolivia, Chile and in different countries. Unity is a crucial weapon for social movements.

Translation by Internationalist 360º