Evo Morales: “There is a Democratic Rebellion throughout Latin America and the Caribbean”

Alina Duarte
Evo Morales, former president of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and president of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba, is in Mexico at the invitation of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Morales was one of the international special guests to accompany the festivities for the 212th anniversary of Mexico’s independence.

Like John and Gabriel Shipton, father and brother of journalist Julian Assange; the family of the peasant leader and activist César Chávez; Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che Guevara, just as former Uruguayan President “Pepe” Mujica, Evo Morales accepted the invitation.

Morales witnessed the cry for independence launched by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on September 15, in which the already traditional “Long Live Mexico and the reminder of the heroes of Independence, added: “Death to corruption! Death to racism! Death to classism.

The former Bolivian president was also on the balconies of the National Palace, where he was applauded by thousands of people who attended the festivities, and a day later, He heard the Mexican president just a few meters away, launch a call for a world truce for five years.

On his brief visit, Evo Morales gave us time on his agenda to discuss Mexico, Latin America, lithium, and the present and future of the region.

Journalist Alina Duarte with Evo Morales ( Photo credit: Devadip Axel Meléndez )

After meeting with the head of government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, Evo Morales receives us at the place where she is staying. He arrives running because in a couple of hours his flight leaves for Bolivia. Agitated, he greets, sits down, breathes and in those seconds before the interview I thank him for his time for these questions.

We started the interview and not the first minute passes when he points out that he is in Mexico thanks to the invitation of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

That’s what we’re going to do first. You are here, Evo, at the invitation of President López Obrador. You were one of his great special guests to be at these national holidays. You were present on the day of the Cry for Independence and there are two moments: both “the scream” on the night of September 15, and in the parade on the 16th, where President Andrés Manuel gives a speech prior to the military parade, calling for a world truce, while on the night of the shout he said “death to racism, “Death to classism”, among others. ¿What are your impressions of all this?

– Andrés, President of Mexico, is Andrés. For a long time he has been a very humanistic, supportive president, committed to humble families, to his social programs.  And I met the president in his possession, he greeted me, “indigenous brother”, something like that. After the coup d’état because it saved my life, it helped me, it helped us to recover democracy along with other presidents such as Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, President [ Ernesto ] Samper, [ José Luis Rodríguez ] Zapatero, including the President of Paraguay. And now I am invited with Brother Pepe Mujica, he has invited me along with Julian Assange’s father and Che’s daughter, Aleida Guevara and other guests. It is an honor for me to be participating and to see the national holiday of Mexico.

On September 15 we were surprised, shouting “out of racism”, “out of corruption”, “out of classism”, it is a strong message but also a message of integration. I still think how one day to have a plurinational America, from the peoples to the people. It is not America as the Americans say, “the backyard of the United States, all of Latin America. Two or three weeks ago, what did the United States Southern Command say? He is concerned about lithium, but on top of that, Latin America is [ considered ] a neighborhood in the United States. It still hurts us in the 21st century to hear these kinds of messages. There are new leaders, as well as Brother Andrés with his proposals. We hear an interesting message, a truce to avoid conflict and above all,the financial economic crises that this United States military intervention with NATO is causing to encircle Russia, and there they provoke this armed conflict.

From left to right: Luis Cresencio Sandoval, Secretary of Defense. José Rafael Ojeda, Secretary of the Navy. Pepe Mujica, former President of Uruguay. Evo Morales, former President of Bolivia. Aleida Guevara, daughter of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Gabriel Shipton and John Shipton, brother and father of Julian Assange ( Photo credit: Government of Mexico )

Precisely in that speech, Evo, what President López Obrador says, is that it is a proposal for a five-year world truce “to attend to the great and serious economic and social problems that afflict and torment the peoples. This proposal, which says that Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard will formally present to the UN, “seeks the immediate suspension of military actions and provocations as well as military and missile tests. He would seek a committee to promote dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, in which, he even said, if he accepted, there would be Pope Francis, there would also be the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and also, on the part of the UN, the Secretary General Antonio Gutérrez ”. ¿What message does it send out of Mexico?

– First, brother president of Mexico: worry about the food, energy situation, worry about life, about humanity. It is worthy of admiration and is a good proposal. Really, it has surprised me and I think it has surprised everyone, a truce and that there are mediators, from India, Pope Francis, the United Nations, Mexico will surely be with the initiative. We salute, support and only hope that everyone can listen. Hopefully NATO will stop continuing to attack or surround countries when countries do not submit to the empire, that is the underlying issue. Although I had information that there was a great meeting today, between China, India, I don’t know if it is Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Russia. Hopefully there will also be some light on how to seek peace but with social justice.

And I think this is important, even these invitations that President López Obrador makes to you and others. Maybe they couldn’t have been done four years ago when he became president, but things have been changing regionally, right, ¿What is your assessment of the role that Mexico is playing within the region with all these issues that you put on the table even worldwide?

 – I feel that there is a democratic rebellion throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Let’s ask, two, three years ago there was the Lima Group to defeat ( Nicolás ) Maduro, where is the Lima group? ¿How was the Lima Group composed? With former presidents of Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, especially Colombia.

– Now everyone has been falling…

– Now there is no Lima Group. Look, after we founded UNASUR ( Union of South American Nations ) with [ Hugo ] Chávez, with Lula [ da Silva ], with [ Rafael ] Correa and with [ Nestor ] Kirschner and other presidents ( Parliament have made some parties submissive to the empire ), paralyzed I would momentarily say to UNASUR. But we created with [ Hugo ] Chávez, with Fidel [ Castro ] CELAC ( Community of Latin American and Caribbean States ), but against that integration proposal, [ Barack ] Obama and other presidents of the United States organized the Pacific Alliance to continue with the consensus policies of Washington or the FTAA.

Now, again I wonder, where is the Pacific Alliance? These institutions or organizations that are only to support the policies of the United States have been defeated with this democratic rebellion.

– Like the OAS…

– Sure, but on top of that, imagine! I am almost sure that comrade Lula ( in Brazil ) wins next month’s elections, plus Mexico, it is a great strategic alliance for all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. It gives us a lot of hope.

50, 60 years ago, at least, we saw how Cuba was expelled from the OAS. Afterward, it was scary to be expelled from the OAS, now it is rather worthy pride to withdraw from the OAS. We have a responsibility to relaunch CELAC to really guarantee integration, but not only as heads of state but with their peoples.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador greets Evo Morales and other people invited to the independence ceremonies in Mexico ( Photo credit: Government of Mexico )

 Speaking of Latin America, I want to continue insisting on this issue because some call it the second cycle of progressive governments. Some speak of some peculiarities. The truth is that there is a trend not only in the discourse, there are very clear anti-neoliberal actions, anti-imperialists and in this sense we have already seen the victory of a Gustavo Petro in Colombia together with France Márquez, And that’s important because I think only characters like you stressed that it was the two who made that victory possible and not just customizing it in Petro. But we also have elections in just a few days in Brazil and we see Lula da Silva with great possibilities of returning.  ¿How do you look at this Latin America today?

– First, all the doctrines of the empire have fallen. ¿Where’s the Cold War? ¿Where’s the war on terror? ¿Why am I saying this? Now, political parties or movements, social movements with tendencies, with communist and socialist principles, doctrines, are now presidents. That was not before, it was only Cuba.

Terrorists … For the empire, who are the terrorists? Social movements. I remember in 2002, the United States Ambassador, Manuel Rocha, said “don’t vote for Evo Morales, Evo Morales is an Andean Bin Laden and the coca growers the Taliban, “Don’t vote like this, if you vote for Evo there will be no cooperation and investment. ¡What a lie! In 2005 public investment was 1.6 billion dollars. In my last years of management before the coup, we programmed more than 8 billion dollars in public investment.

So the “terrorists” are now presidents. [ Gabriel ] Boric, who was a student leader; Pedro Castillo, president, peasant rondero, leader of the teaching profession and now president, with difficulties but how we win. I feel that this American doctrine falls apart. Even, look, some brothers raised their weapons for liberation, after 200 years of founding the Republic and now they are presidents, Daniel Ortega and now Gustavo Petro. And those of us who organize socially and some even rose up in arms, which I do not share so much, but the people agree with him, time will give it to us. But what is the danger that I see? When the empire is in decline, go to violence. I don’t want to think that but it is the situation of Cristina Fernández a few weeks ago. When the empire loses hegemony,go to arms, and therefore everything you are thinking not only has to be seen from a successful point of view, it is successful of course, but take advantage of this moment to shield us, so that right-wing governments subject to the empire never return.

– At some other time, talking about the incidence of the United States in the region was taken as a conspiracy, as a myth, when it is widely documented how they orchestrate destabilizations and coups. We experienced a social outbreak in Chile, in Brazil they were releasing Lula but at the same time a coup was brewing in Bolivia. Three years have passed since the coup, ¿How do you look at the recovery of democracy in Bolivia and what are the challenges specifically with a right that we have seen has not given way in those attempts to destabilize a democratically elected government, in this case that of Luis Arce?

 – In the consciousness of the people. The MAS – IPSP ( Movement To Socialism – Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of Peoples ) has a political, economic, and social agenda, beyond the bicentennial. The MAS – IPSP is the largest movement in Bolivian history, and at the head, the indigenous movement – The indigenous movement are the heirs of history, heirs to the struggles of colonial times. We were threatened with extermination, the hated in Republic times, who were in a political movement to liberate all of Bolivia.

I perfectly remember that in 2005 our program was based on three points: politically, the re-foundation through the Constituent Assembly; economically, the nationalization of natural resources, but also of basic resources; and socially, the redistribution of wealth. In a short time we made a lot of history. But there, the underlying issue, sister journalist, is that the coup, apart from being from the gringo to the Indian, is two things. First, to our economic model – The empire does not accept new economic models better than the economic model implemented by the economic model of neoliberalism under the mandate of capitalism. So it was against our economic model.

¿And what was the basis of our economic model? The nationalization of natural resources but also begin with industrialization and above all, the issue of lithium. You as a journalist know how many messages, evidence, about how the United States staged a coup d’etat over lithium. England had financed the coup on the lithium issue. Tesla’s owner, Elon Musk, recognizes the interests of the Uyuni Salt Flat and they carry out a coup.

This that is happening should unite us all much more, not only for lithium, for oil, for gas, for natural resources. It is the fight of humanity. Natural resources, whose are they? ¿Of the private ones under the looting of transnational corporations or of the peoples under exploitation of our states, of our governments? Of course you have to take advantage of natural resources taking care of the environment.

– Evo, speaking of the United States, you point out that the coup against you was fundamentally towards lithium, something that has been demonstrated, a debate that is not new: the one that the United States comes for the natural resources of Latin America. However in Mexico the people will be much more interested in this now than the Mexican government, than the administration of President López Obrador, has decided to create his own company for lithium industrialization. At the beginning of August we saw the news: the Bolivian government and the Mexican government were looking to make an alliance so that it does not sell as raw material, which is what the great powers want, but an alliance is made to fundamentally industrialize lithium. ¿What did all this mean for your administration and especially the role it played in the coup?

– I am a witness to this. In 2010 I traveled at the invitation of South Korea and as always, the President’s task is to do good business for his people. Great deals we signed and invited me to see a new lithium battery industry, cute, beautiful. I ask you how much does it cost? “300 million dollars. By then, our reserves were already growing, we already had ten thousand, eleven billion dollars in international reserves. At that moment I think, “I can guarantee 300 million dollars. I say to the Koreans “let’s build a twin company in Bolivia”, I can guarantee the investment, “no, no, no. So I can comment on quite a few memories I have. There I realized that unfortunately the industrialized countries only want us so that we guarantee them raw materials.

So what did we do with Álvaro [ Garcia Linera ], vice president? Start with laboratories, with a pilot plant in the large lithium industry. For laboratories we hire experts. For the pilot plant, the young people had already learned, we had a nice project. And we decided that foreigners could not enter the extractive part. On the market issue, there are agreements, no problem.

Journalist Alina Duarte with Evo Morales ( Photo credit: Devadip Axel Meléndez )

– ( Evo begins to leaf through the notes published by various media during the dates of the coup against him in 2019 and shares the headlines )

– What was this note called? On November 20, 2019, days after the coup d’état: “the coup in Bolivia smells like lithium”, first-rate information. “Trump applauds the departure of Evo Morales after pressure from the army. Unfortunately the commanders then turned, “Why could the United States be behind the coup in Bolivia?” Senator Richard Black explains that it is on the subject of lithium. “American Senator assures that the United States intervened for lithium. And the worst thing is this, the owner of Tesla, the electric car industry, “We will give a coup to whoever we want, deal with it. Show who financed the coup plotters in Bolivia. We reported this last year: “The United Kingdom supported the coup d’état in Bolivia to access its ‘white gold’,” lithium. And he had invested, he had financed,it is not only your verbal support. No wonder the ambassador of England in the days of the coup was permanently in meeting with the opponents, with the coup plotters.

Here we have a gold mine, “the price of lithium rose from $4,450 a ton of lithium carbonate in 2012, to $17,000 in 2021,” last year. In 10 years it has reached $78,000 per ton of lithium carbonate!

– And in that sense, what message can you send to both the government and the Mexican people, thinking that one of the ways in which they have chosen has been to nationalize lithium?

– I greet the brother president, the government of Mexico, lithium is the heritage of the Mexican people. I understand that it is already nationalized. How beautiful Bolivia, Mexico, Argentina, Chile would be together. But in Chile, totally privatized, in Argentina the same, hopefully they can recover it. But in Bolivia and Mexico we must make a strategic alliance to industrialize our lithium.

I am still convinced, journalist sister, that some Latin American countries will be a power in something, and we can be a power in the matter of lithium, with tremendous prices. And it will continue to grow. There is the task of each one of us, of their governments. I welcome the fact that last week President “Lucho” Arce from Bolivia, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador from Mexico, have already met. There is work of technical teams there. I was being asked what technicians we have. We have to share work experiences, we have good technicians, we have learned a lot. Get together to launch the industrialization of lithium but, at the forefront, our governments. State under the control of the people, not as always, hand over to transnational corporations, we do not share that. And in our experience, the nationalizations of natural resources,as well as strategic companies, they helped us a lot to change the image of Bolivia.

– And finally, Evo, I don’t want to say goodbye without saying that we saw you arrive in Zacatecas, where you received an Honoris Causa doctorate from the University of Zacatecas. We can already tell you “Doctor Evo. Tell us.

Last year they invited me to give me an acknowledgment. This year we take advantage of this visit, this invitation from President Andrés Manuel to stop by Zacatecas. Thanks to the Autonomous University of Zacatecas we were reunited with the social movements, the indigenous peasant movement, teachers, some political parties but also with the Governor of Zacatecas, and this recognition is to social movements, to the indigenous movement in particular. Without them I would not have been president and I thank the university, several colleagues who have had the initiative. We talked a lot, we went to a mining area. In addition to that, an interesting very colonial city and we have good relations. We hope we don’t lose these very trustworthy relationships to open them up to humble people. Thank you.

Thank you so much for your time, Evo. We hope you come again on other occasions, more often. I appreciate this dialogue.

 Alina Duarte is a journalist and senior investigator for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, COHA.

This interview was edited by COHA Director Patricio Zamorano.

[ Main photo credit: Alina Duarte ]

Translation by Internationalist 360°