Many years ago, the man who has taken the Plurinational State of Bolivia to first-rate statistics in the economic and social arenas, was jailed on a military base in Copacabana, a town in the department of La Paz, close to the border with Peru.
This was in 1995, and Evo Morales endured insults and interrogations, for defending his rights and those of coca growers. But the most hateful way his captors referred to him was “indio” – a word that served as an offense for them, but is one of his most valued attributes.
Now that “Indian,” Evo Morales, is loved by his people and continues to dignify his indigenous roots, struggling tirelessly to eradicate the social ills that in the past left his nation without a future.
Nonetheless, some far removed from this reality, at different latitudes, or in the comfort of their homes, criticize his decision to run for a fourth term as President, denying the broad support he enjoys among the people and the figures that confirm this fact.
BOLIVIA BEFORE EVO
An opportune comment appeared in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, recalling how, in the not so distant past, a few owners of significant capital fiercely exploited the Aymara, Quechua, Guarani, and other original peoples of Bolivia’s universe, whose elemental rights were ignored.
The paper points out that 90% of the rural population lived in poverty, making Bolivia, Honduras and Haiti a trio of countries facing uncertain futures, with the worse human development indices in the region. At the same time, publically owned companies were privatized by oligarchic governments beginning in 1952, and Presidents took turns auctioning off the people’s welfare and the assets they were elected to protect, not embezzle.
Nonetheless, as expert Darío Restrepo points out in a study conducted by the National University of Colombia, a new program was implemented with the arrival of the Morales administration, very different from that of the previous 20 years.
“Instead of exclusively representative democracy, power was redirected to indigenous, rural, and popular communities, peoples, and organizations; instead of the President calling for a modern, Western, liberal Bolivia, he expresses the aspiration for a multi-national Bolivia, criticizes the ‘colonial state’ and liberal, bourgeois democracy,” Restrepo states.
BOLIVIA WITH EVO
According to Chilean newspaper La Tercera, in the last 12 years the Bolivian economy has grown 4.9% annually, far exceeding the regional average of 2.7%, and tripling its GDP from 11.5 billion to the current 37.77 billion.
This publication also reports that, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), inflation rose by just 2.7% in 2017, the lowest figure in ten years, while the labor market strengthened.
On the other hand, in an interview with the Bolivian leader by BBC Mundo, Evo described, as another of the battles of his government, the fact that for three or four consecutive years his nation has shown the highest economic growth in all of South America. “That has never happened since the founding of the Republic,” he reaffirmed.
Another achievement of his Presidency is the reduction of poverty. According to teleSUR, in 2017 Bolivia made considerable progress on this front, with the poverty rate falling to its lowest level in history, at 36.4%.
The minimum income has increased up to 127%, and the minimum wage of workers is the second best in Latin America.
But the population has not only benefited economically. As the Bolivian President says in the interview, “The most humiliated and marginalized sector, which was that of women of all social and indigenous classes, now has a place in the Plurinational State.
“We all have the same rights and duties,” he stressed.
According to analyst Hugo Siles, “The contemporary history of Bolivia is divided in two: before and after Evo Morales.” In addition, he stresses in La Nación, “Bolivia has changed substantially in the last decade, there is a before and after with Evo Morales. It is a very different nation socially, economically, and politically. The arrival of Morales implied a 180-degree turnabout on issues such as the management of natural resources and the inclusion of indigenous peoples.”
At the same time, Siles recognizes that much remains to be done, especially on issues related to reforms or changes in the judicial system, and greater recognition of the LGBT+ population.
This modest man, from a humble family, who worked as a bricklayer, baker, and trumpeter to pay for his studies, was branded a terrorist and demonized by the opposition to curb his political aspirations. But in 2005, he won the Presidential elections with 53.7% of the votes, a level of support that continues to date.
• The Morales government has recently announced a 1.5 billion dollar investment in roads and airports.
• With Evo Morales as President, Bolivia has established 3,000 primary health care facilities and more than 200 for secondary assistance.
• More than 85% of the population has access to potable water, an everyday issue in the past.
• Some 1.4 billion land titles have been awarded to small farmers and indigenous peoples.
• A “Dignity” benefit is provided to 900,000 older adults, thanks to an allocation of more than 2.9 billion dollars
• A total of 14% of the state budget is destined to education.