Evo de Nuevo
A week ago Bolivian President Evo Morales was sworn in to his historic second term of office – historic both because of the margin of his December election victory (63%) and the constitutional change that for the first time in decades allows a president to serve a second consecutive term. To mark the occasion and spark the debate that this event surely does, we bring you an extended Blog with several features – from analysis to photos.
‘Evonomics’ Gets a Second Term in Bolivia
A new article by Jim Shultz in the new edition of NACLA
If election results are a measure of public support for a president’s economic policies, then Bolivia’s Evo Morales got a massive sign of approval December 6. The nation’s first indigenous president was easily elected to a second term with 63% of the vote, almost three times as much as his nearest competitor.
This is a huge win in a country where, for decades, presidents were regularly elected to office with less than a quarter of the popular vote. Part of Morales’s success is connected to Bolivia’s stunning macroeconomic performance under his administration, thanks largely to new taxes on gas and oil revenues, together with a hydrocarbon price boom in 2005–07. GDP growth in 2008, in the face of a global recession, surpassed 6%, and the government boasts foreign currency reserves totaling more than $8 billion. In October, this success garnered the leftist Morales administration praise from an unlikely source: officials at the International Monetary Fund. Read the full article here.
Bolivia's Election Results, for True Political Junkies
For readers interested in understanding the results of December's Morales landslide, in incredible detail, we bring you this extremely complete analysis from Dutch researcher Hans Zandvliet. The analysis includes a comprehensive comparative analysis of Morales' support in 2005 vs. 2009 and maps that break that analysis down by sub-regions within each department. If you want the details or just like colorful maps, this report is for you. Read it here.
The Morales Inauguration in Photos
The Democracy Center team was present in La Paz and Tiwanaku, and there with camera in hand. For those who want to witness the inaugural events in living color, we present a special photo exhibition from Aldo Orellana and Jessica Aguirre. See it here.
Evo Morales’ Inauguration at Tiwanaku
(A special report written by Jessica Aguirre and Aldo Orellana, with editing by Jim Shultz)
On January 21 an estimated 50,000 people gathered at the centuries-old altiplano ruins at Tiwanaku. They gathered on a few gentle hills underneath a fiercely blue sky and around a few squat stone structures. After they had made their way through the corridor of vendors selling food out of aguayo-covered pots on the ground or MAS memorabilia, they assembled under the sun. There, in front of the ancient Incan temple Kalasasaya, they waited for Evo Morales, the newly re-elected president of Bolivia.
Morales at 11 o’clock carried by a red helicopter. In celebration of his arrival, a profusion of musica autoctona groups representing indigenous communities from across Bolivia simultaneously broke into song.
After a brief Q’owa ceremony, conducted on the top of the small mountain of Akapana, Evo was led down to the temple. There he received representatives of indigenous communities from across the Americas who presented him with symbolic gifts: White Bear from Canada gave him a leather coat; Marno Santi from Ecuador gave him a flag. The ceremony, anachronistically powerful, lasted into the afternoon sun, and the celebrations continued long afterward.
The Official Speeches
Since preparations for the inauguration began, the government has been announcing that the ceremony would not only recognize Evo Morales as the new head of state, but that it would mark the “re-founding” of Bolivia.
President Morales emphasized in his speech at Tiwanaku that Bolivians are living through a transition, from a colonial state to a plurinational state. He observed that during the moment of transition there were two states: one that died and one that was born.
Morales referred to the new state as a dignified one that was meant to replace an undignified and indebted history.
The following day, in the official inauguration of a new National Congress – renamed under the new constitution as the Plurinational Legislative Assembly – Vice-president Álvaro García Linera criticized the original founding of Bolivia. “The country was founded for a last name of class and a checkbook,” he said.
Linera contrasted the plurinational state to the colonial state, saying that the transition would assure that all Bolivians have the same rights and obligations. The plurinational state, he said, was one in which indigenous people and people of mixed descent (mestizos) are equal and enjoy the same opportunities.
Morales also spoke of the necessity of respecting the Pachamama. But many questions surfaced regarding the challenges Morales will face in effectively achieving his vision. One of the most significant challenges will be making Morales’ ecological discourse compatible with his vision of political development, which is based on the extraction of natural resources.
Another task will be overcoming one of Bolivia’s greatest challenges: social segregation perpetrated on the basis of skin color, last name, origin, and economic condition. Bolivia remains a racist society and changing that fact will require more than recognizing equality in terms of the law: it will require concrete policies.
Symbols of the Re-founding of Bolivia
There are many symbols that characterize the “second founding” of Bolivia since 1825.
One of the most notorious changes is that the presidential sash, which bears the colors of the Bolivian flag, will now also bear the “Wiphala” in the center, the flag of indigenous peoples.
The medallion of the vice-president, which bore the image of Simón Bolivar on one side and the national shield on the other, will now display the images of Tupak Katari and Bartolina Sisa- the couple who led the indigenous rebellion against the Spanish crown in 1781 in La Paz.
Tupak Katari is considered by some to be a national hero and has been a constant source of rebellious inspiration for the indigenous peoples of Bolivia. He is attributed with the famous phrase “They will kill me, but I will return and I will be millions,” allegedly uttered after he was captured and quartered by Spanish troops. For many, Morales is the materialization of that prophecy.
The Morales inauguration saluted Tupak Katari, Bartolina Sisa, and Chiriguano Apiaguaiqui Tumpa (another indigenous leader that led a failed revolution at the end of the 19th century) by putting their portraits next to those of Simón Bolívar and Antonio José de Sucre above the presidential balcony. The government thus imbued the Bolivian imagination – and the imagination of the attendees, which including the Prince of Spain – with the rhetoric of de-colonialization.
One symbol did not change: the presidential medallion. The medallion was presented to Simón Bolívar by the Bolivian Congress as a gesture of its appreciation for his part in the struggle for independence. When Bolívar died, the medallion was returned to Bolivia and since then has been worn by incoming presidents on the day they are invested with presidential power.
Big Changes in the Presidential Cabinet
The new Morales cabinet, announced shortly after the parties ended, included some important departures from his first term.
One of those big changes was the appointment of a large number of women to the cabinet. Ten women now fill the nation's powerful Minister positions, a full half of the total. Some of the ministries that will be headed by women are the ministry of legal defense of the state (charged with negotiating and defending Bolivia against corporations in international tribunals), the ministry of development planning, the justice ministry, the work ministry, culture ministry, the ministry of the environment, and the water ministry.
Morales expressed profound satisfaction with the changes, stating that the presence of 10 women in the ministerial cabinet served as homage to his mother, his sister, and his daughter.
A second major change was the departure of Juan Ramón Quintana from the powerful post of Minister of the Presidency, easily the most powerful post in the government after the Presidency and Vice Presidency. Quintana, a former military officer was one of the most controversial figures in the Morales cabinet, regarded by many as a sort of Bolivian Rasputin who manipulated and controlled a good deal of power behind the scenes. He was replaced with the previous Minister of Hydrocarbons, Oscar Coca.
A number of key ministers remained in their posts, most notably his Minister of External relations, David Choquahuanca. Also remaining are the ministers of economy, education, autonomy and the anti-corruption minister.
One of Morales' cabinet appointments has already run into trouble. Mining Minister, Milton Gómez didn't last much more than a week before being forced to resign following charges of corruption in previous public posts. Corruption is a huge problem in Bolivia, one that permeates public offices and pre-dates Morales. But recently Transparency International has reported that the problem is getting worse and Morales has publicly declared fighting it a priority.
To be certain, not everyone was happy with the new cabinet appointments. Rafael Quispe, a representative from CONAMAQ, one of the most important organizations of indigenous communities in the country, stated that: “We are not in agreement with the formation of the cabinet. It is not a plurinational cabinet because indigenous and native peoples are not represented as Evo proposed at Tiwanaku. We respect his decision, but we do not accept that there are no native peoples represented in the cabinet.”
Stay tuned for more reports on the start of Morales' second term.