As the votes were counted it became clear what everyone was expecting: Evo Morales, Alvaro García Linera, David Choquehuanca and the MAS won the second presidential re-election, defeating Samuel Doria (UN), Tuto Quiroga (PDC), Juan del Granado (MSM) and Fernando Vargas (PVB) with more than 2/3 of the votes. Though this result was expected, the important surprise was that close to 50% of the elected parliamentarians are women, meaning that 80 MPs are women, thus reaching equality between men and women in the Assembly. This is the first time it happens in Bolivia and the percentage of women in the Assembly means almost the highest percentage in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Then it becomes important for us to understand what happened and what might result in the coming five years of government.
Before the election took place on the 12 of October, it was a real surprise to get the internal and external reports. When I was talking to colleagues or to people on the street (taxi drivers, Puma Katari buses, trufis), inside Bolivia, the general feeling was that Juancito Pinto, Juana Azurduy and age bonuses were helping the poorest families and generated a strengthening of the internal market. There were other important projects like the separation plants, the national fair in La Paz, and the several lines of the cable car joining strategic point in La Paz, that refer to the common good. All of them are resulting in the well being of most of the La Paz and El Alto (more than 2 million) citizens.
On the external side, the second big surprise landed when we got the reports from regional and global institutions on Bolivia. On the regional side ALBA, UNASUR, CELAC indicated how the several approaches developed during the last 10 years will give Bolivia the possibility to abandon being a commodity exporter. This was strongly reinforced by Bolivia being the president of the G-77 plus China and the non-aligned countries and celebrating a successful general assembly in Santa Cruz. It was astonishing getting few weeks before the Election Day all the reports from the IMF, the World Bank, FAO and CEPAL, telling that extreme poverty was significantly reduced, and the growth of the economy was one of the biggest in the continent.
The IMF indicated that Bolivian economy will lead growth in Latin America during 2014 (5.2%) and will be the second biggest (5.0%) in 2015. If we compare this with results from the last 10 years, the Internal Gross Product has been around 5.71%, which is very relevant because growth would be related with new industries like the plant separating Urea from Ammonia, starting to operate in Cochabamba.
Last week I participated in a good discussion on masculinity. During the 1st break I was talking to one of the main panellists, and I tried to link masculinity to smallholders’ agriculture. The panellist indicated: how can you expect the present government to respond to smallholders’ interests? They just announced that they will build a nuclear plant in La Paz. I told him that these are the types of projects that can’t be exclusive among them. The government has indicated that they want to make Bolivia the energy centre for South America and this is a good step. Nuclear energy can be among the many sources already developed: wind, solar, water, gas and… nuclear!
Hugo Moldiz tells us that the last 10 years have allowed Evo/MAS to dismount seven myths: (1) Bolivian diversity did not stop a political candidate to go over 50% of voting. It has been over 66% during the last three elections, which means political support from those who have been always excluded (indigenous and small-holders); (2) Governmental power worn politicians out of their role; with a peculiar way to link (come from) with social movements, Evo/MAS became stronger; (3) A good government requires the advice from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund: which stopped to happen with the current administration; (4) Bolivia needs the USA and those countries from central capitalism; the present government asked USAID and the American ambassador and DEA to leave the country since 2008; Philip Goldberg was the last American ambassador; (5) Indigenous people don’t know how to govern; it’s quite simple to see that there is lack of institutional development; but you always see that the government is learning and is responding; (6) A leftish government can be efficient; (7) Communitarian socialism for Vivir Bien is what Bolivia needs to continue marching towards political sovereignty and economic independence.
Last week we went to have a glance about how is life in Cochabamba. Together with friends we went to visit Tarata, a very small town where they are in the process of repairing the old buildings and streets. While we enjoyed drinking chicha and eating spiced chorizo, we started to listen to stories about the three presidents that were born in Tarata. It surprised me to see that one of them, Mariano Melgarejo lost a lot of land (1867) and generated such conflicts with the United Kingdom, which took queen Victoria to find Bolivia in the map, marking Bolivia with an ‘X’ – “Bolivia does not exist”. Listening about Melgarejo and about other presidents you get to the conclusion that with a few exceptions, Bolivia has been poorly governed. Evo/MAS’s state and government are the first representing most of Bolivians’ interests in their history.
Evo/Alvaro/Choquehuanca/MAS are carrying an important ‘bag’ full of challenges. I would include into the bag:
– Accelerated development of productive capacity (electric energy being part of it!), in such a way that the good public policies developed are independent from exporting commodities.
– Find the way to continue developing leadership, which necessarily means empowering education and the role played by indigenous and campesino communities.
– Good quality support to small scale food producers, so Bolivia keeps its self-sustainable food supply.
– A strong and clear development about the key meanings of the Vivir Bien’s inspired policies.
Bolivia is a beautiful and fascinating country!