Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Great news from Bolivia

At about 10 pm on Sunday (18th December), Evo Morales of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) was unofficially declared to be the winner of the presidential elections in Bolivia. The leader of the main conservative opposion party, Jorge Quiroga, has already graciously accepted Morales victory which for the first time ever sees an “indigenous” Bolivian achieving the highest seat of power. One of Morales’s first statements in unofficially accepting victory was to call on the business community, intellectuals, artists and professionals to rally behind the new presidency:
"Decir a aymaras, quechuas, chiquitaos y guaraníes: por primera vez vamos a ser presidentes. Y quiero decirles a empresarios, profesionales intelectuales, artistas, no nos abandonen".
A new historical phase is beginning in Bolivia he continued, where (we) “seek equality, justice, fairness and peace”

Exit poll estimates indicate that Morales received more than 50% of the vote. A vote which records a sea change in Bolivian politics as for the first time, the indigenous population has fully displayed its powerful potential at the ballot box. This power has already been dramatically revealed on the streets and in the mines and cocoa plantations when following a decision in March this year by the lower house of parliament that would keep gas royalties at 18%, well short of the 50% that the social movements had been demanding, peasants and workers organised mass mobilisations against the legislation . Although the bill’s legitimacy was successfully challenged in parliament by the New Republican Force and the MAS, Morales called on all the social movements to join protests on the streets and “blockade parliament” until a bill more favourable to Bolivia’s poor was passed. Peasants responded by forcing the shutdown of four oilfields in Bulo Bulo near Cochabamba; coca farmers (cocaleros) from the Chapare region blocked access into five key regions; and the country became engulfed in a series of strikes, marches and vigils. It is in this broader context of struggle that Morales victory has been sealed.

Morales has been at pains to stress that the indigenous movement is not an exclusive movement but a movement inclusive of all races, which rejects discrimination and xenophobia but also, crucially, rejects the neoliberal capitalist economic model. Morales has severe critics amongst groups both on the right and on the left. What is without doubt however is that, since the return of democracy to the country in 1982, no candidate has managed to achieve the level of voter support apparently obtained this week by Morales. What is also without doubt is that the neoliberalists in Washington and Texas will look on this development in "their" South American region as one other cause for major concern. All the better reason for indegenous peoples and their supporters all over the world to rally in support of this great victory.


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