Evo Morales Defends Indigenous Leadership
Morales and the Red Ponchos
By PATRICK IRELAN
The Bolivian oligarchy has initiated its plan to balkanize the country. Traditionally, the oligarchy controlled the oil, natural gas, and the best farmland in Bolivia; and, for the most part, it has never indicated a desire to share the wealth with the nation’s indigenous majority. That majority, 60 percent of the population, lives primarily in the Andean highlands of western Bolivia, although in recent decades, the Indians of those areas have begun moving down to the cities in search of jobs.
With their diseases, their firepower, and their greed, the Euro-Americans have enjoyed their country’s wealth since the founding of Bolivia, and the Indians think it’s about time for a more-equitable division of the proceeds. They’ve been waiting half a millennium, and their patience has begun to drift off somewhere over the Andes, from whence it is unlikely to return.
Evo Morales is an Aymara Indian. In 2005, he became the first indigenous president in Bolivia’s history, collecting 54 percent of the vote. He inherited a land-locked and underdeveloped country, the poorest in South America. But the provinces of the eastern lowlands are blessed with large reserves of oil and natural gas. They also possess good farmland, although much of it lies unused by its wealthy owners.
The richest province of the lowlands is Santa Cruz. The light-skinned elite of Santa Cruz has benefited from the prosperity generated by the sale of oil and natural gas to foreign petroleum companies, and it fears any real or imagined threat to that prosperity. Bolivia has a population of over 9.2 million people, and about 2 million of them live in Santa Cruz, where the Euro-Americans greatly outnumber the Indians.
Since his election in 2005, President Morales has begun implementing a plan that he thinks will improve the lives of the poor while ensuring the well-being of everyone. In 2006, he nationalized Bolivia’s oil and natural gas reserves.
for remainder of article and this analysis of the U.S. role in attempts to destabilize Bolivia.