gas, so long as
it's placed in the
hands of Bolivians’
An interview with Evo Morales, Bolivian deputy and
of peasants, indigenous natives and social movements
By Oscar Gutiérrez
Agency for Information in Solidarity
deputy in the ranks of the second political force in
Bolivia, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), and leader
of the coca growers, social movements and indigenous
natives who ousted President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
last October, Evo Morales represents the banner of the
struggle for the recovery of the natural resources
wrested from Bolivians by the government and the
“The people have mobilized so hydrocarbons may return to
the hands of Bolivians,” Morales says. And so the land
may not be held in the hands of a few, he might have
added. These are the demands that Evo Morales stated
from the Madrid headquarters of the Spanish labor union
Workers Committees, on the first stop of a European tour
that will take his criticism of neoliberalism all the
way to the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Switzerland.
“From protest to proposal,” from the mass rallies of
natives, laborers, intellectuals and middle-class
workers to representative and participative democracy, a
participant in the dialogue with the Chilean government
to regain a corridor to the Pacific for Bolivian export
goods. This is the letter of introduction of Evo
Morales, a charismatic leader who deals patiently with
the present government of Carlos Mesa as he awaits the
referendum that will settle the fate of natural gas,
“the patrimony of the Bolivian people.”
OSCAR GUTIERREZ (OG):
Bolivia today finds itself dealing with the political
and social consequences of the so-called “gas war,” in
which the indigenous movements have played an essential
role. Under what conditions would these indigenous and
social movements be willing to commercialize Bolivian
entire Bolivian nation is willing to commercialize gas,
but only if, first, natural gas is placed in the hands
of Bolivians; second, gas is industrialized; and third,
gas is exported. Therefore, it has to be recovered and
no one is opposed to the sale of gas.
other issue is Chile. Chile owes us a historic debt. We
hold a pending invoice that has to be paid sooner or
later with the blessing of the international community.
The topic of the [corridor to the] ocean is no longer a
problem involving two countries; it is a multilateral
problem. Evidently, the people contend that if Chile
doesn't return the ocean to us,
will get nothing. That's what the Chilean government
needs to understand about Bolivia's quest for the
current Bolivian president, Carlos Mesa, is presenting
the referendum on gas with the slogan “For sale or not
for sale.” What do the Bolivian people mean by this
Mesa wants to confuse the population, to scare them with
the transnationals. The question should be “will we
regain our property,” not whether gas is “for sale or
not for sale.” The referendum asks whether the funds
derived from collective capitalization should go into
the hands of
fiscal oil fields. That shouldn't be the question.
Fundamentally, the question should be about the
Bolivians' right of ownership of the hydrocarbons.
Morales is known abroad as a leader of the coca growers.
It so happens that coca growing is another of Bolivia's
problems. There is a movement to eradicate coca
production, which is a means of livelihood for many
Bolivians and has strong cultural roots.
Coca production has to be channeled into a legal market
derived from the international market. Here [in Europe]
they are marketing coca if the form of a beverage made
of coca leaves. Therefore, we must begin a campaign of
depenalization. Coca leaves must be removed from the
list of narcotics published by the United Nations, but
we also must limit the cultivation of coca in
There will always be coca, it will never disappear. In
the past, Spaniards were the big coca growers in
Bolivia; their income, their wealth in the colonial era
was derived precisely from coca leaves. So, by this
time, how can we even think about eliminating [coca
Growing coca not for cocaine is a very different
issue. I challenge any government, especially the United
States government, to join a real and effective alliance
against drug trafficking. Regrettably, the drug is an
excuse for the
to strengthen its power and control over our countries.
Behind the struggle against drug trafficking lie
geopolitical interests, the megaprojects. Some leaders
design the Colombia Plan, and what is the Colombia Plan?
A second Condor Plan.
Social movements in Bolivia enjoy major participation by
the indigenous natives. This happened earlier in Mexico,
Ecuador, and now in Brazil. To what do you attribute
this apparent rebirth of the indigenous movements
throughout Latin America?
After 500 years of being subjugated, being slaves and
servants, of extermination policies, we decided to go
from resisting to taking over the territory. Territory
means all the natural resources of this Mother Earth.
But we chose to wage battle with her own tools, and are
doing so within the system. Our hopes are based on the
realization that we can regain power to seek a certain
am very encouraged. I never had expected to be invited
to so many conferences. I don't have enough time to
participate in all of them. I think it's important to be
honest, to be consistent, to be humble – but also to
attack our enemies. I have no academic background. My
training came from
and labor struggles. At this point, we are one step away
from winning the elections and go even farther, if we
continue to denounce what might happen in
Bolivia. We seek social support, as well as support from
other governments, to defend democracy.
do you relate that speech to the concrete plan evolved
by the Movement Toward Socialism to assume the reins of
latest proposal was made was this: We want to fight the
fiscal deficit with domestic savings. Numerically, we
have shown that by recovering the taxes that were not
paid by the transnational and national corporations, by
reducing the bureaucratic budget and eliminating foolish
expenditures, we can deal with the fiscal deficit. How
to affect the powerful is our central theme. We propose
the following: Those who profited or enriched themselves
from the neoliberal model must now end the crisis by
paying the taxes needed to wipe out the fiscal deficit.
And that is doable. We're marching well along that road,
but even as we march well, a conspiracy is plotted in
the United States.
what could the United States fear from the indigenous
movements that trouble it so?
indigenous movement continues to be a movement that
struggles for life, that defends humanity. It is a
movement that protects the natural resources but also
fights for democracy and human rights. And when the
indigenous movement arises, the United States denounces,
discredits and demonizes it. The way I see it, this
movement is unstoppable on an international level, and
because [the U.S.] wants to intervene, it can intervene
easily – but it can never seize control.
That's how it intervened in Iraq, but what does it
control? Nothing. The only solution for Iraq is the
immediate withdrawal of the American soldiers. That
would provide security for the invading soldiers, for
the Iraqi people, even for the United Nations. I believe
that the United States most assuredly was planning to
against Chávez, maybe in Bolivia, but it won't be able
to seize control because this is a struggle for identity,
a cultural struggle in this new millennium.
Journalist Oscar Gutiérrez writes for AIS.