December 21, 2005

Update, World Reaction and Some Reflections

MABB © ®

According to the CNE, what will now be the newly elected president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, (the only one elected with a majority vote) has reached 54% of the votes being counted. With 92% of the precincts reporting and Cochabamba, Tarija and Pando already accounted for, Morales can be officially called Mr President, now.

I dont't know what you all think about the results, but for me this is an astounding result beyond what my mind could have ever imagined. It is going to be very hard to pick at Morales' legitimacy.

The reactions did not let themselves be waited too long. Scott McClellan, the White House press guy, congratulated Morales and expressed the US government's expectations that Morales' government act within the framework of Democracy. Moreover, McClellan said that the US government would take the relationship with Morales' government one step at a time and according to how it behaves. A cautious approach.

A surprising comment came from Ignacio Walker, first diplomat of the Chilean government. He said that Chile was ready to speak to Morales within an agenda "without exclusions". This would mean that the issue of sea access for Bolivia is on the table again. Moreover, Ricardo Lagos, outgoing president of Chile is specially interested in attending Morales' inauguration.

Luis Inacio da Silva, expressed his desire to bring Brazil closer to Bolivia. President Toledo of Perú talked to Morales of closer relationship between the two countries. Former sandinista guerrillero, Daniel Ortega, expressed his support and his happyness for Morales.

It is without a doubt the most significant event of this year for Bolivia. Where does it go from here? only Morales knows. Where are we, the observers, left? How to know what Morales will and will not do? Should we take him up on his spoken word or should we look at his party's programme?

Morales sure has his work cut out. One think we can say, the honeymoon period will last exactly 90 days. At least if we listen to what some activist in El Alto are saying. They have already given, whoever became president, 90 days to respond to their demands.

Morales will have to deal with, on the international front, the pressure of the US, which is not little. Off the bat, if he will want to legalize the growing of coca leaf, as he promised, he will have to deal with the US. That is without US funds. He will have to be careful not to alienate his current allies (Kirchner and Lula). One point of trouble are the transnationlas Morales swore to kick out of Bolivia, Petro Brazil and YPF. Will he play the double standard game and let these two companies off the hook? He will also have to worry about the eternal sea access issue with Chile. Will it get anywhere this time? He will have to worry about too much Chavez intervention. Now that Morales is in, Chavez will want to get paid for some of that support. The question is if Morales will let Chavez do as he pleases or will he really look out for the interests of all Bolivians.

On the domestic front, where to start. First, he'll have to worry about the Constituent Assembly coming up next year. He will have to respond to the demands of the El Alto rebels to try to bring back Gonzalo Sanched de Lozada to be tried. BTW, I wonder what is Goni thinking. :-) He will have to think about the autonomy efforts from Santa Cruz and see if he'll attend those demands. It would depend how he deals with that issue for the other rebels in Santa Cruz to start making trouble. He will have to worry about governability. He will have a confortable majority in Congress, but what about the prefectures? These offices are mostly in the hands of the opposition, as we can currently see from the results. He will have to deal with another intransigent demand, that of nationalizing the natural gas industry. Will he fully nationalize the carbohydrons? if so, how will he deal with the barage of suits in international courts being thrown at him by the international conglomerates? Will he go as far as to try to nationalize the utility services? Water for example? If we take him by his word, he'll will do away the neoliberal policies keeping the country economically afloate since the mid 1980s (law 21060).

As you can see, it is not little what he will have to deal with, once in office. With those antecedents, I would dare to predict (I know, only fools dare in this conditions, but what the heck, it's fun) two paths he'll follow. He will either follow the path of Alejandro Toledo, the other indigenous president in Latin America. Toledo's come to power gave with many expectations from the indigenous population in Perú. So high, that he could not live up to those expectations. He was the big dissappointment of the decade. The second path, Morales coud follow Hugo Chavez's steps and move ahead with the total control of the Bolivian state. The tools are there to do just that. It could even be easier for Morales. He would just have to take control of the nominations of constituents to the Constituent Assembly, just as Chavez did. Once there, he could construct wich ever country he'd like.

Yes, but it is easier said than done. So let's wait until next year to start speculating some more.