December 10, 2005

Will Evo Really Win?

MABB © ®
If there is anything good to point out, at the international level, coming out of so much chaos taking place in Bolivia, is the amount of coverage Bolivia is getting because of it. What I mean is that because of the crises of late and the upcoming December 18 elections, Bolivia has been the subject of coverage, news analyses, opinions, statements, and so on. The amount of journalist arriving in Bolivia at the moment is unprecedented. Thanks to that chaos, Bolivia has been constantly under the spot light in the international news. This kind of notoriety, if not necessarily good, at least has placed Bolivia firmly in the world map. As a result of this, there are more people who know where is Bolivia and moreover, some people might even know who Evo Morales is. That could be seen as an advantage in the future. Of course, the reputation Bolivia is getting is not really something to be thankful for.

Some of the news coverage has lately been concentrating on the elections. As it would be expected. To cite some examples I provide links to the latest news. If you are interested to see more, just click on the Yahoo news search results for Bolivia on the side bar.

Coca farmer turned saviour of the left promises wind of change in Bolivia

Coup threat riles election atmosphere

Latin America: A Native Speaker

Bolivia's Nightmare

Oppenheimer: Bolivia may be next thorn in Washington's side

Bolivia MAS Warns Oil Transnationals

However, there is one piece of news, which has been circulating around which makes me think about the kind of attention Bolivia is getting. While the attention might be benefitial, the accuracy of the reporting leaves much to be desired. The following link is an example of what I mean.

Bolivia at the Crossroads: The December Elections

This is a report from the International Crisis Group, released recently. This report has been making several rounds on the news. First being cited by the MSM and then by various newspapers, which shall remain nameless.

If you read the report, you come out thinking (and this is my major concern) that Evo Morales is the leader of a solid block of indigenous movements united behind him. This implies that every single person is a Morales supporter. Of course, if one just looks at the polls, he or she can easily conclude that at least 30% of the population are behind the MAS candidate.

And I am not saying they are not. They might just be. But, as I pointed out earlier in this post, those polls are not all that trustworthy. So, we come to the question, does Evo Morales have a united front against the other candidates?

My thinking is, not. The short answer is that the polls reflect that people are united not behind a candidate, but behind two major issues alwas kept in front of them by their leaders. This issues are the nationalization of the hidrocarbons and the effort to bring former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to court for the victims in October 2003.

The reason that Evo Morales does not have a solid base of supporters is simply because we are talking about group of people as diverse as they come. Each one with their own preferences, values, necessities, etc. Each village, be it in El Altiplano or the far tropics near de border with Brazil or Paraguay have their own necesities and reality in which they live in. Thus there are many divisions and opinions of how the country should be conducted. In some villages in El Altiplano, there are fights about territory. For that matter, in the villages themselves, are differences of opinions. Last week, Jorge Quiroga was trying to hold a rally with his supporters in one village close to the Titicaca Lake (I forget the name) and suddenly MAS supporters appear and prevent Tuto from holding his speech.

Another reason is the way in which these people are organized. Evo's supporters are organized into groups of different nature. It can get very complicated. There are federations, confederations, worker's centrals of each department and many regions, sindicates and neighborhood associations. This last kind of organization penetrates deep into the society. Since it is a neghborhood association, it directly reaches each neighbor. Additionally, these are very, very hierarchical organizations. Almost all of them (I would say all) have leaders or so called "dirigentes" (leader). Another aspect is that many organizations overlap eachother. So, one person might belong to two or many organizations, depending on his or her activities. This last aspect tends to split a voter's preferences.

Each one of these organizations have their own goals, which might not necessarily concurr with those of their neighbor or with those of the MAS candidate, for that matter. One recent example is the conclusions that came out of the National Popular Workers Summit, held this past week in the city of El Alto. To this summit, organized by the three biggest and highest organizations in this structure (the COB, FSTMB, COR) attended a miriad of organizations from all over Bolivia. The most important conclusions were:

to push for the process against Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada

to wait with the "mobilization" until after December 18

In the debates, one could observe opinions ranging from the most radical which propose armed insurrection to take power by force to true democrats who want to take the so called movements away from violence to embrace true democratic ideals. There are those who have lost trust in Evo Morales and equal him with Quiroga.

After much debate, since Thursday last week until Saturday, the organizations could only come together in those two points cited above. That means only one thing, when it comes to defending what they call the resources of Bolivia, they are united, but after that is every one for themselves. After all, there is a reason why Quiroga is almost tied with Morales. Taking into account there are about 67% of indigenous people in Bolivia. That is, not counting those who are but do not want to count themselves among them.

In the midst of so much diversity, the opinions are also diverse. As a result, all of these organizations, as a group, can only agree on some points. In my opinion, these points are:

The nationalization of the natural resources

Bringing Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to court making him responsible for the victims fallen in October 2003

However, the force uniting them the most is the fight against what they consider their worst enemy: Neoliberalism, personified in the Globalization process. In that, they are not alone. Many people around the world have similar feelings.

It is these facts that reports like the one cited above ignore. While the general coverage about Bolivia has increased exponentially, I would say. The depth and quality of the coverage has not. I am thinking now that the MSM has reporters on site, we'll start to get more accuracy in the reporting. That is one of the reasons in my previous post I highlighted the work of people like Eduardo and his blog Barrio Flores. He is in Bolivia and is blogging from there about his experiences. Blogging might not be very journalistic, but it is an important source of information.

If you want to meet these people click here, fotos