Juan Evo Morales Ayma has been President of Bolivia since 2006. Born in a mining village in Bolivia's western Oruro department, Morales claims to be the country's first fully indigenous head of state. He is the leader of the Bolivian political party "Movimiento al Socialismo," which goes by the Spanish acronym MAS. The group's aims include transferring more power to the country's indigenous and poor communities, and when Morales took office he pledge to reduce poverty, ease restrictions on coca farmers, re-nationalize the country's energy sector, fight corruption, and increase taxes on the wealthy. He was elected to a second term in January, 2009 with a 63% majority.
Question: Has President Obama been better for Bolivia than President Bush was?
Evo Morales: Internally, I have no reason to make an evaluation. The people, the U.S., are the ones who will evaluate the Obama Administration.
But, with Bolivia, I had hope that a discriminated African-American, with another discriminated indigenous peasant leader, I hoped that together we could work for justice and equality. Not only for just two countries, Bolivia and USA, but for equality around the world.
Then he killed my hopes with his comments, for example, about the issue of our fight against drug trafficking. Mr. Obama acknowledged to Congress that we have provided our economic resources, congratulated the national police for drug busting.
He recognizes the peaceful efforts we make in reducing coca cultivation. However he does not give us credit for it. But because of the U.S. government, because of America's growing demand for cocaine, clandestine synthetic drug factories are growing rapidly. The U.N. says there has been a 1 percent growth in coca cultivation in Bolivia. But Obama said that in Bolivia there has been a growth of 9 percent in coca cultivation. Who should we believe? The U.N.? Or the U.S. State Department?
I think that of course we should trust the U.N., as he is twisting numbers and results in the fight against drug trafficking, but why? To blame Evo Morales for drug traffickers. Unfortunately, in this Obama Government, we have charges of drug trafficking and terrorism. For Evo, it's drug trafficking. For Hugo, it's terrorism. Evo Morales, drug trafficking. Hugo Chavez, terrorism. They make these charges, but his target is to get control over these countries, maybe militarily as the U.S. did in Iraq.
In Iraq, they said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction endangering mankind. With this pretext, the U.S. intervened militarily, and all they did is take control over oil fields, and oil wells.
Geopolitical interests are behind the so-called war on drugs and terrorism. Another issue: we comply with all we can do, as Bolivians, in combating drug trafficking, but they take away our tariff preferences. This is a boycott, economic sabotage against Bolivia. But thanks to the solidarity of Argentina, Brazil, and especially Venezuela, we are selling our textiles in South America better than in the USA now.
Of course, we do not want to lose that market but that does not mean that it is not another form of economic blockade to Bolivia. Again, thanks to the solidarity of South America, we are selling textiles to our sister countries.
Recorded September 22, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman