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: What are the biggest misconceptions that Americans have about Bolivia?
Evo Morales: One thing is the American people and another thing the U.S. government.
Last night I met with many members of the USA to talk about the rights of Mother Earth. Tonight, same on water, water in Palestine, water as a human right. I am surprised that, at these conferences with representatives of civil society, they applaud me and show much love, much admiration for our proposals. For the defense of the environment, the fight for the rights of Mother Earth.
We have raised an issue that is already in the Bolivian constitution, that water is a universal human right. And we asked the United Nations to recognize water as a human right. Three to four weeks ago U.N. approved water as a human right. That's for everybody. All peoples of the world recognize this legalization, recognition of social policies that come from the social struggles in Bolivia, but worldwide.
I, therefore, feel that the people, even if they are from the U.S. or Europe, support these democratic processes and transformations. Now goverments are a different thing. Presidents who do not want me. As I said, an African-American discriminates against an indigenous Bolivian. Well, they have their reasons, but sooner or later we will all be judged.
Recorded September 22, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman