Monday, August 11, 2008

Breaking News from Bolivia

Excellent news. WIth 87% of precincts reporting, Evo Morales appears to have won yesterday's recall referendum, and will be able to complete his term. Not only that but he appears to have had a major increase in his popular support from when he was elected in 2005. Morales was voted into office with 54% of the vote, beating all the pre-election polls which gave him about 40% support, but yesterday he received a whopping 62% of votes in the referendum. (Thanks to a complicated legal formula he needed only about 46% to win).

This says three things to me:

First, a good many people in Bolivia love Morales. The rural poor in the highlands, largely pure-blooded Indians, see him as the champion of their hopes and dreams, the one who will carry out a social revolution, get them electricity for their villages, water, land, food, education and all the other things we in the United States think of as our birthright. He has support too among people who love him for ideological reasons, as well as those who think he offers the best way forward for national development.

Second, Bolivians are a long-suffering and hopeful people. In spite of the unrest that Bolivia has experienced in the last few years, and in spite of the fact that the opposition has largely succeeded in making Bolivia ungovernable and unstable, and has prevented Morales from making much progress towards his goals, the people of Bolivia still have hope and faith in their leader. Most Bolivians have for the last 500 years endured one episode of oppression after another, and I can't even imagine how cynical U.S. Americans might be under such circumstances. Yet in spite of it all they have suffered, the people of the Andes still believe in a better future.

Thirdly, the polls are once again full of s---t. They were predicting a Morales win, yes, but that he would more or less hold to what he had in 2005. (Polls a few months ago predicted he only had 50% polls or less.) As if we needed another reminder, polls in Latin America are typically unreliable. They over-sample the urban middle and upper classes, for one thing, and for another they are often blatantly politicized.

It appears that Bolivia may be headed towards serious conflict since one of the right-wing opposition governors, the odious Manfred Reyes Villa, is refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the referendum. Reyes Villa lost his seat by an estimated 60%, but is refusing to step down. What a bloody tool. Another of the right-wing governors, Ruben Costas of Santa Cruz is refusing to allow Evo Morales, the President of the Country, to set foot in his state. That's either treason or secession, and either way it's hard to imagine a U.S. president not calling on the troops in a similar instance. Evo Morales has been unbelievable tolerant to this motley crew of fascists, oligarchs, greed-mad capitalists and rank secessionists but the time for tolerance is rapidly ending.

No comments: