I had the good fortune to be part of an accredited election observer delegation of the National Lawyers Guild to Bolivia in 2014. What I observed at that time was a well-run election, which provided Evo Morales with reelection to a third term as President of Bolivia. Morales, whose first term was for less than a full 5 years and whose second term was for 5 years, had received the necessary permission to run for what would take him beyond the two-term limit specified in the Bolivian Constitution.
What I observed in my visit of several days to Bolivia was a country whose government was focused upon governing for all Bolivians, not just a small elite, and especially for making the underprivileged have the opportunity to participate in the economy and improve their economic situation. I observed a government led by an indigenous President, who focused attention on those who had been excluded from economic, political and social rights. As I walked down the sidewalks of streets in La Paz I was very impressed by the bearing of indigenous men and women who walked past me, heads held high, proud of their country and proud of their President, indigenous leader Evo Morales. Morales’ government lifted many people out of abject poverty. An honest man, he put people first, and he succeeded in running a government which benefitted the country as a whole. He nationalized an airline and established national control of the country’s substantial amounts of lithium, so this resource could be developed for the benefit of the country as a whole, not for private industrialists’ profit. Within Latin America Morales’ government brought Bolivia economic stability with a rising standard of living for most families.
President Morales also substantially improved transportation in Bolivia. He developed a very well-designed and very functional cable car system providing quick, inexpensive transport of workers and others between the capital city of La Paz and the city of El Alto, reportedly now the most populous city in the country. My fellow election observers and I had the opportunity to ride on this new system and to appreciate the advance it has meant for residents and workers of La Paz and El Alto.
It is a tragedy for Bolivia that retrograde politicians and those who observed with displeasure the economic improvement of the country and empowerment of the indigenous majority of the population planned and carried out a coup d etat against the Morales government, forcing Evo Morales to resign and seek refuge abroad. And I am especially upset about the role of the United States government in supporting the coup government. As has happened frequently in the United States’ policy toward Latin America, the U.S. government failed to credit the electoral victory of Morales and his party, Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS), even though independent review of the election results showed that Morales had won. I appreciated when years earlier, in 2008, when U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Philip Goldberg appeared to be supporting opposition groups, President Morales reacted by expelling the U.S. Ambassador. Mr. Goldberg has now been named by President Trump as the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, where one hopes he will not be attempting to undermine principled opposition by social organizations to Colombian government programs and actions. Instead of looking down upon Bolivia and other Latin American countries (including Colombia) as inferior and properly subject to exploitation by U.S. businesses supported by military power, the United States would do much better to encourage and support governments like that of Evo Morales.
April 7, 2020
Co-Founder and Program Director
Colombia Support Network