Bolivia, the Power of the People
What has happened in recent days in Bolivia is a great revolt, after being humiliated for more than 500 years. What happened from September to October of this year is that the people's judgement was imposed and has begun to defeat the cannons of empire. For so many years we have lived the confrontation of two cultures: the culture of life, represented by the indigenous peoples, and the culture of death, represented by the West.
And when we the indigenous peoples, along with many professionals, even with our businesspeople, fight for life, fight for justice, the State answers us with the rule of "law." And what is that rule of "law" for the indigenous peoples? The rule of "law" for the poor, for the marginalized, for the excluded, is targeted assassinations and mass killings, which we have endured not only in September and October of this year, but during so many years in which they have tried to impose on us policies of hunger and misery. The rule of "law," above all for the Quechua and the Guaraní of Bolivia, is the accusations we continue to hear that we are drug-traffickers or anarchists.
This uprising of the Bolivian people has resulted not only from the issue of natural gas, of hydrocarbons, but from a collection of many issues: from discrimination and from marginalization, but fundamentally from the exhaustion of neoliberalism. The culprit responsible for so many bloody deeds, and also responsible for the uprising of the Bolivian people, has a name: it is called neoliberalism.
On October 17, day of dignity and identity for the Bolivian people, we began to overthrow the symbol of neoliberalism expressed in the presidency of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. We began to defeat the symbol of corruption and of the political Mafia. On that day, the people reacted fittingly to say, like Subcomandante Marcos, "¡Ya basta!" (Enough!)... enough with the policies of hunger and misery. For us, on October 17 of this year begins the new stage of how to build. And that will depend on how to confront or overcome selfishness and individualism. And how.... from within the campesino and indigenous communities, from within the barrios... how to build other forms of experience, in solidarity, in reciprocity... how to think about distributing the wealth that is concentrated in so few hands. This is the great task that we have after this great uprising of the Bolivian people.
Sometimes it is very important to organize ourselves and govern ourselves on the basis of transparency and honesty and, above all, in control of our organizations. It is very important to unite. And if we are gathered here, or intellectuals in the defense of humanity are gathered, it is because it is important not only to achieve unity among the social movements but, also, to coordinate them with the intellectual movements. Each encounter of this kind is a great lesson for the union leaders and for those of us who come from the social struggles, a great university. These meetings serve to enlighten one another and to exchange experiences, and in this way to continue strengthening our peoples. For this reason the social movements of Bolivia, our intellectuals, our professionals and the political movements that share in the struggle, all came together to throw out Sánchez de Lozada.
Lamentably, it cost many lives, and the arrogance, the hubris of the empire, still remains in force to continue humiliating the Bolivian people. It must be said, comrades: we must put ourselves at the service of the social movements, instead of being at the service of the transnationals. I only recently came to understand politics. Before, I hated politics; I feared engaging in politics. But I realized that politics was the science of serving the people. And thus, it seems to me important to serve people through politics, which means living for politics and not making a living from politics.
The coordination of our struggles between the social movements and the political movements, with full support from our professional institutions, has allowed for the creation of greater national consciousness so that the people could rise up in recent days.
I believe that the defense of humanity requires the elimination of imperialism and of neoliberalism. I believe that we are not so alone, because I have seen that, after Bush's bloody intervention in Iraq, anti-imperialist thinking is growing. That kind of organizing is growing-of calling ourselves together to confront a system, an aggression of the empire against our peoples. Also growing are the ways of creating and strengthening the power of the people.
I only believe in the power of the people. That was my experience of a region, of a departamento (province). Now, with the recent events in Bolivia, I have realized that what matters is the power of an entire people, of an entire nation. For those of us who are convinced that it is important to defend humanity, the best support we can offer is to create the power of the people. And that happens, above all, by revising one's personal and group interests.
Sometimes, for reasons of imagination or in order to attain positions of power, we are dedicated to social movements. I have realized that it is better to respond to the people's call than to be using or manipulating social movements.
We can have our differences among the leadership. We have them in Bolivia. But when the people are aware and the people know what should be done, that's where any differences between the leaders of different sectors of the country come to an end.
What I want to tell you-and it is what I dream and what we dream as the leadership of Bolivia-is that our task, in this moment, should be how to assist and empower this anti-imperialist sentiment, how to hold back those aggressions coming from the government of the United States against Cuba, against Chávez. Some of us-the intellectuals, the social movements, the political movements-are weighing how to put together from here a great summit between Fidel, Hugo Chávez and Lula, in order to say to them: "We are here, united against the aggression of U.S. imperialism." How to organize from here a summit of these leaders, accompanied by our sister Rigoberta Menchú, by other leaders like Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, by social activists and labor leaders and personalities. A great summit to say to our peoples: We are together, united, and in this way we will defend humanity. Because we have no other alternative... If we want to defend humanity we must defeat the system; we must defeat U.S. imperialism.
That's all. Thank you very much.
Speech delivered in Spanish at the conference "En Defensa de la Humanidad" (In Defense of Humanity), held at the Siqueiros Cultural Polyforum in Mexico City on October 24, 2003.
Ed. Note: Evo Morales leads 'Movement Toward Socialism' in Bolivia and the nation's cocaleros, or coca farmers, a group with growing political weight. An Aymara Indian, he is a leading indigenous political figure who lost the 2002 presidential election by less than one percentage point to Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. Lozada resigned from the presidency on October 17 after nationwide protests, of which Morales was a leader. For more on the demonstrations and fallout see "What Happened in Bolivia?"
Translated by Bruce Campbell.