New Internationalist

Another step forward

In a historic election last month, President Evo Morales was re-elected with over 63 per cent of the votes.

The impressive process of change initiated in Bolivia four years ago was strongly endorsed by the people with their vote, which will help deepen the project, headed, with the support of social movements, by President Evo Morales. A movement that, for the first time in Bolivian history, has given the marginalized indigenous majority a say in the government. A movement that incorporates all the experience - organizational, communal and productive - of the native peoples of America and which has created a political project with a human perspective. 

Five million Bolivians went to the polls and, as all pre-election surveys predicted, Evo Morales became the first Bolivian president to achieve re-election in 45 years, with over 63 per cent of the vote. Second place, with 27 per cent, went to Reyes Villa, and third place to businessman Samuel Doria Medina, with 6 per cent. The mayor of Potosi, Rene Joaquino, came in fourth, with 3 per cent. 

Thus Morales not only was re-elected until 2015 but his party, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) secured an absolute majority in Parliament. Election day itself was marked by developments of the new standard biometric and voting abroad, because for the first time some 170,000 Bolivians living in Argentina, Brazil, Spain and the United States were able to take part in the election. 

The Morales-Garcia Linera pairing won 10 per cent more votes than in the first election, and achieved very good results in the eastern departments of Bolivia (historically won by the opposition). The Government won the support of much of the Bolivian middle class, especially in sectors with university education. 

With inflation under control, strong fiscal surplus and record levels of exports and international reserves, the average annual growth rate during the four years of Morales' Government was 4.5 per cent. Let's compare the numbers of the Morales Government with earlier liberal administrations: In February 2003, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada implemented a payroll tax to reduce the deficit, on the recommendation of the IMF, and burned the country just to raise US$ 100 million. Today Evo Morales has hoarded nearly US$ 9 billion in reserves, the highest per capita in Latin America. 

These funds have allowed Evo to implement social policies (such as bonds to school children, the elderly and pregnant women) and a series of works focused on neglected regions. Notably, in late 2007, the President signed the Revenue Act 3791 of Universal and Lifetime of Aging, which 676,000 elderly Bolivians will benefit from. 

Under the Government of Morales, Bolivia became the third country declared free of illiteracy in Latin America, after Cuba (1961), and Venezuela (which achieved full literacy with Cuban support in 2005). There were also notable advances in health, with the co-operation of Cuba. Since 2006 Bolivia has had 12 centres and an institute of ophthalmology, which gave free treatment to over 254,000 people. 

The recovery of natural resources was one of many campaign promises Evo fulfilled. Thus, the President moved quickly in the nationalization of hydrocarbons and on 1 May 2006 issued Supreme Decree 28,701, which gives the State an 82 per cent share in the two mega-fields of San Alberto and San Antonio. This income allowed the country to raise $1.6 billion a year. In addition the state purchased shares in order to own 51 per cent of companies Andina, Chaco SA, Transredes and CLHB, which passed into the hands of the state-run Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB). Morales also advanced with the nationalization of mining. On 7 January 2007 he passed the mining company Huanuni to the state and nationalized the Posokoni hill, rich in tin. 

The new constitution opened the possibility of moving toward a participatory mixed economy with community management as well as agrarian reform. It is likely that the Government will take back land (especially in the east, where large farms remain in the hands of a few landowners) and distribute it among peasant and indigenous communities. 

The truth is that Evo Morales is heading one of the most interesting processes in Latin America's rich history. These forms of organization and indigenous ancestral knowledge are undoubtedly a great contribution towards building a new model of development - one different from Western capitalist production, which has put the planet on the brink of collapse.

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