Evo Morales: “I Never Imagined this Reception”

By Karina Micheletto on November 15, 2020

Photo: @evoespueblo

Evo Morales says he had a dream last October. He was climbing a hill, when he arrived, he was given a medal. The dream was repeated, identical, and then he knew that MAS would win the elections in Bolivia. That is why he went through the previous days with an optimism and a determination that disconcerted those who accompanied him in Argentina, because it contradicted some hard data, with the coup installed in the country. But he visualized with certainty that this dream transmitted as much truth as the one he had had about his sister a week before she died. He dreamed that an aunt who had already passed away came to fetch her and took her away. That was one of his great blows in exile. He recounts it in the interview he gave for the documentary made collectively, directed by Diego Briata and produced by the Grupo Octubre and Operamundi. The documentary team together with Página12 followed the caravan of the return of Evo Morales to the Homeland, from his departure from Buenos Aires with Alvaro Gacía Linera, with a stop to visit Milagro Sala, passing by the crossing of the international bridge of La Quiaca together with President Alberto Fernández. The journey of more than 1100 kilometers culminated with the historic event of Chimoré, before one million people.

The way in which Evo Morales was received by the Bolivian people throughout these three days of the caravan is one of the great political events that this return represents. People in all the streets, roads and routes were waiting for him for hours, even if they were not part of the original route and were taken as an alternative, because of the opposition roadblocks in the region of Tupiza. Massive events even in the small towns. A form of immediate, spontaneous and sensitive connection with the figure that, from here on, is consolidated as a regional leader. A prominent place in Unasur – its reactivation is one of the axes on which Morales emphasizes in his speeches – is one of the roles that various analysts foresee for the future.

“I have never been welcomed by so many people. The sentiment of the people, will always be there,” says Morales in the interview for the documentary when he is asked, after the enormous convocation of the caravan, when he first felt the love of his people. The first memory that emerges from the people mobilized in his defense is one of a key moment in the consolidation of the Movement to Socialism: when in 2002 he was a congressman and was expelled from Congress, accused of leading the Sacaba revolt, in which coca growers and police were killed. The government of Jorge Quiroga had then decided to close the coca market in the only legal place where the producers of the Tropic of Cochabamba, Morales’ social base, could trade.

As with the coup, far from taking him out of politics, this increased the then-congressman’s popularity. Morales and three other legislators began a hunger strike, and the mobilizations multiplied. The popular resistance forced the Constitutional Court to restore him to the seat. Five months later, MAS obtained an unexpected second place in the elections. Three years later, and exactly on the same date of his dismissal as a deputy, January 22, Evo Morales was elected president with almost 54% of the votes.

“I will not forget how the people came in the hunger strike, to defend me. Not only peasants, coca growers, no: middle class, upper class, the people expressed themselves,” he said in the interview with Maria Fernanda Ruiz. He also remembered how people mobilized for him when he was arrested in 1994. “But like this, I never, ever imagined, it has been impressive. I always say: when a leader does not abandon his people, the people do not abandon their leader either. The people protect me,” he is sure.

“It is not enough to be supportive or to be populist or progressive. One must also be anti-imperialist to be a revolutionary. And the people who fight for peace, for social justice, have to begin to change. Some comrades are only motivated by ambition, by convenience, they are not motivated by conviction. They are only for positions, not for a political project of liberation. To those who say no, I am independent, neutral, to the middle, I say: He who accommodates himself to the middle, is always with the conservatives,” he explains. “Either we belong to the people, or we belong to the empire. You have to define yourself if you want to do politics. Of course, politics is a struggle of interests. But we fight for common, collective rights. For peace with social justice, for sovereignty for independence, for dignity, for freedom, for the equality of a people”.

The experience of exile

“In exile I felt powerless to do anything. At one point I asked: where do I serve more, as a refugee or a prisoner? I wanted to come and be arrested. Raúl Castro told me: no, you can’t return, they will kill you, they will poison you, they will invent a prisoner revolt,” the Bolivian leader said. “Those who told me were right: to save the process of change, we must save Evo’s life. But I did not want them to continue burning the houses of ministers, assemblymen, our families. Like my house in Oruro”.

Evo thanked again “our comrade brother president Alberto Fernandez”, the social movements of Argentina and the Bolivian residents. The worst moment of the exile, he says, was the first week. “I didn’t know what had happened, I couldn’t understand”. Since that exile, he worked hard to achieve this return which “I knew was going to be, but I didn’t think so soon. We have returned to the government without violence, with the consciousness of recovering democracy, without entering into provocations, with a united, organized and mobilized people,” he analyzed.

Institutions and Democracy

Among the questions and challenges that the so-called “process of change” in Bolivia is taking up again in this stage of reconstruction, is that of the role that Evo Morales will occupy, the relationship that he will maintain with Luis Arce in the management. If before leaving Argentina he was in charge of marking that he would not be part of the government, when he arrived in Bolivia he said in an event: “today we talked by phone with brother Lucho about the cabinet, we cannot be wrong again with the candidates”. He also held meetings with regional leaders in view of the sub-national elections in February. Evo Morales has not forgotten, on the other hand, that David Choquehuanca did not accept the first offer to be vice president.

A first campaign promise, for the moment, has been fulfilled in a matter of days: Arce enacted last Friday the laws for the payment of the “Bono contra el Hambre”, which will benefit some 4 million Bolivians in a vulnerable situation with 1000 Bolivian pesos per month (some 145 dollars).

The great challenge is really that of the institutions, with parapolice groups formed during the coup, and with leadership layers removed during the last year, both in the military and police hierarchies and in all areas of the State. This was experienced by the group of journalists and filmmakers that this reporter was part of when she returned from covering the caravan at the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz.

The team had crossed the border on foot from La Quiaca together with Evo Morales’ entourage, at an exceptional moment when the Bolivian side was closed. So they had the papers to leave Argentina, but not to enter Bolivia. The formalities for the due registration of the entry were done. But the papers were not there. So the airport’s Migration Department decided to charge a fine. “Serious administrative infraction for having entered Bolivian territory due to an unauthorized place of migratory control”.

It soon became clear that the objective was not to collect. “Evo may have crossed the border, but we are not of his party, so we are going to enforce the law,” the agent in charge of Migration, Cristian Castro Ledesma, told the journalistic team. The fine was discussed but paid without any option to claim. While Bolivian consular and ministerial authorities indicated by phone that it was not applicable. It is possible to imagine what Bolivian citizens will face in the immediate future when faced with procedures of all kinds, which complicate or simplify daily life.  The caravan was diverted on the first day by the roadblocks.

Source: Pagina 12, translation Internationalist 360