Granma | 22 February, 2017
In 2006, when Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia, there were some who thought he would only last six months and bring about the collapse of the nation, believing that an indigenous man could not effectively lead the country.
Many underestimated his years of struggle leading Cochabamba’s coca-growers trade union, and clear vision of what he wanted for the country and his people – the driving force behind his extraordinary mandate.
False reports predicting disaster began to appear on the internet, depicting the indigenous leader fleeing the chaos that he was supposedly going to create.
Last January 22, Evo Morales Ayma became Bolivia’s longest serving President: 11 years in a country where he has maintained political stability, despite coming into conflict with certain unsatisfied sectors, above all the local oligarchy.
None of his predecessors have enjoyed the luxury of having been elected to three consecutive terms (not counting Víctor Paz Estenssoro, Bolivian head of state from 1952-1956, 1960-1964 and August 6 to November 4, 1964, then again from 1985-1989).
Voting results show that Evo has always won with a lead of more than 26% over his closest rivals, while for the last seven years his Party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) has enjoyed an absolute majority in Parliament, which features indigenous legislators representing the country’s long forgotten original and rural communities.
Evo won global recognition with his support of Latin American struggles; the signing of the Bolivian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), to which Evo suggested be added the People’s Trade Agreement (TCP), a proposal accepted by the bloc to become ALBA-TCP; and actions benefitting the majority of the population, above all the nationalization of the hydrocarbons sector, with natural gas exports to Brazil and Argentina.
The Bolivian President has also been working to expand his country’s links with the world.
Throughout his entire time as President the indigenous leader has never forgotten his fundamental base of support, remaining in permanent contact with his people and social movements, as demonstrated by his over 5,100 visits to regions across the Andean nation.
Morales has been awarded 29 honorary degrees by 22 foreign and seven national universities. To this must be added his staunch anti-imperialist position, and refusal to accept interference by any country in Bolivia’s internal affairs.
Supporting destabilization actions and meddling in national matters by the accredited U.S. ambassador in the country, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), led President Morales, to expel these entities. Meanwhile, notable economic progress has been achieved under Morales’ leadership; a feat never achieved by his predecessors. The poorest country in Latin America has now become the one of the fastest growing in the region. With Morales, Bolivia’s national budget has increased, as well as its international reserves and public spending, among other positive aspects.
Even the reactionary newspaper El Tiempo was obliged to recognize that, under the government of President Evo Morales, 13,000 kilometers of highway have been laid, together with the planned construction of the El Chupete reservoir, at a cost of over seven billion dollars, to ensure the country’s water security, a project that has sparked opposition.
So, with this being more or less the situation after 11 years of a MAS administration, it’s logical that the Party is adopting strategic measures to ensure that Evo continues to lead the country through 2025.
There are still sectors in which needs have not yet been fully met, and which require a gradual resolution. Investment in improving spheres such as education (the country is now illiteracy free), health, and reducing poverty (which has already fallen by 50%) continues to be a priority.
On presenting his annual report at the end of last January, Morales reaffirmed the fundamental right of all citizens to health and education, which he also described as pillars of the Bolivian Revolution. He thanked Cuba for its support in Operation Miracle, which has restored the vision of 676,000 Bolivians over the last 10 years, and also praised the work of the almost 700 members of the Cuban medical brigade offering services throughout the country.
Reductions in the infant mortality rate and chronic malnutrition are some of the key achievements of this new Bolivia, stated the President, noting that 47 new hospitals and over 3,000 health centers are being built, while citizens have been vaccinated against 19 diseases and poor communities provided with free medicines.
Evo also recalled that in 2001, 13% of the population were illiterate, a figure which has dropped to 2.8% today. He highlighted that his government has invested over three billion dollars in quality education across all levels.
He went on to emphasize that the achievements seen in the process of change currently advancing in the country surpass all those of the last 180 years of neo-liberal and oligarchic governments.
In this regard, Evo noted that in 2005 extreme poverty was 24.3% in urban areas and 62.9% in rural regions. By 2015 these figures had been reduced to 9.3% and 33.3% respectively; while moderate poverty fell from 60.6% in 2005, to 38.6% in 2016.
The middle classes have also benefited from Evo’s Presidency, with a rise in average household income of between 13 and 32%. At the same time income inequality has been reduced. Eleven years ago, the country’s richest 10% had an income 128 times greater than that of the poorest 10%, a figure which has fallen to 37.
According to the President’s report, Bolivia’s Gross Domestic Product grew an average of 2.8% during the almost 55 years of the Republican era (1951-2005), while GDP increased by 5% from 2006 to 2016, through Evo Morales’ Presidency.
“We can make mistakes, have problems, we are human beings, running a country is not an easy task. It is the right of all to observe ourselves, criticize ourselves, correct our errors, but the most important thing is for everyone to think of Bolivia, of how to end poverty,” stated Morales speaking before his people.
The President’s annual report showed a solid, sovereign Plurinational State, whose social and economic achievements support the demand by social organizations for Evo to continue his mandate, as the country’s first indigenous President not through 2020, but rather 2025.