Thursday, August 31, 2006

Evo Morales grand visions take a smack from reality.

South America: Hugo Chavez's "little brother" is finding out to carry a revolution these days takes more than big words.

During his first months in office, Morales announced a series of sweeping reforms that have helped make him one of the most popular presidents in modern Bolivian history and heightened expectations in a country eager to shed its label as South America's poorest. In May, he donned a hard hat and announced that all foreign energy companies had to surrender operational control to the state's energy company. This month, he celebrated the creation of a newly elected assembly to rewrite the country's constitution, a key demand of indigenous supporters who view Morales, of Aymara Indian heritage, as an advocate. But days after that celebration, the government quietly issued a statement announcing the temporary suspension of the "full effect" of the nationalization program because of a lack of funds. On Monday, the president of the state energy company resigned after being accused of violating the nationalization decree by exporting oil through a Brazilian firm. A day later, members of the Constituent Assembly suspended voting amid tense debate over charges that Morales and his supporters were trying to manipulate the assembly to circumvent Congress and the courts. Before he was elected president, Morales was the leader of a coca growers' union and was known for leading public demonstrations, including some that helped topple two presidents between 2003 and 2005. But this week, Morales found himself on the receiving end of the same sort of social and labor protests that he used to organize. "The honeymoon that this government has had with the social movements is starting to come to an end," said Gonzalo Chávez, an economist and political analyst at the Bolivian Catholic University in La Paz. "The movements are now asking for results, such as more employment and better income distribution. It is causing some problems for the government, but Morales still has very strong support -- his popularity rating is at about 70 percent, according to the most recent polls, which is enormous support for a president in Bolivia. So I think he still has a lot of room to maneuver to avoid serious conflicts."
But the point is that there wasn't going to be room to maneuver, he was elected and the reforms start now to hell with opposition. This is where South American leftist get themselves in trouble, big promises getting hit by reality. The poor people Morales rode to victory don't have the patience to wait on what he promised them. They want it now and that is leading to conflict I bet Morales thought would roll over.
"....Morales' confrontational socialist policies, civic leaders say, have scared off the kind of foreign investment that had helped Bolivia's eastern provinces prosper while the rest of the country stagnated. Government plans to seize and redistribute idle farmland, mostly in the east, have thousands of landowners worrying that they will be kicked off their land. Many have organized armed defenses to protect their property. Morales, who hails from Bolivia's mountainous west and is the country's first indigenous president, never had much support in the east. He won the country as a whole with 54 percent of the vote. But he didn't carry a single eastern province. His actions since have soured what little goodwill he might have had. ''We consider what's happening to be a complete step backward,'' said Edilberto Osinaga Rosado, the general manager of an industry group that represents hundreds of eastern farmers. ``What's happening is crazy. It's making us far less able to compete in the modern world and it's hurting all of us.'' That frustration has contributed to tension between eastern leaders and Morales' government and has fueled talk among some in the east of separating from the rest of the country. .....The province of Santa Cruz, the country's second biggest, accounts for 25 percent of Bolivia's population but 31 percent of the economy and 40 percent of its tax revenues. Many in Santa Cruz say they resent that a disproportionate share of their wealth, derived largely from soybean farming and natural-gas production, goes to the rest of the country, and they argue that the province should be allowed to keep a greater share. Osinaga Rosado predicts that without a decrease in tensions, Bolivia will relive the kinds of social conflicts that closed down cities and forced two presidents to resign since 2003 -- except that this time it will be the prosperous east rather than the indigenous west that takes to the streets. ''If there's more of this kind of confrontation, there will come marches, blockades and then a total paralysis of the whole country,'' Osinaga Rosado said.
Morales better understand without these people, he will have nothing.

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