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December 19, 2005

This is What Democracy Looks Like

Evo Morales is poised to become the first indigenous president in Bolivia's history. The USG is fearful of his ties to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Fidel Castro in Cuba. Morales is a staunch supporter of the right to grow coca - which is traditionally used in tea, medicine, and religious uses. There is some concern that his political party, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) is not left enough to maintain support among the more radical Bolivians who voted for Morales; and that if the government doesn't make sweeping changes in its first three to six months it is doomed for failure.

Bolivia has been a beacon of hope for global justice activists since 2000, when residents of Cochabamba took back the right to their water from Bechtel, the multinational corporation the Bolivian government had sold it to. (At one point, it was illegal for residents to catch rainwater because it was the "property" of Bechtel, which is based in San Francisco.) I learned about this struggle through WILPF and "The Corporation," which doesn't mention the fact that half of residents are still without water and water service is sporadic for residents who do have it, according to the NYT.

Despite the serious problems Bolivians still face, I believe they are part of the beacon of hope in South America. In Chile, the presidential elections don't hinge so much on a choice between right and left-leaning candidates as on their gender. On December 11, during the first-round of elections, the center-left ruling coalition's candidate, Michelle Bachelet, garnered 45.9% of the vote. Because she did not receive a majority, she'll face millionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera in a run-off election on January 15. Its a tight race, but if elected, Bachelet will be the second democratically-elected female head of state in Latin America.

In other news, the US continues to exemplify how to corrupt democracy, as POTUS rambled for an hour during his end-of-the-year press conference about why occupying Iraq is great for liberty, the Patriot Act "defends" liberty, and spying on US citizens without even the pretense of a warrant is actually a "constitutional right" of the Commander in Chief.

More info:
"Leftist Morales Claims Victory in Bolivia," by Fiona Smith with contributions from Bill Cormier for the AP via Yahoo News

"Evo Morales Becomes Bolivia's Next President, Now His Real Challenge Begin," by Gretchen Gordon on Znet

"Chilean election set for run-off," in BBC News

"Continuity and Change in Chile," editorial in Stabroek News of Guyana (home of the first democratically-elected Latin American female head of state)

"Chileans give a woman a boost toward presidency," by Jack Chang of Knight Ridder News Service in the Miami Herald

"Bush: Secret wiretaps won't stop," on CNN

Posted by cj at December 19, 2005 8:53 PM


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