Of farmers and presidents (Bolivia Part III)

Once we got out to Lake Titicaca, we had to disembark from the bus in order to cross in boats (the bus itself crossed on a separate barge). I had a little misunderstanding and didn’t end up getting back on the bus, but it gave me a great chance to wander a bit and get to know some of the Bolivian countryside. One of the things that had really struck me in La Paz was the plethora of murals urging people to vote (in order to eliminate illiteracy, in order to better the economy, in order to clean up the city, etc.). Imagine my surprise (and extreme interest) when I saw similar paintings on the sides of farmers’ houses. I wonder how that impacts voter turnout and the degree of citizen participation in Bolivia.

The only thing I can say to that is that Bolivia currently is being led by it’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales (most of the murals in La Paz supported him although in the campo they were all for a different party and candidate), who’s definitely implemented some interesting policies since assuming power in 2006. Morales is the leader of the Movimiento al Socialismo so the nationalization of Bolivia’s petroleum in the beginning of 2006 came as no surprise. But the Constitutional Reform of 2009 (which renamed Bolivia theEstado Plurinacional de Bolivia to indicate the indigenous population and decreed that the Wiphara, or indigenous flag, was to be flown along with the old yellow-red-and-green flag) was somewhat unexpected. On top of that, Morales has managed to get himself into a few tangles with the Catholic Church. The quote below may offer an explanation as to why.

El Presidente de Bolivia, Evo Morales, dijo … en el contexto del Foro Social Mundial que la Iglesia Católica en Bolivia es la “principal enemiga” de las reformas que su gobierno quiere implementar en su país y, dijo que era necesario reemplazarla14

Bolivian president, Evo Morales, said…during the World Social Forum that the Catholic Church in Bolivia is the “principal enemy” of the reforms that his government wants to implement in the country, and called for it to be replaced.

In short, he seems like a really interesting guy and I’m going to be keeping my eyes peeled for what else he gets up to over the rest of his term. Although I haven’t yet seen it, the documentary Cocalero deals with Evo Morales’ rise to the presidency and is supposed to be quite good (Sundance accreditation etc.). Let’s see if I can manage to find a copy anywhere here in Santiago.

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