|Evo in better days.|
The dream is over for Bolivian president EVO MORALES. Five and a half years ago, he was a national hero...the first person with indigenous blood to hold the nation's highest office. "The people are finally in power," he famously proclaimed. After the election, MORALES continued to impress. He kept his ambitious campaign promise and nationalized the lucrative the natural gas industry. Next, he turned to foreign policy and shored up relationships with other South American states. His alliance with HUGO CHAVEZ and Venezuela helped finance public work projects. His friendship with Brazilian president LULA DA SILVA helped erase decades of dispute. Heck, EVO was so successful he was rumored to win the Nobel Peace Prize! He won re-election in 2009 by a landslide.
HOWEVER...things are quite different for Evo today. Over the weekend, Morales appeared disheveled and distressed at a press conference. He announced he was bowing to public pressure and halting construction of the new trans-Amazon highway. "This is governing by obeying the people," he explained. It's true...a group of highly motivated protesters had stolen the hearts of Bolivians away from their once-savior. Here's how: Two months ago a thousand-or-so Amazonian Indians began a 370 mile march from their home to the capital. The difference in altitude from Trinidad (in the lowland jungles) to La Paz (the world's highest capital) is 13,000 feet. Many walked the entire distance barefoot. Along the way, they spoke of the deforestation to rain forest the highway would bring. They also talked about the inevitable human development a four-lane highway brings. With daily news coverage of the march, by the time the protesters reached the streets of La Paz, they were hailed as heroes!
|The march from the jungles to the mountains.|
The only thing that stood in the way of progress was the 15,000 indigenous folks who happened to live in the distant Amazonian province. Since this is such a small population, Morales assumed the five million Quechua and Aymara peoples...who currently hold power...wouldn't care and see the greater good of the highway. He was wrong. The highland folks showed solidarity for the lowlanders and came out in force. All week long, the streets of the capital have been filled with demonstrators. And it only gets worse for Morales. Not only did he anger his own support base, but the Brazilians as well...they were quite eager to build. Pobracito Evo! Ultimately, the situation boils down to the same issue facing most developing nations on the globe: How can one export raw materials to industrial nations without getting ripped off and destroying your own lands?