Friday, April 05, 2019

Indio meets Indiano.

Indio meets Indiano.

First civilisational and historic encounter between a native Latin American Indian President and the original Indian President.

When I met Evo in La Paz on 10 August 2006, he embraced me saying, " tambien Indio" ( brother I am also an Indian)

Evo Morales is the first native Indian in South America to become President. Under his presidency since 2006, Bolivia has achieved unprecedented democratic stability, economic growth, poverty alleviation and social equality. His priority agenda has been emancipation and empowerment of the native Indians who were discriminated ruthlessly for five hundred years. Native Indians form 60 percent of the population.

In the Bolivian history, Evo Morales is the longest serving President for three terms since 2006. Bolivia has never had such a long period of political stability as it has experienced in the last thirteen years. Bolivia had been notorious for coups and political instability. 36 of the 83 governments in the past had lasted a year or less. Between 2001 and 2005 there were five Presidents.

Evo won the elections despite the overt preventive intervention and conspiracies of US and its oligarchic allies in Bolivia. He stood upto even his friend President Lula and got a better price for the gas exports to Brazil. 

Although the west has labelled him as a radical leftist, Morales has managed the economy prudently, pragmatically and successfully. A report of UNDP has put Bolivia as the most successful in reducing poverty in the last decade in Latin America.He has financed his pro-poor programmes with the increase in revenue from exports, taxes and better financial management. He has ensured fiscal surplus every year since 2006. The GDP of Bolivia has grown an average of five percent since he assumed presidency in 2006. In 2018, the growth rate was 4.4% and it is projected at 4.3% in 2019. This is much higher than the average growth of Latin America at 1.1% in 2018 and forecast of 1.7% in 2019.The foreign exchange reserves are comfortable at 8.5 billion dollars. External debt is reasonable at 12.8 billion. Exchange rate is stable and predictable. The inflation of the country which in the eighties had touched five digits has been brought down to single digit under the presidency of Morales. Inflation in 2018 was a commendable 1.3%. Financial Times has said, ' Mr Morales may well be Latin America's most successful socialist presidents ever'.

Evo lives a simple life without any ostentation. He has not enriched himself with properties or business. He is a bachelor and dedicates his full energy and time for the country. Coming from a poor Aymara Indian family, he could not afford college education. He started off his political career as a coca leaf workers trade unionist. He loves playing football even as President.

During the visit of the Indian President 28-30 March, the two governments signed a number of agreements for cooperation. India has announced a credit of 100 million dollars.

India-Bolivia bilateral trade in 2018 was an impressive 863 million dollars. India's exports were 100 million dollars and imports 763 million. Bolivia has emerged as the seventh largest supplier of gold with 760 million dollars out of the total Indian global imports of 32 billion dollars.

A Telugu film " Sarrainodu" starring Allu Arjun was shot in Bolivia (salar de uyuni) in March 2016.

The only regrettable episode in Indo-Bolivian reactions was the failed investment project by Navin Jindal in the Mutun iron mining project in Bolivia. He had announced plan to invest 2 billion dollars in the iron ore mining and in a steel plant. He had spent about 20 million dollars. But when the Bolivian government realised that Jindal had no intention to invest in the steel plant, they cancelled the contract and encashed the guarantee. The case is before arbitration for release of the guarantee money. More information on this in

Bolivia has one of the largest Lithium reserves in the world. Indian companies and government have shown interest in Lithium mining.

The only problem with Evo is that he has not groomed any native Indian successor. He plans to contest for the fourth term in the October 2019 elections. The Constitution framed by Evo Morales himself had imposed term limits. He tried a referendum in 2016 asking the voters if he could run for a fourth term. The voters rejected it. Later, the Supreme Court has overruled the constitution allowing unlimited presidential terms. 

Evo is leading in the opinion polls and could win. But this will cause a dent in his democratic credentials. In any case, it is a slippery road to hubris and disaster as seen in the cases of   Chavez and Ortega. 

Hope Panchamama, the Andean goddess, guides Evo Morales in the right direction..

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