Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
November 19th, 2008
Evo Morales Speaks at Columbia

Jeff Seelbach

Juan Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia, spoke in New York on Tuesday as part of the Columbia University World Leaders Forum. Morales, the first indigenous president in Bolivian history, was elected in 2005. In September of this year, he kicked out the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, accusing him of conspiring against the Bolivian government, and America followed suit by expelling the Bolivian ambassador. Diplomatic relations deteriorated further this month when Morales suspended the Bolivian operations of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Morales has accused both the U.S. Ambassador and DEA agents of involvement with his political opponents as justification for their expulsion. In his address at Columbia, Morales recounted recent stories of U.S. intervention in Bolivian affairs. Earlier this year, U.S. Embassy officials asked members of the Peace Corps and a Fulbright scholar to keep tabs on Cubans and Venezuelans in Bolivia. In 2002, then-U.S. Ambassador Manuel Rocha warned that a Morales win in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election could threaten U.S. aid to the country. Considering this history, Morales said he felt justified in his accusations of the Ambassador and DEA agents. However, he emphasized that he wants to improve the relationship between Bolivia and the U.S., and invited the audience to help him. He said that Bolivia is a poor country that needs help and investment, and he wants to encourage cooperation, as long as the cooperation is transparent.

In addition to addressing the current diplomatic conflict, Morales spoke more broadly about democracy in the Americas, the history of the Bolivian coca grower’s movement and his political party (MAS, the Movement Toward Socialism), and the major events of his presidency. Among those events is the controversial 2006 nationalization of the country’s hydrocarbon industries (mostly natural gas, but also including oil). Morales said that his nationalization plan brought much-needed revenue to the country and took Bolivia from a financial deficit to a financial surplus in only one year. Before nationalization, Morales said, Bolivia earned about $300 million from hydrocarbons per year; in 2007, the country received about $2 billion.

No doubt that 2008 has been tense for Bolivia and President Morales. While opposition has been vocal and even violent in recent months, this year Morales did overwhelmingly win a national referendum on his government’s performance. Unfortunately, the next few months probably won’t get easier. Morales’ plans for re-writing the Bolivian Constitution come up for a national vote on January 25, 2009. If he wants to ease the tension, maybe another appearance on The Daily Show would help.

Before Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia, WIDE ANGLE reported on his activities as an organizer of coca growers in Coca and the Congressman.

  • Jay Taber

    Paradise is what the indigenous had prior to the European arrival. Hell is what they had after. Only the World Indigenous Movement can begin to put things right, and Morales is the acknowledged political leader of that movement.

  • Goya

    Evo Morales is a big fraud. When abroad he speaks about democracy, but in Bolivia everyone knows that if you don’t agree with him you can be killed, or ruined. He uses the ignorance of the poor to benefit himself. The country is worst than ever and I am ashamed to call him President of Bolivia.

  • Jota

    Goya do you by any chance live in Santa Cruz?

  • shelly

    Goya how much are being payed to say that. Either that or you have a tone to read and learn. I would advice you to learn a lot about your history and your president and what is going on in your country. I don’t live there but I know a lot and I applaud Evo Morales. Shame on you.

  • Fabian

    I’m american living in Bolivia, and you have to know that it is getting wrost every day, the corruption of Morales goverment its increasing, the reason for the expulsion of the ambasador and the DEA was because most of the Morales People “the cocaleros” are being involved in drugs trafic, He is the wrost thing that happened to Bolivia.

  • Raquel

    Goya, I live in Bolivia and I never heard such thing. I don’t think Morales is the best president ever but people here hate him for the wrong reasons. Bolivia is full of racist people, middle class can’t stand an indigenous person being their president. It is so sad.

  • F Evo

    I live in Boivia after living in the US for 35 yrs, and after experiencing real democracy what we have in Bolivia is a Dictatorship run by Chavez. people please wake up before its too late. F socialism!! down with EVO

  • Carlos

    Jota: do you hate Santa Cruz or, better, people from Santa Cruz or, better, Morales’ dissenters in Santa Cruz?
    Raquel: after your 35 years of experience, does that make Jota a xenofobic, a racist or a class hater/fighter/struggler?
    I think he is just a revolutionary! Like Evo Morales.
    Evo Morales is the only person willing to bring justice to Bolivia for once, after 500 years of European hell! Instead of drinking wine with Castro or Ahmedinejah, he should be liberating us from this American disgrace where we are allowed to use the internet and have foreign Lords in peasant suits speaking truth and justice!

  • imps4343

    i also like evo morales, he realized that his country was 5000 bolivians of european decent contolling an entire population of indians

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 WNET.ORG Properties LLC. All rights reserved.