While the rest of you are tuning into the pageantry of the Democratic National Convention and the BarackMcCainBidenfest that is American news these days, I was going to point out two important stories occurring in other parts of América.
The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, won a recall election instigated by his enemies in a landslide with over 60% of the vote. Evo (as he is known) is the first indigenous head of state since Emperor Atahualpa was overthrown by the Spanish despite the fact that Indians represent the majority of Bolivia’s population. Evo came from an extremely humble background. His family members were peasants and miners, and he was a trade union leader for coca leaf growers.
However, the people of Santa Cruz and other provinces don’t care too much for this indio government made up of maids, Indian intellectuals, leftists, and social movement leaders. They are pushing for “state’s rights” (autonomy) for their rich provinces. It just so happens that those areas are loaded with natural gas, huge plantations, and white people: natural gas that Evo nationalized to share with the poor majority and plantations he wants to break up and redistribute to the landless (most land in Bolivia, like much of Latin America, is highly concentrated in the hands of a small percentage of farmers). Naturally, these white folk refuse to share their riches with poor, Incan and Aymaran Indian majority and want to control their borders to keep out the Indians from moving down from the Andes and keep their gas money to themselves.
To say cruceños are racist is hardly an understatement. I spent a month in Santa Cruz in 2005. When I introduced myself as an “indio” I got the dirtiest looks I ever seen post-9/11. “De la India” brought relief to the stranger. “Oh… from India? The indios…. they are a dirty people. We are good people… descended from European blood. Santa Cruz… is not Bolivia. La Paz is another world.” And my favorite, “Evo Morales is a campesino sonofabitch.”
Will Bolivia split apart again like it has so many times in its sad past?
Meanwhile in Paraguay, a country completely forgotten by the outside world, a new president was inaugurated. The “red bishop” Fernando Lugo defeated the dictatorial Colorado Party after six decades in power. A Guarani-speaking former Roman Catholic bishop as president interested the international media enough that I saw Paraguay in the news for the first time I can remember. This brings another left-wing government to power leaving all of South America a tint of red with the exception of Colombia.
This new political unity has been leading to a possible United States of South America. Think I’m joking? Venezuela kickstarted a Bank of the South to replace the influence of Washington’s World Bank and International Monetary Fund while an international regional parliament will sit in Bolivia and a secretary general will reside in Ecuador. Mercosur will unite the nations into a single market like the European Union, Telesur competes with CNN and the BBC, and a Petrosur could combine state oil companies into a single OPEC of South America.
How come no one mentions that stuff in the media?