April 06, 2006

Keeping Those Damned Indians In Their Place

As pressure increases on Chavez, multinational companies are putting $2 million into a campaign to destabilise the 2-month-old government of Bolivia's Evo Morales.
In truth, the Morales presidency is fast getting beyond the "peace, love and understanding" phase. The first indigenous leader to run a country in the Americas has been two months in office, but he does not feel like he is in power - yet.

"How does it work now? I'll tell you," he says.

"You want to issue a decree to help the poor, the indigenous people, the popular movements, the workers... but there's another law. Another padlock. It's full of padlocks that mean you can't transform things from the palace... I feel like a prisoner of the neo-liberal laws."

For a man who rose to prominence as a union leader, and to office on the back of social movements with mainly economic grievances, economic policy has hardly figured in the first 60 days...

"Who makes the decisions here - the poor and indigenous people or those families who've done so much damage to our country in the past? They discriminated against, marginalised, oppressed, hated and totally disregarded the indigenous people. It's a political fight - it's a fight for power."

... The trillion-cubic-foot (3bn-cubic-metre) gas field was discovered in the late 1990s and, originally, leased at what Mr Morales sees as knock-down prices to the oil and gas corporations.

He has got a judge beavering away at declaring the original contracts illegal, and plans to nationalise the gas and oil industries...


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