LA PAZ, Oct 19 (EUROPE PRESS)
Evo Morales, of the Aymara ethnic group, became, in 2006, the first indigenous president in the history of Bolivia.
Hours before his inauguration, on January 21 of that year, the Bolivian leader, dressed in traditional clothing, was appointed chief of the native peoples of his country and throughout America, in a rite celebrated in the ruins of Tiwanacu .
Morales immediately legislated in favor of indigenous people, improving communities' access to water, electricity, and education, and lowering poverty levels.
Three years after coming to power, the 2009 Constitution was launched, promoted by the Aymara leader, who turned Bolivia into a Plurinational State and recognized the existence of 36 native peoples.
“He did well on the formal issue. Aymara can now go down to the wealthy southern zone of La Paz, for example, which he did not do before, because there was a sense of rejection in the population,” says Rodrigo Quinallata, Aymara political activist .
But until there he recognizes. Now he has become a fierce opponent of Morales, having even come to promote a campaign against his new presidential nomination.
Like him, part of the Bolivian indigenous people have turned their backs on Morales in recent years, disappointed with his management.
“We had not counted the indigenous peoples with mediocrity. They told us that we were going to have autonomy, but the power has been centralized more,” Quinallata laments.
In 2015, the Bolivian president lost his stronghold, the city of El Alto, made up of at least 40 percent of indigenous people, at the hands of Soledad Chapetón, also of Aymara ethnicity, but of right-wing center.
The main catalyst of discontent occurred the following year. Morales called a referendum, in February 2016, to consult Bolivians if they approved a change to the Magna Carta, which he himself promoted, with the aim of allowing reelection for more than two consecutive periods.
Citizens rejected the option, by a small margin, but the Constitutional Court authorized Morales, in a controversial ruling, referring to his human right to be elected.
This ignorance of the popular vote affected its prestige, sustained, in good part, in the average economic growth of 4.6 percent that the country has maintained since its arrival at the presidency.
“The Aymara do not agree with the perpetuation of power, and our culture is based on the rotation of charges. One cannot be the leader for two steps taken. The Morales Government does not have an identification with Andean practices. Rather contradicts, cancels and delegitimates them, “criticizes Quinallata.
Another widespread criticism among indigenous people who will not vote for Morales is the extractivist model of the Bolivian economy, which has been accentuated during his tenure, and clashes with his speech in defense of Mother Earth, the 'Pachamama'.
“It is no longer a coherent discourse. Good living has remained on the floor. We are killing not only our lungs, but the lungs of the world,” Quinallata notes.
THE FIRE IN THE AMAZON
Morales's popularity among indigenous people has once again suffered after the recent fires in the Amazon, which have devastated more than four million hectares, according to the Friends of Nature Foundation (FAN).
Part of the Bolivians, and the original Amazonian peoples, blame the president of the fires, after the modification of a decree, last July, which ended up authorizing the clearing of lands in the affected departments.
“What has happened was the fault of the Government. Evo had a plan with the Chiquitanía. Entering the area and putting people in those areas, and for that it was necessary to have a free, clear space where they could enter, measure and do his new settlements, therefore, he is the only culprit, “denounces Orlando Socoré, chief of the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of San Ignacio de Velasco (Acisiv).
He has spent the last month walking from his town to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, along with several dozen other people, to request the declaration of national disaster and claim that only the natives of the place can access land distribution.
The Government has ruled out that it has provided land to settlers in the affected areas.
“But Morales did nothing while the fire devoured the woods. Only after a month, he just requested the plane that allowed to put out the fires,” Socoré recalls.
A ROAD CROSSING A WATER RESERVE
The beginning of the greatest disagreements between Morales and the natives took place in 2011, when the president announced the construction of a road that would cross the Indigenous Territory and Isiboro – Securé National Park (TIPNIS), considered as a large water reserve.
Some of the residents of the protected area refused to accept the road, and organized a large indigenous march towards La Paz, which was severely repressed in the municipality of Chaparina.
“I have received threats and I have been kidnapped. In addition, I suffer civil death, because the Government has closed all the doors to me. I cannot find work, which is an enormous suffering for me and my family,” denounces Fernando Vargas, leader of those protests.
“That road would encourage deforestation, the overpricing of the land and its redistribution. We would have to leave our habitat to go to I don't know where, maybe to the cities,” says the comunero.
Corruption in the Indigenous Fund also affected Morales's popularity among indigenous peoples, a portfolio full of ghost projects and millions of dollars of public money that ended up in private hands.
“Today, with the Government of Evo Morales, we have realized that not only steals who has a tie, but also who has flip flops (flip flops),” says activist Quinallata. “That is stigmatizing us,” he admits.