Thursday, January 19, 2006

Anticipating Change

Conversations with people in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, offer a glimpse of the sentiments towards "Evo", as he is respectfully called. In the region where he gained the least support, taking approximately 30 percent of the vote, some people fear that Evo and the policies of his Movement Towards Socialism party (MAS), may threaten their way of life.

Santa Cruz boasts tourism and the highest economic production of all the regions in Bolivia. For the average middle class worker Evo resonates as a likeable individual. He does not represent the corruption that is rampant throughout Bolivia’s political, economic and social structure, but his policies of nationalization and support of the cocaleros may draw criticism. Many hope that he will be more like Brazil’s Lula and less like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Those who have the most to gain, however, do not live in Santa Cruz but rather in poorer regions of Bolivia such as Beni or Potosi where intense poverty brings women and their children to the streets of Santa Cruz de la Sierra to sleep on the streets, hands out, begging for change.

Yet when speaking with Anitha Vasquez, the President of MAS in Santa Cruz, there is no need for apprehension - just a positive outlook for the future. When asked about the critics of Evo within Santa Cruz who want to vote for economic autonomy from the rest of Bolivia, she dismisses those as a small minority of wealthy people who do not represent the interests of the country.

Proudly wearing a royal blue t-shirt with the words "Evo es mi presidente" across her chest, Ms. Vasquez spoke with us briefly about the historical significance of Evo’s victory for Bolivians and the entire world. She drew parallels to the struggle of all oppressed people including those in Africa and even African-Americans living in the United States.

It is a major moment in history, not only for Bolivia, but for all of Latin America – a region of the world that still suffers under the rule of its colonizers. Bolivia is the first Latin American country to bring into power a traditional, indigenous person, who won with the absolute majority of the people. "This is a new Bolivia, one unified with respect."

The future is unknown, but one thing is certain…Bolivians are waiting for the change that will arrive when Evo Morales becomes "el Presidente".