Friday, January 20, 2006

Hoping for Change

From the shoe shiner to the cafe owner, the feeling on the street is one of apprehension, but one of hope. Hope that change will not be too drastic and that whatever happens will be for the better.

While sitting at a small table discussing the climate of change with representatives at El Centro de Bolivianos Americanos, two teachers described how former governmental leaders only seemed interested in benefiting themselves and exploiting the resources of Bolivia. They believe Evo and the policies of MAS can bring about more equality in Bolivia, but if it does not, they are confident that the people of Bolivia have the power to vote in new leadership.

In Bolivia the people expect "one person, one vote", so several Bolivians were surprised to learn that the majority of Americans choose not to exercise their constitutional right to vote. It was difficult to comprehend how the citizens of a country, who speak so proudly of their own democracy, would be so apathetic towards politics and exercising their public power.

The power of the Bolivian people was evident this week - represented by the coming inauguration of the first indigenous president of Bolivia and the victory of the people of Cochabamba over the multi-national corporation Bechtel.

Early Friday morning, a communication from the Democracy Center announced that on January 20, executives of Bechtel were signing final papers effectively withdrawing their $50 million lawsuit against the residents of Cochabamba. Leaving with a 2 Boliviano payout - the equivalent of 30 cents - Bechtel was forced to eliminate a contract privatizing the water of Cochabamba┬┤s residents and return the rights of their natural resources to the people.