Sunday, January 07, 2007

Promises Kept, Pendulum Continues Swing Left

President Morales ended 2006 by holding his last Cabinet session at 11:30 pm on December 31st. The session continued into the morning of January 1 when at dawn, Morales and his ministers announced the creation of new social and economic programs.

Morales issued five new executive orders, including the Universal Health Law that will give “universal, complete and free” health care to people under the age of twenty-one. The project, which is to be financed with money from gas sales to Brazil and Argentina, will have the impact of insuring 75 percent of Bolivia’s population and will also provide scholarships to young Bolivian doctors.

In a move to further Bolivia’s economic progress, the Bank of Desarrollo Productivo (BDP) was created by decree on January 1. This Productive Development bank is funded with $60 million to support smaller producers and entrepreneurs by loaning seed money with low and long-term interest rates.

Further fulfilling a campaign promise to ensure greater respect for indigenous rights, President Morales also approved a measure integrating community justice systems in indigenous communities with the judicial system of the Bolivian state. This is one of several efforts Morales has made over the past year to eliminate institutional discrimination against Bolivia’s indigenous majority.

The year 2007 begins with clear evidence of Latin America’s ideological swing to the left. January is a busy month for Morales who is expected to take part in the ceremony of Nicaraguan President-elect Daniel Ortega, attend the inauguration of Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and also Hugo Chavez’s taking of office ceremony.

Undoubtedly all eyes will be on the MERCOSUR summit in Rio de Janeiro on January 18 and 19 that will give further indication as to whether Latin America’s movement towards socialism will become a wider regional effort.

Almost a year into his presidency, Morales continues to field criticism from political conservatives and business interests yet he presses on with the platform that he was elected on: bringing justice to Bolivia’s indigenous majority by sharing the nation’s wealth and political power.



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