Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bolivian Eyes on Obama

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) From taxi drivers to police officers and government workers, Bolivians keep asking about Barack Obama.

While the United States was inaugurating a new Commander-in-Chief, several local radio stations broadcast ongoing conversations about the first Afro-American President of the United States. Bolivia and Latin America in general are all eagerly watching a change of guard in the U.S.

This evening, at the Governmental Palace, President Morales addressed a group of his supporters from the department of Oruro. After participating in an Andean ritual led by the Green Ponchos from Charangas, Morales stood before his indigenous constituents, wearing his striped "Evo" sweater.

The majority of his eight-minute speech spoke to the historic nature of Barack's election and the hope for improved relations with the U.S. After a complete break of diplomatic ties with the U.S. under the administration of George W. Bush, Obama is a welcome change for Bolivia and much of Latin America.

Expressions of hope and comraderie came from Morales who referred to Obama as a "brother". "For the first time in the United States," said Morales, "through a democratic vote they have elected a black brother."

He spoke of the historical discrimination towards Afro-Americans in the U.S. and elsewhere. "I know that black people have been discriminated against," explained Morales, "not just in America, but in the entire world." He noted the struggle of Martin Luther King, who was "assassinated just for defending the rights of black people in the world."

And then he linked the struggle of Afro-Americans to that of indigneous people in Latin America. The Green Ponchos were in the Governmental Palace to show their support for the constitutional referendum which will secure rights for Bolivia's indigenous people.

Morales offered good wishes to Barack and the people of the U.S. saying, "I have much hope for the new president of the United States for better diplomatic and economic relations."

These sentiments were also expressed earlier today by Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca - who said he looked forward to working with the U.S. again to counter drug trafficking.

The Bush Administration suspended Bolivia's preferred trade status under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act last December, claiming the Bolivian government was not doing enough to combat narco-trafficking. Morales and his ministers have expressed hope that a new administration will re-instate Bolivia's trade status.

Obama's policies toward Latin America remain to be seen but there is wide-spread feelings of hope that a change in leadership under the direction of a black man will mean a positive shift in U.S. relations within the region.



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