Thursday, February 02, 2006

Meeting the Challenges and Promises

Barely ten days into his Presidency and already the domestic and international diplomacy of Bolivia’s Evo Morales has been put to the test. It has been a challenging and ambitious beginning to this historic assumption of power as Morales signed agreements with Cuba and Venezuela as well as satisfied some of the campaign promises laid out by his Movement to Socialism party (MAS).


Unexpected challenges arrived with persistent rains that caused heavy flooding in the regions of Beni, La Paz and Santa Cruz, resulting in thirteen deaths. Over the weekend rivers continued to overflow as thousands of acres in agricultural crops have been devastated.

More than 33,000 Bolivians have been affected as landslides and flood waters have destroyed homes, washed away roads and bridges.

Jose Luis Paredes, governor of the Department of La Paz, reported that $10 million USD would be required to meet disaster needs in his region. About 150,000 acres of soy crops were devastated in the eastern department of Santa Cruz as rivers continued to overflow.

Morales' issuance of Supreme Decree No. 28610 declared a national state of emergency and paved the way for Bolivia to appeal for international aid. Venezuela and Cuba were the first countries to offer assistance in the form of food and medical supplies.

Reports indicate that a Cuban Airlines plane left Havana on Wednesday morning carrying almost 16 tons of medicines, as well as tents.

Venezuela is donating 10 tons of supplies to Bolivia including imperishable goods, tools, drinking water, medicines and blankets, according to El Universal. In addition, the Chavez government has committed to sending doctors, engineers and experts in communications and disasters.

Bolivian news sources report that refugee camps have been set up in parts of the country where Bolivia's Civil Defense and armed forces provide the needy with tents, food and medical attention.

The UN Development Program reported an immediate pledge of $500,000 as well as an additional $2.5 million for reconstruction work after the rainy season ends. Thousands of victims remain in need of immediate assistance.

Despite Bolivia suffering from one of the heaviest rainy seasons, Morales moved forward with ambitious promises made by his MAS party throughout his campaign, including providing greater representation for women & indigenous persons, devoting more money to health & education and moving towards the nationalisation of Bolivia's natural resources.