[Marxism] South African press on Evo Morales visit

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 9 06:27:21 MST 2006


http://www.themercury.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=285&fArticleId=3055314

Bolivian leader on learning visit

South America's first indigenous elected president feels he can learn from 
SA's experience of racial and class reconciliation, writes Peter Fabricius 
January 6, 2006

By Peter Fabricius

Bolivia's controversial populist president-elect, Evo Morales, is scheduled 
to visit South Africa next week to meet President Mbeki, former president 
Nelson Mandela and other local political leaders to learn at first hand 
about SA's transition and its possible lessons for his own country.

As the first indigenous person to be elected president in South America, 
Morales believes he can learn a lot from SA's experience about the racial 
and class reconciliation that is going to be necessary when he takes over 
Bolivia after his inauguration on January 22. Indigenous people constitute 
about 60% of Bolivia's population, whites of Spanish origin about 18% and 
people of mixed-race, about 20%.

Morales's election is causing jitters among conservatives throughout the 
Americas - especially in Washington, because of his left-wing views, 
including promises to nationalise Bolivia's gas resources. Some see him as 
the next wave, after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - in a socialist 
tsunami that will engulf the continent. His visit to SA is part of a world 
tour, which is being sponsored by the Club de Madrid, an influential group 
of former world leaders which includes former US president Bill Clinton 
and, most recently, former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano.

Apart from SA, Morales will also visit Spain, France, Brazil and China on 
the tour. The idea seems to be for the veterans to show the rookie more 
about how the world is run. The SA pro-democracy organisation, Idasa, is 
arranging Morales's visit on behalf of the Club de Madrid, Director Ivor 
Jenkins confirmed yesterday. He said Idasa was still trying to confirm the 
meetings with Mbeki - who is still on leave - and Mandela.

The visit was conceived when Roelf Meyer, former chief negotiator for the 
old National Party government and the ANC's Ebrahim Ebrahim visited Bolivia 
last year - before Morales was elected - to participate in discussions 
about a constituent assembly which the Bolivians are planning, to establish 
and draft a new constitution.

Meyer said yesterday that despite the fact that Bolivia had had a 
democratic constitution for decades, the indigenous majority felt the need 
for a new constitution because they felt they had been "left aside", in 
Bolivia. Meyer said they had met Morales during that visit, found him "a 
very pleasant person" and invited him to SA to learn more about the 
drafting of the constitution and the more general process of 
reconciliation. "He immediately accepted." Jenkins said that Morales was 
also scheduled to meet ANC Secretary-General Kgalema Motlanthe, and SACP 
leaders Blade Nzimande and Jeremy Cronin - and possibly Freedom Front 
leader Pieter Mulder.

"Morales has an issue of how to bring right-wing business leaders and 
militants - as well as left-wing militants - into the process," he said. 
Mulder could help him. Though Morales has alarmed conservatives, some South 
Africans who have encountered him believe that his rhetoric is mostly 
designed for popular consumption and he is more of a nationalist 
legitimately seeking a better deal for his people.

They believe he is a rough diamond who will lose some of his rough edges 
and gain more polish when he actually has to run his country. Mbeki quite 
enthusiastically welcomed Morales's election as a sign "that the tide of 
change continues to sweep through Latin America, bringing with it the hope 
of political and economic transformation and development for your country 
and indeed the region as a whole".

Some see that as Mbeki's backing for the socialist "tsunami" which may or 
may not be flowing over the continent. But SA official sources say not, 
insisting rather that it is merely Mbeki's expression of support for the 
general tide of democraticisation which has already covered much of the 
continent. We shall see. But it is encouraging that Morales wants to learn 
from SA. He could do worse than emulating the ANC example of how to adapt 
socialist ideology to the real world.

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