Evo Morales vs Jesus in Bolivia’s Election January 24, 2009

Evo Morales vs Jesus in Bolivia’s Election

I’m not going to pretend like I know anything about Bolivia’s political scene.

But this story caught my attention for obvious reasons:

A television ad that has aired around the country opens with a photo of Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales dressed in the garb of a traditional shaman. An image of Jesus Christ arrives to knock Mr. Morales off the screen, and a document labeled “New Constitution” appears amid flames. “Choose God. Vote No,” the ad advises.

The ad, funded by an evangelical church based in this stronghold of the political opposition, points up how religion is playing a growing role in the latest chapter of Bolivia’s sometimes bloody fight over a new constitution, which is up for a national referendum on Sunday.

If approved, Bolvia’s constitution would allow Mr. Morales, elected in 2005, to seek a second consecutive five-year term, reshape congress, and extend the state’s power — marking a victory for the strongly anti-American leader who recently expelled the U.S. ambassador, nationalized the country’s energy supplies, and whose key patron is Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.

… Bolivia’s current constitution allows for freedom of religion but specifies Roman Catholicism as the sole state religion.

For Christians, whose faith arrived in Bolivia along with Spanish Conquistadors almost 500 years ago, the fight is over fundamental values, which they say the new constitution tramples on, and replaces with ultra-liberal, atheist concepts or worse, those of indigenous religions. They say the constitution appears to open the door to abortion and gay marriage, although it doesn’t speak directly to either issue.

Here’s the commercial that The Wall Street Journal is talking about:

Almost looks like something we would’ve seen out of North Carolina this past election season…

Based on the commercial alone, I sympathize with Morales.

But if anyone would like to enlighten me on why I should or should not support Morales (even from a distance), I’d appreciate your wisdom.

(By the way, Morales appeared on The Daily Show in 2007. Jon Stewart was fascinated by him.)

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  • Anonymous

    He’s been repeatedly elected by landslide margins, even though the his opponents received large amounts of funding from the US. He can indeed be called a true example of democracy at work, for he wasn’t elected on rhetoric, but crucial issues which concerned every citizen of the nation.

  • Well, it’s not that easy. The left in South America, specially with Chavez’s influence is not like the one in the US or other developed countries. The right might want to scare the population making them think that Morales is some kind of antichrist, but Morales isn’t a very good option either. The South American left is very prone to develop into a represive de facto dictatorship. I’m from Peru and in the last presidential elections Hugo Chavez was shamelessly campaigning for the far left candidate, which advocated protectionism and rejection to international businesses, which would doom the country since poor South American countries, like mine, don’t have a lot of money to invest.

    My country and other poor South American countries have a lot of problems, and while religious bigottry is one of them, we still have to fear dictatorships and far winged parties controlling the lives of their citizens.

  • Anonymous

    Certainly an element of truth to that; but then again, protectionism would very often be more beneficial to the South American nations than its alternatives, especially when they are accompanied by loads of irrational measures, as they are at present. Privatization of water resources and such will undoubtedly be crippling to a developing economy like Bolivia’s.And well, the people have to try and keep in check the ones they have put in power, lest they consolidate too much of it into a dictatorship. I would still take my chances with Morales, rather than a right-wing guy, for I find him the lesser of two evils.

  • Indeed, privatization with no control from the state is scary for the population, but protectonism and a state owining everything, specially in the hands of a left-wing populist government is worse. In my country that happened during the 70s and most industries, agriculture, fishing went totally down. Then during the 80s our president refused to trade with the exterior and people had to make lines in order to buy food, while members of the party had lots for themselves. A couple of years ago the left wing candidate for the presidency (the one supported by Chavez) advocated an ideology in which the mestizos, the “brown” people were the righteous owners of the country. Also, his father (from which he received most of his ideology) advocated the extermination of gays.

    Those are only some examples from one country. The US, Europe and other developed countries can have a well developed and rational left, but in South America that doesn’t happen very often.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I can’t say I’m too familiar with the intricacies of the events you just outlined. The conclusion I can draw is that, once again, it is irrational thought, rather than a particular political ideology, which is causing most, if not all, problems.

  • Mark

    Its amazing how Jon Stewart praises this guy for being a common man who rose to the presidency of Boliva and in the interview Jon Stewart even claimed that it couldn’t happen in America because the elections are “rigged”. But only two years later when Sara Palin is running for vice president it was Jon Stewart who whined and complained that she is to uneducated to be a “heartbeat” away from the Presidency. Stewart complained that a common uneducated woman would be harmfull to America if elected. This proves to me that Jon Stewart is a two faced lying scumbag…. but he does tell a good joke now and then.

  • Santiago

    Although Morales has caused somewhat of a stir with things like nationalisation of the natural gas industry, I don’t think he’s anywhere near as bad or as authocratic, as Hugo Chavez is. I think it is also a good thing to remember that Bolivia’s indigenous peoples constitute more than half the total population, but Morales is the first amerindian president they’ve had, and he’s managed to prevent the indigenous people from making the crippling road blocks that took out a couple of presidents before him.

    I’d be somewhat ambivalent towards him, he’s not the best, but he’s definitely not the worst that Bolivia has to offer, and from what I know he might be able to reduce the church’s influence on the government, which is always a good thing.

  • As a Bolivian, I can only say that God is with Evo and not with the Pope nor with gringo “Christian” cults.
    I can also say that the more gringos know about Evo, the more gringos like Evo.
    Only gringos locos or very bad gringos, like Goldberg, hate Evo.
    Viva Evo!

  • MAZZ

    Its amazing how Jon Stewart praises this guy for being a common man who rose to the presidency of Boliva… But only two years later when Sara Palin is running for vice president it was Jon Stewart who whined and complained that she is to uneducated to be a “heartbeat” away from the Presidency.

    There’s a difference between Morales being a “common man” and Palin’s outright and intentional ignorance and unwillingness to learn. Morales can still surround himself with smart people, which is one of the key duties of a president. Does anyone really believe that Palin would surround herself with the best people for the job? I think more likely we would’ve ended up with more rampant cronyism ala G.W. Bush.

  • Miko

    When some lawyer tells me ‘Evo, you’re making a judicial mistake; what you’re doing is illegal,’ well, I keep going even though it’s illegal. I then tell the lawyers: ‘If it’s illegal, go ahead and make it legal. That’s what you went to school for.’

    – Evo Morales

    Anonymous, anyone who says something like this loses all legitimacy granted by an election. The fact is he ignores any vote he doesn’t like. For example, when Santa Cruz voted overwhelmingly (in mid 2008) in favor of changing the policies he imposed on them regarding the economy, use of land, education, health care, etc., he simply declared the vote illegal.

    Also, the myth that democracy is enough to ensure freedom is untrue and dangerous. Without independent counting of votes, a dictator is free to fake the results. Without a free press, a dictator can control the news in such a way that all good things come from him and all bad things come from his opponents. If worst comes to worst, they can distract the public with some saber rattling about how the political and economic problems aren’t the fault of their policies but rather some evil conspiracy by the United States. I don’t know enough about their politics to speak on the first issue, but Morales is definitely guilty of the last one and I strongly suspect guilty of the second as well.

    Also, a good reason to oppose him from the U.S. perspective is because he lends support to Hugo Chavez, whom is an even worse and more oppressive tyrant. When misguided celebrities spout off in favor of Chavez, no one cares. But giving him an ally in the region is not a desirable outcome.

    Finally, socialism is great for a small cadre of cronies who get favors from the dictator, but it’s terrible for the people who live in a country (this is why the East Germans built a wall instead of vice versa). In the U.S., we’ve forgotten what the word means when people dilute it by saying stupid things like “Barack Obama is a socialist.” South American style socialism doesn’t mean some vague notion of public welfare; it means taking control of all industries by the “government,” forcing the people to accept all of the rules and goals imposed by the government, and enacting whatever form of political oppression is necessary to ensure that the cronies keep getting special privileges. For those who’s politics run to bashing corporations, substitute that word for “government” in the above and you’ll have a fairly accurate perception of what such a dictatorship is like.

    (By the way: water privatization is in theory a fantastic idea. It would theoretically have benefits in Bolivia since their current water supply has serious sanitation issues and such a politician facing “re-election” could use the water supply to blackmail the people. However, in practice, it’s too easy for a corporation to get a government to grant it special concessions and monopoly status, which has disastrous consequences for the people. Privatization only works in a truly free market, which exists no where on Earth. While people everywhere would be better off in a free market, this style of privatization should be the last step of the adjustment process, not the first.)

  • Miko

    Morales can still surround himself with smart people, which is one of the key duties of a president. … I think more likely we would’ve ended up with more rampant cronyism ala G.W. Bush.

    Depends what the interests of those “smart people” is. If it’s favors for themselves, you’ll end up with rampant cronyism. The people around Bush were smart; it’s just that they were most interested in corrupting power in order to get favors for themselves. After Bush’s overreaching extent into many areas of our private lives, I’d say a key duty of the president has now become recognizing the difference between the areas he should be involved in and those he shouldn’t. And seriously: there’s just as much cronyism in Obama’s circle; it’s just that his cronies work in slightly different industries. A president can’t give away $350B as “stimulus” without attracting a ring of vultures.

    By the way: I’ll second what Santiago said. Morales is a gnat in comparison to Chavez. Try searching for both of their names at Human Rights Watch and you’ll quickly see the difference in the scale of their abuses.

  • Gribblethemunchkin

    South America has had problems with its government for more than the recent socialist leaders.

    Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales aren’t perfect and both tend to ride roughshod over the law when it suits their purposes.

    That said, their opposition is measureably worse than they are. The wealthy right wing of South America care not one whit for the betterment of the lives of the people of their nations which at least Morales and Chavez clearly do. Furthermore the right wing rich are very much unpopular and are only able to wield the influence they do due to the vast support of the US.

    What South America really needs right now is for the US to stop supporting political entities to any degree and pull out. Let the people in Venezuela deal with Chavez and the people in Bolivia deal with Morales.

    Much of what the two have done so far is very good for their nations. The forming of closer ties with other south american nations, nationalising their nations natural resources, these are good things, education, health care, santitation likewise.

    Maybe Chavez will grow more tyranical and maybe Morales will join him but at the moment they are pushing through some reforms that are drastically needed. Further reforms, especially in the area of free speech and free press are still needed no doubt, but this isn’t for the US to decide, its for the Venezuelans and Bolivians to sort out.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I’m glad that Hemant brought up this topic. My understanding is that the new Bolivian constitution not only removes Catholicism from its previous position of prominence as the official religion of Bolivia, but it also enshrines the separation of church and state. This is a good step.

    I lived and worked in Bolivia for two years, and I was there in December 2005 when Evo was elected. I quibble with some of his policies, and I don’t like how he has done everything, but overall I think his presidency has been a net plus for Bolivia. And I wholeheartedly second what other people are saying about Evo and Hugo Chavez; a lot of Chavez’s policies and rhetoric have been problematic, and Evo simply is not following in his footsteps. He’s developing a close relationship with Venezuela, but he is also developing a close relationship with moderate left-wing governments in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. The Obama administration will be wise to restore good relations with Bolivia. I think Evo Morales will be open to it (in fact, after Obama was elected, Morales issued a public statement congratulating him and saying that he hoped that meant that Bolivia could have much better relations with the USA). And if Obama does improve relations with Bolivia, I think that will actually undercut a lot of the rationale that La Paz has for getting closer and closer to Caracas in the first place.

  • Any anarchists in Bolivia?

    If you google Evo Morales and read articles from main stream US and Euro newspapers and current events magazines they are clearly ant-MAS. One clear plus of the Morales Govt his his push and now successful campaign for the country to gain control of its natural resources. The largest deposits of lithium in the world, used to power electric car batteries could prove to pull Bolivia out of deep economic depressions. Also consider that while it is true that anti-morales forces have helped pay for disinformation campaigns the leaders of South America are coming together and this was clear when all leaders sided with Morales and MAS during the violence in Santa Cruz last summer and fall. Evo is passing legislation and winning campaigns with 60% plus, I hope he does not slip into a leftist dictator but trying to paint him as one because he pushed for a change in Presidential terms is crazy. As for Christianity, who cares, the new constitution still opposes pro-choice so they still have that.
    I’m interested to see what role Evo and Bolivia play in supporting the FMLN in the El Salvador election in March.

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