Why does Evo not return to Bolivia for the inauguration of Luis Arce?

In an interview with BBC Mundo, Morales stated that he will return to his country on November 11, three days after his political partner takes office as the new head of State

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Evo Morales was president of the Plurinational State of Bolivia between 2006 and 2019. In November of that year, he was the victim of a coup that forced him to flee the country, after death threats were made against him. That event gave way to the dictatorship of the ultra-Catholic Jeanine Áñez, which will end this Sunday, November 8.

The end of the de facto government of Áñez comes with the assumption of Luis Arce as president-elect. Arce, who was Morales’ minister of economy for many years, won the recent elections with more than 55% of the total vote.

However, in an interview with BBC Mundo, Morales stated that he will return to his country on November 11. three days after his political partner takes office as the new head of State.

In the interview, the leader of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) and Aymara indigenous leader, stressed that he will not have a leading role in the Arce government. The new president is considered a leader who is prepared, loyal and capable of repairing the damage caused by the Áñez regime in just one year.

In that sense, he stressed that his main function, now, will be to dedicate himself to the formation of new social and political leaders for the Plurinational Revolution. His desire is to ensure that political leaders emerge that can maintain the development and stability of the country, achieved during his presidency.

Likewise, he stated that in his personal life he will dedicate himself to raising a fish called tambaquí (pacú, in other regions). It is a business venture that he will do in El Charape, a jungle area located in the center of Bolivia. It was in that region that the movement of coca leaf producers emerged which made him president.

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The BBC Mundo interview with Evo Morales

How did you feel when you knew the results of the election on October 18 when your political party won?

I knew that we were going to win with more than 50%. From the first moment I felt that there was a lot of spontaneity and a lot of commitment. Furthermore, after the economic crisis caused by the de facto government … ‘With Evo and with the process of change we were better’. Now, how is the economic situation? This result is the best proof that there was no fraud last year, there was a coup.

Do you attribute the victory of Luis Arce to the management of the transitory government of Jeanine Áñez or to the popular support that your political party has?

Those are two things. The support of the people is thanks to more than 13 years of management (of Morales) with economic growth, poverty reduction and economic movement. The people recognize that last year with Evo Morales they were better than now.

Second, it is clear that the management of the government (of Añez) is bad. The comrades were saying ‘Out Áñez and out Arturo Murillo’ (Minister of Government). I told them: Murillo is our campaign manager, we don’t have to tell him to leave. And Áñez can stay as long as she guarantees elections. The people understood perfectly and we won in the first round.

Mr. Luis Arce won this year with 55% of the votes, you had 47% of the votes last year. Doesn’t that mean that you had generated rejection in Bolivia?

Anyone can have their own reading. But my reading is that there is a movement, there is a hard vote. That vote is precisely because of the results of past administrations.

Second, last year I would also have taken more than 50% of the votes. It was my estimate. We were surprised by Chi (Chi Hyun Chung, a conservative candidate who in 2019 obtained almost 9% of the vote). I said in the cabinet that Chi was going to take away our vote. I want to tell it very sincerely, we were divided. Some said he was going to take votes from the right, I said he was going to take the vote from us.

I don’t remember what position Lucho Arce had on that, but some ministers said that Chi was going to take votes from the right. That was the discussion in the cabinet. Obviously, we must recognize that so many years of governmental management, so much ‘dirty war’ and lies wore us down. But the people were not wrong, we must continue with the process of change.

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Evo: “The people were right”

Aren’t these results proof that it was time to retire last year instead of going to a fourth election?

I was convinced. You can review my press conferences, I said that I was finishing my term, and I was going back to my ‘chaco’ (plot of land) to work. All the social and militant movements said that continuity was important due to the results we had. I accepted, it wasn’t that I decided. I was asked to do it. And now you can see that the people were right.

You came to admit that perhaps it was a mistake to force one more reelection …

After the coup, I said that obviously maybe. But now when we see the economic situation of the country, we see that the people were right.

The people know. The pandemic? I would have been fighting the pandemic with Cuba and China. First class equipment. The people were right.

What do you think of all the voices that ask for renewal? Something that is pointed out as a factor in the electoral victory like the one you had. You were told to change the leaders and even to displace some of your closest advisers.

I think some colleagues are wrong. They say no to the people who have surrounded me, but Lucho Arce and David Choquehuanca (former chancellor and vice-president-elect) have been two of the people that have lasted the longest with me. Third was Juan Ramón (Quintana, former Minister of the Presidency) and Roberto Aguilar (former Minister of Education).

Those are the people that surround me. The first is Lucho, the second is David. There are some internal problems. A confusion. I hope to return to clarify, to align. In my experience, it is necessary to combine founders, former authorities and greater opportunity for the new generations.

What do you prefer, a government made up of social organizations or one that has a strong presence of sectors of the middle class such as your cabinet?

You have to do a combination. Middle class, social movements and from the regions. Some colleagues question me about the “guests”. I integrated. To be an elected or appointed authority you do not always have to be a leader or ex-leader.

Túpac Katari said in colonial times that ‘mestizos’ (people born from one indigenous person and a foreign person) and ‘criollos’ (People who are born in Bolivia but their parents were foreign) should organize themselves to fight together for our territory. It’s what I do.

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“I go back to my chaco”

The vice-president-elect David Choquehuanca said that social organizations have asked that the “guests” do not return, the people that surrounded you …

Well, it surprises me. I have not heard that. Again I say, who is David? who is Lucho? They are the people that surrounded me. They are the deans of the people that surrounded me.

How do you feel, now that you are not the protagonist of Bolivia after practically being the center of politics? How does it feel to play such a role?

I was convinced that sooner or later it had to arrive, that I had to go to my farm. That is normal. It is not that Evo wanted to be reelected. 5,000 leaders asked that Evo be empowered to give continuity because it has given results. The people were not wrong in saying that Evo continue.

Now I go back to my chaco, in the Chapare. There, I return to my land and that will be my task.

Are you planting coca again?

I’m going to dedicate myself to tambaquí (river fish also called pacú), to have a tambaquí pool. My companions are doing well with tambaquí pools. In eight months you have $ 5,000 of net income.

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Lucho has to be the protagonist

You said you were going to return to Bolivia immediately after the victory of Luis Arce, but the leader of your political party, Andrónico Rodríguez, said it will be later. When do you plan to return to Bolivia?

First I want to thank brother President Alberto Fernández who offered to take me to Bolivia. I imagine that he is going to the inauguration (November 8). There, the comrade Lucho Arce has to be the protagonist. I can’t take the limelight, I’m staying.

After, it is planned, they are organizing it. It is my wish. I will be back on November 11. On the 11th (November 2019) I left Chimoré (the forest area which is Morales’ territory) to save my life and on the 11th I will return alive to Chimoré.

Then, you return exactly one year after your departure …

That is it. Well planned. Thanks to Pachamama and thanks to God.

Will you enter by land?

It is up for debate, but we will arrive the same day.

It is said that you are going to dedicate yourself to forming social and political leaders. Isn’t that some kind of retirement? Don’t you have aspirations to be president again?

I don’t have those aspirations. But yes, now with more experience I want to share my trade union struggle as a leader, share my experience of managing the Plurinational State as former president. Last night I was already in a workshop with young people. That will be my task.

Does that mean that Evo Morales is over as a candidate for any office?

I do not have it in my plans, I return to my ‘chaco’ to share my experience.

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Caring for Lucho and the process of change

In an interview with the BBC, President-elect Luis Arce stated that you were not going to be part of his government. What do you think of what he says?

I never thought about it. I told Lucho Arce that I’m not going to be a part of it, that they should not take me into account. It does not correspond to me.

I talked at length about how to share experiences, although he has a lot of experience in public management. My task will be from the social movements, how to take care of the ideological principles of the party. Take care of Lucho and the process of change.

So, how much ‘political weight’ is Evo Morales going to have in the coming years and in the next government?

Nothing. I asked not to do anything. I will not suggest any name for minister. The election of ministers is the responsibility of the president. Not because I am president of the party or campaign manager, I can be imposing. I am not going to do it. I know the president needs trustworthy people.

I recommend to the social movements, to the militants, not to try to impose ministers. Let brother Lucho organize.

You knew Rafael Correa very closely, aren’t you afraid that Luis Arce will become a Lenin Moreno?

I am very confident and I don’t even think that. He has ideological training, he comes from the Socialist Party and later he joined the Movement for Socialism (a party led by Morales). We have united all the left wing parties. If I contributed something, it was to unite, unite and unite.

Juan Manuel Santos is another example with the break with Álvaro Uribe in Colombia …

Lucho comes from a well-known left-wing party in his time. I have no concerns about this, at all.

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