Bolivia visit (part I)

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I am in Bolivia this week. In my meetings so far in La Paz, one common theme is the general support for Evo Morales. While there is significant frustration with the government, interviews with representatives from indigenous groups, from the middle class, from academic institutions and foundations, and with foreign diplomats (not to mention taxi drivers), show a general support for Morales and for his position as President. Almost all see him as genuine, as representative, and as capable of negotiating with the various interests within Bolivia.

Instead, people place blame elsewhere. Significant blame is placed on Morales cabinet and on his closest advisors. Many see them as being too radical in some cases, or not radical enough in others (especially on issues of particular interest to each group). They are also blamed for centralizing power. Instead of following through on Evo´s promise of broad participation, many view his closest advisors as making top-down and closed door decisions, much like governments in the past. Some even see the undue influence of foreign advisors, particularly Venezuelan, on government policies.

The continued support for Evo, despite the limits on actual policy changes in the first year and half of his government, questions the alarmist views often seen in the press. While frustrations continue, and marches are frequent through the downtown of the capital, there isn´t a sense here (at least in La Paz), of crisis or real unrest. That said, a few people see this as the lull before the storm, which will occur when the real negotiations happen (or more likely don´t happen in their view) within the Constituent Assembly, which is currently scheduled to conclude their process in August.