March 6, 2002
"They call us narco-traffickers.
Who calls us that?
The narcos who are in Congress! The Zapatistas say 'Ya Basta!
Enough Already!' Well, now it's our turn to say 'Enough Already!'
Enough of the misery and oppression, enough of the impositions
of the United States government
Now is the time that the
government must serve the people."
-- Evo Morales,
Presidential Candidate in Bolivia
March 5, 2001
Narco News '02
Asa and the
of Two Bolivias
By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief
5th was a day of extremes in Bolivia.
In the morning, in one of the most luxurious hotels of the East,
in the Amazon city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the boss of the
DEA, Asa Hutchinson, found himself amidst a mountain of bureaucrats
from different countries for the 20th International Drug Control
But by nightfall, in the Andean western
corner of La Paz, more than 5,000 peasants from all regions of
the country proclaimed Evo Morales, the coca growers' leader,
as their candidate for President of the Republic in the election
that will be held on June 30th.
From one extreme to the other, let's go
together to both locations, comparing their words and so that
we can deduce what is happening.
We go first to the Conquistador Salon
(notice the symbolism of the name) in the Los Tabijos Hotel.
The dark suits of the anti-drug czars, the special prosecutors
and the bureaucrats of drug enforcement from half a hundred countries
found themselves in the middle of a humid heat wave.
Look over there, at the man with almost
white hair, chopped military style, with the face of a good little
boy, offering hugs and smiles accompanied by a few words in Spanish.
His black suit glistens when he stands onstage and thanks Bolivia
for its hospitality, declaring that his government, with its
seat in Washington, continues and will continue supporting President
Jorge Quiroga in the fight against drug trafficking and the eradication
of the sacred coca leaf. It's Little Asa Hutchinson, the chief
of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), one of the most
lethal instruments of gringo penetration in Latin America
Meanwhile, a peasant's march paralyzes
the principal avenues of La Paz, arriving at the auditorium where
the Movement Toward Socialism party (MAS, in its Spanish initials)
proclaimed Evo Morales - coca grower, former Congressman, declared
a "terrorist" by the Gringo Viceroy-Ambassador Manuel
Rocha - as its candidate for the nation's commander in chief.
The people, festive and carrying banners, shouted slogans (I
swear to you that this correspondent heard "Evo Yes! Yankees
No!" in at least four original languages of our América).
They came from the South, the Center, from all the provinces,
Quechuas, Aymaras, Garaníes and Chipayas, farmers and
workers. This is about, as Evo affirmed some hours later, "the
marginalized, the victims of savage capitalism, principally imposed
by the United States."
But I digress, Narco News readers. We
return now to the sweaty climate of the 20th International Drug
Control Conference. In his inaugural speech, the Bolivian Foreign
Minister, Gustavo Fernández, stunned the attendees: It
turns out that this year, according to governmental statistics,
this country is now producing twice as much marijuana as cocaine.
According to the Secretary, in 2001 seven tons of marijuana were
seized as opposed to four tons of coca paste and a half-ton of
cocaine hydrochloride. Interesting, no? Because in spite of the
diminished activity by narco-traffickers in cocaine, President
Quiroga's Men, always obeying the dictates of the United States
government, have exclusively dedicated themselves to combat the
peasants who grow coca.
Now we move on calmly to the words of
the Assistant Secretary of Social Development Oswaldo Antezana,
the Bolivian bureaucrat in charge of eradicating the coca plant,
of repressing the coca growers, even if that requires massacring
them. He said that Bolivia has complied with its eradication
quotas, that the task continues in the Chapare region, but has
become more difficult, because the farmers have found new methods
of planting: In small plots of three square feet, shadowed by
large trees and far from the traditional cultivation zones. Antezana
said, seriously and decisively, that because of that, the U.S.
satellite images already are "not as trustworthy as before."
And left the stage with an unexpected surprise: Although his
speech was, in any light, a challenge to the authority of the
United States, Little Asa Hutchinson hugged him and congratulated
him as he left the stage.
Leopoldo Fernández, who, until
yesterday, was the government's Interior Minister, also participated
in the event. He recognized that the United States did not view
his November talks and agreements with the coca growers of the
Chapare enthusiastically (recall the Sacaba War over the traditional
coca leaf marketplaces). Fernández, speaking about it
today, insisted that his boss, his colleagues and he did everything
they could to comply with the Plan Dignity (the local version
of Plan Colombia). Upon saying goodbye, the now ex-number two
man in the Bolivian government said that he leaves office with
the clear conscience and said, "I hope that those on the
outside take account of the balance," in an open reference
to the government of President George W. Bush. And he assured
that the government did all that it could do to comply with Plan
Dignity to eradicate the excess and illegal coca crops and in
the frontal assault on narco-trafficking.
Okay, then the Little Asa Hutchinson spoke,
but with diplomatic grace eluded referring to the delicate issues
in Latin America, such as the report cards handed out by the
United States (the celebrated "certification" of nations
in the anti-drug plan). He dedicated almost his entire speech
to the subject of "ecstacy," that little pill that
is so popular in the First World and that, in recent years, has
begun to appear in Latin American markets. He did not respond
with the usual arrogance that gringo officials are accustomed
to use when his work was criticized. Asa Hutchinson seemed more
in the vibe of the ecstasy of a convention of Bible salesmen
in Salt Lake City than in that of a conference about drugs. He
socialized, slapped officials on the back, and conversed with
various colleagues from throughout the world
What has happened? It's simple: Some days
ago, the official U.S. State Department reports about Combat
against Narco-Trafficking (the famous "certifications"),
and about the state of human rights in the world, were released
to the public. In them, and there are specific statements by
some Bush administration officials, it became clear that Bolivia
has stopped being the model student that shines the apple for
the teacher in its homework of erasing the coca leaf from the
map of the earth. And, of course, in the theme of Human Rights,
the record of Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga is spiny: 57 assassinations
by the State against citizens in the first 180 days of his government.
And all this, for the very formal and juvenile President of Bolivia,
has been an affront.
In its Human Rights Report, the United
States said that the violation of these rights in Bolivia "continues
being a problem in certain areas," athough in general, it
says, the Bolivian government respects these rights. But in the
combat against drugs, the Bush administration mentioned that
the government of Jorge Quiroga (which began in August 2001)
has suffered complications in harvesting success (such as the
grand forced eradication campaign of 2000). Above all, the suspension
of Supreme Decree 26415 (that the Sacaba War provoked) indicts
Quiroga and his cabinet in U.S. eyes. It went so far as to state
that Quiroga opposed the "Dignity Plan" implemented
by ex-President Hugo Banzer.
Narco News Publisher's
Note: Well what of the Washington Post columnist
last November, criticized by Narco News, that Quiroga
was the "author" of that Made-in-Washington plan?
how it is. President "Tuto"
Quiroga decided not to attend the 20th International Drug Control
Conference, taking the wind out of poor Asa. In the days prior
to the conference, the President's cabinet openly complained
to the press of unjust treatment at the hands of Washington.
The former Transportation Secretary (they're all "former"
now because Quiroga replaced his cabinet on this same day of
March 5th), Mauro Bertero, said that it is time to reallocate
the forces and strategies that were central to Plan Dignity.
"The principal idea man and architect of this Plan Dignity
was named Jorge Quiroga Ramírez who today can not been
happy with the attitude that publicly congratulates us but then
releases reports that disagree with this congratulations."
And he was quite hard on the U.S. State Department reports: "We
must express our regret that some reports, often written by bureaucrats
who sit at desks and whose only idea of what happens in this
country is learned through the press, that they don't coincide
with the dramatic efforts of a society like that of Bolivia that
has been the first, most efficient nation in the reduction of
illegal coca from which cocaine is produced."
Little Asa, before leaving here, gave
a press conference. Hutchinson said that his Bolivian partners
have not really been abandoned, and that's why the financial
aid was increased for this year. It's all been a misunderstanding,
and holy ghosts!... it's only happened once. The
bottom line, though, is that President Jorge Quiroga did not
attend the conference.
Hidden Nation Returns
kind readers, on this day of extremes
we advance a step down the Andean range. At exactly six p.m.
on March 5th, in an overflowed auditorium, the most important
popular political event in recent months occurred: the MAS (Movement
Toward Socialism) party convention, a political instrument for
the sovereignty of the people. Thousands of peasants chanting,
chewing coca leaves and awaiting their maximum leader: Evo Morales.
At this moment he is surrounded by compañeros,
a floral wreath around his neck, being led, smiling, to the stage
in the middle of the multitude. Here, the Kallawayas (Andean
Medicine Men) grant him the benediction of the event, lighting
the flame that burns the entire night.
Every possible movement of the Left in
Bolivia is here tonight. The peasant farmers have come, but also
the miners and the workers. Oscar Olivera (Winner of the Goldman
Prize for the year 2000) and a delegation of the Water Board
of Cochabamba are here, as well as the various urban political
organizations, the intellectuals and the artists, like the legendary
filmmaker Jorge Sanjinés, who with his works has put the
problems of the Indigenous peoples of Bolivia in front of the
eyes of the world for three decades. Get this: Even some officers
from the nationalist wing of the Armed Forces are here tonight
One of the first speakers was Leonida
Zurita, the most important leader of the coca growers (and the
most visible spokeswoman for the popular cause in all of Bolivia.)
She praised Evo and told the assembled that they were not here
merely to nominate Morales as a presidential candidate, but also
to express their unfolding struggle in the formal terrain of
politics. Later, peasant leaders from the different regions of
the country spoke, repeating emotionally that this was their
desire, that they were here because their consciences led them
here. The people waved their Whiphalas (the flag of seven colors
of the Aymara nation), blew whistles and banged drums.
Finally, the elder social fighter and
recognized journalist of the Left, Antonio Peredo, took the stage
to formally make the nomination: Evo must be the MAS candidate
for president. Next, the writer Eusebio Gironda seconded the
nomination and reminded everyone that a notary public was present
to place his seal upon the popular vote in the auditorium. Gironda,
his voice rusty and tired, pleaded vehemently that whoever was
"in agreement with the nomination of Evo Morales Ayma"
raise their hands. Thousands of hands shot into thair, the flags
waved, chants and shouts ensued
Evo took the microphone into his hands
"Compañeros," he said,
"we are going on a mission to fight for what is ours. As
farmers and miners we are owners of our own natural resources,
which, disgracefully, those who govern this country have sold
to the foreigners." A nervous Evo thus began his first official
act in the campaign (and, in accordance with the law, this event
was broadcast live on national television). He spoke, then, of
the wealthy, who say they are combating poverty. "How can
they combat poverty when they have never lived it?"
Evo harshly criticized the traditional
parties who ascribe to the neoliberal economic model and their
"savage capitalism," proposing to put an end to the
corruption, calling for a Popular Assembly as part of the government
of this nation of 8 million and the creation of an Agricultural
Bank to invest in the work of the small farmers, the artisans,
the cooperatives and all forms of traditional communitarian production.
In a speech that lasted a little more
than 20 minutes, Evo Morales Ayma took time to explain the necessities
of his people, without forgetting his role as a leader of coca
growers: "They call us narco-traffickers. Who calls us that?
The narcos who are in Congress! The narcos in the Quemado (Burnt)
Palace! (the White House of Bolivia)
The Zapatistas say
'Ya Basta! Enough Already!' Well, now it's our turn to say 'Enough
Already!' Enough of the misery and oppression, enough of the
impositions of the United States government
Now is the
time that the government must serve the people."
The assembly interrupted him with chants
and applause. And Evo, smiling and direct, tried not to forget
anything, including in his speech the issues that can not be
forgotten. "If we want to transform the system, we need
to begin by transforming ourselves. Let us walk together to create
a new country, a Pachacuti!" Near the end of his speech
he reminded that in this country, in the power of 100 families,
those who have more already can not decide the road from here.
Morales asked each of the popular sectors to embark upon a brotherhood
that allows the understanding of the particular problems of each
sector as well as the common ones.
"We must be very clear about all
of this, compañeros. If everyone remains clear, there
will not be this government, there will not be this empire that
we must suffer. And we are not alone in this fight against neoliberalism.
Our allies will not abandon us, compañeros, and we will
walk together with them
Power has never been able to cut
This election will be held on June 30th, but
our struggles will continue. Today, this confrontation is between
conscience and silver. Be very clear about this: Human capital
is more important than financial capital. We will not abandon
each other," concluded Evo Morales Ayma, now presidential
candidate of those from below.
The mass of people, happy, almost all
of them dark-skinned, then began a festive march to the Plaza
of Heroes, the popular meeting place, par excellence, in La Paz.
Your correspondent decided to get to the computer. He knew that
we'd all see each other soon enough and it was time to place
ourselves in contact with the Narco News community
On this night, the Hidden Nation placed
its destiny back in its own hands. The die is cast. And Little
Asa, for now, can sleep peacefully remembering his speeches about
ecstasy and money laundering throughout the world. One of these
days, if he's still at his job, the men and women of Bolivia
are going to steal this dream.
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