Part II of the
The Power of the People
Narco News '02
By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean
Did you miss Part I of this series?
Bolivian electorate must consider the consequences of choosing
leaders who are in some manner connected with narco-trafficking
statement by U.S. Ambassador Manuel Rocha
June 26th (four days prior to the election)
at Chimoré military base, in the Chapare region
Ambassador has told me that I must not reach any agreements with
- Manfred Reyes
Villa, leader and former presidential candidate of MNR party
they want respect, they ought to respect us. We are disposed
to respect them, but inside the Quechua and Aymara cultures the
basis of human relations is, fundamentally, respect."
- Evo Morales,
interviewed on CNN
not very tall, a little plump, notoriously rigid, with the attitude of those who guard the most
minimal guesture in order to not appear banal. His round face,
little eyes and tilted eyebrows pointing downwards, he doesn't
seem to know how to smile
it is like a mask. That is an
example of the Viceroy Manuel Rocha in front of the media, in
any public act. For the last two years - and he says they are
the last of his diplomatic career - he has actively participated
in Bolivian political life
as he did in Argentina, in Cuba
and in Central America.
Retracing the steps of his "brilliant"
career, we can see him as as political-military officer of the
U.S. Embassy in Honduras during the second half of the 1980s
financing the Contra war from there and promoting the forced
displacement of Honduran peasant farmers (a policy that cost
many lives according to human rights reports): a lord of low-intensity
warfare. Or in Cuba in 1992, in charge of the Office of U.S.
paying the anti-Castro groups to engage in different
acts to destabilize the government of Fidel Castro during the
hardest of times.
And more recently, in Argentina, where
his Embassy job for three years was as Business Officer... dedicating
himself to mine the productive and commercial systems of this
country and promoting ruptures in national Argentine economic
protection policies ("opening markets," he might say),
and for that he certainly had a lot to do with the current economic
crisis in that country, which he left, cynically, statning: "I
am extremely optimistic about the future of Argentina
some months before the crash and debacle began.
Well, kind readers, this singular personality
has come to Bolivia to continue his mission. From the beginning
he has carried himself arrogantly and threatened anyone who opposed
him. But for now we analyze his peculiar vision about popular
Bolivian leaders: On December
2, 2001, during his participation in a conference on security
organized by the President of Bolivia, Viceroy Rocha said that
Felipe Quispe, "El Mallku,"
and Evo Morales were terrorists
and were on the infamous United States blacklist (made after
September 11th). Later, last February, he was behind the dirty
operations by which the politicians of the traditional parties
expelled Evo from Congress (remember the Sacaba Wars?). Above
all, this expulsion ended up helping Evo more than punishing
him and his popularity grew
well, being an enemy of the
gringo government always lends its own prestige. But the Viceroy
couldn't keep his mouth shut
and each time that he said
something the percentage points of votes intended for the Movement
Toward Socialism (MAS) party of Evo Morales grew. On June 27th
in Cochabamba, during his final campaign rally, Evo asked the
crowd to offer an enormous applause for Rocha who "was our
best campaign manager ever."
Manuel Rocha did three things, without
intending to, for the MAS. The first, clearly, was to pressure
Congress to expel Evo. The second was a series of declarations
between March and May, like that on March 26th, when he told
the Bolivian media that they (referring to the United States
government) would not support any person who did not want help
(he was speaking of the next president of Bolivia). "I never
force a lady to dance the tango if she doesn't want to dance
with me," said the Viceroy, emphatically. Or at his appearances
at social events where he told the whole world the dangers of
voting for terrorists like Evo Morales and El Mallku.
At these heights of the election campaign,
someone incide of the MAS had a good idea. By the middle of June
a poster appeared in Bolivian cities, with an enormous photo
of Evo in the middle. Above, in enormous letters: "Bolivian:
You Decide. Who's in Charge? Rocha or the Voice of the People."
It was a grand success. The whole world, sympathetic or not with
MAS, wanted a copy and hundreds of thousands more had to be printed
than had been planned on. Many Bolivians received the message
in defense of their dignity and sovereignty. But the best was
yet to come.
Each and every one of the candidates of
the traditional parties of Bolivia went at one moment or another
to see the Viceroy and ask for his support. Manfred Reyes Villa,
of the New Republican Force, even traveled to Miami to see the
Cuban Republicans and to Washington to speak with Otto Reich
in the State Department. None of the other candidates wanted,
in the beginning, to participate in debate with Evo Morales ("It's
a minor political party," the organizers of forums and debates
were accustomed to saying). Then the things got hot. On Jun 17,
during a campaign swing in the Eastern part of the country, Evo
told the media that he wasn't interested in debating anymore
with the neoliberal parties: "The one who I want to debate
is Ambassador Rocha
I prefer to argue with the owner of
the circus, not the clowns."
In this atmosphere, by the last week of
the campaign all the polls, including those conducted by the
other political parties, already gave MAS third or fourth place,
with 16 percent of the vote. Surely, the Viceroy's tango player
didn't want to be left out
on June 26th, four days before
the election, he went to Chimore (in the heart of the Chapare)
to visit all the soldiers and mercenaries that "fight"
against narco-trafficking. There, in front of President Tuto
Quiroga, he said: "The Bolivian electorate must consider
the consequences of choosing leaders who are in some manner connected
with narco-trafficking and terrorism."
Today, two weeks after the election, there
are many who swear that Manuel Rocha worked in concert with the
MAS party to create electoral terrorism (because from the 16
percent the polls gave him, Evo ended up with almost 21 percent).
And with less than a month to go before he leaves Bolivia definitively,
the Viceroy continues making declarations against Evo. How does
it seem? Rocha shot himself in the foot various times
for now we will leave this ballerina behind and teach only his
tango, because we're going now, in this text, for two days to
the Chapare region, this time in the company of the candidates
of the people.
May 17th and 18th, Evo visited the Chapare for the first time
since the beginning of the campaign.
It was necessary that his base of support got to know the MAS
candidates from other parts of the country and that they ratify
him as their top leader and candidate for the presidency of the
Republic. On Friday the 17th, at 4 a.m., a caravan of various
autos left Cochabamba toward that tropical and embattled region.
Seven hours later, in the town of Bulo Bulo, a whirlwind of applauses,
salutes, speeches in support and, more than anything, hopes deposited
in a man who, by popular decision, embodied the possibility of
victory. And it all began in Bulo Bulo, not only being the most
Eastern region of Chapare, but also because in this town, two
years ago, the powerful organization of the Six Federations of
Cochabamba Tropic was founded here.
Everywhere Evo and his allied candidates
went, the program was similar. The caravan was awaited some two
hundred yards before the entrance of the town. The farmers (almost
all of them coca growers) immediately surrounded Evo and Vice
Presidential candidate Antonio Peredo. Later came a brief ceremony
of garland wreaths and the mixture (vegetable necklaces and confetti):
Each candidate was honored with enormous necklaces made of coca
leaves and some flowers, also made with oranges or vegetables;
later confetti was sprinkled over their heads, as a charm for
good luck. Everyone ready, they were lead by a large march to
the place where the rally would happen. On rooftops of homes,
on top of trailer trucks or in middle of the central plaza, the
MAS candidates went planting new hope in the coca growers.
The first afternoon, in the town of Entre
Ríos, a rainstorm began over the popular concentration.
But nobody moved. "That's how it is, compañeros.
No one should move from his place. With this willpower we are
going to defeat the neoliberals," said Filemón Escobar,
veteran mineworkers' leader and today Senator-elect, to the crowd.
And that's how it went, into the night, in Ivirgarzama, a town
governed by the Movement Toward Socialism: a storm of two hours
shook the plaza, but this time nobody moved until the event was
over. Evo Morales, for 45 minutes, was listened to with attention
and enthusiasm. In this speech, Evo recalled to everyone present
that it was not his campaign, but that of the poor, of the indigenous
and farmers, of all the marginalized ones of Bolivia.
The same in Mariposas as in Shinahota,
the rallies grew to thousands of people. Only in the town of
Senda VI, on the morning of May 18th, was there a small gathering
at the side of the road, not a rally: The act was a mass in which
the three fallen compañeros some months ago in confrontation
with the Expeditionary Task Force (the US-sponsored paramilitary
squads operating out of control of the Bolivian armed forces).
In a structure made of sticks and with a ceiling of palm leaf,
without walls, the dead coca growers were also incorporated into
the fight because, said Evo, "their efforts and their sacrifices
were not in vain
we are going to win, compañeros,
and this will also be for them who can no longer walk at our
In Chimoré, the people met in front
of the military base to await their candidates. Close to three
thousand people, at the gates to the base, showed the repressive
forces that they were not afraid and that here, among smiling
women and men of serious faces and hardened hands, they encountered
those to whom they would have to represent their rancor and their
demands, postponed for too long. But on this afternoon, the climax
came in Villa Tunari
At around three in the afternoon, in a
curve along the road, they began to appear on bicycles, in small
groups, in trucks and autos. There were thousands, all with banners
or placards. All looking east, eyes ready to see the gray truck
carrying Evo Morales. They were there not just there from Villa
Tunari, but had also come from the town of Lauca Ñ, from
the coca fields deeper into the country, from all the communities
where the caravan had just passed and others where it had not.
At the entrance to town, on a platform next to the road, nearly
40,000 people gave an ovation to the arrival of the candidates
of the people. For nearly five hours transit on this road, the
main route from Cochabamba to the city of Santa Cruz, was stopped.
And it was here, among his people, among his companions in struggle,
where Evo let his memories unleash.
"I'm very happy to meet here with
some old compañeros, some former leaders, who continue
Many of them have known me since I began
Because you know that my union labor began when I was working
with all of you
You made me
Now I have come here
to be with my people so you can know the compañeros that
accompany us, so that you know that we are not alone in this
We have come very from with this political instrument.
Now, they say, we are the second-largest party in Cochabamba
I don't believe in polls, but there is something that
makes me believe: I tell myself, to see so many people!
"I remember right now when I began
to work among you all. You all know that I live in this region,
that here are my coca fields and I came here many years ago with
my father to work. Now I see these trucks stopped in traffic,
and beg understanding from our truck driving compañeros.
I remember when I was young and various of the truck drivers
brought me, gratis, to other communities, to Cochabamba
thanks to them, because they are also with us
"I also remember when I began as
a union leader. Everyone called me the "ball player"
because I was the secretary of sports in my union and I was only
interested in playing soccer in the fields. And you taught me,
you were patient with me, and I learned what an organization
is, what is a struggle. Now I am convinced that we are going
to win, to change the history of the Aymaras and Quechuas, of
all the poor of Bolivia, forever
"That's why I come to ask you not
to abandon me, because this is everyone's struggle. Evo Morales
has never abandoned you. And never will
and we're all going,
together, to win on June 30th."
the end of May, a business organization of Cochabamba, one of the most powerful in Bolivia, organized
a forum for Presidential candidates. Seated between former presidents
and current rivals Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and Jaime
Paz, with his face serious and a distant look, Evo was here to
expound the program of the Movement Toward Socialism. And we
tell this small history because although it seemed that the candidate
of MAS was seated among enemies, the audience, made up of professionals
and journalists, by wealthy people, applauded him more than the
On this occasion, Evo explained to the
audience that a government by the MAS would not want to tell
anything but the truth to all the Bolivian people. With sharp
phrases, Morales recalled that the other candidates had sold
the country to the multi-national corporations over the past
17 years. He reminded them that all the large cases of corruption
and narco-trafficking had the members of those parties as the
protagonists. He told them that, no, not even by coincidence,
would he support any of them to be president. "I don't join
together with slobs." This forum, broadcast live on national
television, left it very clear that the power and solid force
of the people are not sold nor negotiated
and the people
understood it better than the powerful had thought.
Some days later, Evo Morales went to visit
an historic community, Llallagua, in the north of Potosí
state. In this place, more or less fifty years ago, the hardest
battles by mineworkers in the history of Bolivia began. There,
were formed the first unions of the Left, the first clandestine
cells to fight against the government. In fact, many of the old
mineworkers' leaders swear that if Che Guevara, instead of going
to the east to organize the guerrilla, had come to work in the
mines of Llallagua and the town of Siglo XX, he would have triumphed.
And here he was, in the road that controlled
access to the town. Son of a laid-off mineworker, grandson of
peasant farmers, Evo didn't know, not having visited this area
before, that his figure and all that he represents were alive
among the miners, who received him with fireworks, shouts, a
new hat, more garlands made of coca leaf and enough chicha (a
traditional fermented drink) to drink and lighten spirits. In
the ceremony, before nearly 3,000 people, the maximum indigenous
authority, the jatun mallku (the old condor) Aurelio Ambrosio,
welcomed Evo. And the old union leader José Pimentel spoke
in the name of the townspeople of Llallagua, for the Farmers'
Federation of the region and the ayllus (the indigenous agricultural
communities). Evo Morales gave a brief and emotional speech that
ended: "Our candidacy is the only truly anti-neoliberal
and anti-imperialist campaign, and that's why we have to vote
for our candidates, who represent the humble and the marginalized
ones for always."
Leaving Llallagua, surrounded by the people,
the MAS party's presidential candidate received a tug on the
arm. He stopped to look to see who wanted to say hello. "Compañero
Evo," said a 12-year-old mineworker. "Here we are,
we whom have always fought, 17 years we have resisted the neoliberal
and we are all with you." At certain points,
tears came to the face of Evo Morales
among the people
who guard the memory of the fight against power and where faith
and force have also survived.
But we must stop, kind leaders, because
the campaign advances with too much momentum to recall everything
in these lines
We will have to continue tomorrow, in a
visit to "Yungas: Paradise Regained." Meanwhile, keep
writing to us, please, so that we may know your opinions and
commentaries, everything that happens while we continue to understand
how it is that, now, in Bolivia, the power of the people has
For More Narco
Cuca-Rocha... ¡Ya No Puede Caminar!